Update from RJ Thesman

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For the followers of Starting Over Single, this blog site will soon be taken down. I am no longer working at GateWay of Hope – which was the original supporter for the SOS program.

However, I am a full-time writer and a writing coach who has gone through the SOS journey. The tagline on my personal blog is “Finding Hope When Life Unravels.” If you’d like to follow me there, my website is: www.RJThesman.net.

I have enjoyed sharing this journey with you. I hope you’ll join me for more Hopeful blog posts at my personal website.

Blessings!

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When Valentine’s Day Isn’t Fun

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heart-with-handsAnother one of those special holidays that doesn’t feel so good anymore. Valentine’s Day – with its pink and red everywhere, the heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, the roses on sale at the grocery store – all a reminder of what we once had but now is gone.

However, take heart! This is not a day to groan or curl up in a fetal position and wish your life could be different.

You can make today better and actually find joy in the day.

First: look for the good in today. Maybe you keep a gratitude journal. What are you grateful for today? A roof over your head, hot water in the shower, food in the fridge, bills that are paid, children who love you, a support group of good friends.

As we state our gratitudes, they cancel out the grumpies.

Second: look for God in today. One of my clients has a “thing” about cardinals. With their bright red plumage and their sweet chirp, they remind her that God creates what is beautiful and he is still working good things for her life. This morning, she saw a cardinal. It was God’s valentine to her.

Where can you find God in today? Maybe in the smoochy peanut butter kisses of your toddler or the smile of a co-worker. Maybe a special sunrise or perhaps you have a “thing” for cardinals, too. Maybe just in the knowing that God loves you and will never betray your love for him.

Whisper a thank you to God for being with you, especially today.

Third: look for ways to bless yourself. Even if no one brings you chocolates or flowers, you can do that for yourself. Go see a fun chick movie with a friend or have a group of SOS women over for a pot-luck and serve only red or pink dishes. Take a long, luxurious bubble bath with lavender, chamomile and rose petals. Buy yourself something bright red – maybe even a lacy nightie.

You are still beautiful inside and out, so celebrate yourself.

If you still feel discouraged about V Day – call someone and vent. Maybe a pastor or a trusted counselor / coach. Maybe a friend or a family member. They can’t help you if they don’t know the problem.

Look in the mirror and remind yourself how wonderful you are. You are deeply loved. This day is just another reminder that you are Starting Over Single and you are moving toward a better life.

©2017 Starting Over Single

When You Feel Stuck

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So many women I know are currently in that “stuck” phase – where nothing is happening to move them forward, when prayers don’t seem to be answered, when life seems like the prison walls are closing in.

Stuck.stuck

So what do we do when it seems as if we’re in Neutral with no way to move into Drive?

Just Do the Next Thing

When we’re in the stuck mode, it seems impossible to think about a good future or even what tomorrow might bring.

Just do the next thing. What is on your list for today? Just do the next thing on the list.

Why does this help? Because at least we are accomplishing one thing each day. Often, we’ll find ourselves doing several things on the list and that in itself becomes a move forward.

Sometimes by doing the next thing, a domino will fall and then everything will begin to move. So…just do the next thing.

Trust in the Timing

The process of being stuck is sometimes just a matter of timing. We can’t move forward because something else has to happen first.

For example: selling the divorce house. First, we have to finalize the divorce and know we have full options to sell. Then we have to find the next place to live and arrange for that. Then we have to list the house, de-clutter everything, hire a stager, et cetera.

Moving to our new house of freedom requires proper timing for all the other tasks. So…sometimes we’re not really stuck. We’re just in the waiting room of life.

Explore All the Options

What sometimes feels like we’re stuck is actually a roadblock of procrastination. If we ask ourselves, what are the options I DO have during this time in my life? Is there a choice I CAN make that will help to propel me forward?

Am I living in the place of self-doubt and self-sabotage? What can I do to move out of that place?

This action usually involves some difficult choices and a bunch of grit and determination. But we’ve already been through one of the worst situations in life. We CAN make some healthy choices and consider our options.

Consider Professional Help

The role of a life coach is to help clients move over obstacles and toward their goals. Sometimes we need to admit how much we need help.

Or this might be the time for counseling help. If we’re stuck behind a wall of anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, rage or any other emotions – a counselor might be able to help us identify the problem and work through it.

Perhaps you will feel better talking to a pastor or maybe you have a mentor who can meet over a great cup of coffee.

Whoever your safe person is, consider asking for professional help. Sometimes that is the first step for jumping out of the mud pile and being unstuck.

What about you? What are some places where you have felt stuck?

©2017 Starting Over Single

When Resentment Revisits

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cry-out-injusticeIt’s been 17 years since the judge’s gavel came down and the divorce was rendered final. During these 17 years, I’ve worked on forgiveness and discovered my new identity as a Starting Over Single woman.

Yet … even with all the good things in my life, resentment occasionally comes knocking.

And when I recognize it for what it is, the emotion soon morphs into the “It’s not fair” wailing. Then grief follows, forcing me to confront forgiveness all over again.

Last week, I spoke with my spiritual director and we worked on a plan for dealing with the resentment. Perhaps some of these ideas will also help you.

Here’s what I know to be true:

  • Resentment is an honest emotion when life has dealt us a blow.
  • “It’s not fair” is a true statement.
  • Justice often takes years to manifest.
  • Acknowledging the resentment and the unfairness is a first step toward healthy grieving.
  • It’s okay to admit how I feel – within a safe place.
  • It’s okay to grieve.
  • Grief often resurfaces in unexpected ways.
  • My resentment does not affect the “wasband” but it can destroy me.
  • Resentment can create a wall between my soul and God’s heart.

Each of these statements could be a journal prompt, and I could write a book about how they make me feel. But I’ll keep my comments pertinent to this blog post.

How can we best deal with resentment when it revisits?

Admit the Truth about the Resentment

What is it – exactly – that I resent? In my case, I resent how hard I worked so he could earn his master’s degree which helped to propel him into a great job with lots of money. Yet, when it was time for my master’s and my move up the career ladder – life fell apart. I was never able to finish that post graduate degree, thus keeping me in a lower monetary demographic and making life harder for my son and me.

That wasn’t fair. True statement.

But living in the regrets and resentments of the past will not propel me forward and will ultimately affect my emotional and spiritual health.

Therefore, I acknowledge this happened to me yet I speak my gratitude for how life HAS blessed me. I may not have a post graduate degree, but I am a certified life coach and a published author. I am also a writing coach and I am able to pay my bills. I have raised my son, and he is a terrific young man.

In spite of the injustice of the past, I’m okay and I am enough.

When Resentment Revisits, Acknowledge it but Don’t Climb into the Pit with It

The sooner we change our mindset and move in a positive direction, the better off we’ll be. If we continue to stew in the resentment juices, they will lead to deeper despair and maybe even an ulcer or two.

My spiritual director taught me to say, “I see you” to the resentment. Since I am a visual person, I command the resentment to jump into a dark jar in the corner and I screw on the lid.

Then I tell myself, the resentment is in the corner so I don’t have to pay attention to it. And I replace it with a happier and healthier thought such as, “I am moving forward and the past is finished. God will figure out how to help me.”

Allow Yourself to Grieve in a Healthy Way

Crying is not my usual way of grieving; however, journaling is. I write out my thoughts and my feelings and scribe myself into a better place.

But if crying and wailing is your best way to grieve, then find your private, safe place and let ‘er rip.

Dark chocolate is another of my grieving choices, but only in moderation. I need to be careful when I comfort myself. A pint of mocha almond fudge is better for my waistline than a half gallon – also better for the budget.

Talking to a friend who has also been through divorce helps me vent in a safe place. And she reciprocates. When she’s hurting, she calls me. We understand each other and we empathize within the grief journey.

Be Honest with God

God does, after all, know exactly how we feel. He created us to be emotional and relational. We might as well be truthful about the situation.

Crying out the injustice to God is okay. He can handle it. It’s okay to pray, “You know what, God, this isn’t fair. When are you going to do something about it?”

And there’s the rub. He DOES promise to be our vindicator and to make justice rule – in the end. We just can’t predict the timing of when that will happen.

Here’s a couple of verses that helped me when resentment revisited this week:

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me. The Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures forever” (Psalm 138:7-8a TNIV.)

If You Can’t Move Past the Resentment, Get Outside Help

Sometimes, we get stuck in the mire of the past. If that’s where you are today, then reach out to a pastor or a professional counselor.

Find a person you can trust and vent about the resentment. Even though an appointment will cost some money, in the long run – it’s worth it.

Resentment will revisit every woman who is Starting Over Single. Triggers abound within calendar dates, objects and reminders on social media.

Our lives have indeed changed, but we don’t have to stay in the pit of despair. We can acknowledge the resentment, throw it in the corner, get some help and trust God to hang on to us as we move forward.

What about you? How do you deal with resentment? Share your tips with the rest of us.

©2017 Starting Over Single

What Divorce Cannot Do

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div-cannot-elim-hopeDivorce cannot change who you are at your core.

Divorce cannot defeat you.

Divorce cannot keep you from believing in the sacredness and beauty of a good marriage.

Divorce cannot delete God’s good plan for you.

Divorce cannot make you choose bitterness.

Divorce cannot keep you from enjoying life.

Divorce cannot ruin the creative power within you.

Divorce cannot eliminate your hope.

Divorce cannot make you fear aloneness.

Divorce cannot deflate your dignity.

Divorce cannot keep you from becoming all God created you to be.

Divorce cannot destroy your children’s future.

Divorce cannot make you a loser.

Divorce cannot make you believe lies.

Divorce cannot humiliate you.

Divorce cannot delete your ability to trust.

Divorce cannot slander you.

Divorce cannot make your children un-love you.

Divorce cannot steal your true beauty.

Divorce cannot hamper your hope for a good future.

Divorce cannot keep you in poverty.

Divorce cannot delete your mission statement.

It is true that divorce has power, but it is NOT as powerful as God’s love for you or his design to take care of you.

Do not give divorce any power it does not have.

©2017 Starting Over Single

Finding Your 2017 Mission

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2017-yearAs we begin a new year, let’s forget about the usual resolutions – which most people don’t keep anyway.

In order to move forward into a new year, it is more helpful to focus on a personal mission statement.

Most of us are familiar with mission statements used by nonprofit organizations or businesses, but have you ever thought of a personal mission statement – something just for you?

If you know your core values, merge them together into your personal mission statement.

For example, if your top core value is “Harmony,” then your mission statement will include how you incorporate harmony into your everyday life. Perhaps “Seeking to share harmony each day” could become a mission statement.

Another example might be the dual core values of “Truth” and “Integrity.” A mission statement could be “To promote truth wherever I go and whatever I do, living a life of integrity.”

Another idea for designing your personal mission statement is to incorporate the following three points:

  • What you do
  • How you do it
  • Why you do it

These bullets serve the purpose of helping us see the value we have in life and the specific significance God has for us.

An effective mission statement with these three aspects becomes the slogan that summarizes the good you hope to do each day.

For a woman Starting Over Single, perhaps something such as “Using my gifts with integrity so I can impact others’ lives.”

My personal mission statement is “To help others through my words – either verbal or written – and point them toward hope.” This statement has become a piece of the tagline on my website: www.RJThesman.net link  “Finding Hope When Life Unravels.”

Some of my clients write their mission statements on a 3 x 5 card they carry with them. Others use a Post-It Note™ in the car. Another client stenciled hers in the front of her planner.

Keeping our mission statements front and center helps to remind us why we are living each day and how we can live well.

So what about you?

For 2017, work on finding your personal mission statement. Comment here when you finalize it.

Then go into the world and make a difference.

©2017 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “X,Y,Z”

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We’re closing out our series with the last three letters of the alphabet: X, Y and Z.letters-xyz

Xenia

In the ancient Greek world, xenia was an important cultural value. It represented the hospitality shown to those who were far from home.

People who exercised the gift of xenia were generous, courteous and kind. They welcomed guests into their homes and sometimes – developed life-long friendships.

When we’re Starting Over Single, we desperately need a dose of kindness from family, friends, churches and our networking community. Some of us DO experience generous spirits who show us kindness.

Others feel condemnation, lose friendships and struggle to feel welcome in places that were once friendly.

Most of us experience both scenarios.

But as SOS women, we now know the vital importance of being empathic and exercising xenia. We can show courtesy and hospitality to other women who are Starting Over Single.

We can be the friendly ones at church who sit with single moms and help them feel welcome. We can be kind and compassionate to anyone who is struggling.

As women who exercise xenia, we now become the champions for a host of other women who just need to see a friendly smile, hear a word of kindness. We become hospitable by opening our hearts to others.

Let’s be those champions who develop xenia.

You

Many of us have lived a lifetime focused on someone else. Whether it was the “wasband,” the children, co-workers, co-dependent friends or even God himself – we forgot about ourselves while helping someone else.

What an admirable quality!

But if we have ignored ourselves in the process, then we are not truly following God’s command to “Love others as we love ourselves.”

We are losing ourselves in order to protect others, and that is not healthy. God has gifted us for a reason and as his daughters – we have value.

We must learn to take care of ourselves and to focus on who we are so we can be an asset to our family, our workplace and even to our society.

Self-care is vital as we continue the SOS journey and as we become an example to hundreds of younger women who follow us.

It is okay to take care of YOU. It is important to celebrate who YOU are.

It is vital to spend time in reflection, living by your core values and gaining the necessary strength to step into your role.

Begin to love YOU. Allow yourself grace. Buy YOU something special or invest in an experience just for YOU.

By taking care of YOU, life will feel more joyful and then you can share the joy more freely with others. You will add to the lives of others because you have invested in the self-care of YOU.

Zenith

We often think of a zenith in terms of astronomy – when a star or a plant reaches its highest point in the universe.

But let’s also consider how women Starting Over Single reach their zenith. This is the point where we are most successful – where we discover the best of ourselves and know we have grown and conquered.

When my coaching clients reach a zenith, they experience the euphoria of accomplishment. They realize all the hard work of emotional and mental struggle has been worth it.

All the ways they have stretched themselves has paid off. They have reached their goals.

For us, the zenith of our SOS experience might be when we pay off all the divorce debt. Or it might be the moment we walk into our new home, knowing we now own it and we don’t have to pay rent anymore.

Our zenith might be the day we walk into a car dealership and by a new vehicle – all by ourselves. We might experience a zenith as we fix the plumbing, steam clean the carpet or figure out how to check the car’s oil.

For some of us, the zenith occurs when our children come to us at night, snuggle up and say, “I love you, Mom. I know this whole mess wasn’t your fault.”

A spiritual zenith may occur when we walk into a church and are welcomed with open arms – then we become members in good standing where we are asked to serve and use our gifts.

For writers like me, the zenith comes when I hold one of my books in my hands and know the words contained within came from my soul – God-breathed and sent out to inspire others.

I wonder – what is your zenith? What are you working for and hoping for? What are some of the zenith points you have already reached?

Share with us in the comments so we can rejoice with you.

And keep reaching, keep striving, keep believing in who you are. Your next zenith is just a whisper away.

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “W”

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Wow! We are moving right along with our alphabet series and today, we’re looking at the “W” words.letter-w

Wonder

As we move into the phase of Starting Over Single, we may wonder what in the world happened. This was not the vision we had for our lives.

However, we can also turn that wonder into something positive:

  • The wonder of identifying our true selves without having to BE a certain way for someone else
  • The wonder of knowing our strength
  • The wonder of how God’s love and faithfulness protects us – EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.
  • The wonder of how our children love us even with our flaws
  • The wonder of how grief changes us – for the better – if we let it
  • The wonder of learning how to make ends meet and realizing we can indeed stretch pennies
  • The wonder of how many people are willing to help us
  • The wonder of meeting other women who are Starting Over Single and realizing we are an incredibly amazing cadre of women

Never lose the wonder of the miracle you are.

Make each day a mystery for finding the wonder around you and within you.

Then you’ll be filled with the wonder of who you are.

Warrior

Many of us were taught to be totally submissive and passive. In fact, we believed the lie that “true Christian women must always submit.”

But that is a lie based on the need for control.

We have learned to fight for our lives, to set healthy boundaries and to use our giftings to impact others.

When God created Eve, he said she was a helpmate for Adam. In the original Hebrew, the word “helpmate” is translated “Ezer” which means “Warrior.”

Eve did not just sit around in the garden, eating fruit and waiting for Adam to finish naming the animals. She was a warrior woman who fought along with him and raised her sons in a world that could not have been easy to inhabit.

Our ancestor, Eve, passed on her genes to us and God calls us to continue as warrior women who fight for what is right, who protect our children, who set healthy boundaries around our hearts, who know who we really are, who do everything we can to survive and thrive.

A great resource that underscores who we are as warrior women is “Half the Church” by Carolyn Custis James. In fact, all her books are fabulous writings about the gifts and roles of women.

So embrace who you really are and keep fighting for your soul. You’re worth it.

Winner

We live in a competitive world where winning is everything and losers are devalued.

Some of us have lost a great deal of this world’s goods and we may have lost pieces of ourselves in the divorce journey.

Be we don’t have to stay in the losers’ circle. We can march forward with a winning attitude and make our lives better than ever before.

In many ways, we are already winners. We have fought some legal battles and won. We have protected ourselves and our children from abusive relationships. We have realized some of our dreams and we’re marching toward resurrected passions.

We have won the battle to Start Over Single with grace-filled hearts, forgiving spirits and attainable goals.

All around, we ARE winners.

So don’t let that lie of marital failure tear you down. The end of the marriage was not all your fault.

Now, you’re Starting Over as a warrior woman, filled with the wonder of good things to come.

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “V”

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As we continue our alphabet series, the letter “V” presents some powerful words for Starting Over Single.letter-v

Values

We’ve mentioned the importance of knowing our core values. Without a definite focus on values, we can easily move off course and even find ourselves enmeshed in new toxic relationships.

One of my coaching clients emailed me about her experience. During our SOS group, she had listed her core values and one of those values was that she would never date or marry another man who struggled with addictions.

She started dating a man who seemed to be nice. When she asked him about any addictive behaviors, he denied any sort of problem. So – smart woman – she ordered a background check on him and found several arrests for DUI. When she presented him with the evidence, he seemed surprised that she considered alcoholism as an addiction. Wisely, she ended the relationship.

Other women may include Faith as a core value, so they are not going to be involved with anyone who does not share the same faith value.

