Lessons From a Sea Sponge

I’ve always referred to myself as a “sponge” when it comes to learning things. Reason being, I tend to soak up a lot of information on an almost constant basis.

sponge lessons | Life, Unleashed

I love to learn! In fact, while researching some things for this post, I also learned some things about sponges that I didn’t know before! For example:

  • Once cut, a sea sponge will re-grow within a few years, often to become bigger & healthier than it was originally.
  • Sea sponges have a life span of a few months to 20+ years.
  • Even the tiniest fragments of the original sponge can be used to regenerate & grow new sponges.
  • Sea Sponges are capable of regulating the amount of water that flows through their bodies by the constriction of various openings.
  • Sea Sponges are capable of drawing in and out 20,000 times their own volume of water in a single 24-hour period.
  • Sponges survive by anchoring themselves permanently to other solid objects on the ocean floor (eg. coral, rocks, shell beds, etc).
  • Sea Sponges are composed perfectly for their environment by means of the hole-ridden structures, and could not survive without their unique design.
  • While sea sponges are technically “animals,” for all practical purposes, they grow, reproduce, and survive as plants

And, also…

sea-sponges | Life, Unleashed

Fascinating, right? At least, I thought so.

Originally, this post was going to be about using what you’ve learned. I tend to consume so much information in one sitting, sometimes, that it’s almost impossible to put any of it into practice {Input is one of my StrengthsFinder “top 5”, after all}. For example, I can get on a site like JamesClear.com (which I absolutely LOVE), and follow the links, reading article, after article, after article — because it’s all so good! But, even though I agree with what he’s written, and think, “Man, these are amazing & simple ideas — I should implement this stuff!“, I have already consumed so much that I get overwhelmed with where to start, and then choose what is easiest… which is doing nothing at all; meaning all of the information I consumed is practically useless. After all, if we don’t practice what we learn, then what’s the point?

But, in researching sponges, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to our Christian walk. So, here are a few lessons I believe we can learn from the Sea Sponge:

PERMANENTLY ANCHORED

The Sea Sponges permanently anchor themselves to the ocean floor by attaching to something that doesn’t move. This is how they survive. Likewise, God is our unmoving and unchanging “anchor”. When we attach ourselves to Him, He becomes our unshakeable hope, and the way that we can stay grounded, despite the turmoil in our lives.

We have this hope as an anchor for our souls, firm & secure.
 — Hebrews 6:19 

 

SELF-REGULATING

Sea Sponges regulate the amount of water that moves in and out of their bodies. In similar fashion, we need to monitor what we put into us, whether that’s food, or information. Too much of anything is not good for us. As evidenced by my own information overload, it’s more helpful to consume things in moderate or bite-sized amounts, and then use that up, or practice it for a while, first, before taking in more. That way, our intake is actually useful and doesn’t go to waste (or to waist!).

BETTER THAN BEFORE

God likes to prune us, removing anything that doesn’t help us live the life He has planned for us. This pruning can often be painful. But, like the Sea Sponge after being harvested, we, too, can then grow to be “bigger” (with a deeper, stronger faith and character) and healthier than before.

UNIQUELY DESIGNED

The Sea Sponge’s unique design — with all of its pores and adjoining channels — helps it to be able to survive and grow.

For example, look at its hard outer layer and soft interior. We, God’s children, aren’t called to be timid, but to be strong & courageous, bold, shrewd, and discerning! This is our “outer layer”. At the same time, we are called to be quiet & gentle, kind and compassionate, and innocent as doves … our hearts are to be soft, and not “hardened” with unbelief.

But, the most important aspect of the Sponge’s design is its ability to let massive amounts of water flow through its body. This makes me think of Jesus, and how He describes Himself as “Living Water“. When we have this –when we have Him– we have everything we need.

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

So, there you have it. Lessons from the Sea Sponge. Bet you didn’t realize you could learn something about God from something you use when you take a bath! Ha!

You Always Have a Choice

There are two individuals who come to my mind when I think about choices in life. Both of these people are in a spot where they’ve been beaten down in life — their choices have gotten the better of them. This has made these individuals very pessimistic. They don’t feel that life will ever get any better… like they’ve just had bad luck, and that that luck isn’t ever likely to change.

You Always Have a Choice | Life, Unleashed

What both of these individuals fail to realize, however, is that, if they could be open to the possibilities, they could begin to see that it’s all very much about choices, mindset, perspective, and practice.

