Fan the Flame – Part 3

Hello All – Hope you are enjoying what seems to be the laziest of days between Christmas and New Years!

Let’s jump right into our deep dive on the five things we can do to build (or rebuild) our confidence after betrayal.  The first two I mentioned in this post (part 2) and if you missed part 1 – you can read it here.

#3 – Developing your Skill Set / Finding your niche outside of your family

In the first blog post, I mentioned that one of the threats to our self-confidence is when we feel financially stuck.  This might be because we have sacrificed our careers for our families (such a noble thing to do by the way!) or this might be because we are in a career where what we make barely gets us by.  In the latter case, tacking recovery work on top of barely making ends meet can make us feel even more overwhelmed.

So what to do?

Re-prioritize and make the time to invest in yourself.

I can imagine some of you now – saying “Shelley, you don’t understand.  It’s going to be impossible.”

Listen girls, I get it.  I have those same thoughts running through my head for myself!  I have wanted to take some courses for a couple of years now to help me be able to help women better – but I come up with a bazillion legitimate reasons as to why it can’t be done.

I’m finally at a place where I am ready to make the sacrifices to move forward with the courses.  Why you might ask?  Because I believe that the confidence that will come with empowering myself in this way will be worth it a year from now. Painful in the present but worth it in a year.

There is something powerful – no matter if you need the money or not – when we use our gifts and skills and get compensated for it.  I truly believe this is a huge way to restore dignity and confidence.

What is a service that you can provide that you can also get compensated for?  Is there a particular skill set that you feel like you need to develop by taking some classes?  I have seen advertisements for this on Instagram and while I don’t know much about it – I do find it inspiring to see all the different resources we have at our fingertips to learn and grow!

#4 – Changing your Mindset from “Victim” to “Empowerment”

I’m going to get a little personal here – and I really hope you can hear my heart because this could get dicey.

A couple of months ago, I was driving in my car and reflecting on how frustrated I had become with feeling like everyone else (which is so not true) has trust funds or an inheritance, or their kids’ college paid for by their wealthy extended family.  I recognized on that drive that I had been complaining about it a lot to anyone that would listen to me.  It got to the point where I was tired of hearing myself talk about it.

Tired of hearing myself talk about it?!  That’s a problem.

As I continued to drive down University Blvd, I realized that I was owning and operating from a victim mentality.  Poor me, it’s not fair, why isn’t this my story, why have we had to work for everything, where is our family legacy.

Typing this out makes me want to find the nearest coffee table and hide under it right away!  But I’m not going to do that.  I’m choosing to be fully known and sit in it.

Something shifted in me and I came to realize that I had a choice to make – I could keep complaining and wishing that the generations before me had done it differently.  OR – I could stand up, straighten my self up, and get to work.

I’m doing the latter – being proactive to do what needs to be done to plan for our future.  Getting real about what it’s going to take.  Taking my head out of the sand.  It feels empowering to take ownership.

And I want to caution you – just because we take ownership and tweak things to do it differently doesn’t mean we can’t feel the feels.  It’s important to recognize that we might feel disappointed or overwhelmed or defeated.

Acknowledge it.  Validate it.  And then ask yourself what your choices are and what you can do to turn the tide.

Is there an area where you feel like you have a victim mentality?  If so, what might it look like to shift from a posture of powerlessness to one of power?

Girls – we have agency to look at our situations, get honest about where we are, and then figure out the small steps we can take to do things differently.  I believe that as we do this – we are able to move toward confidence.

#5 – Connection

Y’all know I couldn’t land this plane without looping back to connection.  Because this is the wellspring of life. (And also why we are supposed to guard our hearts.)

Connecting with God, connecting with ourselves and connecting with others is at the heart of our journeys.  We could spin our wheels doing all these other things but if we aren’t working on community and connection – we’ve completely missed the point.

There is something so tangible and so magical about being fully known with others and then with ourselves – that can help bolster our confidence in ways that we never even imagined.

Oftentimes – I would go into my support group feeling defeated and dejected.  Insecure and without hope.  And 90 minutes later – almost like magic – I would leave feeling connected, empowered and confident.  And it was because I showed up in a safe place where I could be fully known.

