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What God As A Baby Says About Burnt Dinner And Broken Toys

Jesus, I’ve been waiting to talk to you. Waiting until the topic was big enough to matter. Waiting to hear your opinion on an issue more significant than laundry.

But the other day, while I folded my clothes before bed, I realized something. You’re not simply a God of big, abstract, distant things. You’re a God of the Small and Near.

That’s what Christmas really means, isn’t it? Emmanuel. God with us.

I know the songs and the Bible verses. I grew up around these sacred hymns that somehow lost their richness because I feel like I’ve always known them.

I often relegate you to the invisible, to the Shoulds and Should-Nots. I’ve made you the God of the faraway and celestial things, and in doing so, I forgot to talk to you about how discouraging it is that there will always be dishes at least three times a day, although I know I should be thankful for them. Or the fact that the baby is still sick after two weeks, and I don’t know if I should take him to the doctor or not.

Once again, I was wrong about you. You aren’t a policing theologian with a microscope, identifying character inconsistencies and whispering behind my back about how I should resolve them. Sure, you have opinions about which songs to sing in the worship service, or how to invite people to our small group, but you also know the best way to cook a steak or how to cure my baby’s diaper rash.

And you’re a little sad, as I was, that one of my favorite coffee mugs shattered into pieces at my feet when the baby grabbed it off the kitchen table this morning. But we are both glad no one was hurt.

The pictures we see of you throughout the year are ones of the grown-up Jesus, the teacher and the minister, a kind man but one with many constraints on his schedule. So I try to be efficient because we are both busy, and I don’t need to bother you with the small things.

But Jesus, this is the time of year when we remember you were not always a famous face, a man in demand.

The Christmas story is one we all know because it’s our story. It’s you and us, babies, at our most vulnerable. It’s so extraordinary but we miss it because it’s so close, the story of pregnancy and labor and birth and babies. We know it so we gloss over it, eager for the good part.

But that is the good part. Because what you meant to say by becoming a small thing is you care about all the tiniest things in our lives. The things we think no one cares about.

You are God of the Small and Near.

You are the God of rushing around to stash toys away before guests arrive. You’re the God of dirty diapers and muddy floors. You are the God of cups of coffee that used to be warm but I couldn’t sit down long enough to enjoy it. You are the God of fresh, clean sheets and stubbed toes. You’re the God of the poetry I can’t shake from my mind or the lyrics from that song I remember for years.

You’re the God of sex and so many negative pregnancy tests and finally a positive. You’re the God of the baby who wants to eat all night and the fumbling about in the morning dark, wishing for a few more hours in bed.

You’re the God of missing ingredients in the dinner recipe and getting the dryer running again. You’re the God of the new toy the baby loves and the acrylic paint that almost made it onto the four year-old’s clothes. Almost.

I hate that I’ve missed you in so many places when I thought you were only the God of prayer meetings and quiet times and Sunday mornings. Because you are the God of before and after church stuff, the God of falling asleep with the Bible open and the God of checking my son into nursery after the service already started. You’re the God of the long afternoons after the Sunday meeting because someone just needed to be heard, and you’re the God of takeout on the way home because just the thought of cooking after all that wears me out.

We know you as the man who healed, the God over our bodies and sickness, or the broken man on the Cross, declaring you God over death. And in the garden with Mary, you’re the God of the resurrected life and All-Things-Made-New.

But this Christmas, in our hearts and our stories, you’re a baby, a tiny baby at the start of your life, and you can’t even hold your head up. You blink at bright lights. Your mother teaches you how to breastfeed. You snuggle in close to your bed made of straw and sleep until the cold or hunger wakes you.

This Christmas, you’re not an important man with crowds crushed around you. You’re not a celebrity face plastered onto some giant billboard. You’re just a tiny little baby, and anyone could pick you up. You’re at the mercy of humanity, for better or worse, and we can’t believe this is your story because it’s ours.

You’re not just God of heaven anymore. You’re God of my life, my moments, my story.  It feels like you get me, like I have a friend who knows the sting of betrayal or the weight of grief.

As the God of the Small and Near, you are intimately acquainted with not only my sorrows and successes, my pain and joy, but also my fantasies and boredom and the daily chores that keep this little life going. Every last detail in the margins, the things even I don’t care about, you’ve made your business. You know it, you see it, and you are in it.

Jesus, I’m sorry I’ve missed you in the little, in-between places that make up my life. But I don’t want to anymore. I want to notice your presence alongside me. I welcome you into my daily doings, the sacraments of work and play and sleep and food that make up all my days. I want you to be the God of all the minutes, not just a few of them. I don’t want to crowd you out by scheduling you in.