Even your workplace can be affected by a strong core value system. Are honesty, truth and integrity part of your core values? If so, then you can’t be involved in fraudulent work practices.

Whether your core values include security, life-long learning, faith, health and exercise or any number of other ideas – stick to those values when you’re making decisions.

Our core values help to define us but they also help us set healthy boundaries. Know your core values and hang on to them when faced with life-altering decisions.

Vision

Many of us had a different vision for life. Divorce interrupted that vision or completely changed it. But it’s not too late.

You may have to tweak the vision you once had or you may want to consider a new type of vision.

One of my friends is now the executive director of a single moms organization. Her vision began as a happy family living out the American dream, but divorce changed that. Her new vision is to help single moms in the Kansas City metro, to provide them with empowering and validating activities. She’s doing a great job and impacting many lives.

What visions do you have for yourself in this new season?

  • Have you seen the vision of the book you want to publish?
  • Do you have a vision of yourself with a new hairdo or a different style?
  • Is owning your own house part of your vision?
  • What about a special vacation? Can you envision yourself resting beside the beach or hiking in the mountains?
  • What do you think is God’s vision for you and how can you align yourself with him?

Don’t give up on your vision just because your marital status has changed. You still have a good life to live and your vision can still become a reality.

Valor

Think of yourself with a new tagline and repeat it often, “I am a woman of valor.”

To be a woman of valor means you have integrity and purpose. You are strong and courageous. You know what you want out of life and you are willing to boldly march toward that goal.

You are making a significant difference in others’ lives including your children, other women who are Starting Over Single, your co-workers and the people who sit with you at church.

Perhaps even your ex-laws have observed how graciously you have acted toward them. Maybe you and your “wasband” have emotionally reconciled so you can easily work through issues with the children.

It is possible to Start Over Single and become a better and stronger version of yourself. In fact, that is the goal of the SOS program.

This is the time to fill your mind with stories about other strong women. Check out books and movies that emulate other women of integrity, women who have the gumption to stand up for their core values and their true identities.  The movie, “Hidden Figures” is one example.

As you gain strength and begin thinking of yourself as a woman of valor, other women will notice and call you their “she-ro.” And you’ll make an impact on other women who are Starting Over Single.

What are some of your core values?

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “U”

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As we continue our alphabet series, let’s focus on the letter “U.”letter-u

Understanding

Now that we have survived several months or years post-divorce, we understand so much more about the process of growth.

Survival has morphed into thriving. We know more about ourselves and we’re amazed at the strength we’ve shown.

We can look back now and understand more about what the marriage relationship is supposed to look like, because we can see where and how it failed – our own mistakes and failures as well as those of our ex-mate.

We seek to understand, because understanding growth will help us in the next relationship and also in other relationships around us.

We understand more about manipulation and toxic people, so we know how to avoid them.

We understand the plight of single moms because we are now living in that demographic.

We understand how important it is to take care of ourselves and de-stress from all the messiness of life.

We understand how addiction can destroy a marriage and how forgiveness can keep us from bitterness.

We understand more than ever before the need for support groups and for those who will walk beside us in the grief journey.

We understand how to be that person who walks beside others.

We understand the value of our giftings and how we add beauty to the world.

We continue to learn understanding as a branch of unconditional love.

We nurture the understanding we have learned and seek to understand more.

Unconditional Love

Although it may be difficult to define, we know unconditional love when we experience it.

This incredible quality includes being totally accepted and totally understood without any pretense of having to perform.

With unconditional love, we don’t have to obey any rules and we don’t have to measure up to someone else’s comparative qualities.

We are simply ourselves in all our messiness and with all our flaws. We are loved without condition.

When we define ourselves as “divorced women” or as “single moms,” unconditional love will not accept those labels.

It looks beyond the mental name tags and instead asks, “How can I help you?” or “May I give you a hug?

Unconditional love never looks back at where we’ve come from and never asks those ugly questions about what happened.

Instead, this pure form of love accepts where we are in the present and helps us move forward with confidence.

Unconditional love is what we seek to give to others and also what we hope to receive.

Unpack

We cannot move into unconditional love or into understanding until we unpack the baggage of the past.

And unpacking doesn’t happen in a day.

It requires thought and personal reflection, a folding and putting away of those memories we need to keep and a throwing away of what we must let go.

Unpacking usually isn’t as much fun as packing. When we’re planning to go somewhere, we have hope and anticipation.

But unpacking means the event is passed, the vacation is over. It feels a bit sad.

Yet with the unpacking, we clean up. The suitcase is made ready for the next trip; the future represents joy.

How awful it would be to prepare for a new trip and open the suitcase to find old smelly clothes and leftover souvenirs.

So let’s unpack everything from the past relationship, let our souls rest in an understanding mode and seek the unconditional love that’s just around the corner.

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “T”

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We’re moving toward the end of the alphabet with our series for Starting Over Single. Let’s look at some important “T” words.letter-t

Truth

Now that several months – even years – have passed since we started this journey, we can look back and think about truth.

For many of us, the truth was skewed in several ways: through spiritual abuse – twisting the Bible to say something it was never intended to say or spiritual authorities telling us we HAD to stay with an abuser.

Your truth may have been twisted by a manipulating spouse who tried to make you feel as if everything was your fault.

Sometimes we need to examine the truth for our own growth. What were some ways you and I could have made the situation better? Did we live in denial for several years, refusing to see the truth because it was too painful?

One of my clients lists “Truth” as her top core value. She now focuses her entire life around the topic of truth and she refuses to associate with anyone who will not live in truth. She wants the rest of her life – going forward – to reflect what is true and what brings her integrity.

Looking back, maybe you can see some of your personal scenario wrapped in exaggeration or even a lie. This is the time to examine your heart and make sure you are telling the truth – to yourself and to others.

It is harder to tell ourselves the truth. When I realized my entire marriage was a lie, that truth emotionally set me back for a while. But it also helped move me into a new level of healing.

So examine your own truths and remember one truth that will never falter: God loves you and has a good plan for your life. He will NEVER abandon you or reject you.

Tranquility

This seems like a rather old-fashioned word, but it can have a special meaning to women who are Starting Over Single.

Some of the synonyms for tranquility include: calm, peacefulness, serenity, harmony and composure.

One of the ways you can surround yourself with tranquility is to downsize and declutter. Many of us must downsize when we sell the divorce house, and at first – it may seem difficult and bring to mind painful memories.

But after a time, we can see the value of starting over, getting rid of anything that causes pain and having the freedom to make our own choices.

Give away the wedding china and find some dishes you like. Trade in the bed of betrayal for a new bedroom suite – something that gives you special joy. Sell or pawn the wedding band and buy yourself some new bling.

Surround yourself with essential oils such as lavender that help you sleep and feel more tranquil. Redecorate in calming colors and get rid of trashy dead plants. Pack away the wedding album so your children can have it someday, but refuse to allow yourself sad thoughts about that day. Give your wedding dress to a school drama club or sell it for consignment and use the money to bless a single mom.

Whenever you decide about an activity, ask yourself “Will this add serenity to my life or will it add stress?”

Avoid anything that adds stress.

Enjoy your new life and live in the tranquility of peace. You’re heading in a new direction, and it’s going to be good.

Trust

Many of us will experience trust issues as we Start Over Single.

A man has hurt us, so it is easy to assume other men will do the same. And of course, we need to be careful about beginning any relationship that isn’t safe. Check out this resource: Safe People

We cannot blame all men because of the failure of a few, and we cannot blame all church leaders because of the abuse of some.

This is the time to build our hearts toward a new and smarter level of trust. Being able to recognize the truth will help us as well as being proactive with current relationships.

Before you get serious about another relationship, check him out. Websites will help you determine if he is a sex predator, if he has been arrested for domestic violence or driving under the influence. In the Kansas City area, here’s an important website for background checks: www.jococourts.org.

By this time, you also know which of your former friends have proven to be toxic. They may have decided to abandon you, and it still hurts.

But now you know the truth about who they are. So don’t let that truth scar you or isolate you against future relationships.

Get involved with a different group of people. Take a craft class or renew your membership to a fitness program. Call another woman who is Starting Over Single and go to a movie together.

Begin to trust someone else and build on the truth.

It may be difficult to find another church you can trust, but many good churches still exist and many church leaders are NOT spiritual abusers. Check out their websites for programs involving single women or single moms. Then start visiting.

In most churches, you’ll find some great people. They may believe a bit differently than you, but you are changing, too. Perhaps God has an entirely new spiritual family for you.

Move forward with joy as you examine the truth and live a more tranquil life. Then learn to trust your own instincts and find others you can connect with to build trusting relationships.

How have you learned to trust again?

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “S”

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letter-sThe “S” words that continue our alphabet series fit in nicely with this time of the year – November and the approaching holidays.

Seasons

We often think of seasons as the natural movement from winter to spring to summer to fall. Most of us have a favorite season because of the temperature and/or the colors and textures in nature.

But some of the most important seasons of life are the ones we go through as a result of circumstances and the aging process.

We live through the season of adolescence which is awkward and uncomfortable although sometimes a bit interesting.

The season of education when we finish high school and maybe pursue a higher level of learning. Usually during college or soon after, many of us will enter the season of marriage which often includes the seasons of having babies, buying a home, advancing in our careers, et cetera.

Now we have entered and are working through the season of divorce. Sometimes it feels as if this season will continue forever, but it is still only a season.

Seasons have a beginning and also an ending. Someday we will reach the end of this journey when we will know we are healed. We will move into the next season of joy, empowerment and personal significance.

Our next season will be richer because we have learned more about ourselves and we are able to help other women who are at the beginning of the divorce season.

Story

A good story has a beginning, a middle and an ending with several plot lines involving conflict and resolution.

We have begun this story of Starting Over Single with plenty of conflicts and we have learned how to resolve many of them.

Some of us are still slugging through the middle of the mess and it feels as if we are bogged down in all the details. But in a good story, the characters never stay in the middle.

They move toward the ending where it’s either a happily-ever-after, some type of learning experience or a resolution of the mystery.

But whatever is happening, the story is best told when the main character has some type of growth or healing experience.

For each of us, the details of the divorce story are different. But we, as the main characters, are learning more about ourselves and how to deal with future conflicts.

We know how we want our next story to read and what types of characters we will allow into the pages of our lives.

We cannot change the fact that divorce has entered our lives – that piece of the story is now part of our history.

But we can move forward to make the end of the story one of beauty, personal growth and a contentment with life.

Self-Care

Here’s an exercise for you that will illustrate the importance of self-care:

  • On a 3 x 5 card, list all the people you have taken care of within the last 5 years. Include children, husband, friends, even online friends.
  • Then list all the people you estimate you will take care of within the next 10 years. Include any possibility of children marrying and having grandkids, aging parents, siblings with needs and again – even online friends.
  • Count up all those people. You may have hundreds of people on your list, and this may be the reason why you feel tired all the time. It takes an amazing amount of energy to care for others.

Now look at your card. Did you include yourself on either list?

If not, then you’ve forgotten an important person. We cannot truly care for others if we do not care for ourselves.

Self-care is vitally important during and after the Starting Over Single journey and it will look different for every woman.

Maybe your self-care includes:

  • Taking time to read a book
  • Recovery time at the beach or the mountains
  • A good hair cut with a facial at a day spa
  • Scheduling your physical exam
  • A monthly massage and/or manicures and pedicures
  • Your favorite beverage at Starbucks
  • Stretching yoga exercises

The point is … make sure you are adding self-care to your weekly schedule. In fact, you may have to write it in the calendar to remind yourself that YOU are worthwhile and self-care is vital.

To be truly healthy – body, mind and spirit – we need to make sure self-care is a major part of our Starting over Single recovery.

It is NOT selfish. It IS vital so that you can move forward in life and have the energy to care for all those other people on your list.

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “R”

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As we continue our alphabet series, let’s look at some of the “R” words that affirm our Starting Over Single status.letter-r

Reflection

Especially as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, this is a time for reflection. Perhaps you’re thinking about Thanksgivings of the past and how you enjoyed fixing a big meal, decorating with pumpkins or sharing with grateful hearts around the table.

Your Thanksgiving holiday may look different this year. The in-laws are no longer in the picture and even the visual of past years may bring fresh grief.

Your children may be spending Thanksgiving with the “wasband,” so what’s the point of fixing a big meal just for yourself?

This is the time to reflect. Yes, be grateful for past Thanksgivings and all the blessings you have enjoyed. But don’t get stuck in memories.

Think about all the things you are grateful for now:

  • You’ve made it through another year
  • The Thanksgiving colors are beautiful and hopefully – your vision is clear and you can see the trees with their magnificent leaves
  • Wherever you are in the process, you’re farther along now than you were last year at this time
  • You can pick and choose exactly what you want to wear, what you want to eat and how you want to spend each day
  • What else are you grateful for?

Another type of reflection is to consider how you will move forward. Can you help another woman going through this journey? You now have experience and you know what has worked for you. Pass it on!

Relationships

As we are Starting Over Single, we have a new appreciation for relationships. We know about the toxic ones and we’ve learned a few things about how to avoid them.

A great resource is “Never Go Back” by Dr. Henry Cloud. This book describes 10 things we never want to do again, including getting involved in unhealthy relationships.

You have probably learned about the people you can trust and who are your true friends. Most of us lose a couple of friendships along the journey – former friends who no longer want to associate with someone going through a divorce.

But we’ve also begun to treasure even more the relationships that last – no matter what we’re struggling with. These are the people God has given us to encourage us and sometimes – these are the people who will meet practical needs.

If you have children, this journey will bond you together like nothing else in life. Although you will have struggles and each day is a new adventure, when you look back from the vantage point of time – you will see how precious and strong the relationship is with your children.

It is a proven fact that children will be angrier with the mother than with the father. They will act out in ways against you that they will not do with Disney Dad.

This is because they know deep in their little hearts Mommy will always and forever love them. So it is safe to be angry, to be honest and to test the waters of relationship with you.

That makes it tough, especially with little boys who have a harder struggle with change. But once you make it through those first years of post-divorce, setting healthy boundaries and always assuring your children of your love for them – that bond will be amazingly strong.

I look at my grown son now and I am so grateful for our relationship. We have moved into the friendship phase, and we can talk about any subject with honesty and respect for our differences. He is an amazing young man.

Your children will also survive and give you joy in the coming years.

Another relationship is a treasure and that is the divine One. God will never leave you and never abandon you. He is always present. You’ve probably experienced an even closer relationship with him than ever before – a rich treasure of knowing him and relying on him that other people can’t even begin to fathom.

So hang on to the relationships that count, to the ones you can depend on and be grateful God has placed these people in your life.

Resolution

We often think of resolutions for the new year, but I like to consider how we can resolve to move forward.

I resolve to most past any bitterness of what was done to me and find joy in total forgiveness.

I resolve to help as many women as possible when they are Starting Over Single.

I resolve to make this new year even better than the next by doing my part to grow and succeed.

I resolve to embrace healthy relationships and not shut myself off from others just because some people have been cruel to me.

I resolve to live by my core values and set healthy boundaries around what I will do and what I will accept into my life.

I resolve to work at my craft of writing so my words are a blessing to others.

I resolve to continue as a life-long learner so my coaching clients will experience the success of reaching their goals.

I resolve to eat healthy, think good thoughts and take care of my soul. Total health involves body, soul and spirit.

What about you? Any special resolutions you can think of? Make a list and journal through them, reflecting on what is truly important to you. Then embrace this Thanksgiving season with a heart full of gratitude.

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “Q”

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It’s always a challenge to find words that begin with Q but we did it!letter-q

Quality

This word conjures up so many possibilities. Now that we are Starting Over Single, the quality of life has changed – in many ways – for the better.

We are no longer living within manipulative behaviors and the fear that attaches like a manacle. Our quality of life has improved and now we are moving forward with joy.

Once we’ve moved through the crisis, the quality of health will also improve. We won’t gain or lose weight as a result of divorce stress. Now we can focus on good nutrition, better habits and eating real food instead of dead food.

Quality also plays in with the stuff of life. In the before divorce life, we may have surrounded ourselves with stuff, trying to comfort that place inside that hurt so deeply.

Now we can declutter and remove anything connected to the painful past. This is the time to go through every room, every drawer, every closet. Whatever you find that does NOT give you joy, either give it away or throw it away.

Surround yourself with quality stuff that energizes you and pleases you. The dishware you want for this new life, the colors you want to decorate your new space, the jewelry that represents you.

Fill your Starting Over Single life with quality and enjoy the emotional freedom of just being you.

Quiet

If you’re still raising little ones, your quiet time is limited and you have to set firm boundaries just to find some alone time.

But if you’ve finished raising kids, now is a precious time for solitude and quiet. This is the season to sit down with your journal, a steaming cup of your favorite beverage and your favorite pen. Write, reflect and learn.

Go to the library and check out books you’ve been longing to read. Fill your mind with quality words and phrases. Learn from the experts. Discover other strong women through biographies.

Spend quiet time with your Bible. Journal your prayers or write letters to God.

This may also be the time for you to continue the grieving process. Grieving in a healthy way will help to unload any baggage or leftover pain.

And use your quiet time to listen carefully for that inner voice, the divine whisper who will guide you in new directions.

The prophet Isaiah said it best, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

So enjoy this quiet time. Turn off the electronics and rediscover the beauty of solitude. Love being alone with God and find your strength within the quiet place.

Questions

The process of Starting Over Single brings several realistic questions:

  • Who am I now?
  • What should I do with my life now?
  • How can I best use this time of being single?

Other questions might reverberate around the issues of where to live, how to manage finances alone and how to deal with holiday stress.

But the bigger questions revolve around identity – who we are and what our new focus should be.

For my SOS coaching clients, we work through a core values assessment. We ask the hard questions and dig deep to find the top five core values for this season in life.

Then we dig even deeper and discover the one umbrella core value that covers our lives and our direction. Everything else is covered by that one specific value and all our future decisions will need to be in sync with our five core values.

This is such a wonderful a-ha exercise, I wish I could share it with the entire world of women. But it’s also a highly personal assessment. Sometimes we discover our true selves have been hidden for years underneath the heavy blanket of a destructive relationship.

So we work through that grief process, too, and leave the past behind. We move toward our new identities and discover the wonderfully unique women God has created us to be.

If you’d like to consider going through this assessment with a certified coach, contact me at GateWay of Hope or email me at rebeccat@gwhope.org.