Adding a little more to this fully known – I was also accepted in my cRaZy.

If you are looking for one of these places – just know there will be several new groups starting in February and March 2020 and I’d love for you to consider one of them.  Email me if you want me to add you to the wait list.

What about you?  What has helped you start to grow your confidence?  I’d love to hear!

xo – Shelley

ps. You won’t want to miss the last installment of this series where a former group member and now dear friend shares a little bit of her journey and how she has done some of the things mentioned here on her journey toward finding wholeness, confidence and dignity. 

Photo credits here and here

 

Fan the Flame – Part 2

In the last blog post, we talked about three things that can be a detriment to our self-confidence.

I’m interested in this topic right now because ladies – it’s something that I struggle with.  As I said before – while I do think the light within us might dim – I am confident (get it?!) that it will never go out.  We truly must fan the flame.

And fanning the flame is one of the things I am focusing on these days.

There are a total of 5 things I have identified which can help with this rebuilding of confidence.  Too much for one blog post so I am sharing the first two here today and the final three here shortly.

#1 – Investing Your Heart In Something Valuable to You

For several years now – I have wanted to do a boot camp at the exercise studio I’ve gone to for the last eight or so years.  I’ve always felt like I didn’t want to spend my money on it and I also felt kinda awkwardly vain desiring to do so.  What would it say about me if I chose to invest more than a regular exercise studio membership on my physique?

After discussing this with Jason – he encouraged me to give it a try.  (To be clear – his encouragement wasn’t coming from a place of wanting my body to look differently.  If that had been the case – I would probably have done something that I’d regret.)  Jason knows how long I’ve wanted to do this boot camp and he also knows how hard it is for me to spend money on things that aren’t imperatives.  Well – the opportunity came up right before Halloween this year and I enrolled in the 4-week boot camp.

I went in with some pretty high expectations.  I really thought I would see a radical transformation.  While that didn’t happen – something else did that I see as even more important and beneficial.  It gave me confidence, empowerment and I felt better.

The reason I walked away with more confidence was because I did something that was hard.  I challenged myself and made the boot camp a priority.  I wasn’t sure if I could swing it – but I did it.

It also gave me confidence because I made myself a priority.  I invested (time and money) in ME.

It got me thinking.  And I realized that part of restoring my dignity is investing (heart, soul, time, money, etc.) in things that I value.

I want you to think about what you value and how you can invest your time and money in those things in order to start to rebuild dignity and confidence.  If you aren’t familiar with values work – it’s super fun.  Email me if you would like some resources.

#2 – Doing Something that Helps Your Body Feel Well

Just so you know, this does not have to be exercise.  The end.

I have been sick this week and boy, does it affect me.  We were supposed to get professional photos taken at our office for my new website and I had to reschedule because I wasn’t feeling well.  Since then, I’ve gone from bad to still bad.

I was telling Jason last night that getting photos taken while sick sounds like the worst idea ever.  We want to feel at our best when we get photos taken – we want to feel alive and beautiful!  Not close to death’s door with scabs around our nostrils. Sigh.

When my body doesn’t feel well – my confidence is in the toilet.  Which begs the question – what can I do to help my body feel well?

I think the easy answer is exercise and eat well – and I agree that these things help.  But there is so much more than this.  Here are some other, sometimes more important things that help me feel well in my body –  listening to my gut, acknowledging how I feel, sharing my heart with those I find safe, recognizing my limiting beliefs (or lies) – and also – laughter.

What about for you?  It could be dancing or listening to music.  It could be brushing your teeth and doing your hair (I struggle with the latter of these). Think about what helps you feel well in your body.

Because confidence comes from within – it’s important that we are nourishing ourselves with the things that will help us feel well.

As we enter the final weekend before Christmas – I want you to hold tight to point #2 above.  Listen to your body.  Don’t ignore your gut.  Do what you can to help your body feel well.