Please come in to all of it. There’s room for you, Emmanuel.

 

 

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The Surprising Reason Receiving Is As Good As Giving

“Where are my Christmas presents?” my son whined in the kitchen a few days before the holiday festivities began. Nervous I was raising one of those kids, you know, the demanding ones, I reassured him Christmas was coming, but quickly tacked on a reminder that Christmas is not just about gifts.

“We want to be givers,” I retorted to his distracted ears. But that was mostly for my benefit.

I want to be known for my generosity. And not just that – I want to raise children who are givers too. As parents, the last thing we want is to raise greedy, insatiable little mongrels who are obsessed with satisfying their every whim.

And while I knew the message of giving was true for my son, it wasn’t the whole story.

As much as generosity is a value we want to live and instill in our children, we don’t provide much education on how to receive. As a result, most of us are terrible gift-accepters. At least I usually am.

We can’t always be the givers though, and there’s one big reason why we ought to be as quick to receive as we are to give. 

I’ve always thought of giving as the superior act. But it can get awfully one-sided.

After college, I hosted a weekly small group made up of women from all over the world attending a local university. In my efforts to prove how much I cared for the women in my group, I attempted to provide everything from the discussion topic and food to answers for their unresolved life questions.

Halfway through the school year, I attended a class on how to serve and connect with people from other cultures. The teacher told the story of a woman Jesus met at a community well, and his approach to service changed the way I thought of giving and receiving ever since.

Jesus seemed to think accepting gifts from people was an act of service to them, but he did it in his subtle, son-of-God way. Early in his teaching days, he found himself at a well in a region called Samaria. He was thirsty from his trip, and his disciples had left to find food or water. He sat down at the side of the well and waited for them to return.

Before long, a woman approached the well with her water jar. They exchanged pleasantries, then he broke all the cultural norms: he asked her for a drink.

This was always part of the story I skipped over. It just seemed like a Jesus-style conversation starter, but it was far more than that. Receiving a drink from the Samaritan woman was an act of empowerment.

What we intuitively know about giving is that the giver is the one with power. The one who gives a tangible gift or information is the person who has something the recipient needs or wants. So when someone gives us something, we are in a humble and vulnerable position, a place of need.

This is why many of us are great at giving but terrible at receiving. We want to be the one to pay for the groceries, but we hope to avoid ever needing our groceries purchased.

But we’ve mistaken receiving for taking. Taking something from someone is not necessarily empowering. Taking is similar to “grabbing” or even “theft”. When someone who has less than we do extends an offer or gift to us, it seems so natural to decline. After all, we don’t want to put them in a worse position.

Often, however, a person who may only have a little wants to give to feel that sense of influence in someone else’s life. And when we receive something from someone, a gift, advice or inspiration, we are giving value to them. We are placing them in a position of influence and power in our lives.

[Click for photo credit]
[Click for photo credit]
Isn’t that incredible?

So what if we stopped feeling guilty when our neighbor on a fixed-income brings us a Christmas gift?

What if we gave a hearty “Thank you” to the family at church who just applied for welfare but insists on bringing us a meal when we’re sick?

What if we gave those with little the chance to give big so they can feel the sense of power we get when we give?

This is by no means a chastisement against generosity. I still love giving. I only want to encourage us to be really good givers AND really good receivers. What if we could do both with great humility and grace? I think we can.

So this year, let’s use the same generosity it takes to give when we receive, knowing that our welcoming acceptance of the kindness of others is also a kindness to them.

Merry Christmas to you.

Why Not Taking Care of Yourself Is Selfish

Hi, my name is Sarah, and I am a Recovering Mother. For years, I was Everyone Else’s Mom, but I never took care of myself. I thought this was noble. I assumed this meant I sacrificed more than others. I believed having my phone on 24/7 sent the message I cared more for others than I did myself.

It was so bad that during the safety message on a flight, when the flight attendant reminded all of us to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before we help our seatmates. I thought, How selfish. I wish I was joking.

In my mind, I was such a good person. But why was I so tired and resentful?

It’s because I was a mother to everyone else but myself. Instead of nurturing myself first so I could care for others with true altruism, no strings attached, I sought to heal others so they might turn and help me.

It was a transactional love, a love that hoped for something in return. A neglected soul cannot love unconditionally, even if she wanted to.

This unmet need grew into an addiction, my illness. The more I helped others, the sicker I got. My soul in chaos and disarray, I frantically wondered when someone would come take care of me the way I cared for others.

I grew bitter. I felt no one saw me. But still I served. Because someone would come eventually, right?

It took me 32 years to learn no one was coming.