In the meantime, check out these resources that can help you find your new identity:

The Search for Significance” by Robert S. McGee

Excavating Your Authentic Self” by Sarah Ban Breathnach

The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown

As you answer the questions that stir deeply in your soul, you will discover the quality of your new self. And in the quiet place, you will know God has never ever stopped loving you.

©2016  Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “P”

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letter-pThe letter “P” has so many possibilities for our Starting Over Single series, it’s difficult to choose just a few words. But let’s start with one of the most important concepts we can learn in life.

Patience

I will admit, this is one of the lessons I am constantly having to learn – to wait, to let the seasons of life and the benefits of wisdom catch up to me – to learn how to be patient.

But I can see some growth in my soul, and I’m sure you have learned some lessons about patience, too.

The process of going through divorce requires patience as we wait for paperwork to be completed, phone calls to be returned, legal matters solved, household goods divided and sold, custody agreements to be resolved.

If we try to rush any of these things, we may lose the advantage or even some of the financial benefits we need.

It’s better to stop, breathe and wait for the process to happen.

Another way to learn patience is to not rush through recovery. I tried to recover too fast and bought a house too soon. I needed to wait for the right property and a lower interest rate, but I was ready to move forward.

A bit more patience would have resulted in a better deal.

Sometimes we also want to rush the grieving process. We say, “I should be over him by now. It’s been two years, and I still have nightmares.”

Or “I should have recovered by this time. I still cry on the anniversary date.”

Shoulding ourselves never works out well. We can gift ourselves with patience – however much time that requires – to totally heal and to completely recover.

Patience is a virtue – one of the most important core values we can own. So let’s be patient with the process and give ourselves grace as we move forward.

Promise

We’re looking at this word differently now, because someone who promised us the happily-ever-after life did not keep his promise.

But let’s not dwell on the past or on the negatives of yesterday. Let’s look forward and think about the promise of today and tomorrow.

When God makes promises, he always keeps them. “Do not fear, for you will not be put to shame, and do not feel humiliated or ashamed, for you will not be disgraced. For you will forget the shame of your youth, and you will no longer remember the disgrace of your widowhood” (Isaiah 54:4 Amplified Bible).

Any shame you have felt because of the divorce is already covered and done – because God has made a promise to you.

Any humiliation someone tried to pin on you is a lie. Anybody who said something ugly to you because you’re now a single mom – that person is toxic. Delete him or her from your life. Set healthy boundaries around your heart.

As you draw closer to God while you’re Starting Over Single, you’ll probably discover some personal promises he has designed especially for you.

God promised that he would meet every need for my son and me, and he has done that. Every. Single. Need.

He promises that he has a good plan for our lives. That good plan has not disappeared, and someday you’ll see it become reality.   woman-worship

Another promise he makes, still in Isaiah 54, is that he will take care of your children. “All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace” (Isaiah 54:13).

We worry about our children and how they will deal with the divorce, but anyone who tries to pin humiliation on your children is not living in the grace of God.

Yes, our children will have to work through the emotions and the fallout, but they can emerge stronger and better because they’ve had to trust you and God to help them through it.

Hold God to the promises he has made to you. He keeps them – always.

Power

The journey of Starting Over Single teaches us about the power we have to become the women God created us to be.

We can make wiser choices than ever before and watch the side effects of divorce disappear. Every time we use our money wisely – saving, investing and culling out what is unnecessary – it gives us power for the future.

When we go back to school or start our own business or move away from toxic relationships, we gain more power over our tomorrows.

As we journey through the forgiveness process – which may take a lifetime – we learn more about the power of grace and the compassion of Christ.

As we change and grow, we become more empowered to be who we were made to be. We step into our new identity and enjoy being with ourselves. Living alone is no longer scary but proof that we CAN do this single life and do it well.

Single women are becoming a force in our world, a corps of powerful women who use their giftings to help the poor, save animals, raise the next generation and run for political office at all levels.

We are becoming pastors and politicians, mothers and grandmothers, mentors and disciplers, coaches and counselors. We are no longer just defined as a “wife” and we are certainly not going to EVER live under the shadow of being a “victim.”

So enjoy your newfound power and use it for the good. Then share with the rest of us…what have you learned about patience, promise and power?

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “O”

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Let’s think about some powerful “O” words for Starting Over Single.letter-o

Optimism

Now that we’re post-divorce, this is the time for an optimistic outlook. We’ve made it through all the grunge work and we’ve completed a mound of paperwork.

We’ve reworked the budget, so we know exactly how much we need to live on. Even if we’ve had to make some financial sacrifices, we are moving toward paying off debts, rebuilding our savings accounts and possibly buying a new house.

We’ve also worked through some of the difficult emotions of the divorce, vented our guts out with the counselor and set healthy boundaries around our hearts.

We have set goals for this new season of life and we are marching forward with a determined mindset – we will be happier now. We will begin to thrive and not just survive.

Although we know life will still have its bumpy days, we’ve come through hell on earth. God has helped us through it and we’re still breathing. It will be okay.

We’ve learned to define our new normal for life, and we know we can conquer the challenges we never even imagined before the divorce.

And…since we’ve learned so much about ourselves and how to deal with life, we’re beginning to plan for how we can help other women who are struggling.

  • Offer to lead a Bible study at church
  • Begin a support group at home
  • Work toward a certification in Coaching or Counseling
  • Develop a blog and gain followers who need some practical info about being single
  • Start a book club with the single women at work
  • Schedule a coffee date with that young mom who’s having a tough time
  • Sit with the other divorced women at church so nobody feels alone

This is the time to think creatively and use your new-found optimism for the good of others. As you have been helped by other women, you can now pass it on.

Originality

This is the time to use our originality to be as creative as possible. One of the fun things I did was to redesign my bedroom.

I knew the “marital” bed had to go so I gave him that old mattress and switched the guest room mattress to my bed. After I sold the divorce house, my son and I moved to a beautiful townhome where we could emotionally heal. I bought all new bedding and for the first time in a long time – I slept deeply through the night.

Although I was working another job, I decided to create my own business and use my communications skills. So Do It Write was born, an editorial service that has since become a coaching and speaking outlet at writers conferences.

Then I started my blog and later, this blog. Both of these original ideas morphed into ways to help other women Starting Over Single and to offer Hope When Life Unravels. Both of them include books I’ve written and more ideas for future books.

Another piece of my originality was to learn more about decorating. I’ve enjoyed starting over with my own idea of colors, textures and placement. I watch some of the design shows and I try to make my living space as comfortable as possible.

Now that your identity has changed, you can do anything creative you want to do. Although some people don’t see themselves as creative, we all DO have a piece of creativity within us.

Since God created us in his image and he IS the creator – it follows that we are also creative. He gave us wheat, and we made bread. He gave us plants and we made salad bars. He gave us color and we can learn to paint, decorate, crochet or do any number of things that include color.

So … don’t wait any longer. Use that originality and create something beautiful just for you. Then share it with someone else.

Overcomer

Pat yourself on the back for being an overcomer. You’ve been through a lot of stuff and you’ve survived. You have overcome the pain of being betrayed and/or abuses of all kinds. You’ve moved past the shock of it all and learned how to grieve in healthy ways.

You have become an overcomer.

This fabulous song by Mandisa reminds us how God holds us up and helps us become overcomers.

Whenever this song comes on the radio, I crank it up and sing it fortissimo. I don’t care what people in the other cars at the stoplight think, I’m letting go with the truth.

Another encouragement for me has been Psalm 54:4 where God promises to uphold us. He sustains us and keeps us going strong – even when we aren’t aware that he’s right beside us.

I love the idea of his sustaining power, because I am a pianist. The sustain pedal on the far right keeps the sound going on and on. So even when I’m having a tough day and my life feels discordant, God sustains me. The music of my soul continues, no matter what is happening.

So as we Start Over Single and move forward in this next season of life, we can take joy in being the overcomers God has called us to be.

What about you? What are some ways you are developing more originality in your life? How are you becoming an overcomer?

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “N”

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As we continue our alphabet series, let’s look at the meaty letter of “N.” Lots of possibilities here, but we’ll choose only three key words.letter-n

Necessities

The journey through divorce and the post-divorce decisions force us to ask the question, “What is really essential in my life? What activities are necessary for this new season and what can I delete?”

Some of the once-necessary activities no longer exist. We don’t need to buy Christmas gifts or make birthday cakes for the “wasband.” We don’t need to have that heavy talk about the budget because we now make all the financial decisions.

So what are the necessities we can now focus on? Certainly, if we have children – their needs become the focus of many decisions.

But we also have to think about ourselves and set the healthy boundaries that will help us thrive. Necessities include work, paying bills and fixing meals. But think deeper about the necessities for your soul.

  • Sleeping at least eight hours each night
  • Some form of exercise that you enjoy so you won’t procrastinate
  • Taking an artist date to rekindle that creativity within
  • Spending quality time with yourself – what do you really WANT to do? Yes, that IS a necessity.
  • Finding a support group

One of my coaching clients knows she must surround herself with beauty. So when she moved into the post-divorce house, she hired a designer to help her place everything in the best space. Just that one action gave her hope and helped her return home after a hard day – to find her place of beauty.

Save some money for your own time away. Where do you want to go? A quiet retreat in the mountains or maybe an Italian cuisine tour.

The dream of your heart isn’t just a dream and a wish. It is also a necessity – to help you move forward with joy and find your new normal.

New Normal

Defining your new normal may include a redesign of your core values. What are the values that are most important to you – absolutely vital for this new season of life?

You have learned a great deal and the old core has changed. For example: one of your core values might have been to nurture a happy marriage. Now, you’ll be nurturing yourself as a single woman and finding the best self you can be.

My coaching clients work through a core values assessment and most of them discover that a-ha moment when their new identity begins to surface. Then we craft a mission statement which becomes the focus for their new lives.

Finding your new normal and the creative way you now define yourself will become a goal-setter for you. It will also keep you from making poor decisions because everything will revolve around your new core values. By its design, you’ll have a new set of healthy boundaries.

Next Steps

Keep looking forward and avoid those backward statements such as “I should have….” That sort of belief only leads us into regret and false guilt.

This is the time to make some short-term goals and maybe even some long-term plans. Think about those necessities we discussed and your new normal.

What are the next steps to lead you toward your goals? Do you need to find a life coach to help you stay accountable? Do you need a vision board or a vision journal to help picture visually what you want?

Is this the time to start a new savings account or redefine your budget so you’ll have that dream vacation in the spring?

Now that your necessities have changed, you’ll be saving some money. Find the best method for you to put away a few dollars a week. You’ll be surprised and blessed at the end of the year.

Maybe this is the time for those next steps toward losing the divorce weight or gaining back the pounds you lost. Put together a plan for the exercise process you like best.

Gandhi said, “You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.”

So take those next steps and move forward to make your new normal a beautiful season.

©2016  Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “M”

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Marching ahead with our alphabet series, let’s look at the letter “M.”letter-m

Motivation

No lazy attitudes allowed for women who are Starting Over Single. That doesn’t mean we can’t relax and have fun, sit and drink a hot cup of chai tea or watch a Hallmark movie – one of the especially sappy ones.

It just means we are more motivated than ever before to achieve what we need to achieve, to accomplish tasks and to move toward our dreams.

It means we believe in taking action to approach our goals and we’re not going to let anyone stop us from acquiring the desires of our hearts.

Some of our motivation stems from the reality of survival skills. Some of it comes from a deep well that is now flowing in a healthy direction – because we don’t have an abusive relationship to stomp on us.

Some motivation flows from healthy accountability partners or a life coach who keeps us clued in to the plans we’ve made.

Most of the time, we’re motivated because we want to be. We enjoy being the Number One Sales Person at work. Or we’ve tasted what it feels like to hold our published books and we want to write another one.

Or we keep thinking about that sweet child we tuck into bed each night. We want to be a good role model for that sticky-with-pancake-syrup boy and that giggly little girl.

We are more motivated than ever before because that’s what Starting Over Single will do for us.

We’re forgetting the past and looking forward to the best future ever.

Money

One of the reasons we may be motivated is because we understand more of the value of money.

We have learned how to budget wisely and we’re saving for that next car, the deposit on a better apartment or even the down payment on a house.

We’re also much smarter now in distinguishing what we need from what we want. We know a bunch of stuff won’t make us happy and we’ve already downsized to a smaller, more economical place.

We’re also saving for the kids’ college funds, because we can’t depend on the “wasband” and whatever child support he might decide to pay.

Thinking about money may put us in danger of living in the past and bringing up regrets such as:

  • Why oh why didn’t I push forward and finish that graduate degree?
  • Why did I believe that wives have to keep joint accounts with their husbands?
  • Why didn’t I start saving a long time ago?
  • Why did I buy all this junk? If I had all that money back, I’d have a nice bundle of money.
  • Why did I overbuy on this house? Now I’m house poor and I can’t sell the thing.
  • Why didn’t I see the financial abuse coming and prepare better for it?
  • Why can’t I seem to get out of this financial hole?

Living in the past and fuming about regrets won’t help. If you find yourself in this self-blame frame of mind, go visit a CPA. Talk to a financial planner. Take a class on budgeting. Look for an accountability partner.

Start now to learn more about how to manage your money and remember – you’re smarter than you think and you CAN get out of this hole. Many of us have done it before you.

Statistics prove that women are better with money than men. I believe in you.

Mini-Retreat

It may seem impossible but a mini-retreat is an absolute necessity when we’re Starting Over Single.

You may need a retreat as you’re finishing with the final papers – just to gather your courage for the final push of finalizing the divorce.

Or several months into the post-divorce journey, you may need to get away and be refreshed for this season of living alone.

Whatever you want to call it – a mini-retreat, a Sabbatical, an emotional getaway – whatever…plan for it, set a date and then do it.

You’ve been through an enormous transition in life. You’ve dealt with some past baggage and let lots of dreams go.

You’ve haggled with the legal system, talked to a mediator, arranged for custody and maintenance, reworked your budget, moved, set up your household in a different place, said goodbye to some friends and possibly your church, redesigned your dreams and now … you’re reinventing yourself.

Sheesh! Anybody who goes through that sort of change needs a break.

If possible, go somewhere completely rejuvenating such as a spa, a resort, a quiet place in the mountains, a sandy beach or wherever you feel most peaceful.

Maybe you just need to check into a hotel for a while. But determine that you’re not going anywhere you have to deal with any sort of crisis.

You might even take a Sabbatical from electronics and only take emergency calls.

During your mini-retreat, journal about your thoughts. Pray. Meditate. Read the Bible or take along a good book. Sleep in. Eat nutritious food but allow yourself an occasional treat. Drink lots of water. Or you may want to fast from all food for a couple of days.

The idea is to get away from the source of the stress to spend time in contemplation and quiet. Solitude is a great healer and all of us need it from time to time.

So take a mini-retreat. If you have children, enlist the help of family and/or friends. It won’t hurt your kids if Mom takes a break.

You’ll be renewed and you may come back with the goal of taking a mini-retreat every few months. It’s good for the soul and will help you move into a new level of healing.

So … where are you planning to go?

©2016 Starting Over Single – Taking Steps Forward to Live Intentionally

Starting Over Single with “L”

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letter-lWe’re almost to the halfway point of our alphabet series. What are some of the “L” words that encourage us as we’re Starting Over Single?

LET

Although it has few letters, “Let” is one of the most important words in the English language. It implies a freedom and independence that can encourage us as we journey through divorce.

“Let” is also a key word in several Bible verses and principles:

  • Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus
  • Let the peace of God rule in your hearts
  • Let us love one another

To “let” means we give ourselves permission for some type of action that will bring about a positive change.

Let yourself think about a vision board. What will your life look like one year from now? Five years from now?

Let yourself have some type of fun once / week.

Let your body take a holy nap on Sundays.

Let yourself relax now that all the legalities are over and you’re on your own.

Let peace wash over you now that you’re away from the abuse.

Let yourself dream about that novel you want to write, about that new car you’re saving for, about the cottage in the country where you want to settle in.

Let yourself believe that life will be better because God has a good plan for you.

Let go of the negatives and focus on the positives of your new life.

LEFTOVERS

As we move forward, a leftover can be something positive to build on.

Although we may have leftover sadness and leftover emotional baggage, we don’t have to focus on the negative aspects of divorce.

What is left over now is the best part of ourselves. We are now free to pursue our true selves and be all God created us to be.

We are left with our incredible children who we can build a bond with, stronger than before. They will grow up to be survivors because of what we have experienced together. The mother-child bond cannot be broken, and the emotional umbilical cord will stretch years down the road.

We have the opportunity now to address any leftover baggage – to begin the forgiveness process. This is a journey with several types of triggers.

But confronting denial and forging ahead, we can soon take those leftovers and make them into something good – a strength and a courage that will serve us well.

Just as we take the leftovers of a meal, chop up the veggies and make a nutritious soup or an omelet with hidden ingredients – so we can chop up the past and use what we have learned to make something even better.

We now have the privilege of using what we have learned – our leftovers – to bless another woman, to mentor a young woman who is going through divorce, to encourage others who are Starting Over Single.

Leftovers can be effective ingredients that build a foundation for the future.

LOVE

You’ve probably read or heard the guideline about jumping into a new relationship. “Give yourself one year for every four years of marriage.”

So if you’ve been married 16 years, divide that by 4. Then wait those four years before you invite a new relationship or give your heart to another man.

Four years? Doesn’t that sound like a long time? Not really.

Most of us will spend about two years going through all the legal sludge and custody arrangements of the divorce.

Most of us will spend another two years in counseling, trying to heal from what happened.

Many of us won’t be ready to even consider another relationship for more than four years, and some of us will completely rule out future relationships with another man.

The scars run deep and the wounds take a while to heal.

Some women will jump into a new relationship too soon, before they’ve had a chance to heal, before they’ve worked on their own core values, before they’ve learned the joy of being independent.

Many of those women either marry the same type of man or look for the exact opposite. Neither course is wise.

Healthy women attract healthy men. And the healthier we are, the easier it is to spot men who are dangerous and deceitful.

We also need to work through our own forgiveness process or we won’t be able to have a healthy new relationship.

We can’t keep blaming all men for the failures of one man. We can’t stereotype one entire gender.

Good men DO exist, and if we wait a while – grow, strengthen our core values and live alone for a while – we’ll know ourselves better and we’ll know what type of man we want.