They can CHOOSE to see things differently. They can CHOOSE to work on their mindset. They can CHOOSE to work on finding a way to either (a) escape their current less-than-ideal circumstances, or (b) make their circumstances more bearable. It’s all a matter of CHOICE.

God gave each one of us free will. And it hasn’t been revoked just because we got ourselves stuck in some “mud”. We can choose to continue playing the woe-is-me “victim” and settle for the mediocre life we’re in. OR, we can choose to make changes!

It absolutely breaks my heart to see people giving up and settling for a life that is so much LESS THAN what is available for us!

Trust me, I’m not always the optimist. Goodness knows, I’ve gone through a lot of stuff in my own life that could have left me hopeless (and just about did!). Heck, I’m still dealing with circumstances that are far from ideal! But, I also know that it could be worse… and it’s not (which I thank the Lord for).

I just keep leaning on the Lord for my strength. He has given me hope to see that my current circumstances are not my final destination, and that “it can be well with my soul, even when it’s not with my circumstances”. God has used my less-than-perfect situation to teach me that life really is all about choices, mindset, perspective, and practice.

What I truly hope is that I can help others realize that only they are responsible for what their life turns out like. It’s YOUR choice. If you don’t like your life, make a change. {Start here}.

 

CHOOSE: Victim or victor? | Life, Unleashed

What is Mindful Eating?

Maybe you have heard the term “Mindful Eating” (aka, Intuitive Eating, or the Hunger/Satiety method) before. Or, maybe you think you can guess what it is, just from the name. Either way, I would like to give you my version of it here, today.

What is Mindful Eating? | Life, Unleashed

First, though, three (3) things that mindful eating is NOT:

  • It is NOT some fancy diet
  • It is NOT anything mystical, New Age, or woo-woo
  • It is NOT another fad or trend

Mindful Eating is

  1. FREEDOM from the (confusing, conflicting, and ever-changing) diet industry.
  2. RE-LEARNING to trust your God-given internal systems that tell you when to eat, and when to stop eating.
  3. CHOOSING foods & drinks that you enjoy (rather than what you think you “should” be eating).
  4. BEING MINDFUL of what type of fuel you are choosing (eg. the best would be non-processed, or as close to natural as possible).
  5. SIMPLE — no need to count calories, avoid food groups, or feel deprived at restaurants.

IMHO, mindful eating is the best choice for eating, and for weight management. Why? Well, (1) it is how God designed our bodies to function (watch any toddler or baby — they are natural-born mindful eaters!), and (2) it works for anyone (including those with special conditions, like Diabetes, or food sensitivities, etc). You simply listen to your own body to determine when, what, and how much to eat.

After all, only YOU are the expert on you!

{Want to know more? Check out my eBook, “Mindfulness & Eating: The Journey to Health & Wellness“!}

HAVE YOU TRIED THE MINDFUL EATING METHOD? OR, DO YOU WANT TO, BUT STILL HAVE QUESTIONS? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!

The Creative’s Everlasting Struggle: Dealing With Perfectionism

Do you ever have the desire to create something — whether it’s painting, drawing a picture, or writing a blog post — and you just can’t seem to express it the way you want to? This has been one of my biggest struggles in blogging.

The Creative's Everlasting Struggle | Life, UnleashedI have so many ideas of things I would love to write about… topics that set my soul on fire. I have so much I’d like to share! Yet, when I set out to write what’s on my mind, I can’t seem to get things to translate properly from my head to the page (or screen). It is extremely frustrating!

I think a lot of it comes down to perfectionism, though. Instead of just getting something out there, I feel like, if I can’t say it the way I “see” it in my head, then it’s not “good enough”, and I can’t share it at all. Sometimes (okay — quite often, truth-be-told), this fear completely disables me, and I end up doing nothing — which only adds to my frustration.

artists-struggle

One of the things I’ve discovered, recently, is that when I feel like I have to write posts for my blog (because it is a part of my business), then I am even more stricken by this “perfectionist” disease. This is a part of why, in changing websites from A Daily Rhythm to Life, Unleashed, I made the decision that — at least, for now — Life, Unleashed will not be a business but, instead, solely a blog. I had lost the joy of blogging just for blogging’s sake, and needed to get that back.

So, as of right now, I am still in the process of “recovering” (I hope) from the need to have everything I write be “perfect” in order to send it out to the world. I am learning that the only way that my writing will improve is if I give myself permission to “write poorly” for a time, and to just learn to post consistently. The more I write, the better I will get. And the better my writing gets, the less this need for perfection will haunt me.