Driving home from work one afternoon, I silently griped to myself about all the work I was doing and how no one else worked as hard as me. I am so tired, I thought, as the long list of my many contributions to the world unfurled before me for the millionth time. This list was my proof that I was more loving and sacrificial than most people. But this list was also the reason I was one of the angriest people I knew.

I wondered when someone was going to pay attention to me and give me what I need since I take care of everyone else.

Out of nowhere, a disconcerting thought occurred to me. “Sarah, no one is going to take care of you. There is no mother coming with chicken soup. If you don’t take care of you, no one will.”

Ouch. 

The truth stung, forcing me to reckon with it. I replayed the words again. “If you don’t take care of you, no one will.” The message was not that I was alone in the big, cruel world. It was a reminder to be responsible for myself. My faux selflessness was getting called out as selfishness. And it hurt.

After all, as a therapist, my training taught me I am in control of and responsible for myself. I aim to model life as a self-controlled person who knows when to say “Yes” and “No” to others by taking ownership of the state of my soul. Yet this habit of caring for others before I cared for myself flew beneath the radar of my awareness for years.

That day I learned a person who is not in control of herself, who compulsively says “Yes”, and believes sacrifice without self-care is noble, this person is imprisoned by her own unmet needs.

So to all you Recovering Mothers out there, the ones who say “Yes” when they mean “No” and are waiting for someone to take care of you, put on your oxygen mask first because it is impossible to care for others with pure generosity, seeking nothing in return, if you have not first met the needs of your own body, mind and soul.

As mothers, the best we can do is mother ourselves first. Yes, you first. If you need something, say something. Allow a trusted partner, friend or mentor access to encourage and support you, but don’t make them guess what you need. Be responsible for the state of your body, mind and soul, your whole self, because, dear Mother, no one else will be.

 

 

 

 

One Simple Way to Change Everything

The one thing in your life more powerful than your circumstances is your self-talk. Your self-talk is always with you, commenting on, observing and interpreting the happenings around you and inside you.

Surprisingly though, we rarely recognize that we are narrating our own lives. We assume the thoughts we think about ourselves, others and the circumstances we find ourselves in are basically facts. “I feel this way so it must be true,” we often think.

But we’re only getting part of the story.

Self-talk serves a purpose, to keep you in line with your goals, to help you survive, succeed, behave appropriately so you will be loved. Sometimes our self-talk is kind and empowering, but very often, it hinders us from the very thing we want and need in our lives.

So how do we interact with self-talk? How do we recognize it, and more importantly, how do we change it?

In this training, I talk about the process of noticing and transforming your self-talk with simple steps. Learning to change the conversation you have with yourself is how you will change your whole life. Don’t believe me? Listen in and see for yourself.

 

The Sneaky Truth about Perfectionism

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I’ve had a bad habit most of my life. It’s called procrastination. It seems like one of the most common complaints my friends and clients have about themselves. We all do it and yet, we hate that we do it.

What’s up with that, right?

See, procrastination isn’t about laziness. Did you know that? Procrastination is actually rooted in perfectionism, the fear that if I can’t get it perfect right now, I shouldn’t even try. And so we don’t. Does that feel familiar to you? It does to me.

In this short, 10-minute training, I share what perfectionism has looked like in my life and what I’ve been recognizing and doing to change it. Hope this realization helps you as much as it did me.

Want to explore your perfectionism further and get out of the procrastination rut? Let’s do it. We can connect in a free initial coaching session here, or schedule a counseling session with me in my private practice by calling 785-539-5455 to request an appointment.

Do you describe your life or create your life?

If you’ve been around here long, you know I’m always coming back to the topic of dreaming: what dreams are, how our ability to dream is an indicator of our health, and how essential they are for our daily life. But dreaming isn’t always something that comes naturally to us, especially if we’ve been disappointed with a previous dream, found ourselves failing at a dream, or been discouraged by circumstances or loved ones.

The truth about dreaming is that it’s not for the faint of heart. Dreaming takes courage. It takes courage to hope. It takes courage to be misunderstood, to try and fail and try again. It takes courage to take action toward our preferred future.

Dreams are never achieved by accident.

I don’t know about you, but there have been times when I have been so disappointed by a failure or delay to my dreams that I give up on them. At least temporarily. I even went through several months after my second child where I stopped dreaming all together as I experienced severe depression and anxiety. But that’s what I mean: our ability to dream is connected to our mental, emotional and spiritual health. It’s a part of who we are, even when we’re not actively doing it.

That’s why I want to invite you to join me in a 31 Day 31 Dream Challenge to engage your dreamer side and learn how to add in valuable practices to improve your ability to dream and then position yourself to be a dream-achiever, not simply a wish-maker.