Would love to hear your thoughts on these first two and stay tuned for the next three!

xo – Shelley

Course Corrections + Encouragement to Keep Going

There are days – few and far between – when I wake up and I am on it.  My boys are being little angels, I’ve gotten up early and had some alone time, I even include veggies in my breakfast.

And then – there are the other days.  Yesterday was one of them.

Two of my boys were having it out with each other, the third was complaining of a tummy ache and didn’t think school was a good idea.  I finally had to sequester one of the first two until it was time to go to school – it was a mess.  And it wasn’t even 7:30.

Once I got them to school – I realized that I forgot to pack their inside shoes.

I had them stay in their snow boots and jogged home to grab them.  I then shuffled in the snow back to school to drop off their tennies.

By 8:15, I was drained, weary and reflecting on what I needed to change.

Mentally, I went to a place of hopelessness.  I started to think of all the things that were going wrong.  My boys need to go to bed earlier – then maybe they wouldn’t be so cranky in the morning.  My boys need to learn to be more chill and not run around the house like crazies – then maybe I could think and actually remember important items like shoes.

After venting to Jason – I realized I had a choice to make – was I going to let the morning ruin me?  And ruin the day?  Or was I going to take a small step in the right direction in the hopes that I could get back on track.  Several small steps = one big step – right?

It’s these course-corrections that become defining for us on our journeys.  It can take a day that appears to be going down the drain to a day filled with purpose and hope.

I ended up pushing my to-do list to the side, bundled up, and drove my car to a trail close to our house.  It was about 15 degrees outside and there was a good 8 inches of snow on the ground (but a cleared trail) – not the most ideal of running conditions but I was determined to course correct and felt a run would be the thing to make that happen.

I slowly got out of my car and couldn’t believe what I was facing.  I reticently took off my coat.  And started down the trail.  It was cold, it was uncomfortable, and I had to keep telling myself that it would be worth it in the end if I could just get a little further down the trail.  Make it to this tree, make it to that sign.  Initially, that was my goal.

It’s the things that we work hard for, the things that we dig deep to move through even when it’s uncomfortable – yes – these are the things that God can use to teach us, refine us, and cultivate in us character traits that are priceless.

I realized on that run that I wasn’t going to be able to change everything all at once.  But also that change needed to happen.  So I picked one thing that I could do different.  And it was this – get my boys in bed at an earlier time.  We all know the definition of insanity and that’s exactly what was happening – I was doing the same thing but expecting a different result.

I’ve been a runner for 29 years – so I know on those cold mornings that if I can just push myself to engage in the pain of the cold – it will get better.  My body will heat up, my toes and fingers will start to thaw out, and I will actually enjoy the process.  But it’s never enjoyable initially.

My run yesterday morning in some ways resembles the recovery process.  The recovery process is painful, unnatural and completely uncomfortable, especially at first.  It brings up a host of insecurities and frustrations – it feels never ending.  And oftentimes, it’s all we can do to just do the next little thing.

I know many of you are sitting here reading this and asking yourself – is this recovery process even worth it?  Will there be an end in sight that is more beautiful than what life was like before?  You’re sitting in the uncomfortableness of it all and you don’t know if it will be worth it.

I finished my run and I felt like a warrior.  Nothing could stop me.  I was out there on a blistering cold day doing the thing I love.  But it wasn’t easy, especially at first.

The same applies to this process of transformation.  You WILL look back and see the good.  Sure, there are tears, there is grief, there is pain – it’s not easy.  We will wrestle and struggle our way through – looking for the hope.

It’s coming.

Keep going.

You got this.

xo – Shelley

Staying in my Lane

I was reminded of a clip from the 1987 Blockbuster – Baby Boom as I wrote this post. In the movie, Diane Keaton plays this high-powered corporate executive in New York City. She happens to inherit a baby girl from a distant cousin and I remember at one point in the movie – she is trying to keep up with the other women power walking to work.

As I recall, for a moment, she tries to keep up with the other high-powered exec’s but then realizes – she can’t do it anymore. So she slows down and this look of resignation comes over her.

It’s crazy that I remember that clip so well from a movie that I watched when I was just a kid. Maybe because I find time and again that I’m that woman. Trying to keep up, to be the same, and then realizing I just can’t.