 Do you ever suffer from this struggle — unable to get things from your head to the page, and have them look how you “pictured” them? What do you do to overcome this?

Can You Live With Only What You Need?

For quite some time now, I’ve had this desire burning inside me to simplify — to cut back what I own, and get rid of all of the excess. I read “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, and he talked about choosing only the essentials in life, and getting rid of the rest (not just physical possessions, but activities and other things, too). This really resonated with me.

As such, I’ve been wanting to write about this craving for simplicity — this desire to simplify my life — but hadn’t yet found the words. Today, one of my favorite bloggers shared a guest post, written by Tsh Oxenreider, and it basically said what I’d wanted to express. So, I’m sharing the link — and some of her words — here. Tsh’s (excerpted) words are below.

Can you live with only what you need? | Life, Unleashed

There’s a beauty to curating our life’s needs to the basic essentials… I’m surprised at how little I need.

I hear God asking me… “Can you live with only [the essentials]?”

It’s an act of discipline, a trust that God will provide for my needs exactly when they arise, and that I can live without the things I don’t really need.

Traveling light means a trust in God that life will be richer when the things that really matter have more wiggle room.

{ … read the rest of the article … }

It’s All About Perspective

This is a story that I heard many years ago, and found online recently. It highlights the value of perspective … and the fact that mindset plays a big part in the choices we make!

It's All About Perspective | Life, Unleashed

{story source}

As my friend was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from the ropes they were tied to but for some reason, they did not. My friend saw a trainer nearby and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away.

“Well,” he said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size of rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.” My friend was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before?

How many of us are being held back by old, outdated beliefs that no longer serve us? How many of us have avoided trying something new because of a limiting belief? Worse, how many of us are being held back by someone else’s limiting beliefs?

Life, Unleashed is dedicated to helping you see that –at any time– you can BREAK FREE! You are never without choices. Just like the elephants, God has given us great power … but, we have been “conditioned to believe” that we are limited in what we can do. Satan wants to keep us stuck. That’s how he “kills, steals, and destroys” our lives, and our futures. It’s time we WAKE UP and remember who we are.

On Being Real

I’ve played the game. I’ve attempted to do all of the things that others say are “best practices” (do this, not that), and I’ve carefully organized my information, and only shown what (supposedly) needs to be shown.

On Being Real | Life, UnleashedAnd I was miserable.

I was dizzy from all of the conflicting advice. One site said to do it this way, while another said that that way is wrong, and I should do it the opposite way. No one could seem to agree.

My gut led me here … to radical authenticity, regardless of what “they” say.

People can always sense when you’re putting on a “mask”, or pretending, or trying to be someone you’re not. And they tend to walk away from that — they are repelled by it.

When you let go of others’ expectations and let the real you shine through, people gravitate toward you. They, perhaps, don’t yet let their own real selves show through, so they are therefore drawn to those who have the courage –the audacity!– to take that risk. To be free!

It is, too — it’s completely liberating to stop pretending, and to just be you. Faking it takes far too much energy. I’d rather be genuine and attract those people who like me as I am, than be the “proper” lady who attracts other stuffy, fake people.

When you choose to be real, you free yourself to be of more help to other people. You’re no longer constantly concerned with keeping up appearances, and can just serve other people, meeting them where they’re at.


I believe this world would be a much better place — and a lot more fun! — if everyone would just give up the act, and be truly themselves.

Essentialism: A Review & Thoughts

I finished reading “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown*, a bit ago (thanks to seeing that one of my favorite bloggers had it on her shelf), and I’m soooo glad I checked it out! It was exactly what I needed to read.

Essentialism: A Review | Life, Unleashed

However, the book has also sent me into a bit of a questioning place, as well — which, I suppose, is the point.

The basic premise of the book is “Less, But Better“.

Essentialism is not a finite action or a single decision to live with less. Becoming an Essentialist means embracing a lifestyle to always seek out what truly matters and let go of everything else. {source}

There are a ton of great quotes and ideas throughout the book. What it comes down to, though, is what the quote says (above) — asking yourself what TRULY matters in your life, and then choosing to make trade-offs (a whole chapter of the book is dedicated to the idea of trade-offs, and it really struck a chord with me).