Then, if we choose, we can step into a new relationship with a clearer focus which will give us a better chance of making it the second time around.

So if you want to find a love that won’t betray you, let yourself work through any leftovers and emerge with a positive outlook for your future.

But in the meantime, learn how to love yourself well. With or without another relationship, loving yourself will help you thrive.

What are some of the leftovers you’re working through?

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “K”

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letter-kLet’s check out some “K” words and phrases to discover how we can Start Over Single. Although the letter “K” presents some challenges for finding appropriate words, we can also use some phrases that encourage us.

Knowledge

As we Start Over Single, we gain so much knowledge that will help us learn how to live well – alone. Now we know we can survive and thrive, relying on God and the gifts he has given us.

We have been forced to learn more about finances and budgeting, about the mechanics of cars and the maintenance of a house. All that is good.

We have a better working knowledge about taxes and the importance of keeping good records. Going through the divorce taught us how to deal with lawyers, school officials, government systems, the courts and many other authority figures.

We now know about custody issues and maybe even guardian ad litems. We have learned how to manage the holidays and how to assure that our children enjoy time with the ex-laws and the cousins.

We have learned how the church treats divorced people and which churches are safe places. We know how to set healthy boundaries for ourselves and our children.

We know about leases and loans, tools and techniques for fixing things and even plumbing issues.

We are so much smarter and stronger – sometimes we don’t recognize ourselves.

All these are good things, but we may also have more knowledge about what constitutes a destructive marriage. We can then teach our younger siblings and our children which red flags to watch out for and how to protect themselves against manipulation and gaslighting behaviors.

With knowledge comes the opportunity to use it well, to stay away from bitterness and to share what we have learned.

This brings us to the next “K” phrase:

Knowing Yourself

Many of us hire counselors and/or coaches to help us navigate through the divorce process. Enlisting the help of an objective person can help us grow stronger and recognize any self-defeating behaviors.

If you’re interested in talking to a counselor or a coach, check out GateWay of Hope.

Knowing ourselves means we need to be careful of certain personality types, because we know our own personalities – our strengths and weaknesses.

As we discover our core values, we know more about who we are and what direction we want to go in life. We also know any new relationships need to be in sync with our core values.

This knowing of ourselves will prevent us from making life-altering mistakes.

To know ourselves means we appreciate who we are and who God created us to be. We’re on a journey, learning more and more about what we like and what we want our futures to be.

As we learn more, we make decisions to eliminate anything that doesn’t bring us joy. That includes the physical and emotional clutter of a former life.

We surround ourselves only with the things we like, the possessions and environment that bring out the best in us.

So we become even more determined to live the abundant life. And that brings a contentment wrapped in peace.

Keep Moving Forward

Most of us can say, “I’ll never do that again,” or “I’m not falling for that again.”

If we think of our goal to Keep Moving Forward, then we aren’t looking back. We’re done with any resentments of the past and certainly – with any fault-finding or self-deprecatory statements.

Moving forward means we believe tomorrow will be a better day.

We’ve learned so much, we’re putting that knowledge into practice and letting it morph into wisdom.

Maybe our movement forward will including buying a house or the exact car we want.

Maybe it will mean we’re going to declutter, simplify and live with only the essentials.

Maybe we’re going to lose those extra pounds we gained during the divorce or put some pounds back on because we forgot to eat during all the stress.

Maybe our movement forward includes going back to school or earning a certification in coaching.

That’s what I did, and I’m so grateful for that CLC behind my name. My Life Coaching Certification enables me to help other women who are Starting Over Single. If you’d like to talk about Coaching, email me at rebeccat@gwhope.org.

To keep moving forward, we set smart goals that are measurable and attainable – goals that are time-sensitive and utilize our giftings.

We also include special people in our march forward – those who will add joy to our lives yet help us stay accountable to our new focus.

As we keep moving forward, we’ll learn even more about ourselves and what is best for us.

So what are some things you have learned during this Starting Over Single process?

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “J”

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As we continue our series of alphabet letters that affect Starting Over Single, let’s look at some “J” words.letter-j

Justice

Many of my clients come to me with the phrase, “It just isn’t fair.”

That’s true. Life is not fair and the side effects of divorce are also not fair.

We may have worked hard so the hubby could get extra graduate degrees, but when it was our turn – the financial struggles of divorce kept us from meeting our educational goals.

We may not be the one who wanted the divorce, yet it was thrust on us and now we’re dealing with the after effects.

We may have tried everything in counseling sessions, meeting with accountability partners and praying our guts out. But the “wasband” didn’t do his part for the sake of the marriage.

We may have lost jobs, lost our homes and lost the respect of our ex-laws all because of his choices.

It isn’t fair.

And we can sit around and complain about the injustice of it all, or we can choose other options.

Certainly, we can fight for our rights with a credible and determined lawyer. We can set healthy boundaries to protect our hearts and the hearts of our children.

But we can also hang on to the One who is always just and will be our vindicator.

“Vindicate me, my God, and plead my cause against an unfaithful nation. Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked” (Psalm 43:1).

At some point, everything will be made right. Justice will happen, and we will be vindicated.

Journaling

Keeping a journal has helped me process through so much of life’s twists and turns. Some women think they can’t journal because they aren’t writers.

But journaling can be a fun process and a great way to use creative skills.

A journal can be just making some bullet points or it can be an elaborate scrapbooking project. It can be doodles, sketches, Post-it™ notes or scraps of paper. It can be photos, art work, coloring – anything you want it to be.

Anything that helps you process the issues around Starting Over Single – anything that helps you feel better and work through some of the emotions.

You can even journal about all your emotions – the good, the bad and the ugly. Or try an alphabet journal, dealing with the key words or key emotions you’re feeling.

And you can check out some of the online journal sites such as: penzu.com.

If you have children, buy journals for each of them so they can get their feelings out and on the paper. Make sure everyone in the family knows a journal is a secret place to find emotional safety. Nobody reads anyone else’s journal without permission.

A journal is a practical tool to help us work through any sludge leftover from the divorce.

So take advantage of the positive benefits a journal can bring you.

Joy

One of the definitions of joy sounds like this: “Happiness is because of circumstances, but joy is in spite of circumstances.”

We all want joy to be a byproduct of our lives, the abundant feeling of knowing we’re on track with our goals and moving forward in life.

After divorce, we may have lost our joy – for a time. But joy is one of those qualities we can regain, and God can certainly restore the joy in our souls.

Just being free of a destructive relationship can restore joy. Or sometimes – making a change can trigger joy: a new place to live, a different job, a stylish haircut.

We may have to seek joy and find our own definition for how it manifests in our lives.

I find joy sitting on my deck and watching the birds fight for the seed. My bird-watching book helps me identify the different species and when I discover a new visitor, I feel joy.

Another place of joy for me is sitting at the piano and playing through some classics or a new version of an old hymn.

The purr of my cat brings joy, and warm hugs from my son.

Every time one of my clients meets her goals, I share her joy. Every time I sell one of my books, joy bubbles up.

For you, joy may be more of an ethereal experience – or maybe it’s connected to a particular action or memory.

Share it with us. What brings you joy?

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “I”

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letter-iAs we continue our alphabet series for Starting Over Single, the “I” words provide a pathway into our new lives.

Independence

For the first time in many years – for some of us – the first time in our lives, we are truly independent. While that may seem scary at first, the concept of independence focuses on freedom.

We are now free to pursue the desires of our hearts, our passions based on lifetime dreams.

We can go to bed whenever we feel like it and sleep as long as we need to or want to. Sure, we have to set the alarm to get to work on time, but our sleep patterns are no longer focused on someone else. We may actually sleep better than ever before, because we’re not disturbed by someone snoring, moving or – in some cases – abusing us with forced sex.

We can eat what we want. This is a good time to observe healthy nutrition. Sugary, processed foods are not good for us and will not substitute for a failed marriage. Our tastes no longer need to be determined by someone else nor do we have to observe certain meal times just because we are cooking for someone else.

We can use our own financial independence to buy what we want, save as much as we want and give to whatever charities we want to help. We don’t have to ask anyone’s permission for how we spend our hard-earned money. We are not at the mercy of another person’s spending habits, so we can use our own wisdom and seek financial counsel to make the best decisions.

Once the divorce house is sold, we can live where we want – whether than means saving for another house, finding an apartment that serves us well or starting out in an entirely new direction.

If children are involved, then we DO have to observe the custody arrangement, but otherwise – we can make our own decisions about what type of housing we can afford and what we want that to look like.

That also means we can decorate for our own tastes – the colors we like, the style we like, the type of furniture we want to invest in. Nothing is off limits now.

We can move forward to start a new career, go back to school, try a new hobby, sing and dance, et cetera.

This is the time to celebrate our freedom and enjoy life, move into a new area of independence and leap forward with joy.

Intentionality

The tagline for this blog is : “Taking Steps Forward to Live Intentionally.”

We are much more intentional about life now, because we know how fragile security is. We don’t want to waste time on anything that doesn’t really count.

This is the time to re-examine our core values. My coaching clients regularly go through the Core Values Assessment so we can determine the focus for our plan.

This is the time for you to dust off your passion and be intentional about what you plan to do.

Are you going to write that novel that’s been on your mind for years? Are you going to return to school and work on your graduate degree? Are you going to approach your boss about a promotion?

Being intentional means we know the direction we need to take and we take the steps necessary to get there.

It’s an exciting time. Intentionality breeds hope and gives us a purpose for every day. Anything that is outside our core values or doesn’t feed our passions is out of bounds – a waste of energy and resources.

We pay close attention to our growth and move forward with a new-found courage and joy.

Identity

As we become more intentional about life, we will begin to form our new identity.

Starting Over Single is our new normal. We are no longer wives or tied to a destructive relationship. We can now become our true selves.

Some of us have been numbed through the years and we’ve forgotten who we are. But God has never forgotten and still has a good plan for our lives.

This is the time to get back on track, embrace who we really are and learn to love ourselves again.

The world will try to shame us. Some of us may hate marking the “Divorced” checkbox as a status on forms.

But instead of focusing on the “D” word, think more about the freedom you now have to be your true self and to pursue your dreams.

In her book, “Rising Strong,” Dr. Brene Brown writes, “We are the authors of our lives. We write our own daring endings.

Sure…God has a plan for our lives, but it is a GOOD plan and he is present to help us find our way.

But OUR role is to accept that plan, love God and ourselves and take the next steps. As we grow in our true identity, we’ll discover the women God made us to be. Maybe we were sidetracked for a while in a destructive relationship, but now … we’re moving forward.

Embrace your true identity, live intentionally and find joy in your new independence.

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “H”

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letter-hAs we continue our series into the Starting Over Single words, we’ll find several affirmations from the alphabet letter H.

Hope

We could begin and end every post with Hope, because the concept of having hope is so vital to our survival – we need it every day.

At the beginning of the divorce process, life feels so hopeless. But as we begin to move forward, to find our way to a new normal – we begin to feel the stirrings of renewed hope.

One of the action steps I like to give my SOS women is to ask them to find an inspiration piece – something visual that will help them feel as if hope is a reality.

Some choices might be:

  • A picture of a new car
  • The new bedding they will use after the betraying “wasband” moves out
  • A colorful vase for the living room
  • A vision journal to record plans for the future
  • The receipt for the wedding bands they sold which will now help pay off lawyer fees

The choices are as unique as the women themselves, and finding an inspiration piece instills hope that tomorrow WILL look better than today.

Humor

In the midst of so much pain and upheaval, it may feel almost sacrilegious to laugh. But we know laughter is a healing exercise.

I splurged on the tickets so my son and I could attend the performance of a well-known comedian. Later, my son bought the DVD of that performance for my Christmas present. My son knew the value of that evening of laughter.

Borrow a funny DVD from the library or make one night a week as “Comic Night.” Share jokes with your children.

Look for reruns of the Lucy show or Carol Burnett. Spend time with people who make you laugh.

Force yourself to smile. Really – you’ll feel better. And if you can force a laugh – the process of using those muscles will release some healthy endorphins.

Do an internet search for giggling babies. Here’s a good one with babies and dogs.

The more we learn to laugh and find the joy in life, the healthier we will be.

Humility

It may feel as if humility is not a helpful topic, because divorce has its humiliating side effects. But this type of humility is actually a strength.

Positive humility learns to accept gifts, money and kindness from others. Some of us have never been on the receiving end before. We’ve always been the givers.

But as we learn to receive, we become part of the important loop of society that makes charity a good word.

And our resolve is strengthened so that we will someday give back to another woman who is Starting Over Single.

In fact, at GateWay of Hope, we have a scholarship fund for women who need coaching but cannot pay for it. Many of the donors for that fund are women who once had to receive money from others. Now they have recovered, so they’re giving back.

Humility says, “I don’t deserve this, but I accept it with thanksgiving. Gratitude will be my mantra and a pure heart will allow me to take this gift, this money, this charity and grow it into something good.”

Heart

More than ever before, we now appreciate our hearts.

Many of us have had to set difficult boundaries to protect our hearts. We’ve learned how our hearts react when damaged by betrayal, so now we’re determined to preserve what we have learned.

We have experienced broken hearts and yes – a broken heart can be a real physical ailment.

But we’re not staying in that wounded place any longer. We’re moving forward, strengthened in the power of God’s might.

Now our hearts are braver, more resilient and able to increase with love for others.

As we learn more about our hearts, we will also learn how to trust again. We won’t shift blame on another man just because the man we chose decided to abandon us.

Every human being is different, and we’re all recipients of grace.

As our hearts mend, we’ll find the places that strengthen us and focus on how we can fit our lives within that stronger, more authentic place.

Steve Maraboli writes, “It is only with true love and compassion that we can begin to mend what is broken in the world. It is these two blessed things that can begin to heal all broken hearts.”

So as our hearts mend, we become filled with more love and compassion which we can pass on to others and do good in our world.

Healing

The whole purpose of this blog is to help women who are Starting Over Single find their place of healing and wholeness.

As we move through the process of healing, we develop calluses around our wounds and new wisdom for any future woundings life might throw at us.

The healing we grow into then becomes part of who we are.

Many of us will be more authentic than ever before because we’ve discovered the source of our souls – the truth about our identities.

We’ve been living under someone else’s shadow for so long, we forgot our own dreams, our hopes and the visions we once embraced.

But now – gloriously now – we are moving into the healing place. We know WHO we are and we are certain about the direction we want to take.

God has opened up new vistas for our lives which don’t require us to live in the shadows any longer.

We are stronger, healthier, better than ever before.

As I often tell women, “Being single is harder in many ways, but it can also be much better.”

So hang on to the “H” words:

  • Look for the Hope that marches right in front of you.
  • Find the Humor in life and practice laughing.
  • Embrace Humility as a quality that will strengthen you.
  • Protect your Heart by setting healthy boundaries.
  • Find your place of Healing and revel in who you are.

What about you? Any other “H” words you’ve found helpful?

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “G”

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Letter GThe letter “G” gives us many opportunities to live within gratitude. So let’s start there.

Gratitude

As we walk forward in this journey of Starting Over Single, it helps to keep a gratitude journal. Although our lives are different now – more difficult in many ways – we can still focus on having a grateful heart.

Gratitude will help us stay away from those depressing moments of fear, discouragement and heartache.

We can always, always find something to be grateful for, so keeping a gratitude journal is essential.

And it’s really easy. Each day, list at least one thing or one person for which you are grateful. Certainly, your children make the list. Our kids are often the only reason we climb out of bed.

Other gratitudes might include:

  • A pet that gives you unconditional love
  • Your job – even if you don’t like it that much. It helps to pay the bills and keeps a roof over your head
  • Friends, relatives, your church
  • The butterfly that just soared past your window
  • The hot water you shower in each night
  • The appliances that keep working
  • The car that gets you to your job

Focus on being grateful about something each day, and you’ll find discouragement crawling farther away from your soul.

Growth

Joyce Meyer says, “We live life forward, but we understand it backward.”

As we begin to move forward, we better understand some of the levels we’ve achieved and some of the steps we’ve taken.

We can begin to see more growth even within the struggles. Maybe we don’t grow angry quite so easily. Maybe we’ve learned more about the forgiveness process. Or maybe we feel more self-confident than we did a year ago.

We’re growing into this new normal, and in many ways – it feels good.

We may even find ourselves rediscovering our identity. We’ve been abused and squelched for many years, but now we’re growing out of that pit and becoming stronger.

So growth is another item to list in our gratitude journals.

Goals

Even as we grow, we recognize areas where we’d like to see more growth. These areas then become new goals.

Maybe we’ve already reached several of our goals:

  • To survive the first holiday after divorce / the first anniversary
  • To find a safe place for ourselves and our children
  • To earn a promotion at work or find a better job
  • To move past grumbling every day and into a more grateful existence
  • To begin the process of forgiveness

All these goals become positive endeavors for achievement, and as we reach them – we can look back again and see more growth.

This is the advantage of working with a coach. We can more easily grasp what those goals need to be and how we can put together a plan to reach them. If you’d like to talk about coaching, contact me at rebeccat@gwhope.org.

Another important goal is wrapped around the next “G” word.

Grace

This concept is perhaps one of the most difficult to understand, because we are so conditioned to do something in order to see the end result.

We feel we have to produce all the time or we aren’t acceptable to God or to others. But grace provides freedom and a clearing of all that perfectionism sludge.

Grace is a gift – given freely from the heart, even when we haven’t earned it – ESPECIALLY when we haven’t earned it.

We give grace to ourselves when we realize we don’t have to please everybody else. We can just BE our authentic selves and learn to love us.

We give grace to the “wasband” when we stop blaming him for everything that went wrong in the marriage.

We accept grace when others forgive us – even when we royally screw up.

We accept God’s grace when we believe he loves us unconditionally, and we don’t have to be a certain way or do certain things to earn that love.

Grace is a free gift, offered simply because none of us is perfect nor will we ever be.

Grace accepts who we are just as we are and expects nothing more.

Years ago, I wrote an article and described grace this way:

  • If you steal my bicycle and the judge sentences you to jail – that is justice.
  • If you steal my bicycle and I ask the judge not to sentence you – that is mercy.
  • If you steal my bicycle and I let you keep it – that is kindness.
  • If you steal my bicycle and I buy you a new one – that is grace.

Perhaps it should be a goal for each of us to show more gratitude, to work on our goals and to attempt more grace. Then we can look back and see how much we’ve grown.