Case in point, I’ve been on the treadmill lately. Running around like a crazy mama to sports practices and games like no. body’s. biz. It occurred to me a couple of days ago that we have 11 sports practices and 10 games this week ALONE. And my 2nd half is headed out of town. Oh my.

With the marathon that has been my life over the last 6-7 weeks, I have slowly started to slip away from some of the habits that continually keep me grounded. Namely spending time reading my Bible (being connected to God), journaling (being connected to myself), and working toward staying connected emotionally to Jason (being connected with others).

This fraying of the cord that anchors me has started to infiltrate other areas of life. I have started to feel pressure “to be the same”. To do whatever it takes to “fit in”. The problem is – fitting in changes with every situation.

I’ve also started to get super caught up in what other people (both near and far) are doing with their time (I hate social media in this way) while I have just gotten more and more frustrated and disappointed with how much I am NOT doing. Discontent is the word that comes to mind.

And this, my friends, is NOT how I want to live.

So on Sunday night – after a day of feeling pretty much anxious and powerless – I took some steps in the right direction. I ran a couple of errands to better help me be ready for the week (self care people). I wrote Jason a note and left it by his keys. I dusted off my Bible on Monday morning and picked up where I left off months ago.

Then yesterday, while I was prepping for this talk – I picked up this book that I read a couple of years ago – and flipped to a page speaking to what I have been struggling with. He mentions differentiation and this is what he says:

Differentiation involves the ability to hold on to who you are and who you are not. The degree to which you are able to affirm your distinct values and goals apart from the pressures around you while remaining close to the people important to you helps determine your level of differentiation. People with a high level of differentiation… can choose… how they want to be without being controlled by the approval or disapproval of others.

Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality p 82

Ironically – out in the margin, written in my hand writing from 2017 – it says “I think I have some work to do.” (You don’t say!)

This, my friends, was exactly what I needed to be reminded of. I need to get in my own lane and stay there for a while. I need to get super clear with God on what my next steps look like. I need to go back to my values and what makes me unique. I need to think boundaries and seeing myself apart from others while also being connected to God, self and others. I’m not running someone else’s race. I’m running my own race and God hasn’t forgotten about me.

Here is the deal – I know I’m not alone in looking at others, seeing what all they are doing or not doing and wondering – what went wrong. {Heck, I was texting with a sweet soul yesterday and we were talking about what we thought this season would look like versus what it actually looks like. I told her – and I’m serious – I thought by now I’d have another book in the world (um, not happening), I’d have a well-thought-out designed home (bahaha), and I’d have time to take a shower and wash my hair on a daily basis (for the love). She as well was sharing where she expected to be by now, but wasn’t.}

We all have big plans. And for a lot of us – those plans went into the porta-potty when life blew up before our eyes. (And for some of us, we had big plans and then we had a baby.)

Either way – know that God hasn’t forgotten about you. Know that if you are in a season of barely keeping up, feeling frustrated and overwhelmed and exhausted from recovery and from life – He is doing a good work in you and through you even in the wait.

Let’s stay in our lanes. Let’s be ourselves, be different. Let’s encourage one another, support one another and cheer each other on. And let’s take a lot of pit stops – preferably with comfy restrooms and not porta-potty’s.

On the journey with you – Shelley

On Belonging

Back in May, I did a number on myself by over-committing primarily at my boys’ schools. Summer came and I needed a break from civilization. I checked in with myself toward the end of June and nope, I still felt like I needed a break. So I plodded along, keeping to myself (well, let’s be honest – keeping to myself + Jason + my boys + my work + well, you know…)

Fast forward to August and my balance was off once again, but in the other direction. I felt alone and lonely. I was reminded of the sacredness of having a place to belong. I was reminded of the fact that it’s HARD for me to belong – I have some serious roadblocks to getting there (see below). I was reminded that belonging is a value of mine and one that is important for me to nourish.

I started to wonder – who feels like they belong? Who feels like they have people in their corner that they can count on? The ones that will pitch a tent and keep it warm inside, the ones that will see us and hear us and do life with us? Isn’t that something we all yearn for? And yet, it seems so few of us truly have that.