I’ve been researching Minimalism for a while now. In June 2015, I basically “Kon-Mari’d“ my bedroom, and it felt amazing to have done so! But, the idea of going completely “minimalist” didn’t sit right with me. I need color and variety in my life, and from the pictures I was seeing on Pinterest, I wasn’t ready to become a true (or “extreme”) Minimalist. Capsule wardrobes are not my idea of a good thing, let’s just put it that way.  But, to each her own.

Yet, when I read “Essentialism“, I realized that minimalist living isn’t so much about getting rid of things, as it is about learning to make intentional choices about what truly matters… for you, and for the lifestyle you want to live.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown | A review (adailyrhythm.com)

I also found Jennifer’s blog, “Simply & Fiercely” through Pinterest, as she has a series about how she’s become a Minimalist. And, her posts made more sense out of the whole idea for me. They reminded me that — as with anything in life — you should take the basic concept, and then modify it so that it works for your own style.

So, when I took all of this information and started to apply it to my work (my blog, basically), it actually helped clarify for me what I hadn’t been able to figure out for the past 3 years … which is what my main “niche” is supposed to be. As a multipassionate individual, I don’t like to box myself in too tightly, and so the idea of picking “just one thing” was torture for me! Recently, I’d chosen to identify myself as more of a “lifestyle blogger” — wherein, all I meant by that was that I had multiple topics I would be writing about — and this helped. But it still wasn’t quite the right fit. The categories I’d chosen didn’t seem to be “right”, just yet… some of them, yes; but not all.

One of the questions the “Essentialism” book says you should ask yourself is, “Is this the most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources, right now?” And, when I thought about what is that “most important thing” for me, right now (for my business, anyway), it was to be creating content. So, I started making a list of things I wanted to write about and offer… but they all seemed so scattered (I love a lot of things, after all! See, again, my “multipassionate” nature!) So I asked myself (for probably the millionth time), “What ties all of these things together?” And, I wrote down “whole life”… and then — AHA! — “Authentic Living“. And, all-of-a-sudden, I felt I had figured it out… this, intuitively, felt completely right. After all, “authenticity” is my #2 personal core value! So, it makes sense.

Thinking about my past 3 years in business (for myself / being self-employed), I realized that I keep coming back to these two concepts:

  • Being free to do what you love (and, freedom is my #1 personal core value)
  • Discovering who you truly are, & using that to build your ideal life

I love to teach, and I love personal development. As you may know, I’m a big-time nonfiction junkie. I actually prefer reading nonfiction over fiction, truthfully. I soak up knowledge like a sponge (which is just part of the “Input” part of my personality, and maybe a bit of the “Intellection” side, too — both of which I learned from reading Tom Rath’s book, “StrengthsFinder 2.0“.) I long to teach others what I’ve learned through both my reading, and through my life experiences (and also, to teach what God has taught me, too!).

So, that brings me to what I do here at Life, Unleashed … and why I blog about being who you were created, uniquely, to be. It’s so important to be who you are, even (maybe, especially) in business. Don’t ever hide your true self! There are people out there who need to see the real YOU.

Definitely check this book out for yourself. You’ll be glad you did!

Passion vs. Curiosity

Follow Your Passion“. It’s a phrase we’ve heard over and over and over. Yet, recently, I was introduced to another view of this concept, thanks to author Elizabeth Gilbert. She has had a change of heart … and so have I.

Passion vs Curiosity | Life, Unleashed

 

Elizabeth Gilbert was asked to speak at one of Oprah’s Super Soul Sessions, a while back. Her topic was titled “Flight of the Hummingbird: The Curiosity-Driven Life“. This is the talk she gave:

And, because some of you may be more like me, preferring to read, over watching the video (though, I do still highly recommend you watch the video, if you have time … Liz is a great speaker!), I’ve transcribed the video for your convenience:

[Oprah gives intro] [Liz:] Sweeties! Sweethearts, my loves, we’re here, in so much grace… Thank you. Thank you so much.So listen, I’m here today to do something that, I have to be honest with you, that I never in a million years thought I would ever do. I am here today to speak out against passion. You heard me right: against passion.

And I know it sounds very strange and weird, but I want you to stay with me on this. Because I really believe what I have to say here, today, may bring a measure of comfort, specifically to some of you, in particular, and I’m hoping it really will.