©2016 Starting Over Single

Update from RJ Thesman

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For the followers of Starting Over Single, this blog site will soon be taken down. I am no longer working at GateWay of Hope – which was the original supporter for the SOS program.

However, I am a full-time writer and a writing coach who has gone through the SOS journey. The tagline on my personal blog is “Finding Hope When Life Unravels.” If you’d like to follow me there, my website is: www.RJThesman.net.

I have enjoyed sharing this journey with you. I hope you’ll join me for more Hopeful blog posts at my personal website.

Blessings!

When Valentine’s Day Isn’t Fun

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heart-with-handsAnother one of those special holidays that doesn’t feel so good anymore. Valentine’s Day – with its pink and red everywhere, the heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, the roses on sale at the grocery store – all a reminder of what we once had but now is gone.

However, take heart! This is not a day to groan or curl up in a fetal position and wish your life could be different.

You can make today better and actually find joy in the day.

First: look for the good in today. Maybe you keep a gratitude journal. What are you grateful for today? A roof over your head, hot water in the shower, food in the fridge, bills that are paid, children who love you, a support group of good friends.

As we state our gratitudes, they cancel out the grumpies.

Second: look for God in today. One of my clients has a “thing” about cardinals. With their bright red plumage and their sweet chirp, they remind her that God creates what is beautiful and he is still working good things for her life. This morning, she saw a cardinal. It was God’s valentine to her.

Where can you find God in today? Maybe in the smoochy peanut butter kisses of your toddler or the smile of a co-worker. Maybe a special sunrise or perhaps you have a “thing” for cardinals, too. Maybe just in the knowing that God loves you and will never betray your love for him.

Whisper a thank you to God for being with you, especially today.

Third: look for ways to bless yourself. Even if no one brings you chocolates or flowers, you can do that for yourself. Go see a fun chick movie with a friend or have a group of SOS women over for a pot-luck and serve only red or pink dishes. Take a long, luxurious bubble bath with lavender, chamomile and rose petals. Buy yourself something bright red – maybe even a lacy nightie.

You are still beautiful inside and out, so celebrate yourself.

If you still feel discouraged about V Day – call someone and vent. Maybe a pastor or a trusted counselor / coach. Maybe a friend or a family member. They can’t help you if they don’t know the problem.

Look in the mirror and remind yourself how wonderful you are. You are deeply loved. This day is just another reminder that you are Starting Over Single and you are moving toward a better life.

©2017 Starting Over Single

When You Feel Stuck

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So many women I know are currently in that “stuck” phase – where nothing is happening to move them forward, when prayers don’t seem to be answered, when life seems like the prison walls are closing in.

Stuck.stuck

So what do we do when it seems as if we’re in Neutral with no way to move into Drive?

Just Do the Next Thing

When we’re in the stuck mode, it seems impossible to think about a good future or even what tomorrow might bring.

Just do the next thing. What is on your list for today? Just do the next thing on the list.

Why does this help? Because at least we are accomplishing one thing each day. Often, we’ll find ourselves doing several things on the list and that in itself becomes a move forward.

Sometimes by doing the next thing, a domino will fall and then everything will begin to move. So…just do the next thing.

Trust in the Timing

The process of being stuck is sometimes just a matter of timing. We can’t move forward because something else has to happen first.

For example: selling the divorce house. First, we have to finalize the divorce and know we have full options to sell. Then we have to find the next place to live and arrange for that. Then we have to list the house, de-clutter everything, hire a stager, et cetera.

Moving to our new house of freedom requires proper timing for all the other tasks. So…sometimes we’re not really stuck. We’re just in the waiting room of life.

Explore All the Options

What sometimes feels like we’re stuck is actually a roadblock of procrastination. If we ask ourselves, what are the options I DO have during this time in my life? Is there a choice I CAN make that will help to propel me forward?

Am I living in the place of self-doubt and self-sabotage? What can I do to move out of that place?

This action usually involves some difficult choices and a bunch of grit and determination. But we’ve already been through one of the worst situations in life. We CAN make some healthy choices and consider our options.

Consider Professional Help

The role of a life coach is to help clients move over obstacles and toward their goals. Sometimes we need to admit how much we need help.

Or this might be the time for counseling help. If we’re stuck behind a wall of anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, rage or any other emotions – a counselor might be able to help us identify the problem and work through it.

Perhaps you will feel better talking to a pastor or maybe you have a mentor who can meet over a great cup of coffee.

Whoever your safe person is, consider asking for professional help. Sometimes that is the first step for jumping out of the mud pile and being unstuck.

What about you? What are some places where you have felt stuck?

©2017 Starting Over Single

When Resentment Revisits

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cry-out-injusticeIt’s been 17 years since the judge’s gavel came down and the divorce was rendered final. During these 17 years, I’ve worked on forgiveness and discovered my new identity as a Starting Over Single woman.

Yet … even with all the good things in my life, resentment occasionally comes knocking.

And when I recognize it for what it is, the emotion soon morphs into the “It’s not fair” wailing. Then grief follows, forcing me to confront forgiveness all over again.

Last week, I spoke with my spiritual director and we worked on a plan for dealing with the resentment. Perhaps some of these ideas will also help you.

Here’s what I know to be true:

  • Resentment is an honest emotion when life has dealt us a blow.
  • “It’s not fair” is a true statement.
  • Justice often takes years to manifest.
  • Acknowledging the resentment and the unfairness is a first step toward healthy grieving.
  • It’s okay to admit how I feel – within a safe place.
  • It’s okay to grieve.
  • Grief often resurfaces in unexpected ways.
  • My resentment does not affect the “wasband” but it can destroy me.
  • Resentment can create a wall between my soul and God’s heart.

Each of these statements could be a journal prompt, and I could write a book about how they make me feel. But I’ll keep my comments pertinent to this blog post.

How can we best deal with resentment when it revisits?

Admit the Truth about the Resentment

What is it – exactly – that I resent? In my case, I resent how hard I worked so he could earn his master’s degree which helped to propel him into a great job with lots of money. Yet, when it was time for my master’s and my move up the career ladder – life fell apart. I was never able to finish that post graduate degree, thus keeping me in a lower monetary demographic and making life harder for my son and me.

That wasn’t fair. True statement.

But living in the regrets and resentments of the past will not propel me forward and will ultimately affect my emotional and spiritual health.

Therefore, I acknowledge this happened to me yet I speak my gratitude for how life HAS blessed me. I may not have a post graduate degree, but I am a certified life coach and a published author. I am also a writing coach and I am able to pay my bills. I have raised my son, and he is a terrific young man.

In spite of the injustice of the past, I’m okay and I am enough.

When Resentment Revisits, Acknowledge it but Don’t Climb into the Pit with It

The sooner we change our mindset and move in a positive direction, the better off we’ll be. If we continue to stew in the resentment juices, they will lead to deeper despair and maybe even an ulcer or two.

My spiritual director taught me to say, “I see you” to the resentment. Since I am a visual person, I command the resentment to jump into a dark jar in the corner and I screw on the lid.

Then I tell myself, the resentment is in the corner so I don’t have to pay attention to it. And I replace it with a happier and healthier thought such as, “I am moving forward and the past is finished. God will figure out how to help me.”

Allow Yourself to Grieve in a Healthy Way

Crying is not my usual way of grieving; however, journaling is. I write out my thoughts and my feelings and scribe myself into a better place.

But if crying and wailing is your best way to grieve, then find your private, safe place and let ‘er rip.

Dark chocolate is another of my grieving choices, but only in moderation. I need to be careful when I comfort myself. A pint of mocha almond fudge is better for my waistline than a half gallon – also better for the budget.

Talking to a friend who has also been through divorce helps me vent in a safe place. And she reciprocates. When she’s hurting, she calls me. We understand each other and we empathize within the grief journey.

Be Honest with God

God does, after all, know exactly how we feel. He created us to be emotional and relational. We might as well be truthful about the situation.

Crying out the injustice to God is okay. He can handle it. It’s okay to pray, “You know what, God, this isn’t fair. When are you going to do something about it?”

And there’s the rub. He DOES promise to be our vindicator and to make justice rule – in the end. We just can’t predict the timing of when that will happen.

Here’s a couple of verses that helped me when resentment revisited this week:

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me. The Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures forever” (Psalm 138:7-8a TNIV.)

If You Can’t Move Past the Resentment, Get Outside Help

Sometimes, we get stuck in the mire of the past. If that’s where you are today, then reach out to a pastor or a professional counselor.

Find a person you can trust and vent about the resentment. Even though an appointment will cost some money, in the long run – it’s worth it.

Resentment will revisit every woman who is Starting Over Single. Triggers abound within calendar dates, objects and reminders on social media.

Our lives have indeed changed, but we don’t have to stay in the pit of despair. We can acknowledge the resentment, throw it in the corner, get some help and trust God to hang on to us as we move forward.

What about you? How do you deal with resentment? Share your tips with the rest of us.

©2017 Starting Over Single

What Divorce Cannot Do

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div-cannot-elim-hopeDivorce cannot change who you are at your core.

Divorce cannot defeat you.

Divorce cannot keep you from believing in the sacredness and beauty of a good marriage.

Divorce cannot delete God’s good plan for you.

Divorce cannot make you choose bitterness.

Divorce cannot keep you from enjoying life.

Divorce cannot ruin the creative power within you.

Divorce cannot eliminate your hope.

Divorce cannot make you fear aloneness.

Divorce cannot deflate your dignity.

Divorce cannot keep you from becoming all God created you to be.

Divorce cannot destroy your children’s future.

Divorce cannot make you a loser.

Divorce cannot make you believe lies.

Divorce cannot humiliate you.

Divorce cannot delete your ability to trust.

Divorce cannot slander you.

Divorce cannot make your children un-love you.

Divorce cannot steal your true beauty.

Divorce cannot hamper your hope for a good future.

Divorce cannot keep you in poverty.

Divorce cannot delete your mission statement.

It is true that divorce has power, but it is NOT as powerful as God’s love for you or his design to take care of you.

Do not give divorce any power it does not have.

©2017 Starting Over Single

Finding Your 2017 Mission

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2017-yearAs we begin a new year, let’s forget about the usual resolutions – which most people don’t keep anyway.

In order to move forward into a new year, it is more helpful to focus on a personal mission statement.

Most of us are familiar with mission statements used by nonprofit organizations or businesses, but have you ever thought of a personal mission statement – something just for you?

If you know your core values, merge them together into your personal mission statement.

For example, if your top core value is “Harmony,” then your mission statement will include how you incorporate harmony into your everyday life. Perhaps “Seeking to share harmony each day” could become a mission statement.

Another example might be the dual core values of “Truth” and “Integrity.” A mission statement could be “To promote truth wherever I go and whatever I do, living a life of integrity.”

Another idea for designing your personal mission statement is to incorporate the following three points:

  • What you do
  • How you do it
  • Why you do it

These bullets serve the purpose of helping us see the value we have in life and the specific significance God has for us.

An effective mission statement with these three aspects becomes the slogan that summarizes the good you hope to do each day.

For a woman Starting Over Single, perhaps something such as “Using my gifts with integrity so I can impact others’ lives.”

My personal mission statement is “To help others through my words – either verbal or written – and point them toward hope.” This statement has become a piece of the tagline on my website: www.RJThesman.net link  “Finding Hope When Life Unravels.”

Some of my clients write their mission statements on a 3 x 5 card they carry with them. Others use a Post-It Note™ in the car. Another client stenciled hers in the front of her planner.

Keeping our mission statements front and center helps to remind us why we are living each day and how we can live well.

So what about you?

For 2017, work on finding your personal mission statement. Comment here when you finalize it.

Then go into the world and make a difference.

©2017 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “X,Y,Z”

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We’re closing out our series with the last three letters of the alphabet: X, Y and Z.letters-xyz

Xenia

In the ancient Greek world, xenia was an important cultural value. It represented the hospitality shown to those who were far from home.

People who exercised the gift of xenia were generous, courteous and kind. They welcomed guests into their homes and sometimes – developed life-long friendships.

When we’re Starting Over Single, we desperately need a dose of kindness from family, friends, churches and our networking community. Some of us DO experience generous spirits who show us kindness.

Others feel condemnation, lose friendships and struggle to feel welcome in places that were once friendly.

Most of us experience both scenarios.

But as SOS women, we now know the vital importance of being empathic and exercising xenia. We can show courtesy and hospitality to other women who are Starting Over Single.

We can be the friendly ones at church who sit with single moms and help them feel welcome. We can be kind and compassionate to anyone who is struggling.

As women who exercise xenia, we now become the champions for a host of other women who just need to see a friendly smile, hear a word of kindness. We become hospitable by opening our hearts to others.

Let’s be those champions who develop xenia.

You

Many of us have lived a lifetime focused on someone else. Whether it was the “wasband,” the children, co-workers, co-dependent friends or even God himself – we forgot about ourselves while helping someone else.

What an admirable quality!

But if we have ignored ourselves in the process, then we are not truly following God’s command to “Love others as we love ourselves.”

We are losing ourselves in order to protect others, and that is not healthy. God has gifted us for a reason and as his daughters – we have value.

We must learn to take care of ourselves and to focus on who we are so we can be an asset to our family, our workplace and even to our society.

Self-care is vital as we continue the SOS journey and as we become an example to hundreds of younger women who follow us.

It is okay to take care of YOU. It is important to celebrate who YOU are.

It is vital to spend time in reflection, living by your core values and gaining the necessary strength to step into your role.

Begin to love YOU. Allow yourself grace. Buy YOU something special or invest in an experience just for YOU.

By taking care of YOU, life will feel more joyful and then you can share the joy more freely with others. You will add to the lives of others because you have invested in the self-care of YOU.

Zenith

We often think of a zenith in terms of astronomy – when a star or a plant reaches its highest point in the universe.

But let’s also consider how women Starting Over Single reach their zenith. This is the point where we are most successful – where we discover the best of ourselves and know we have grown and conquered.

When my coaching clients reach a zenith, they experience the euphoria of accomplishment. They realize all the hard work of emotional and mental struggle has been worth it.

All the ways they have stretched themselves has paid off. They have reached their goals.

For us, the zenith of our SOS experience might be when we pay off all the divorce debt. Or it might be the moment we walk into our new home, knowing we now own it and we don’t have to pay rent anymore.

Our zenith might be the day we walk into a car dealership and by a new vehicle – all by ourselves. We might experience a zenith as we fix the plumbing, steam clean the carpet or figure out how to check the car’s oil.

For some of us, the zenith occurs when our children come to us at night, snuggle up and say, “I love you, Mom. I know this whole mess wasn’t your fault.”

A spiritual zenith may occur when we walk into a church and are welcomed with open arms – then we become members in good standing where we are asked to serve and use our gifts.

For writers like me, the zenith comes when I hold one of my books in my hands and know the words contained within came from my soul – God-breathed and sent out to inspire others.

I wonder – what is your zenith? What are you working for and hoping for? What are some of the zenith points you have already reached?

Share with us in the comments so we can rejoice with you.

And keep reaching, keep striving, keep believing in who you are. Your next zenith is just a whisper away.

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “W”

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Wow! We are moving right along with our alphabet series and today, we’re looking at the “W” words.letter-w

Wonder

As we move into the phase of Starting Over Single, we may wonder what in the world happened. This was not the vision we had for our lives.

However, we can also turn that wonder into something positive:

  • The wonder of identifying our true selves without having to BE a certain way for someone else
  • The wonder of knowing our strength
  • The wonder of how God’s love and faithfulness protects us – EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.
  • The wonder of how our children love us even with our flaws
  • The wonder of how grief changes us – for the better – if we let it
  • The wonder of learning how to make ends meet and realizing we can indeed stretch pennies
  • The wonder of how many people are willing to help us
  • The wonder of meeting other women who are Starting Over Single and realizing we are an incredibly amazing cadre of women

Never lose the wonder of the miracle you are.

Make each day a mystery for finding the wonder around you and within you.

Then you’ll be filled with the wonder of who you are.

Warrior

Many of us were taught to be totally submissive and passive. In fact, we believed the lie that “true Christian women must always submit.”

But that is a lie based on the need for control.

We have learned to fight for our lives, to set healthy boundaries and to use our giftings to impact others.

When God created Eve, he said she was a helpmate for Adam. In the original Hebrew, the word “helpmate” is translated “Ezer” which means “Warrior.”

Eve did not just sit around in the garden, eating fruit and waiting for Adam to finish naming the animals. She was a warrior woman who fought along with him and raised her sons in a world that could not have been easy to inhabit.

Our ancestor, Eve, passed on her genes to us and God calls us to continue as warrior women who fight for what is right, who protect our children, who set healthy boundaries around our hearts, who know who we really are, who do everything we can to survive and thrive.

A great resource that underscores who we are as warrior women is “Half the Church” by Carolyn Custis James. In fact, all her books are fabulous writings about the gifts and roles of women.

So embrace who you really are and keep fighting for your soul. You’re worth it.

Winner

We live in a competitive world where winning is everything and losers are devalued.

Some of us have lost a great deal of this world’s goods and we may have lost pieces of ourselves in the divorce journey.

Be we don’t have to stay in the losers’ circle. We can march forward with a winning attitude and make our lives better than ever before.

In many ways, we are already winners. We have fought some legal battles and won. We have protected ourselves and our children from abusive relationships. We have realized some of our dreams and we’re marching toward resurrected passions.

We have won the battle to Start Over Single with grace-filled hearts, forgiving spirits and attainable goals.

All around, we ARE winners.

So don’t let that lie of marital failure tear you down. The end of the marriage was not all your fault.

Now, you’re Starting Over as a warrior woman, filled with the wonder of good things to come.

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “V”

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As we continue our alphabet series, the letter “V” presents some powerful words for Starting Over Single.letter-v

Values

We’ve mentioned the importance of knowing our core values. Without a definite focus on values, we can easily move off course and even find ourselves enmeshed in new toxic relationships.

One of my coaching clients emailed me about her experience. During our SOS group, she had listed her core values and one of those values was that she would never date or marry another man who struggled with addictions.

She started dating a man who seemed to be nice. When she asked him about any addictive behaviors, he denied any sort of problem. So – smart woman – she ordered a background check on him and found several arrests for DUI. When she presented him with the evidence, he seemed surprised that she considered alcoholism as an addiction. Wisely, she ended the relationship.

Other women may include Faith as a core value, so they are not going to be involved with anyone who does not share the same faith value.