Or maybe it’s just me.

Roadblocks to Belonging

Before we can make progress toward belonging, I think it’s important to identify what holds us back. This might look different for each of us – maybe it’s the pain of betrayal that holds you back – not wanting others to know what is really going on behind closed doors. Maybe it’s shame from past experiences that hold you back – thinking it’s safest to keep them all tucked inside. Maybe it’s fear of rejection. Maybe it’s the pace of your life and all the things you are working to accomplish. All valid reasons for not being able to fully press in to relationships and belong.

I’d say for me, while this list changes, depending on the season, there tend to be two things that consistently hold me back from belonging. One of those things happens to be the limits I have on my emotional bandwidth. Between raising these sweet littles (turning into bigs), running a ministry that helps those that are hurting, and trying to keep my marriage to Jason a priority – my tank tends to run low.

Second, and probably more of a problem, is this fear that I won’t be accepted if people really really knew what I was like – aka – a fear of rejection. While I realize we live in a culture of covering up and while I realize the importance of taking off masks (I preach on this) – I STILL struggle with this.

It’s like there is that little girl, still inside me, that so badly wants to be liked. No. matter. the. cost.

Unfortunately – that cost is high and not worth it.

I have been very very aware over the last month of how I have been tempted to be who I think people want me to be, versus firmly grounding myself in ME. I’ve had several fails where I have walked away and realized – I have some work to do.

And – the good news – I have also had a couple of successes. Where I have walked into a situation or experience (I can count two recent times) and I committed to myself to be me. No matter the cost. It was hard and scary and freeing.

What about for you? What do you see as the things that hold you back from belonging?

The Key to Belonging

What I have realized as I look back on these experiences – is first, I have to belong to myself. What I mean by this is – I have to truly accept myself – my quirks, my differences, my opinions, my fears, the things I love, the things I hate. All of me (hmmm…this is beginning to sound like a mix of boundary work + self care) or as much of me as I know – has to be acknowledged and accepted – in order for me to belong to myself.

As we begin to accept ourselves and find belonging from within – we are then able to show the true and real version of ourselves to others. And when we share the real and true with others – this my friends is when we will start to experience belonging.

So Who are You?

There is something about the death of a marriage that forces one to figure out who they really are. We are all handed this {opportunity} as we face the heartache of betrayal. It’s been a big part of my journey and a big part of what I do as I walk with women via groups and one on one.

And it’s also super scary to dig into who we really are. The pain of betrayal can in the short-term cause us to fit more tightly into our masks and what we *think* we need to look like, act like, be like. If you resonate with this – know that it’s a big part of the the healing process. We don’t want to be hurt again – so no wonder we self-protect with the masks.

The masks we wear, however, lead to isolation, loneliness and death at a soul level.

Below are some simple suggestions for getting to know you. Think of this as gently peeking out from under the mask.

You can look in the Rescued workbook in Chapter 3 and start to explore the things that fill you up and the things that deplete you. You can also start to explore your healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Both of these things are simple ways to start to get to know yourself better and what makes you unique.

I love the Enneagram and here is an inexpensive test (click on the RHETO) you can take that will help you figure out your type. I also like this book and this book which will help you explore the Enneagram even more.

Know that if you struggle to accept yourself, to know who you really are, to belong – you aren’t alone. I am on this journey with you and I’m figuring it out, too. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

xo – Shelley

Happy Weekend! Happy Summer!

Hello All! It’s official – today marks the first day of summer break. 11 glorious weeks where I won’t be rushing my boys off to school, packing lunches, and asking what homework they have when they get home.

I approach summer with just as much fear as I do relief. I have three high-energy boys. Need I say more?

I do feel a certain amount of hope as well – I have been thinking about my summer goals (which cracks me up because I know full well I will accomplish about 2 things on my list of 20). My biggest goal is to cut out some of the NOISE in my life. Scrolling through the apple news feed (time to take a break from the depressing stories), unsubscribing to the overwhelming flurry of marketing emails I get in my inbox, decluttering my boys’ tiny closets, etc. Yes – I think this is the summer where I am going to focus on reducing the noise and increasing the white space.

