8 steps to free yourself of aggravation

aggravation

Sometimes I get aggravated over really simple things.  Like this morning.  I subscribe to text notifications of one of my favorite pastor’s tweets.   I’m guessing that something went wrong this morning, because I got around 10 text messages within ten minutes…so for the last ten minutes my phone’s been making noise.  And each time I go to look…the first two were okay…but every one after that, my annoyance…my aggravation intensified.  Did I want to throw my phone out the window?  No, but trying to write a blog with my phone going off proved to be a challenge.

“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” ~Ambrose Bierce

1.  You have a choice.

Yes, you really do have a choice.  We live in an imperfect world with many imperfect people.  (Me included!)  Because we are born with a sinful nature, we will…yes…sin.  We have times we make mistakes.  Things go wrong.  Sometimes we make poor choices.  It happens.  A lot.  We are put into situations multiple times a day.  Newly married? New job? Even more so…  So why not start out the day with a decision or a choice.  A right choice.  Not to ignore when things go wrong, but to choose living the way God wants us to live.

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2.  Question the purpose.

I can’t help but think of the guy who’s alarm didn’t go off the morning of September 11th.  He rushed out the door, barely said goodbye to his wife and kids, aggravated that he was late.  He didn’t even have time to grab a cup of coffee as he rushed out the door, cursing his stupid alarm clock.  He was on the train when he heard the news about a plane crashing into his office building at The World Trade Center.

It’s a habit to develop for sure.  A habit of questioning why this inconvenience is happing to me.  Ask “why is this happening?”  You may not ever know…  But having faith that God is in control helps.

3.  Where’s your focus?

EVERY time I get aggravated, it’s because my focus is on myself.  It’s my selfishness that robs me of my joy and happiness.

4.   Learn to respond instead of react.

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Angry people seem to act first, and think later.  No doubt Thomas Jefferson’s advice (quoted above) to count to ten or even a hundred before speaking while angry is aimed at giving people time to reflect on the consequences of their actions and possibly avoid impulsive, destructive acts that will be regretted later.

When I get aggravated and want to react immediately, the outcome NEVER comes out in my favor. I mess it up every time.  Mostly because my emotions take over my brain and I’m unable to think straight.  But when I take the time to step back, and think through my response, I do much better.  I’m able to reason.  I’m not crying.  I’m not angry.  I respond out of respect and love instead of anger and frustration.

5. Controlling actions instead of emotions

I really struggle controlling my emotions some times.  No matter how much I tell myself to calm down…I can’t get my heart to stop beating fast or my palms to stop sweating.  Yesterday I spent the day in court.  We were seeking to protect the grandson I’m raising from a mother who has repeatedly put him in dangerous situations.  My heart was racing when the judge called our case.  I felt sick to my stomach.  I couldn’t control those things.  But I could control my actions.  I didn’t speak to the mother.  I avoided even looking at her.  I smiled.  (Amazing how smiling actually calmed my heart and stomach!)

6.  Set the example

Do you have a spouse or a child who gets aggravated frequently? Is it because they’ve seen you get aggravated?  My 2 year old is like a sponge.  He is picking up on emotions and actions.  If he sees his father get frustrated in traffic, he then comes home and gets frustrated with his toys.  He’s learned it.  He’s seen it.  Sometimes just knowing that you are teaching others around you to act like you is enough motivation to make a change.  It may be a child or it may be a spouse…

7. What response do you want?

If you get aggravated with me, then my immediate reaction is to become aggravated with you.  Your aggravation doesn’t motivate me.  It doesn’t make me love you more.  It doesn’t make me move faster.  Perhaps you don’t even know you’re displaying aggravation… Well wake up and become aware.  Nit-picking, bickering, insults….they are not attractive!  And no one likes to be around a couple who nag on each other…  It truly will ruin your social life!

7.  Start Journaling

My biggest help to dealing with frustration and aggravation is to take it to paper with a pen.  I’ve been journaling since I was 11 years old.  When it goes down on paper, somehow it helps me to deal with the emotions I’m struggling to control.  (And yes…my journaling is now translating into blogging!)

8.  Learning to Laugh

I laughed today when the 10th text came in.  I thought, if this pastor knew how his system of sending out tweets failed, I’m sure he’d be scratching his head…struggling with frustration I’m sure!  So try to laugh… It’s much more fun to smile than frown.  Feels better to be happy than angry…

Broken Hearts & Growing Stronger

My pastor told me awhile back that I had a ministry with broken women.