Even your workplace can be affected by a strong core value system. Are honesty, truth and integrity part of your core values? If so, then you can’t be involved in fraudulent work practices.

Whether your core values include security, life-long learning, faith, health and exercise or any number of other ideas – stick to those values when you’re making decisions.

Our core values help to define us but they also help us set healthy boundaries. Know your core values and hang on to them when faced with life-altering decisions.

Vision

Many of us had a different vision for life. Divorce interrupted that vision or completely changed it. But it’s not too late.

You may have to tweak the vision you once had or you may want to consider a new type of vision.

One of my friends is now the executive director of a single moms organization. Her vision began as a happy family living out the American dream, but divorce changed that. Her new vision is to help single moms in the Kansas City metro, to provide them with empowering and validating activities. She’s doing a great job and impacting many lives.

What visions do you have for yourself in this new season?

  • Have you seen the vision of the book you want to publish?
  • Do you have a vision of yourself with a new hairdo or a different style?
  • Is owning your own house part of your vision?
  • What about a special vacation? Can you envision yourself resting beside the beach or hiking in the mountains?
  • What do you think is God’s vision for you and how can you align yourself with him?

Don’t give up on your vision just because your marital status has changed. You still have a good life to live and your vision can still become a reality.

Valor

Think of yourself with a new tagline and repeat it often, “I am a woman of valor.”

To be a woman of valor means you have integrity and purpose. You are strong and courageous. You know what you want out of life and you are willing to boldly march toward that goal.

You are making a significant difference in others’ lives including your children, other women who are Starting Over Single, your co-workers and the people who sit with you at church.

Perhaps even your ex-laws have observed how graciously you have acted toward them. Maybe you and your “wasband” have emotionally reconciled so you can easily work through issues with the children.

It is possible to Start Over Single and become a better and stronger version of yourself. In fact, that is the goal of the SOS program.

This is the time to fill your mind with stories about other strong women. Check out books and movies that emulate other women of integrity, women who have the gumption to stand up for their core values and their true identities.  The movie, “Hidden Figures” is one example.

As you gain strength and begin thinking of yourself as a woman of valor, other women will notice and call you their “she-ro.” And you’ll make an impact on other women who are Starting Over Single.

What are some of your core values?

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “U”

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As we continue our alphabet series, let’s focus on the letter “U.”letter-u

Understanding

Now that we have survived several months or years post-divorce, we understand so much more about the process of growth.

Survival has morphed into thriving. We know more about ourselves and we’re amazed at the strength we’ve shown.

We can look back now and understand more about what the marriage relationship is supposed to look like, because we can see where and how it failed – our own mistakes and failures as well as those of our ex-mate.

We seek to understand, because understanding growth will help us in the next relationship and also in other relationships around us.

We understand more about manipulation and toxic people, so we know how to avoid them.

We understand the plight of single moms because we are now living in that demographic.

We understand how important it is to take care of ourselves and de-stress from all the messiness of life.

We understand how addiction can destroy a marriage and how forgiveness can keep us from bitterness.

We understand more than ever before the need for support groups and for those who will walk beside us in the grief journey.

We understand how to be that person who walks beside others.

We understand the value of our giftings and how we add beauty to the world.

We continue to learn understanding as a branch of unconditional love.

We nurture the understanding we have learned and seek to understand more.

Unconditional Love

Although it may be difficult to define, we know unconditional love when we experience it.

This incredible quality includes being totally accepted and totally understood without any pretense of having to perform.

With unconditional love, we don’t have to obey any rules and we don’t have to measure up to someone else’s comparative qualities.

We are simply ourselves in all our messiness and with all our flaws. We are loved without condition.

When we define ourselves as “divorced women” or as “single moms,” unconditional love will not accept those labels.

It looks beyond the mental name tags and instead asks, “How can I help you?” or “May I give you a hug?

Unconditional love never looks back at where we’ve come from and never asks those ugly questions about what happened.

Instead, this pure form of love accepts where we are in the present and helps us move forward with confidence.

Unconditional love is what we seek to give to others and also what we hope to receive.

Unpack

We cannot move into unconditional love or into understanding until we unpack the baggage of the past.

And unpacking doesn’t happen in a day.

It requires thought and personal reflection, a folding and putting away of those memories we need to keep and a throwing away of what we must let go.

Unpacking usually isn’t as much fun as packing. When we’re planning to go somewhere, we have hope and anticipation.

But unpacking means the event is passed, the vacation is over. It feels a bit sad.

Yet with the unpacking, we clean up. The suitcase is made ready for the next trip; the future represents joy.

How awful it would be to prepare for a new trip and open the suitcase to find old smelly clothes and leftover souvenirs.

So let’s unpack everything from the past relationship, let our souls rest in an understanding mode and seek the unconditional love that’s just around the corner.

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “T”

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We’re moving toward the end of the alphabet with our series for Starting Over Single. Let’s look at some important “T” words.letter-t

Truth

Now that several months – even years – have passed since we started this journey, we can look back and think about truth.

For many of us, the truth was skewed in several ways: through spiritual abuse – twisting the Bible to say something it was never intended to say or spiritual authorities telling us we HAD to stay with an abuser.

Your truth may have been twisted by a manipulating spouse who tried to make you feel as if everything was your fault.

Sometimes we need to examine the truth for our own growth. What were some ways you and I could have made the situation better? Did we live in denial for several years, refusing to see the truth because it was too painful?

One of my clients lists “Truth” as her top core value. She now focuses her entire life around the topic of truth and she refuses to associate with anyone who will not live in truth. She wants the rest of her life – going forward – to reflect what is true and what brings her integrity.

Looking back, maybe you can see some of your personal scenario wrapped in exaggeration or even a lie. This is the time to examine your heart and make sure you are telling the truth – to yourself and to others.

It is harder to tell ourselves the truth. When I realized my entire marriage was a lie, that truth emotionally set me back for a while. But it also helped move me into a new level of healing.

So examine your own truths and remember one truth that will never falter: God loves you and has a good plan for your life. He will NEVER abandon you or reject you.

Tranquility

This seems like a rather old-fashioned word, but it can have a special meaning to women who are Starting Over Single.

Some of the synonyms for tranquility include: calm, peacefulness, serenity, harmony and composure.

One of the ways you can surround yourself with tranquility is to downsize and declutter. Many of us must downsize when we sell the divorce house, and at first – it may seem difficult and bring to mind painful memories.

But after a time, we can see the value of starting over, getting rid of anything that causes pain and having the freedom to make our own choices.

Give away the wedding china and find some dishes you like. Trade in the bed of betrayal for a new bedroom suite – something that gives you special joy. Sell or pawn the wedding band and buy yourself some new bling.

Surround yourself with essential oils such as lavender that help you sleep and feel more tranquil. Redecorate in calming colors and get rid of trashy dead plants. Pack away the wedding album so your children can have it someday, but refuse to allow yourself sad thoughts about that day. Give your wedding dress to a school drama club or sell it for consignment and use the money to bless a single mom.

Whenever you decide about an activity, ask yourself “Will this add serenity to my life or will it add stress?”

Avoid anything that adds stress.

Enjoy your new life and live in the tranquility of peace. You’re heading in a new direction, and it’s going to be good.

Trust

Many of us will experience trust issues as we Start Over Single.

A man has hurt us, so it is easy to assume other men will do the same. And of course, we need to be careful about beginning any relationship that isn’t safe. Check out this resource: Safe People

We cannot blame all men because of the failure of a few, and we cannot blame all church leaders because of the abuse of some.

This is the time to build our hearts toward a new and smarter level of trust. Being able to recognize the truth will help us as well as being proactive with current relationships.

Before you get serious about another relationship, check him out. Websites will help you determine if he is a sex predator, if he has been arrested for domestic violence or driving under the influence. In the Kansas City area, here’s an important website for background checks: www.jococourts.org.

By this time, you also know which of your former friends have proven to be toxic. They may have decided to abandon you, and it still hurts.

But now you know the truth about who they are. So don’t let that truth scar you or isolate you against future relationships.

Get involved with a different group of people. Take a craft class or renew your membership to a fitness program. Call another woman who is Starting Over Single and go to a movie together.

Begin to trust someone else and build on the truth.

It may be difficult to find another church you can trust, but many good churches still exist and many church leaders are NOT spiritual abusers. Check out their websites for programs involving single women or single moms. Then start visiting.

In most churches, you’ll find some great people. They may believe a bit differently than you, but you are changing, too. Perhaps God has an entirely new spiritual family for you.

Move forward with joy as you examine the truth and live a more tranquil life. Then learn to trust your own instincts and find others you can connect with to build trusting relationships.

How have you learned to trust again?

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “S”

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letter-sThe “S” words that continue our alphabet series fit in nicely with this time of the year – November and the approaching holidays.

Seasons

We often think of seasons as the natural movement from winter to spring to summer to fall. Most of us have a favorite season because of the temperature and/or the colors and textures in nature.

But some of the most important seasons of life are the ones we go through as a result of circumstances and the aging process.

We live through the season of adolescence which is awkward and uncomfortable although sometimes a bit interesting.

The season of education when we finish high school and maybe pursue a higher level of learning. Usually during college or soon after, many of us will enter the season of marriage which often includes the seasons of having babies, buying a home, advancing in our careers, et cetera.

Now we have entered and are working through the season of divorce. Sometimes it feels as if this season will continue forever, but it is still only a season.

Seasons have a beginning and also an ending. Someday we will reach the end of this journey when we will know we are healed. We will move into the next season of joy, empowerment and personal significance.

Our next season will be richer because we have learned more about ourselves and we are able to help other women who are at the beginning of the divorce season.

Story

A good story has a beginning, a middle and an ending with several plot lines involving conflict and resolution.

We have begun this story of Starting Over Single with plenty of conflicts and we have learned how to resolve many of them.

Some of us are still slugging through the middle of the mess and it feels as if we are bogged down in all the details. But in a good story, the characters never stay in the middle.

They move toward the ending where it’s either a happily-ever-after, some type of learning experience or a resolution of the mystery.

But whatever is happening, the story is best told when the main character has some type of growth or healing experience.

For each of us, the details of the divorce story are different. But we, as the main characters, are learning more about ourselves and how to deal with future conflicts.

We know how we want our next story to read and what types of characters we will allow into the pages of our lives.

We cannot change the fact that divorce has entered our lives – that piece of the story is now part of our history.

But we can move forward to make the end of the story one of beauty, personal growth and a contentment with life.

Self-Care

Here’s an exercise for you that will illustrate the importance of self-care:

  • On a 3 x 5 card, list all the people you have taken care of within the last 5 years. Include children, husband, friends, even online friends.
  • Then list all the people you estimate you will take care of within the next 10 years. Include any possibility of children marrying and having grandkids, aging parents, siblings with needs and again – even online friends.
  • Count up all those people. You may have hundreds of people on your list, and this may be the reason why you feel tired all the time. It takes an amazing amount of energy to care for others.

Now look at your card. Did you include yourself on either list?

If not, then you’ve forgotten an important person. We cannot truly care for others if we do not care for ourselves.

Self-care is vitally important during and after the Starting Over Single journey and it will look different for every woman.

Maybe your self-care includes:

  • Taking time to read a book
  • Recovery time at the beach or the mountains
  • A good hair cut with a facial at a day spa
  • Scheduling your physical exam
  • A monthly massage and/or manicures and pedicures
  • Your favorite beverage at Starbucks
  • Stretching yoga exercises

The point is … make sure you are adding self-care to your weekly schedule. In fact, you may have to write it in the calendar to remind yourself that YOU are worthwhile and self-care is vital.

To be truly healthy – body, mind and spirit – we need to make sure self-care is a major part of our Starting over Single recovery.

It is NOT selfish. It IS vital so that you can move forward in life and have the energy to care for all those other people on your list.

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “R”

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As we continue our alphabet series, let’s look at some of the “R” words that affirm our Starting Over Single status.letter-r

Reflection

Especially as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, this is a time for reflection. Perhaps you’re thinking about Thanksgivings of the past and how you enjoyed fixing a big meal, decorating with pumpkins or sharing with grateful hearts around the table.

Your Thanksgiving holiday may look different this year. The in-laws are no longer in the picture and even the visual of past years may bring fresh grief.

Your children may be spending Thanksgiving with the “wasband,” so what’s the point of fixing a big meal just for yourself?

This is the time to reflect. Yes, be grateful for past Thanksgivings and all the blessings you have enjoyed. But don’t get stuck in memories.

Think about all the things you are grateful for now:

  • You’ve made it through another year
  • The Thanksgiving colors are beautiful and hopefully – your vision is clear and you can see the trees with their magnificent leaves
  • Wherever you are in the process, you’re farther along now than you were last year at this time
  • You can pick and choose exactly what you want to wear, what you want to eat and how you want to spend each day
  • What else are you grateful for?

Another type of reflection is to consider how you will move forward. Can you help another woman going through this journey? You now have experience and you know what has worked for you. Pass it on!

Relationships

As we are Starting Over Single, we have a new appreciation for relationships. We know about the toxic ones and we’ve learned a few things about how to avoid them.

A great resource is “Never Go Back” by Dr. Henry Cloud. This book describes 10 things we never want to do again, including getting involved in unhealthy relationships.

You have probably learned about the people you can trust and who are your true friends. Most of us lose a couple of friendships along the journey – former friends who no longer want to associate with someone going through a divorce.

But we’ve also begun to treasure even more the relationships that last – no matter what we’re struggling with. These are the people God has given us to encourage us and sometimes – these are the people who will meet practical needs.

If you have children, this journey will bond you together like nothing else in life. Although you will have struggles and each day is a new adventure, when you look back from the vantage point of time – you will see how precious and strong the relationship is with your children.

It is a proven fact that children will be angrier with the mother than with the father. They will act out in ways against you that they will not do with Disney Dad.

This is because they know deep in their little hearts Mommy will always and forever love them. So it is safe to be angry, to be honest and to test the waters of relationship with you.

That makes it tough, especially with little boys who have a harder struggle with change. But once you make it through those first years of post-divorce, setting healthy boundaries and always assuring your children of your love for them – that bond will be amazingly strong.

I look at my grown son now and I am so grateful for our relationship. We have moved into the friendship phase, and we can talk about any subject with honesty and respect for our differences. He is an amazing young man.

Your children will also survive and give you joy in the coming years.

Another relationship is a treasure and that is the divine One. God will never leave you and never abandon you. He is always present. You’ve probably experienced an even closer relationship with him than ever before – a rich treasure of knowing him and relying on him that other people can’t even begin to fathom.

So hang on to the relationships that count, to the ones you can depend on and be grateful God has placed these people in your life.

Resolution

We often think of resolutions for the new year, but I like to consider how we can resolve to move forward.

I resolve to most past any bitterness of what was done to me and find joy in total forgiveness.

I resolve to help as many women as possible when they are Starting Over Single.

I resolve to make this new year even better than the next by doing my part to grow and succeed.

I resolve to embrace healthy relationships and not shut myself off from others just because some people have been cruel to me.

I resolve to live by my core values and set healthy boundaries around what I will do and what I will accept into my life.

I resolve to work at my craft of writing so my words are a blessing to others.

I resolve to continue as a life-long learner so my coaching clients will experience the success of reaching their goals.

I resolve to eat healthy, think good thoughts and take care of my soul. Total health involves body, soul and spirit.

What about you? Any special resolutions you can think of? Make a list and journal through them, reflecting on what is truly important to you. Then embrace this Thanksgiving season with a heart full of gratitude.

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “Q”

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It’s always a challenge to find words that begin with Q but we did it!letter-q

Quality

This word conjures up so many possibilities. Now that we are Starting Over Single, the quality of life has changed – in many ways – for the better.

We are no longer living within manipulative behaviors and the fear that attaches like a manacle. Our quality of life has improved and now we are moving forward with joy.

Once we’ve moved through the crisis, the quality of health will also improve. We won’t gain or lose weight as a result of divorce stress. Now we can focus on good nutrition, better habits and eating real food instead of dead food.

Quality also plays in with the stuff of life. In the before divorce life, we may have surrounded ourselves with stuff, trying to comfort that place inside that hurt so deeply.

Now we can declutter and remove anything connected to the painful past. This is the time to go through every room, every drawer, every closet. Whatever you find that does NOT give you joy, either give it away or throw it away.

Surround yourself with quality stuff that energizes you and pleases you. The dishware you want for this new life, the colors you want to decorate your new space, the jewelry that represents you.

Fill your Starting Over Single life with quality and enjoy the emotional freedom of just being you.

Quiet

If you’re still raising little ones, your quiet time is limited and you have to set firm boundaries just to find some alone time.

But if you’ve finished raising kids, now is a precious time for solitude and quiet. This is the season to sit down with your journal, a steaming cup of your favorite beverage and your favorite pen. Write, reflect and learn.

Go to the library and check out books you’ve been longing to read. Fill your mind with quality words and phrases. Learn from the experts. Discover other strong women through biographies.

Spend quiet time with your Bible. Journal your prayers or write letters to God.

This may also be the time for you to continue the grieving process. Grieving in a healthy way will help to unload any baggage or leftover pain.

And use your quiet time to listen carefully for that inner voice, the divine whisper who will guide you in new directions.

The prophet Isaiah said it best, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

So enjoy this quiet time. Turn off the electronics and rediscover the beauty of solitude. Love being alone with God and find your strength within the quiet place.

Questions

The process of Starting Over Single brings several realistic questions:

  • Who am I now?
  • What should I do with my life now?
  • How can I best use this time of being single?

Other questions might reverberate around the issues of where to live, how to manage finances alone and how to deal with holiday stress.

But the bigger questions revolve around identity – who we are and what our new focus should be.

For my SOS coaching clients, we work through a core values assessment. We ask the hard questions and dig deep to find the top five core values for this season in life.

Then we dig even deeper and discover the one umbrella core value that covers our lives and our direction. Everything else is covered by that one specific value and all our future decisions will need to be in sync with our five core values.

This is such a wonderful a-ha exercise, I wish I could share it with the entire world of women. But it’s also a highly personal assessment. Sometimes we discover our true selves have been hidden for years underneath the heavy blanket of a destructive relationship.

So we work through that grief process, too, and leave the past behind. We move toward our new identities and discover the wonderfully unique women God has created us to be.

If you’d like to consider going through this assessment with a certified coach, contact me at GateWay of Hope or email me at rebeccat@gwhope.org.