And with that time? I want to read a couple of good books, see the whites of my children’s eyes, work on a couple of house projects, bike to sweet cow for ice cream, and lounge at the pool, do a couple of craft days, lemonade stands… (I know, I know, the list is long). It’s going to be good (or it’s going to be a complete nightmare – I don’t know quite yet!).

I wanted to send a link to a podcast that both Jason and I were on recently. The podcast is called Whine Down with Jana Kramer. We loved being on her show.

xo – Shelley

This is YOUR year – Part 1

If you know me well – you know how passionate I am about the new year. Maybe it’s because I am so relieved to have made it through the holiday season – or – maybe it’s because I heart fresh starts. I don’t know exactly what it is but I love the possibilities that come with turning my calendar to January and thinking about all I want to experience in the year ahead.

I say all of that and I know full well that for a lot of women walking through the throes of betrayal – the new year doesn’t bring great joy. I’ve been there. All I knew back then is I couldn’t bear another year like the one I had just endured. I just. couldn’t. do it. You’re not alone if that is the space you are in today.

And – what I believe to be helpful – whether you love new years or whether you are dreading the year to come – is to give the year prior some proper closure. Tell it good-bye. Only after doing this can we turn around and really take some time to think about what we want the year we are facing to look like.

I’m not talking new year’s resolutions here.

I know, I know – new years resolutions don’t have the best of reputations. And that’s actually not what I am going to ask you to do – to create resolutions. A resolution to me seems like an unachievable battle of the will that isn’t really worth sticking to by February 1.

For instance – a resolution might be choosing not to eat sugar for the entire month of January. I actually love sugar. I love it a lot. If I resolved to not eat any sugar – I’d last – eh, about 2 hours. It’s just not practical.

Instead, what I want you to do is think of some achievable goals that you can work toward as the year ticks by. Less about what you are NOT going to do (not eating any sugar) and more about what you CAN do (eat sugar).

Sugar-coated kidding aside – before we look at 2019 and all we want to accomplish, let’s first turn around and say good-bye to 2018 and give it the closure it deserves – won’t you join me?!

Saying Good-Bye to 2018

My life coach taught me two important things to consider when saying good-bye to the year behind. First – what was accomplished? And second – what was survived? Both are worth acknowledging and celebrating.

You can use the printable above to help you think through this. I suggest printing it out and putting it in a place where you can jot down your thoughts and memories as you go about your day. I also like to pull out my journal from the year and sift through it to find the challenges and accomplishments that I wouldn’t remember otherwise. I give myself permission to use the entire month of January to say good-bye to the year prior and to dream about the year ahead. I hope you will, too.

Here are a couple that I wrote down, just to give you an idea –

What I survived:

  • We received a bill from the IRS stating we owed them quite a bit in taxes. It almost sent me to a padded room. Thankfully, the issue was handled and in the end – the government owed us $90!
  • Jason and I had some really hard conversations about his work load, his vision and what he needs to do different. This completely and totally sent me into orbit (thanks to a realization that I grew up in a home where work = love) and sent Jason and I into many a conversations hashing through the best way to move forward.

What I accomplished:

  • I supported Jason wholeheartdly in training for and running a marathon. This involved (but was not limited to) water and food drops, cheering from the car with the boys in tow, and taping Jason’s foot day in and day out to keep his pain to a minimum. It was also me stepping into a vulnerable place of being able to fully support him and cheer him on in what was a dream of his. While this might sound silly to some; for me, for us – it was a big deal.
  • We started therapy to help us handle parenting our boys. A big struggle over the last couple of years that came to a head in 2018 – it was a huge accomplishment to acknowledge we needed help and to be willing to pay top dollar for it (I’m frugal, too, if you didn’t know).

Hopefully that gives you an idea as you start to book-end (or say good-bye to) 2018. It’s all about celebrating the victories and appreciating the challenges.In the next blog post – we will be talking about looking ahead to 2019. In addition, I am working on a vision for the blog for this year and I have some really amazing ideas for how I want to use the blog (and some other things) to help more women get the support they are looking for. It’s going to be good.

I’d love to hear what comes to mind for you as you look back at 2018.

xo – Shelley


Surviving the Holidays – Part 2

So we’ve talked about surviving the craziness of the Christmas season and some simple things we can do to slow down and enjoy this time of year versus hiding until sometime after the new year.

Now let’s talk about what we can do to survive (and thrive) as we engage with our immediate family as well as our distant cousins.

If you are new on this journey…

I want to start by saying – if you are new on this journey and this is your first holiday since your world fell apart – I think it’s really important to take some time to decide what you will be able to handle and what you won’t be able to deal withAnd don’t even think about apologizing for what you can’t manage!

For instance, you might not be up for going to your in-laws house for Christmas, even if it’s just for Christmas morning.  And while you might feel terrible saying no – I encourage you to think through what you feel safe engaging in and what you need to bow out of.

Some women feel better going to family functions with the understanding that the grief and pain is on hold until later in the day or even a couple of days later.  (I remember Jason and I taking these “time outs” for family functions early on in our process.  I was so afraid that Jason might forget that we are NOT okay.  I made it real clear that I was putting this on hold and we would revisit it at xyz time frame.)

Some women, on the other hand, can’t even imagine engaging family and prefer to alter their plans all together.  Jason and I did this as well and it helped that Jason would absorb the repercussions, not me.

Whichever you choose – remember the key is what do you need?  And what would help you feel the safest?  Think this through and if your husband is working his recovery (not just checking the boxes mind you but also doing the heart work) and if you feel safe talking to him about this – share with him what is doable for you and what isn’t.

If you are going to be around his family…

Two things come to mind that I think are really important to work through before celebrating with his family.

First – it’s super important to be on the same page before the gathering.  Jason and I literally have to have no less than three conversations as we prep for time with his family and one of the biggest things that we plan for is taking time every day to check in with each other in order to keep the lines of communication wide open.

We will usually try to go for a walk or a run but if that isn’t possible, then we will make sure to connect before going to bed.  The focus for us is on intimacy so we share what we are struggling with, what might feel tender, and also what we feel is going smoothly.  Remember men – defensiveness is the enemy of empathy so watch for this and work toward caring for your wife’s heart more than anyone else’s.

Second – is to have a conversation about the role he played in his family of origin.  For instance, was he the golden child?  Was he the funny guy that kept everyone laughing?  Was he momma’s boy with some unhealthy attachments?  Whatever it might be – it’s important at some point to explore this together and gain awareness so he can take the initiative to not slip back into the role that made the “system” function back then.  Talk about triggering for us wives.  Whew.

If you are going to be around your family…

More than anything – I needed Jason to show his character changes to my family.  And even today, I still need that.

So if you are second guessing yourself on what you need from him – don’t.  God created us with needs and when we are around our families – those needs go way up!

For instance – one of the things that can really send me into a tail spin is if Jason just lounges on the couch and doesn’t help with the dishes and food prep or with the boys.  Another thing that drives me crazy is if he doesn’t engage with my family and retreats to the bedroom for hours on end.  Um – no.  Totally triggers what he used to be like before his sexual integrity issues came to light:  self-absorbed, checked out and basically not even there.

While Jason loves his time alone (going to a coffee shop to journal or going on a bike ride) – he is always careful to plan it at a time when it won’t impact the entire family and/or put extra stress on me.  Likewise, while Jason doesn’t always love playing games with my competitive family – he will engage in a game or two here and there because he knows it’s important to me.

So think about what you need from your husband before the event or trip and again, if you feel that your husband is engaged in his recovery and if you feel safe having this sort of convo with him – talk to him about it.

A note for those of you whose husbands are not in recovery

I know this can be tricky because if you explore what you need and yet your husband isn’t about to listen to you or care for your heart in that way – then what?