Huh?

Yes.  A Ministry.

But I’m broken…

That’s the kind God likes to use…

Okay…I’m in.  I have a ministry with broken women…

When you’re called to minister to the homeless, you go to a homeless shelter.  When you’re called to be a missionary to Mexico, you go to….Mexico.  But minister to broken women?  Where would I go?

Well I didn’t have to go very far.  All of my very close friends are broken, too.  (They would be the first to admit that.)

When I was in College, I used to go white water rafting on the Rogue River in Medford Oregon.  I remember the first time I went.  I was in the raft with my high school friend Cindy.  It was a pretty terrifying trip.  Every turn was something different.  We didn’t have a guide.  We didn’t have a map.  We just headed out and practically screamed the entire way.  Here’s the thing, the second trip wasn’t scary at all.  I pretty much knew where the twists and turns were.  I knew where the big rocks were.  That second trip, and every one after that, was a much better experience.

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You know where I’m going, yes?  When you’ve been down that river…

Being broken isn’t all that bad.  It’s the breaking process that is horrible.

A little over 2 years ago I started going to Crossfit.  I could barely lift a barbell (with no weights) I couldn’t run to the end of the driveway.  I couldn’t do a single sit-up.  My coach sat on my feet, and even then it was a huge struggle to squeeze out one.  I remember vividly getting that one sit-up done, and laying back down exhausted…spent.

Last week my coach was pushing me to do something really hard.  I looked over at her  and whined….almost crying…I hate this!  It’s HARD!!!  She sweetly smiled at me…and said…”Keep going.  This is making you stronger!”  I felt like throwing up.  I wanted to quit.  But she stood there…talking me through the last few minutes of the workout.  “Keep going…you can do this…you got this!”IMG_4518

Here’s the really cool thing.  It is making me stronger.  I can now lift a barbell easily.  (Okay…I’ll brag…I can lift 270 pounds now.)  100 sit-ups doesn’t scare me.  Everything she has put me through, from every squat, burpee, dead lift… to a weighted sit-up, it’s all designed to make me stronger…make me fitter.

Being broken is a lot like that. When we go through a season of breaking, a time of trials, challenges, and disappointments, we have an opportunity to either fail, quit or become stronger.  Being broken helps us build the muscles of our faith.  It can give us the caliber of strength we’ll need for what lies just around the corner.

When you’re in the middle of being broken, it’s hard to look up and see that you’re strengthening your muscle, so that you can lift more next time.  Or handle something far more devastating…  It all just hurts.

I’m here to tell you….you can do this.  I know it’s hard.  But this will strengthen you so that the next time something harder comes along…you’ll be able to get through it.

I wish there was an easier way to get stronger.  But the only way to get stronger is to lift heavy things.

What’s your heavy thing you’re lifting?

Here are some of the latest broken hearts I’ve witnessed from some of my friends and family:  Ovarian cancer that has spread throughout the body.  A husband who yells and screams at his wife as a response to his stress.  A spouse who’s been unfaithful.  A parent’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s.  A husband’s death due to suicide.  A child’s diagnosis of Muscular Dystrophy.

Proverbs 3:5-6   Trust God from the bottom of your heart;

    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;

    he’s the one who will keep you on track.

So now that I’m facing another custody challenge with another child, I’ve learned to put my trust in God.  My own strength is nothing in comparison to it being in the hands of my heavenly father.  Someone last week said, “You don’t seem to be too rattled over all this drama.  I guess you’ve been to this rodeo before…”

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My Crossfit Coach Heidi wearing the head band I designed.

Yes.  I’ve been to the rodeo.  I’ve already been down this river.  In reality, my muscles are much stronger.  I have a coach standing over me saying…”Keep going….you cans do this.  YOU GOT THIS!”

Books that have helped me:

Eating Frogs and Procrastination

Hello, my name is Merrily and I’m a procrastinator.  (View my post on procrastination here.)

“Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” —Mark Twain

I’m starting off with #1 in the above book One Bite at a Time.  The basic idea is that if you do the worst thing on your plate first thing in the morning, the rest of the day is a cake walk. So if your least favorite chore is doing the dishes, and it’s one of the items on your to-do list for the day, then tackle it first.

I hate having a messy kitchen.  When my kitchen is clean, I’m happy.  So you’d think my kitchen would be clean all the time…since it brings me such happiness.

But here’s how my kitchen looks right at this moment and a majority of the time:

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Not only do I have clean dishes piled up on the right of the sink….by I have pots and pans waiting to be hand washed.