In the meantime, check out these resources that can help you find your new identity:

The Search for Significance” by Robert S. McGee

Excavating Your Authentic Self” by Sarah Ban Breathnach

The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown

As you answer the questions that stir deeply in your soul, you will discover the quality of your new self. And in the quiet place, you will know God has never ever stopped loving you.

©2016  Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “P”

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letter-pThe letter “P” has so many possibilities for our Starting Over Single series, it’s difficult to choose just a few words. But let’s start with one of the most important concepts we can learn in life.

Patience

I will admit, this is one of the lessons I am constantly having to learn – to wait, to let the seasons of life and the benefits of wisdom catch up to me – to learn how to be patient.

But I can see some growth in my soul, and I’m sure you have learned some lessons about patience, too.

The process of going through divorce requires patience as we wait for paperwork to be completed, phone calls to be returned, legal matters solved, household goods divided and sold, custody agreements to be resolved.

If we try to rush any of these things, we may lose the advantage or even some of the financial benefits we need.

It’s better to stop, breathe and wait for the process to happen.

Another way to learn patience is to not rush through recovery. I tried to recover too fast and bought a house too soon. I needed to wait for the right property and a lower interest rate, but I was ready to move forward.

A bit more patience would have resulted in a better deal.

Sometimes we also want to rush the grieving process. We say, “I should be over him by now. It’s been two years, and I still have nightmares.”

Or “I should have recovered by this time. I still cry on the anniversary date.”

Shoulding ourselves never works out well. We can gift ourselves with patience – however much time that requires – to totally heal and to completely recover.

Patience is a virtue – one of the most important core values we can own. So let’s be patient with the process and give ourselves grace as we move forward.

Promise

We’re looking at this word differently now, because someone who promised us the happily-ever-after life did not keep his promise.

But let’s not dwell on the past or on the negatives of yesterday. Let’s look forward and think about the promise of today and tomorrow.

When God makes promises, he always keeps them. “Do not fear, for you will not be put to shame, and do not feel humiliated or ashamed, for you will not be disgraced. For you will forget the shame of your youth, and you will no longer remember the disgrace of your widowhood” (Isaiah 54:4 Amplified Bible).

Any shame you have felt because of the divorce is already covered and done – because God has made a promise to you.

Any humiliation someone tried to pin on you is a lie. Anybody who said something ugly to you because you’re now a single mom – that person is toxic. Delete him or her from your life. Set healthy boundaries around your heart.

As you draw closer to God while you’re Starting Over Single, you’ll probably discover some personal promises he has designed especially for you.

God promised that he would meet every need for my son and me, and he has done that. Every. Single. Need.

He promises that he has a good plan for our lives. That good plan has not disappeared, and someday you’ll see it become reality.   woman-worship

Another promise he makes, still in Isaiah 54, is that he will take care of your children. “All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace” (Isaiah 54:13).

We worry about our children and how they will deal with the divorce, but anyone who tries to pin humiliation on your children is not living in the grace of God.

Yes, our children will have to work through the emotions and the fallout, but they can emerge stronger and better because they’ve had to trust you and God to help them through it.

Hold God to the promises he has made to you. He keeps them – always.

Power

The journey of Starting Over Single teaches us about the power we have to become the women God created us to be.

We can make wiser choices than ever before and watch the side effects of divorce disappear. Every time we use our money wisely – saving, investing and culling out what is unnecessary – it gives us power for the future.

When we go back to school or start our own business or move away from toxic relationships, we gain more power over our tomorrows.

As we journey through the forgiveness process – which may take a lifetime – we learn more about the power of grace and the compassion of Christ.

As we change and grow, we become more empowered to be who we were made to be. We step into our new identity and enjoy being with ourselves. Living alone is no longer scary but proof that we CAN do this single life and do it well.

Single women are becoming a force in our world, a corps of powerful women who use their giftings to help the poor, save animals, raise the next generation and run for political office at all levels.

We are becoming pastors and politicians, mothers and grandmothers, mentors and disciplers, coaches and counselors. We are no longer just defined as a “wife” and we are certainly not going to EVER live under the shadow of being a “victim.”

So enjoy your newfound power and use it for the good. Then share with the rest of us…what have you learned about patience, promise and power?

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “O”

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Let’s think about some powerful “O” words for Starting Over Single.letter-o

Optimism

Now that we’re post-divorce, this is the time for an optimistic outlook. We’ve made it through all the grunge work and we’ve completed a mound of paperwork.

We’ve reworked the budget, so we know exactly how much we need to live on. Even if we’ve had to make some financial sacrifices, we are moving toward paying off debts, rebuilding our savings accounts and possibly buying a new house.

We’ve also worked through some of the difficult emotions of the divorce, vented our guts out with the counselor and set healthy boundaries around our hearts.

We have set goals for this new season of life and we are marching forward with a determined mindset – we will be happier now. We will begin to thrive and not just survive.

Although we know life will still have its bumpy days, we’ve come through hell on earth. God has helped us through it and we’re still breathing. It will be okay.

We’ve learned to define our new normal for life, and we know we can conquer the challenges we never even imagined before the divorce.

And…since we’ve learned so much about ourselves and how to deal with life, we’re beginning to plan for how we can help other women who are struggling.

  • Offer to lead a Bible study at church
  • Begin a support group at home
  • Work toward a certification in Coaching or Counseling
  • Develop a blog and gain followers who need some practical info about being single
  • Start a book club with the single women at work
  • Schedule a coffee date with that young mom who’s having a tough time
  • Sit with the other divorced women at church so nobody feels alone

This is the time to think creatively and use your new-found optimism for the good of others. As you have been helped by other women, you can now pass it on.

Originality

This is the time to use our originality to be as creative as possible. One of the fun things I did was to redesign my bedroom.

I knew the “marital” bed had to go so I gave him that old mattress and switched the guest room mattress to my bed. After I sold the divorce house, my son and I moved to a beautiful townhome where we could emotionally heal. I bought all new bedding and for the first time in a long time – I slept deeply through the night.

Although I was working another job, I decided to create my own business and use my communications skills. So Do It Write was born, an editorial service that has since become a coaching and speaking outlet at writers conferences.

Then I started my blog and later, this blog. Both of these original ideas morphed into ways to help other women Starting Over Single and to offer Hope When Life Unravels. Both of them include books I’ve written and more ideas for future books.

Another piece of my originality was to learn more about decorating. I’ve enjoyed starting over with my own idea of colors, textures and placement. I watch some of the design shows and I try to make my living space as comfortable as possible.

Now that your identity has changed, you can do anything creative you want to do. Although some people don’t see themselves as creative, we all DO have a piece of creativity within us.

Since God created us in his image and he IS the creator – it follows that we are also creative. He gave us wheat, and we made bread. He gave us plants and we made salad bars. He gave us color and we can learn to paint, decorate, crochet or do any number of things that include color.

So … don’t wait any longer. Use that originality and create something beautiful just for you. Then share it with someone else.

Overcomer

Pat yourself on the back for being an overcomer. You’ve been through a lot of stuff and you’ve survived. You have overcome the pain of being betrayed and/or abuses of all kinds. You’ve moved past the shock of it all and learned how to grieve in healthy ways.

You have become an overcomer.

This fabulous song by Mandisa reminds us how God holds us up and helps us become overcomers.

Whenever this song comes on the radio, I crank it up and sing it fortissimo. I don’t care what people in the other cars at the stoplight think, I’m letting go with the truth.

Another encouragement for me has been Psalm 54:4 where God promises to uphold us. He sustains us and keeps us going strong – even when we aren’t aware that he’s right beside us.

I love the idea of his sustaining power, because I am a pianist. The sustain pedal on the far right keeps the sound going on and on. So even when I’m having a tough day and my life feels discordant, God sustains me. The music of my soul continues, no matter what is happening.

So as we Start Over Single and move forward in this next season of life, we can take joy in being the overcomers God has called us to be.

What about you? What are some ways you are developing more originality in your life? How are you becoming an overcomer?

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “N”

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As we continue our alphabet series, let’s look at the meaty letter of “N.” Lots of possibilities here, but we’ll choose only three key words.letter-n

Necessities

The journey through divorce and the post-divorce decisions force us to ask the question, “What is really essential in my life? What activities are necessary for this new season and what can I delete?”

Some of the once-necessary activities no longer exist. We don’t need to buy Christmas gifts or make birthday cakes for the “wasband.” We don’t need to have that heavy talk about the budget because we now make all the financial decisions.

So what are the necessities we can now focus on? Certainly, if we have children – their needs become the focus of many decisions.

But we also have to think about ourselves and set the healthy boundaries that will help us thrive. Necessities include work, paying bills and fixing meals. But think deeper about the necessities for your soul.

  • Sleeping at least eight hours each night
  • Some form of exercise that you enjoy so you won’t procrastinate
  • Taking an artist date to rekindle that creativity within
  • Spending quality time with yourself – what do you really WANT to do? Yes, that IS a necessity.
  • Finding a support group

One of my coaching clients knows she must surround herself with beauty. So when she moved into the post-divorce house, she hired a designer to help her place everything in the best space. Just that one action gave her hope and helped her return home after a hard day – to find her place of beauty.

Save some money for your own time away. Where do you want to go? A quiet retreat in the mountains or maybe an Italian cuisine tour.

The dream of your heart isn’t just a dream and a wish. It is also a necessity – to help you move forward with joy and find your new normal.

New Normal

Defining your new normal may include a redesign of your core values. What are the values that are most important to you – absolutely vital for this new season of life?

You have learned a great deal and the old core has changed. For example: one of your core values might have been to nurture a happy marriage. Now, you’ll be nurturing yourself as a single woman and finding the best self you can be.

My coaching clients work through a core values assessment and most of them discover that a-ha moment when their new identity begins to surface. Then we craft a mission statement which becomes the focus for their new lives.

Finding your new normal and the creative way you now define yourself will become a goal-setter for you. It will also keep you from making poor decisions because everything will revolve around your new core values. By its design, you’ll have a new set of healthy boundaries.

Next Steps

Keep looking forward and avoid those backward statements such as “I should have….” That sort of belief only leads us into regret and false guilt.

This is the time to make some short-term goals and maybe even some long-term plans. Think about those necessities we discussed and your new normal.

What are the next steps to lead you toward your goals? Do you need to find a life coach to help you stay accountable? Do you need a vision board or a vision journal to help picture visually what you want?

Is this the time to start a new savings account or redefine your budget so you’ll have that dream vacation in the spring?

Now that your necessities have changed, you’ll be saving some money. Find the best method for you to put away a few dollars a week. You’ll be surprised and blessed at the end of the year.

Maybe this is the time for those next steps toward losing the divorce weight or gaining back the pounds you lost. Put together a plan for the exercise process you like best.

Gandhi said, “You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.”

So take those next steps and move forward to make your new normal a beautiful season.

©2016  Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “M”

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Marching ahead with our alphabet series, let’s look at the letter “M.”letter-m

Motivation

No lazy attitudes allowed for women who are Starting Over Single. That doesn’t mean we can’t relax and have fun, sit and drink a hot cup of chai tea or watch a Hallmark movie – one of the especially sappy ones.

It just means we are more motivated than ever before to achieve what we need to achieve, to accomplish tasks and to move toward our dreams.

It means we believe in taking action to approach our goals and we’re not going to let anyone stop us from acquiring the desires of our hearts.

Some of our motivation stems from the reality of survival skills. Some of it comes from a deep well that is now flowing in a healthy direction – because we don’t have an abusive relationship to stomp on us.

Some motivation flows from healthy accountability partners or a life coach who keeps us clued in to the plans we’ve made.

Most of the time, we’re motivated because we want to be. We enjoy being the Number One Sales Person at work. Or we’ve tasted what it feels like to hold our published books and we want to write another one.

Or we keep thinking about that sweet child we tuck into bed each night. We want to be a good role model for that sticky-with-pancake-syrup boy and that giggly little girl.

We are more motivated than ever before because that’s what Starting Over Single will do for us.

We’re forgetting the past and looking forward to the best future ever.

Money

One of the reasons we may be motivated is because we understand more of the value of money.

We have learned how to budget wisely and we’re saving for that next car, the deposit on a better apartment or even the down payment on a house.

We’re also much smarter now in distinguishing what we need from what we want. We know a bunch of stuff won’t make us happy and we’ve already downsized to a smaller, more economical place.

We’re also saving for the kids’ college funds, because we can’t depend on the “wasband” and whatever child support he might decide to pay.

Thinking about money may put us in danger of living in the past and bringing up regrets such as:

  • Why oh why didn’t I push forward and finish that graduate degree?
  • Why did I believe that wives have to keep joint accounts with their husbands?
  • Why didn’t I start saving a long time ago?
  • Why did I buy all this junk? If I had all that money back, I’d have a nice bundle of money.
  • Why did I overbuy on this house? Now I’m house poor and I can’t sell the thing.
  • Why didn’t I see the financial abuse coming and prepare better for it?
  • Why can’t I seem to get out of this financial hole?

Living in the past and fuming about regrets won’t help. If you find yourself in this self-blame frame of mind, go visit a CPA. Talk to a financial planner. Take a class on budgeting. Look for an accountability partner.

Start now to learn more about how to manage your money and remember – you’re smarter than you think and you CAN get out of this hole. Many of us have done it before you.

Statistics prove that women are better with money than men. I believe in you.

Mini-Retreat

It may seem impossible but a mini-retreat is an absolute necessity when we’re Starting Over Single.

You may need a retreat as you’re finishing with the final papers – just to gather your courage for the final push of finalizing the divorce.

Or several months into the post-divorce journey, you may need to get away and be refreshed for this season of living alone.

Whatever you want to call it – a mini-retreat, a Sabbatical, an emotional getaway – whatever…plan for it, set a date and then do it.

You’ve been through an enormous transition in life. You’ve dealt with some past baggage and let lots of dreams go.

You’ve haggled with the legal system, talked to a mediator, arranged for custody and maintenance, reworked your budget, moved, set up your household in a different place, said goodbye to some friends and possibly your church, redesigned your dreams and now … you’re reinventing yourself.

Sheesh! Anybody who goes through that sort of change needs a break.

If possible, go somewhere completely rejuvenating such as a spa, a resort, a quiet place in the mountains, a sandy beach or wherever you feel most peaceful.

Maybe you just need to check into a hotel for a while. But determine that you’re not going anywhere you have to deal with any sort of crisis.

You might even take a Sabbatical from electronics and only take emergency calls.

During your mini-retreat, journal about your thoughts. Pray. Meditate. Read the Bible or take along a good book. Sleep in. Eat nutritious food but allow yourself an occasional treat. Drink lots of water. Or you may want to fast from all food for a couple of days.

The idea is to get away from the source of the stress to spend time in contemplation and quiet. Solitude is a great healer and all of us need it from time to time.

So take a mini-retreat. If you have children, enlist the help of family and/or friends. It won’t hurt your kids if Mom takes a break.

You’ll be renewed and you may come back with the goal of taking a mini-retreat every few months. It’s good for the soul and will help you move into a new level of healing.

So … where are you planning to go?

©2016 Starting Over Single – Taking Steps Forward to Live Intentionally

Starting Over Single with “L”

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letter-lWe’re almost to the halfway point of our alphabet series. What are some of the “L” words that encourage us as we’re Starting Over Single?

LET

Although it has few letters, “Let” is one of the most important words in the English language. It implies a freedom and independence that can encourage us as we journey through divorce.

“Let” is also a key word in several Bible verses and principles:

  • Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus
  • Let the peace of God rule in your hearts
  • Let us love one another

To “let” means we give ourselves permission for some type of action that will bring about a positive change.

Let yourself think about a vision board. What will your life look like one year from now? Five years from now?

Let yourself have some type of fun once / week.

Let your body take a holy nap on Sundays.

Let yourself relax now that all the legalities are over and you’re on your own.

Let peace wash over you now that you’re away from the abuse.

Let yourself dream about that novel you want to write, about that new car you’re saving for, about the cottage in the country where you want to settle in.

Let yourself believe that life will be better because God has a good plan for you.

Let go of the negatives and focus on the positives of your new life.

LEFTOVERS

As we move forward, a leftover can be something positive to build on.

Although we may have leftover sadness and leftover emotional baggage, we don’t have to focus on the negative aspects of divorce.

What is left over now is the best part of ourselves. We are now free to pursue our true selves and be all God created us to be.

We are left with our incredible children who we can build a bond with, stronger than before. They will grow up to be survivors because of what we have experienced together. The mother-child bond cannot be broken, and the emotional umbilical cord will stretch years down the road.

We have the opportunity now to address any leftover baggage – to begin the forgiveness process. This is a journey with several types of triggers.

But confronting denial and forging ahead, we can soon take those leftovers and make them into something good – a strength and a courage that will serve us well.

Just as we take the leftovers of a meal, chop up the veggies and make a nutritious soup or an omelet with hidden ingredients – so we can chop up the past and use what we have learned to make something even better.

We now have the privilege of using what we have learned – our leftovers – to bless another woman, to mentor a young woman who is going through divorce, to encourage others who are Starting Over Single.

Leftovers can be effective ingredients that build a foundation for the future.

LOVE

You’ve probably read or heard the guideline about jumping into a new relationship. “Give yourself one year for every four years of marriage.”

So if you’ve been married 16 years, divide that by 4. Then wait those four years before you invite a new relationship or give your heart to another man.

Four years? Doesn’t that sound like a long time? Not really.

Most of us will spend about two years going through all the legal sludge and custody arrangements of the divorce.

Most of us will spend another two years in counseling, trying to heal from what happened.

Many of us won’t be ready to even consider another relationship for more than four years, and some of us will completely rule out future relationships with another man.

The scars run deep and the wounds take a while to heal.

Some women will jump into a new relationship too soon, before they’ve had a chance to heal, before they’ve worked on their own core values, before they’ve learned the joy of being independent.

Many of those women either marry the same type of man or look for the exact opposite. Neither course is wise.

Healthy women attract healthy men. And the healthier we are, the easier it is to spot men who are dangerous and deceitful.

We also need to work through our own forgiveness process or we won’t be able to have a healthy new relationship.

We can’t keep blaming all men for the failures of one man. We can’t stereotype one entire gender.

Good men DO exist, and if we wait a while – grow, strengthen our core values and live alone for a while – we’ll know ourselves better and we’ll know what type of man we want.

Then, if we choose, we can step into a new relationship with a clearer focus which will give us a better chance of making it the second time around.