The 31 Day 31 Dream Challenge is simple but powerful: each day for the month of March, we will write down one dream in any area of our lives. Then through weekly coaching calls, we will unpack four ways to activate these dreams. 

This week in The Leap Year, the coaching community where the challenge is hosted, we talked about the difference between describing your life, which most of us do when we talk to friends, journal or pray. We just get stuck telling ourselves, others and God how life IS.

But what if we asked “What if?”

What if we attempted to use our deepest dreams to “create our life” instead of just live it?

In our weekly coaching call this past Monday, we discussed these four ways to create our future instead of simply living and describing our lives. (Want to catch that coaching call? Click here.)

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So let’s dive in. Let’s be courageous and dream together.

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Here’s my personal invitation to you to join me for the 31 Day 31 Dream Challenge – Create Your Life. Let’s do this together. You can get access to The Leap Year coaching community right here to get started.

You ready? Come on in.

How to Actually Follow Through With Your Goals + A Giveaway

Ever feel like you get started with a goal and make a lot of progress at first, but then you realize you don’t know what to do next and the whole thing stalls? Or ever feel like you have a big dream but you just don’t know where to start? Me too.

I am hosting an event in The Leap Year, my free private coaching community, Monday at 1:00pm CST. We will be talking about two techniques for making our goals less intimidating and actually doable.


I’d love to have you join us. We can even take one of your personal goals and work through it live so you can see how it works. I think these two tools will become helpful go-to techniques when you realize you want to make something happen in your life.

Oh, and there’s more: 😉 Join us live to be entered into the giveaway for one of my favorite books for creatives and entrepreneurs, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield – I LOVE this book – OR you can pick a book from your own wish list to be sent to your house.

Want to join in? Just click www.theleapyearcommunity.com for free access to our private community, and you can attend the training with us tomorrow. Click here to sign up. See you there.

What do you do when you’ve tried everything?

Have you ever had a dream that you try to make happen on your own but it just won’t work? You try everything you know to do: you apply, you work-work-work, you pray, you talk to people who have done it, you cry yourself to sleep and shout at the ceiling, you give up and try to stop caring.

But no matter what you try or don’t try, the dream feels impossible, elusive, and sometimes, it even feels like it’s taunting you.

What do you do when that happens? Most of us shift between working really hard to make a dream happen and then giving up and getting apathetic and cynical. But there’s a better – more challenging but also more honest – way to handle these dreams that are beyond our control.

Here’s the thing: the dreams that are beyond our control are usually connected to our deepest longings and our truest selves. This is why we work so hard and feel so much pain when they don’t happen. We need to pay attention to these big desires because they are telling you about WHO you are and WHY you are here on the earth. It’s a Big Deal.

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I did a short video training on how to respond to these dreams that are so core to who we are, and yet no matter what we do, we can’t seem to get them to materialize. It’s a painful moment, but it’s almost universal to us as humans. You catch my training here.

Are you stuck in this work hard – give up – work hard – give up cycle? I’m offering my community the opportunity to get unstuck and shift into a more peaceful and liberated state of mind and heart with the freedom to desire without . It’s a short-term coaching package called The Breakthrough Sessions, which is 3 coaching sessions PLUS one strategy sessions for only $217, normally $450. I LOVE being part of someone’s breakthrough, and I’d love to do this with you. I only have three packages available because my schedule is almost full so message me at sarahsidersconsulting(at)gmail.com or comment below to get started.

I also want to share this with you, a poem I wrote 8 years ago when we were trying to conceive our first child. I was exhausted from holding the dream out and “trying” to have a baby when there was almost nothing – aside from the obvious 😉 – that I could do to make it happen. This poem has encouraged others who have felt the tension of longing, and I hope it encourages you too.

 

Hope, the Foolish Child

The child, Hope, is unrelenting in optimism;

Wakes up and says, “Today’s the day”, every day,

Even though It hasn’t happened yet.

With odds against the whole thing,

Hope seems blind to reality.

A starving Pollyanna,

Hope is a survivalist.

In a concentration camp of pain,

Hope is a finger of grass, poking through the asphalt.

Sometimes you want to strangle her neck,

Silence this thing that seems only to bring disappointment.

But she walks blindly, dodging death and famine,

Evading what seems to be true,

Believing in something that is nowhere in sight.

What shall I do with Hope, this child I can’t stop feeding?

I want to kill her, but she says the sweetest things.

She knows my desire,

Keeps telling me it’s coming, it’s coming.

I start to think she might be a liar.