I love having a clean kitchen, but I hate doing the dishes.  Why?  I don’t know.  You’d think since it brings such joy to walk in and smell and see clean things…I’d be in there constantly..  But I’m not.  Now, I’ll give myself a little break.  I work full time.  I have a husband who works full time.  In my household:  29 year old step son currently knee deep in the middle of chemo for lymphoma, my 10 year old daughter with a learning disability (short term memory deficiency) and  my 2 1/2 year old grandson.  So there’s 5 of us.  One is very ill.  One is needing a ton of help with homework every day.  And one is 2 years old.  So I usually get my kitchen spotless every other day, but it only lasts about 2 hours…or the next meal…before it looks like the above.

I do get my daughter to help with the dishes, but many times she is helping with the 2 year old.  Or doing homework.  But I procrastinate on the dishes.  And the silly thing is…it’s only takes me about 15-20 minutes to actually clean the kitchen…so what’s my deal?

So this week…my frog is cleaning the kitchen.  First thing.  Before I start any other chore or work duty.  I’m going to see how that goes this week.

Are you wondering how last week went?  I got up at 5:30 am every morning.  I got dressed.  I drank my coffee…read in my devotional. Enjoyed a wonderful hour with my daughter before walking out to the bus stop to visit with the other moms.  (Something I love doing!)  The thought of waking up so early terrified me.  But in reality, it was wonderful!!!  Yes, I’m a little more tired at night…  But what am I missing?  I don’t watch television when I crawl into bed.  I go to sleep.  Hmm….not a real loss there.  And I’m getting to spend more time in the morning, getting things done!  I feel so prepared for the day.  I’m in for another week.  And this week’s frog will be cleaning up the kitchen as soon as I get in from the bus stop!

Oh…and by the way….I finished with this blog post…and cleaned my kitchen. (TOOK 20 MINUTES!) Here’s what it should look like…and yes, it makes me HAPPY!

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What’s your frog?

New School Year Brings New Habits: Simplify = Happiness

First day of school at the bus stop

First day of school at the bus stop

I ran into one of my neighborhood moms last week at the grocery store.  She expressed what I think we all are feeling right now.  Great excitement for the kids to start back to school.  For our neighborhood, that day is today.

My friend was complaining about how much weight she had gained over the summer.  Vacations and travel had ruined her diet.  Sleep habits were completely ruined.  Her house was a wreck.  As she walked away, she said something that rang through my head all weekend…”Monday I’m going to start something!”

I kept thinking….what is that something?  How do you start “something” unless you really know what it is… (My old mantra:  You can’t shoot a target you can’t see!)

So over the weekend I decided to write down on paper the easy things that school forces my family back into.

1.  Go to bed at 8:30 each night.

That was it.  Sleep habits will return to normal.  I really couldn’t think of what else school forces us back into.

So I decided to write a list of things I wanted to change.  The list was long.  Too long to start in just one day.  That would be complete culture shock for me and my family. But the first and most significant was getting up 30 minutes before the kid(s) so that I could enjoy my coffee and have quiet time.  That means getting up at 5:30 am.  In the 27 years that I’ve been raising kids, I’ve never done that.  Am I crazy?  Could I keep that up? The encouraging thing is….I’ve never worked out like I have been the last 2 years…so maybe this can be another major change in my life.  But today I got out of bed at 5:30 am.

Here’s some habits that I’ve maintained over the summer and will continue into the new school year.

1.  Workout 4-5 days per week.(Crossfit925)
2.  Eat Whole30 (I’m on day 25) (Whole30.com & It starts with Food.) (I’m blogging about my health journey  @ MerrilyBrown.com.)

I got a little overwhelmed when I started writing out my list of everything I wanted to change, improve or renew.  So overwhelmed I almost deleted this blog post.

Luckily I came across these tips from author Leo Babauta from his e-book 52 Changes.

1.  One Change at a Time. Just one. Don’t make several at once, because then they’ll all fail.

2. Small Changes Only. Don’t try to run 30 minutes if you haven’t been running. Just do 2 minutes. Small changes are more likely to stick.

3. Enjoy the Change. If you don’t enjoy it, it’s not worth doing. And it won’t stick anyway.

4. Iterate. If a change fails, figure out why, and improve the method. Or pick another change.

5. Pick a trigger. A trigger is something already ingrained in your routine that you use to anchor a new change. For example, go for a walk (the new habit) right after drinking coffee in the morning (the trigger).