If this is you – it’s still important to still get your needs met (think: needs met by God, self and others) and to also set boundaries with your husband in order to survive and thrive.  It might be that you focus on your kids at the family gathering and don’t spend energy focusing on your husband and the way he behaves when he is around extended family (I would call this healthy detachment).  It might be that you alert your go-to girls that you are going in and it might be ugly and you need them on stand-by in case you find yourself locked in your aunt’s bathroom and unable to leave because of the anger or the tears.

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Hear my heart as I wrap this up – I want each of you to know that you are not alone and there are women across the world in similar situations to yours.  Trying to figure out how to celebrate Christmas with grace and ease.  How to honor their families and children and also honor their emotions as they walk through one of the most difficult seasons one could go through.

If all else fails – I encourage you to put on some comfy clothes, grab some of this and turn this on right away.  I promise, you will feel better almost immediately.

Would love to hear your ideas for how you are going to survive and thrive with your extended families this holiday season.

xo – Shelley

Surviving the Holidays – Part 1

There are two things we must talk about when it comes to this time of year.  Surviving the holidays.  And surviving the holidays.

I see this “survival of the holidays” not only from the stand point of surviving the madness of shopping, decorating, partying, etc. but also (and probably more importantly) from the stand point of surviving the family dynamics that we walk into as we celebrate with loved ones near and far.

I know for myself – I tend to bury my head in the sand starting just prior to Thanksgiving alllll the way through to New Year’s Day.  Whew.  I get SO overwhelmed with putting up the Christmas tree, decorating the house, purchasing presents, gifting our neighbors, attending holiday gatherings, shopping for outfits for the Christmas photo,  traveling to celebrate with family, delivering Christmas cards, baking – oh my gosh, I am about to have a panic attack just listing all of these extra things that are supposed to be fun and bring us closer to our families and help us draw closer to Jesus – and yet, they just put me in a really bad mood.

This year – I am determined more than ever to do it differently.  Here are three things that have helped thus far:

We wrote out all of our holiday options / responsibilities and looked at my list and decided what we were really interested in doing and then we let the rest go.

And that means saying “no”.  For those of you that might have a hard time keeping boundaries – this will be hard.  I know it is for me.  What can you say no to this holiday season that isn’t adding any value to your already packed schedule?

The other tricky yet rewarding aspect that goes with saying no is that we have to know ourselves well.  We have to know what we like and don’t like, what we are passionate about and where our values lie.  For women walking through betrayal – this is especially hard because betrayal is pretty much just like a mid-life crisis and what we thought we liked or were passionate about – all of a sudden goes out the window.  No doubt – this journey is an opportunity to really dig into who we are and who God created us to be.

I started thinking about presents before December.

For real, most years – it’s December 20th and I’m thinking it might be time to do some Christmas shopping.  But not this year.  No way.  I ended up taking notes on my phone when I heard the boys or Jason talk about what they would love to have.  It’s not even December yet and I’m more than half-way done with my purchases!  This is unprecedented for me.  And it will help me with my last pointer, below.

I want to actually slow down and practice advent versus it being an after thought.

So much of my journey over the last decade plus has been about figuring out how to wait well.  And not just waiting well but waiting with hope.  In other words, an expectant wait.

Not only was I waiting to see if Jason would become the man God created him to be, I was also waiting for my broken heart to heal.  I was waiting to see if my marriage would survive.  And if we’d have a family and share a life together.  (And to be clear, I wasn’t waiting with my legs propped up on the couch watching The View – my wait involved working the process in between bouts of the View.  bahaha!)

What I didn’t realize at the time was that what God was doing within me during that wait was just as important (if not more so) than what I was waiting for.  The wait is brutal, painful, not glitzy and oh-so-vital to our journeys.

So we are planning the most wonderful day of the year (thanks to the suggestion I found in this magazine) and allowing anticipation to build as we think about the games we want to play, the lights we want to go see and the cookies we want to bake.

This is the same kind of anticipation that we as Christians get the opportunity to experience every Christmas season as we await the birth of baby Jesus – the One that bridged the gap for us, making things like forgiveness, restoration, healing and wholeness even possible in the first place.

I’ll be back with Part 2 here soon.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  xo – Shelley

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