So if you want to find a love that won’t betray you, let yourself work through any leftovers and emerge with a positive outlook for your future.

But in the meantime, learn how to love yourself well. With or without another relationship, loving yourself will help you thrive.

What are some of the leftovers you’re working through?

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “K”

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letter-kLet’s check out some “K” words and phrases to discover how we can Start Over Single. Although the letter “K” presents some challenges for finding appropriate words, we can also use some phrases that encourage us.

Knowledge

As we Start Over Single, we gain so much knowledge that will help us learn how to live well – alone. Now we know we can survive and thrive, relying on God and the gifts he has given us.

We have been forced to learn more about finances and budgeting, about the mechanics of cars and the maintenance of a house. All that is good.

We have a better working knowledge about taxes and the importance of keeping good records. Going through the divorce taught us how to deal with lawyers, school officials, government systems, the courts and many other authority figures.

We now know about custody issues and maybe even guardian ad litems. We have learned how to manage the holidays and how to assure that our children enjoy time with the ex-laws and the cousins.

We have learned how the church treats divorced people and which churches are safe places. We know how to set healthy boundaries for ourselves and our children.

We know about leases and loans, tools and techniques for fixing things and even plumbing issues.

We are so much smarter and stronger – sometimes we don’t recognize ourselves.

All these are good things, but we may also have more knowledge about what constitutes a destructive marriage. We can then teach our younger siblings and our children which red flags to watch out for and how to protect themselves against manipulation and gaslighting behaviors.

With knowledge comes the opportunity to use it well, to stay away from bitterness and to share what we have learned.

This brings us to the next “K” phrase:

Knowing Yourself

Many of us hire counselors and/or coaches to help us navigate through the divorce process. Enlisting the help of an objective person can help us grow stronger and recognize any self-defeating behaviors.

If you’re interested in talking to a counselor or a coach, check out GateWay of Hope.

Knowing ourselves means we need to be careful of certain personality types, because we know our own personalities – our strengths and weaknesses.

As we discover our core values, we know more about who we are and what direction we want to go in life. We also know any new relationships need to be in sync with our core values.

This knowing of ourselves will prevent us from making life-altering mistakes.

To know ourselves means we appreciate who we are and who God created us to be. We’re on a journey, learning more and more about what we like and what we want our futures to be.

As we learn more, we make decisions to eliminate anything that doesn’t bring us joy. That includes the physical and emotional clutter of a former life.

We surround ourselves only with the things we like, the possessions and environment that bring out the best in us.

So we become even more determined to live the abundant life. And that brings a contentment wrapped in peace.

Keep Moving Forward

Most of us can say, “I’ll never do that again,” or “I’m not falling for that again.”

If we think of our goal to Keep Moving Forward, then we aren’t looking back. We’re done with any resentments of the past and certainly – with any fault-finding or self-deprecatory statements.

Moving forward means we believe tomorrow will be a better day.

We’ve learned so much, we’re putting that knowledge into practice and letting it morph into wisdom.

Maybe our movement forward will including buying a house or the exact car we want.

Maybe it will mean we’re going to declutter, simplify and live with only the essentials.

Maybe we’re going to lose those extra pounds we gained during the divorce or put some pounds back on because we forgot to eat during all the stress.

Maybe our movement forward includes going back to school or earning a certification in coaching.

That’s what I did, and I’m so grateful for that CLC behind my name. My Life Coaching Certification enables me to help other women who are Starting Over Single. If you’d like to talk about Coaching, email me at rebeccat@gwhope.org.

To keep moving forward, we set smart goals that are measurable and attainable – goals that are time-sensitive and utilize our giftings.

We also include special people in our march forward – those who will add joy to our lives yet help us stay accountable to our new focus.

As we keep moving forward, we’ll learn even more about ourselves and what is best for us.

So what are some things you have learned during this Starting Over Single process?

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “J”

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As we continue our series of alphabet letters that affect Starting Over Single, let’s look at some “J” words.letter-j

Justice

Many of my clients come to me with the phrase, “It just isn’t fair.”

That’s true. Life is not fair and the side effects of divorce are also not fair.

We may have worked hard so the hubby could get extra graduate degrees, but when it was our turn – the financial struggles of divorce kept us from meeting our educational goals.

We may not be the one who wanted the divorce, yet it was thrust on us and now we’re dealing with the after effects.

We may have tried everything in counseling sessions, meeting with accountability partners and praying our guts out. But the “wasband” didn’t do his part for the sake of the marriage.

We may have lost jobs, lost our homes and lost the respect of our ex-laws all because of his choices.

It isn’t fair.

And we can sit around and complain about the injustice of it all, or we can choose other options.

Certainly, we can fight for our rights with a credible and determined lawyer. We can set healthy boundaries to protect our hearts and the hearts of our children.

But we can also hang on to the One who is always just and will be our vindicator.

“Vindicate me, my God, and plead my cause against an unfaithful nation. Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked” (Psalm 43:1).

At some point, everything will be made right. Justice will happen, and we will be vindicated.

Journaling

Keeping a journal has helped me process through so much of life’s twists and turns. Some women think they can’t journal because they aren’t writers.

But journaling can be a fun process and a great way to use creative skills.

A journal can be just making some bullet points or it can be an elaborate scrapbooking project. It can be doodles, sketches, Post-it™ notes or scraps of paper. It can be photos, art work, coloring – anything you want it to be.

Anything that helps you process the issues around Starting Over Single – anything that helps you feel better and work through some of the emotions.

You can even journal about all your emotions – the good, the bad and the ugly. Or try an alphabet journal, dealing with the key words or key emotions you’re feeling.

And you can check out some of the online journal sites such as: penzu.com.

If you have children, buy journals for each of them so they can get their feelings out and on the paper. Make sure everyone in the family knows a journal is a secret place to find emotional safety. Nobody reads anyone else’s journal without permission.

A journal is a practical tool to help us work through any sludge leftover from the divorce.

So take advantage of the positive benefits a journal can bring you.

Joy

One of the definitions of joy sounds like this: “Happiness is because of circumstances, but joy is in spite of circumstances.”

We all want joy to be a byproduct of our lives, the abundant feeling of knowing we’re on track with our goals and moving forward in life.

After divorce, we may have lost our joy – for a time. But joy is one of those qualities we can regain, and God can certainly restore the joy in our souls.

Just being free of a destructive relationship can restore joy. Or sometimes – making a change can trigger joy: a new place to live, a different job, a stylish haircut.

We may have to seek joy and find our own definition for how it manifests in our lives.

I find joy sitting on my deck and watching the birds fight for the seed. My bird-watching book helps me identify the different species and when I discover a new visitor, I feel joy.

Another place of joy for me is sitting at the piano and playing through some classics or a new version of an old hymn.

The purr of my cat brings joy, and warm hugs from my son.

Every time one of my clients meets her goals, I share her joy. Every time I sell one of my books, joy bubbles up.

For you, joy may be more of an ethereal experience – or maybe it’s connected to a particular action or memory.

Share it with us. What brings you joy?

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “I”

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letter-iAs we continue our alphabet series for Starting Over Single, the “I” words provide a pathway into our new lives.

Independence

For the first time in many years – for some of us – the first time in our lives, we are truly independent. While that may seem scary at first, the concept of independence focuses on freedom.

We are now free to pursue the desires of our hearts, our passions based on lifetime dreams.

We can go to bed whenever we feel like it and sleep as long as we need to or want to. Sure, we have to set the alarm to get to work on time, but our sleep patterns are no longer focused on someone else. We may actually sleep better than ever before, because we’re not disturbed by someone snoring, moving or – in some cases – abusing us with forced sex.

We can eat what we want. This is a good time to observe healthy nutrition. Sugary, processed foods are not good for us and will not substitute for a failed marriage. Our tastes no longer need to be determined by someone else nor do we have to observe certain meal times just because we are cooking for someone else.

We can use our own financial independence to buy what we want, save as much as we want and give to whatever charities we want to help. We don’t have to ask anyone’s permission for how we spend our hard-earned money. We are not at the mercy of another person’s spending habits, so we can use our own wisdom and seek financial counsel to make the best decisions.

Once the divorce house is sold, we can live where we want – whether than means saving for another house, finding an apartment that serves us well or starting out in an entirely new direction.

If children are involved, then we DO have to observe the custody arrangement, but otherwise – we can make our own decisions about what type of housing we can afford and what we want that to look like.

That also means we can decorate for our own tastes – the colors we like, the style we like, the type of furniture we want to invest in. Nothing is off limits now.

We can move forward to start a new career, go back to school, try a new hobby, sing and dance, et cetera.

This is the time to celebrate our freedom and enjoy life, move into a new area of independence and leap forward with joy.

Intentionality

The tagline for this blog is : “Taking Steps Forward to Live Intentionally.”

We are much more intentional about life now, because we know how fragile security is. We don’t want to waste time on anything that doesn’t really count.

This is the time to re-examine our core values. My coaching clients regularly go through the Core Values Assessment so we can determine the focus for our plan.

This is the time for you to dust off your passion and be intentional about what you plan to do.

Are you going to write that novel that’s been on your mind for years? Are you going to return to school and work on your graduate degree? Are you going to approach your boss about a promotion?

Being intentional means we know the direction we need to take and we take the steps necessary to get there.

It’s an exciting time. Intentionality breeds hope and gives us a purpose for every day. Anything that is outside our core values or doesn’t feed our passions is out of bounds – a waste of energy and resources.

We pay close attention to our growth and move forward with a new-found courage and joy.

Identity

As we become more intentional about life, we will begin to form our new identity.

Starting Over Single is our new normal. We are no longer wives or tied to a destructive relationship. We can now become our true selves.

Some of us have been numbed through the years and we’ve forgotten who we are. But God has never forgotten and still has a good plan for our lives.

This is the time to get back on track, embrace who we really are and learn to love ourselves again.

The world will try to shame us. Some of us may hate marking the “Divorced” checkbox as a status on forms.

But instead of focusing on the “D” word, think more about the freedom you now have to be your true self and to pursue your dreams.

In her book, “Rising Strong,” Dr. Brene Brown writes, “We are the authors of our lives. We write our own daring endings.

Sure…God has a plan for our lives, but it is a GOOD plan and he is present to help us find our way.

But OUR role is to accept that plan, love God and ourselves and take the next steps. As we grow in our true identity, we’ll discover the women God made us to be. Maybe we were sidetracked for a while in a destructive relationship, but now … we’re moving forward.

Embrace your true identity, live intentionally and find joy in your new independence.

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “H”

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letter-hAs we continue our series into the Starting Over Single words, we’ll find several affirmations from the alphabet letter H.

Hope

We could begin and end every post with Hope, because the concept of having hope is so vital to our survival – we need it every day.

At the beginning of the divorce process, life feels so hopeless. But as we begin to move forward, to find our way to a new normal – we begin to feel the stirrings of renewed hope.

One of the action steps I like to give my SOS women is to ask them to find an inspiration piece – something visual that will help them feel as if hope is a reality.

Some choices might be:

  • A picture of a new car
  • The new bedding they will use after the betraying “wasband” moves out
  • A colorful vase for the living room
  • A vision journal to record plans for the future
  • The receipt for the wedding bands they sold which will now help pay off lawyer fees

The choices are as unique as the women themselves, and finding an inspiration piece instills hope that tomorrow WILL look better than today.

Humor

In the midst of so much pain and upheaval, it may feel almost sacrilegious to laugh. But we know laughter is a healing exercise.

I splurged on the tickets so my son and I could attend the performance of a well-known comedian. Later, my son bought the DVD of that performance for my Christmas present. My son knew the value of that evening of laughter.

Borrow a funny DVD from the library or make one night a week as “Comic Night.” Share jokes with your children.

Look for reruns of the Lucy show or Carol Burnett. Spend time with people who make you laugh.

Force yourself to smile. Really – you’ll feel better. And if you can force a laugh – the process of using those muscles will release some healthy endorphins.

Do an internet search for giggling babies. Here’s a good one with babies and dogs.

The more we learn to laugh and find the joy in life, the healthier we will be.

Humility

It may feel as if humility is not a helpful topic, because divorce has its humiliating side effects. But this type of humility is actually a strength.

Positive humility learns to accept gifts, money and kindness from others. Some of us have never been on the receiving end before. We’ve always been the givers.

But as we learn to receive, we become part of the important loop of society that makes charity a good word.

And our resolve is strengthened so that we will someday give back to another woman who is Starting Over Single.

In fact, at GateWay of Hope, we have a scholarship fund for women who need coaching but cannot pay for it. Many of the donors for that fund are women who once had to receive money from others. Now they have recovered, so they’re giving back.

Humility says, “I don’t deserve this, but I accept it with thanksgiving. Gratitude will be my mantra and a pure heart will allow me to take this gift, this money, this charity and grow it into something good.”

Heart

More than ever before, we now appreciate our hearts.

Many of us have had to set difficult boundaries to protect our hearts. We’ve learned how our hearts react when damaged by betrayal, so now we’re determined to preserve what we have learned.

We have experienced broken hearts and yes – a broken heart can be a real physical ailment.

But we’re not staying in that wounded place any longer. We’re moving forward, strengthened in the power of God’s might.

Now our hearts are braver, more resilient and able to increase with love for others.

As we learn more about our hearts, we will also learn how to trust again. We won’t shift blame on another man just because the man we chose decided to abandon us.

Every human being is different, and we’re all recipients of grace.

As our hearts mend, we’ll find the places that strengthen us and focus on how we can fit our lives within that stronger, more authentic place.

Steve Maraboli writes, “It is only with true love and compassion that we can begin to mend what is broken in the world. It is these two blessed things that can begin to heal all broken hearts.”

So as our hearts mend, we become filled with more love and compassion which we can pass on to others and do good in our world.

Healing

The whole purpose of this blog is to help women who are Starting Over Single find their place of healing and wholeness.

As we move through the process of healing, we develop calluses around our wounds and new wisdom for any future woundings life might throw at us.

The healing we grow into then becomes part of who we are.

Many of us will be more authentic than ever before because we’ve discovered the source of our souls – the truth about our identities.

We’ve been living under someone else’s shadow for so long, we forgot our own dreams, our hopes and the visions we once embraced.

But now – gloriously now – we are moving into the healing place. We know WHO we are and we are certain about the direction we want to take.

God has opened up new vistas for our lives which don’t require us to live in the shadows any longer.

We are stronger, healthier, better than ever before.

As I often tell women, “Being single is harder in many ways, but it can also be much better.”

So hang on to the “H” words:

  • Look for the Hope that marches right in front of you.
  • Find the Humor in life and practice laughing.
  • Embrace Humility as a quality that will strengthen you.
  • Protect your Heart by setting healthy boundaries.
  • Find your place of Healing and revel in who you are.

What about you? Any other “H” words you’ve found helpful?

©2016 Starting Over Single

Starting Over Single with “G”

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Letter GThe letter “G” gives us many opportunities to live within gratitude. So let’s start there.

Gratitude

As we walk forward in this journey of Starting Over Single, it helps to keep a gratitude journal. Although our lives are different now – more difficult in many ways – we can still focus on having a grateful heart.

Gratitude will help us stay away from those depressing moments of fear, discouragement and heartache.

We can always, always find something to be grateful for, so keeping a gratitude journal is essential.

And it’s really easy. Each day, list at least one thing or one person for which you are grateful. Certainly, your children make the list. Our kids are often the only reason we climb out of bed.

Other gratitudes might include:

  • A pet that gives you unconditional love
  • Your job – even if you don’t like it that much. It helps to pay the bills and keeps a roof over your head
  • Friends, relatives, your church
  • The butterfly that just soared past your window
  • The hot water you shower in each night
  • The appliances that keep working
  • The car that gets you to your job

Focus on being grateful about something each day, and you’ll find discouragement crawling farther away from your soul.

Growth

Joyce Meyer says, “We live life forward, but we understand it backward.”

As we begin to move forward, we better understand some of the levels we’ve achieved and some of the steps we’ve taken.

We can begin to see more growth even within the struggles. Maybe we don’t grow angry quite so easily. Maybe we’ve learned more about the forgiveness process. Or maybe we feel more self-confident than we did a year ago.

We’re growing into this new normal, and in many ways – it feels good.

We may even find ourselves rediscovering our identity. We’ve been abused and squelched for many years, but now we’re growing out of that pit and becoming stronger.

So growth is another item to list in our gratitude journals.

Goals

Even as we grow, we recognize areas where we’d like to see more growth. These areas then become new goals.

Maybe we’ve already reached several of our goals:

  • To survive the first holiday after divorce / the first anniversary
  • To find a safe place for ourselves and our children
  • To earn a promotion at work or find a better job
  • To move past grumbling every day and into a more grateful existence
  • To begin the process of forgiveness

All these goals become positive endeavors for achievement, and as we reach them – we can look back again and see more growth.

This is the advantage of working with a coach. We can more easily grasp what those goals need to be and how we can put together a plan to reach them. If you’d like to talk about coaching, contact me at rebeccat@gwhope.org.

Another important goal is wrapped around the next “G” word.

Grace

This concept is perhaps one of the most difficult to understand, because we are so conditioned to do something in order to see the end result.

We feel we have to produce all the time or we aren’t acceptable to God or to others. But grace provides freedom and a clearing of all that perfectionism sludge.

Grace is a gift – given freely from the heart, even when we haven’t earned it – ESPECIALLY when we haven’t earned it.

We give grace to ourselves when we realize we don’t have to please everybody else. We can just BE our authentic selves and learn to love us.

We give grace to the “wasband” when we stop blaming him for everything that went wrong in the marriage.

We accept grace when others forgive us – even when we royally screw up.

We accept God’s grace when we believe he loves us unconditionally, and we don’t have to be a certain way or do certain things to earn that love.

Grace is a free gift, offered simply because none of us is perfect nor will we ever be.

Grace accepts who we are just as we are and expects nothing more.

Years ago, I wrote an article and described grace this way:

  • If you steal my bicycle and the judge sentences you to jail – that is justice.
  • If you steal my bicycle and I ask the judge not to sentence you – that is mercy.
  • If you steal my bicycle and I let you keep it – that is kindness.
  • If you steal my bicycle and I buy you a new one – that is grace.

Perhaps it should be a goal for each of us to show more gratitude, to work on our goals and to attempt more grace. Then we can look back and see how much we’ve grown.

©2016 Starting Over Single