I’m starting this week out with getting up earlier.  And I succeeded on day one.  I’m pretty excited!

Next week I’m going to start using the suggestions in One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler.  I’ll be blogging about my progress.

Who wants to join me?  Will you get up 30 minutes prior to the kiddos?  (Or let me know if you already do this and how it’s helped!)

Have a great first day of school!

Feeling Left Out.

I struggle with being left out.

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Examples:

When I was young, my very social parents would frequently have company over and they would always ask my brother to play the accordion for them.  I played the guitar and cello.  No one ever asked me to play for them.  Now granted, Bobby was very good at the accordion and was very entertaining.  My guitar and cello not so.  But as a child I didn’t really understand that.  I would sit and watch while the adults oohed and awed over my older brother.  I really can’t say I was jealous.  But I felt left out.

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I grew up in Oregon, but all my cousins lived in Texas.  Our family vacations consisted of a four day drive to drive to Texas.  Out of the Mann Family, my brother and I were the only cousins who didn’t live in Texas.  I used to take a lot of ribbing…being the “city kin.”  I think my cousins would be horrified if they really knew how bad it made me feel…to not be one of them.

I clearly remember a time when my parents discovered that their group of friends were getting together for cards, only they were accidentally not invited.  I felt SO BAD for them.  I’m pretty sure I went to my room and cried.  (And it wasn’t even me who was left out!)

You’d think that becoming an adult would change that, right?  Well…  A couple of years ago while I was on staff at our church, there was a meeting for the full-time staff, to go over changes in the insurance.  Since I was part-time and paying for the insurance out of my own pocket, I knew I wasn’t supposed to be at the meeting.  My husband understood differently.  He said I was to go to the meeting because it was for any staff on insurance.  As I’m sitting in this meeting, it’s pretty clear it wasn’t intended for me.  About 20 minutes in, the head pastor motioned through the window at me, waving me to step outside.  He was very nice about it.  He confirmed that I wasn’t really a part of this insurance meeting.  I went back in and grabbed my purse and drove home.  In tears.

Okay last example… My oldest step son and wife just welcomed their first baby into their lives.  I stayed home to take care of my kiddos so my husband and Nanny (my husband’s ex-wife) could go to the hospital to see the new grand-baby.  It was 2 days later that I was able to go see the precious baby Hays.  When I discovered that I wasn’t listed on the hospital visitation list of grandparents, I fought back tears.  All of the other grandparents were listed…even step grandparents.  I just swallowed hard and waited patiently for someone…anyone to make sure I could visit the new baby.

Sounds like I have some pretty deep issues…

One counselor had once suggested that because I’m adopted, I have a strong desire to be “a part of the group.”  I disagreed.  Being adopted had nothing to do with it. Being adopted at birth and always knowing that I was adopted, made me feel special, made me feel chosen.  My parents worked very hard at making sure I felt loved and accepted.  As a matter of fact, I have always felt I was the favorite child.  (Sorry Bobby…I am the favorite child!)

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book (Ps. 56:8, NLT).

What’s that really mean?  God never wastes a hurt.  In fact, painful lessons can turn into precious gems.  When you go through a pain or a hurt, God won’t waste it.

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

What I’ve discovered is that my struggles of “feeling left out” is really a weakness that God is using for his glory.  Meaning, because I HATE the feeling of being left out, I work very hard to make sure those around me always feel included and never left out.

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I raised two wonderful boys that were my step-sons.  It was my mission to make sure they felt loved and included.  I’m knee deep in raising my second round of children.  Maddie is 10 and Garrison is 2 1/2.  This makes 5 kids I’ve raised, but only given birth to one.  My heart is equipped to love all my kids equally….with all my heart…and on mission to make them feel loved and accepted.

But it doesn’t stop with raising kids.  God has gifted me with the spirit of hospitality.  I strive to make sure that anyone who walks into my home feel welcome and loved.  You’d think that would be a challenge when it’s your ex-husband and new wife walking through your door. (Which recently happened at my daughter’s rehearsal dinner hosted in my home.) But it wasn’t a challenge at all.  What was once a weakness, God has turned it around to use as a blessing.  I no longer feel like an outsider, even when it’s my ex-husband walking through the door.  My energy is placed into making others feel included…including my ex-husband.

So what’s your weakness?  I’m pretty confident in saying that God knows your struggle.  And I’m pretty confident in saying he will use it….and it’ll be great!

Here’s the book that’s helped me: