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Back to the WOTY

service-to-others

Off by a day or two, but still, three posts in a week… a-MAH-zing!

I wanted to get back to my choice for WOTY (Word of the Year).  I’ve been participating in this challenge for a few years now, with mixed results.  Two years ago I picked the word energy, and felt… well, energized by it!  Last year, I selected the word calm as my word for the year, and I would call that one a giant bust.  2016 was just about anything but calm!

This year I want to go in a different direction, and select an action word rather than a feeling.  I selected the word service:


serv·ice
ˈsərvəs/
noun
  1.  
    the action of helping or doing work for someone.
    “millions are involved in voluntary service”
    synonyms: favor, kindness, good turn, helping hand; More


    Why do I want to go with such a lofty word?  Because to me, service sounds somewhat sanctimonious.  But I don’t mean it that way at all.

    One of the greatest lessons I learned through my participation in a 12-step program is the value of getting out of my own head.  In fact, the final step in the 12-step process is just that… to pass along what you’ve learned to another person in need of recovery.

    And of course that specific type of service is a wonderful thing, but my word choice is a whole lot broader than that.  Here’s what I mean by service…


    Josie’s Definition of Service:

    Considering the perspective of another before my own.  Understanding rather than being understood.   Leaving people better than I found them.


     

    It’s really that simple, although as I consider the past few months, that would be quite a shift.  In sitting around and moping about my foot and unfulfilled career aspirations, I wasn’t sparing a whole lot of energy for the wants and needs of others.

    And either path, self-centeredness or service, is the kind which builds upon itself.  When I’m wallowing in self-pity, I can sink deeper and deeper.  Likewise, when I have the mindset of consideration and thoughtfulness, that tends to be contagious as well.   The question is:  which mindset provides the most benefit?

    Because that’s the truly amazing thing about service… that while the intention is to help another, you wind up helping yourself in the process.  So even if I sound all saintly by choosing the word service, really I’m just cultivating positive self-growth!

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    So there you have it… let’s try to make 2017 the year to give back.  Hopefully I’ll be better about checking in on the progress throughout the year!

    Today’s Miracle:

    The positive boost that comes from embarking on a new goal!

     

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The Twelve Steps in Everyday Living: Part Three

Step Three:  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

I hit an intellectual wall when I first read Step Three, which I covered already in an earlier post (read Step Three in Everyday Living).  I got the concept of admitting powerlessness over addiction (I didn’t actively do it, but I at least understood it), I always intellectually understood the idea of a Higher Power, and His ability to help me.  But I really, truly, sincerely did not understand how to practically apply Step Three to any part of my life.  I wanted to turn this whole mess over to God, I thought I was attempting to do just that every day, but clearly I had been doing something wrong, because I was still “going the wrong way!” (Any fan of Planes, Trains and Automobiles will enjoy that reference).

Finally, a light bulb went off when it was explained to me this way:  imagine your life as if you are driving a bus, and God is your co-pilot.  In the same way that you would check in with your co-pilot for directions, check in with God.  The more you check in, the better your directions will be.   Sounds hokey, but for whatever reason the analogy worked for me.

In terms of recovery, God’s will is obvious:  do not drink (or use any mind-altering substances).  So the practice is simple:  will doing x, y, or z make me want to pick up a drink or drug?  If the answer is yes, I don’t do it.  If this answer is no, I do it.  Simple, right?  It sounds simple, but takes a lot of practice to actually be simple.  In the months prior to hitting my personal bottom, I was all about, “but I HAVE to go, it’s a family obligation, people will talk if I don’t show up, blah, blah blah…”  And that thinking had me relapsing on a very regular basis.  So when I hit bottom, I simply stayed away from anything concerning mind-altering substances, if I absolutely had to be there, I limited my time, and I backed it up with a 12-step meeting.

And guess what?  The family obligations went on, quite nicely, without my royal presence.  And if people talked, well, guess what?  I wasn’t around to hear it, so it did not matter anyway.