And just when I’m about to stop standing there like a fool,

Hand over my eyes,

Staring into that thin horizon line,

Just then she points, shouts,

“Here It comes!”

I squint into the light and sure enough,

Here comes my Longing.

I reach over to hug Hope, that bouncing child.

But she’s gone,

Gone to lay claim to a new desire.

I wonder,

What if I’d given her up?

What if I’d sold her for a clever book title,

Something for the cynics’ best seller list?
What if I’d held her down and shut her up,

Put my hand over her mouth and made her quiet for good?

Disappointment would have moved in.

Skepticism would have been my neighbor,

Resentment shacked up on the couch.

I wouldn’t have been at the end of the drive that day.

I would have missed my Longing as It rode by.

My Cynicism proven right,

I would have looked haughtily from my balcony,

Confident my Self-Righteousness saved me much wasted time.

I would never have known.

I would’ve been right, sort of, but I would have never held Joy.

I thought of all these things.

And then I stood there one more day,

Stood waiting with Hope, holding her tiny hand.

I was there when the Longing came by.

I welcomed the Longing, gladly,

Snatched It up and planted It in the yard:

A Tree of Life for all to see.

A Tree of Life to remind me.

For those who will wait,

Who believe enough to stand out in all that weather:

She does not lie.

No, and Hope does not disappoint.

[by Sarah Siders. Written August 2009]

What Your Self Talk Says About You? 

More than your job, your fashion or your friends, your self talk says a lot about you. Your self talk is the secret to your standards, your expectations, dreams and hopes. Your self talk is the expression of your emotional experience. Your self talk is constantly narrating, interpreting and creating your world.

Your self talk is your life.

The crazy thing is, your self talk doesn’t only come from you. It is often a combination of how parents, teachers and coaches have talked to you throughout your life. Your inner self talk may also reflect how friends and peers have talked to you.

For most of us, our self talk is predominately negative. We have this impression that if we are hard on ourselves, it will help us to grow and change that bad habit we’ve been stuck in for years. But if that were true, wouldn’t you have stopped doing that habit and started doing something else instead? Hmmmm.

Sadly, as many of us have discovered, negative self talk is more destructive than constructive. We may think that we deserve to be talked to in this way after we screw up or fail or disappoint ourselves or others. So in that case, the goal of your self talk is punishment, not motivation.

In fact, much of our self talk is not designed to change us at all but to keep us exactly how we been acting, thinking and behaving our whole lives.

Intentional behavior change starts with intentional self talk change. Because we can’t shame someone, even ourselves, into greatness.

Self talk that promotes fear, guilt or shame will never help you make a long-term change. Negative self talk is typically an assessment of you at your worst, not a reflection of your true self, the person you are when you were at your best. So even though negative self talk might be telling the truth at times, it is only a small part of the whole story.

In order to change our lives, we need to change our self talk by identifying where we are stuck and what our unconscious narration has been saying about this area of our lives, and then identify how we need to talk to ourselves in order to actually change. Usually we need to be encouraging, balanced and positive, noticing where we have made progress and celebrating our forward motion. When we give ourselves this credit, we are more likely to feel rewarded for our progress and we will keep moving forward toward our goal.

I’ll be live in The Leap Year Community Monday night, 6 February, at 730pm CST. Join me there for a live chat, or catch the replay any time. Just click here to request access to our private coaching community, where we have daily challenges and inspiration, plus regular how-to videos and trainings for achieving our goals and living our dreams.

A Time to Speak and A Time to be Silent 


It’s loud out there, y’all. Voices of anger, fear and confusion on all sides. Everyone has an agenda these days. It’s hard to know who to trust. But don’t you feel that pressing in your soul, the call to “do something”? But what? 

There are times to take a stand and times to quiet down and listen. Usually when we are tempted to shout, it is a call to silence and when we want to hide, we are often being called to stand up.

It’s a counterculture movement we are part of, and often we are to act counter to even – and especially – our own tendencies and compulsions. 

The Truth is not usually obvious. It is not the first or the last thing we read or watched on the News. It is not someone else’s opinion. The Truth feels like peace and it takes quiet to hear him. Our restlessness and rage are what drown him out. 

How can we know what to do or say unless we are quiet long enough to forgive, let go and receive the marching orders, the call to act, to march, to write, to pray, to serve? 

In these crazy times we need silence more than ever. I fear for the trajectory of our souls without it. Join me in taking 10 intentional quiet minutes each day this week to allow yourself to hear something besides your own fears and suspicions. 

If we are to be the Essential voices of wisdom, compassion and guidance in a culture that is afraid and lost, it is silence that will allow us to finally hear.