As time marched on, and I got stronger in my recovery, being around alcohol stopped being an anxiety-producing element of a social gathering.  I can actually remember when it turned around… I was about 3 months sober, at a First Holy Communion party for my God Daughter, so it counted as a function I deemed necessary, but might need to limit.  And while talking to various family members, I realized, “Wait a minute, I’m doing the exact same thing as every other member of this party (aka standing around, eating, talking, laughing), the only difference between me and them is the type of liquid in my glass!”  From that point on, I felt completely comfortable in social situations with alcohol.

In terms of everyday living, Step Three can be a bit more challenging to practice, and is a gradual and ongoing process.  God’s will is not always transparent, at least not to me.  I ask Him, every morning, to direct my thoughts and actions.  In bigger decisions, I attempt to check in with Him, to ensure I am heading in the right direction.  For example, situations involving my children crop up on a regular basis, and decisions need to be made… does the behavior require discussion, discipline, both or neither?  Frequently my husband and I reach different conclusions, and so now there are two issues, how do I handle each?  Prior to Step Three, the answer would have been, react immediately to child’s behavior, with little to no thought if I am teaching the proper lesson, and then argue with my husband that my way of handling it is the right way.  Turning these kinds of things over to the care of God gives me the much-needed pause, and allows me to reflect on the most effective way of dealing with everyone involved.

But the biggest use of Step Three in everyday life, for me, is when I am feeling anything less than peaceful.  The minute I notice I am feeling “off,” in any way, I take it as a sign that I am not practicing Step Three.  So, I check in with Him, and review what’s going on with me… what’s causing distress?  Why am I feeling this way?  More often than not, when I take the mental step back, I can clearly see where I’ve veered off the “God-centered” path and onto the “self-centered” one.  Sometimes it is small enough that a quick mental review and prayer is enough, other times, talking it over with someone is necessary, and, if large enough, sometimes an all-out amends needs to be made, but since that is not until step 9, and we are only on step three, I’ll save that bit of fun for a later post!

Faith Without Works is Dead

The title of this post has come up for me in several readings recently, and I really did not have a good understanding of its meaning.  Finally, today, I think I have it.  Which is why “there are no coincidences”… I obviously have been meant to understand this phrase, and if I just gloss over it (which I have), it will come back again and again until I take the time to understand it.

I believe it was originally used in the Bible, on more than one occasion, but it is also used in the AA Bible (the Big Book), and in other AA literature that I have read.  As recently as today, I have come across a similar line:

…faith alone is insufficient.  To be vital, faith must be accompanied by self-sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action.

So why does this keep coming up in my life?  There are probably a lot of reasons, but today especially, I believe I was meant to put it into practice.  Recently, I have been struggling a bit with my son in helping him to understand why he needs to change his behavior.  I feel like I have tried everything:  talking, threatening, punishment, silent treatment (try the silent treatment on a 9-year-old boy if you want to have a good laugh!), you name it, I feel like I’ve tried it.  He is such a smart kid, but he keeps repeating the same mistakes (wonder where he learned that?).

Of course, as a Mother, I feel completely responsible… if he cannot grasp the concept of learning from past mistakes, then I am not doing my parenting  job properly.  In addition to the actions listed above, I have also prayed on this subject, and actively tried to turn it over to God, but still the answer had not come.

And then I read the sentence above this morning, and it hit me… am I doing enough unselfish, constructive action as far as my son is concerned?  Sure, I’ve tried to instill the idea of consequences, but how about proactively guiding him in the right direction before he makes the same mistakes?  I don’t think I have ever tried to get in front of the problem, I’ve only reacted to mistakes after they are made.

Disclaimer:  this is going to get a little religious…

And I was only able to have that thought after reflecting on the idea of what I can do in an unselfish way to better act out God’s will.  I pray every morning for God to direct my thoughts and actions to better serve Him, but what am I actually doing about it?  Faith without works is dead… I can believe in God all I want, but until I can talk the talk, and walk the walk, then my faith really has no meaning, and just understanding that has opened my mind up to new possibilities.

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