But I have to back up for a minute, and just say, to come clean, that I am the leastlikely person in the world ever to become a committed anti-passion spokeswoman. The fact is that I have led my entire life guided by passion. Particularly in regard to my work as a writer, which is a vocation I have been chasing my entire life with a love that you could call obsessive.

I can barely even remember a time before I knew that I was going to be a writer, that I had to be a writer, that I needed to be a writer, that I was going to be a writer, no matter what it took.

I was probably like 5 or 6; I was a book-loving child. And, I remember I pieced it together, at last, that books do not just magically appear out of the ether, but that people make them. They create them, from their imaginations. And that kind of person who does that, is called a Writer. And once I had that piece of information, that was it: my destiny, from that point forward, was sealed, I made my decision. And I have never veered from that passion since.

I have to be very honest with you, because it would be disingenuous of me to play at anything else: Passion has worked for me. Passion was the thing that kept me writing in the new, early years, before anybody else except me cared about what I was doing. For a long time, I made a living as a diner waitress, and a bartender. And passion was the thing that made me come home from those long shifts, smelling like other people’s French fries, with really sore feet, after a really long day at work, and then I would take off my shoes and sit down, and go to my real work. And that real work was Writing. I did that, day after day and year after year. Even when I was getting nothing out of it, except for rejection letter, after rejection letter, after rejection letter. But I didn’t care.

I didn’t love it. No one loves being rejected. But passion — my passion for writing was so big that it made me stay in the game, even through all of the obstacles. And then, finally, I got lucky enough to become a published writer. Then, in 2006, I got reallylucky. I wrote this book called, “Eat, Pray, Love” — you remember that one? — and, it became really successful, much to my surprise. And as soon as that happened, as soon as I became successful, THIS started to happen… people started putting a microphone in my hand, and they would send me up on stage, and they would ask me to stand there and speak about how I had gotten there, and what I had learned.

And so, of course, the minute I had the opportunity to speak in public about the thing I cared about and believed in the most, what did I talk about? Passion. What else would it have been? There was no other subject, as far as I was concerned. Passion, to me, was everything. It was the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the one true path, and the only way forward. And so, in audiences across the world, I would just stand there on stage and I would say some variation of this, night after night.

“You know what you have to do, every single one of you? You have to identify your passion. You have to identify that tower of flame within you that will be your guiding, purposeful light. You have to find that thing that makes you feel like your head is on fire, that makes you feel like there’s a soul revolution going on deep inside your rib cage, that makes you feel like you would sacrifice and risk everything for that thing, that nothing else matters, that thing that you KNOW you were born to do. Then you have to get every molecule of your being, and you’ve got to funnel it directly and powerfully into that thing, that one thing, and no other thing. And you’ve got to focus on that forever, and that way, and only that way, will you succeed.”

I’d be up there on stage, and I’d be quoting Vince Lombardi, and I’d be quoting Winston Churchill, and I’d be quoting Eleanor Roosevelt, and I’d be quoting Jonathan “freakin’” Livingston Seagull, and I’d be telling people that ‘if you can dream it you can be it’, and that you’ve got to ‘jump so the net will catch you’, and ‘what would you do if you knew you could not fail’, and you guys… you know all the bumper stickers, you probably have them on your car, right?

We all know these slogans. But I did it with enormous sincerity, because I really believed it. I believed that I was doing a public service by telling people that they had to live their lives exactly the same way that I had always lived mine. I preached that, because that was my fundamental truth, that was my certainty. And then, something happened.

Read more

The Importance Of Mindset

Today I’m sharing a snippet from my future eBook. This is from the chapter on the importance of thoughts and mindset.

The Importance of Mindset | Life, Unleashed

For years, I’ve struggled with low self-esteem. I could blame it on my parents’ divorce, or any number of things. But that wouldn’t change my situation. If anything, dwelling on blame, resentment, and/or any other negatives only adds to the problem.

What I have been coming to discover, recently, is that so much of life depends on our thoughts and our mindset. In pretty much every area of life, how you look at things determines how they are. It’s very much about perspective. Even the Bible agrees! Proverbs 23:7 {KJV} says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” And, Philippians 4:8 encourages us: “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.”

God frequently reminds us, throughout Scripture, to PAY ATTENTION… to keep alert, and to be aware. The reason for this is because we are in a constant war — not physically, but mentally and spiritually; good vs. evil; our flesh against our spirit.

Joyce Meyer tells us that our mind is the battlefield — our battles are won or lost there. Think about any temptation you’ve faced. If you kept thinking about the thing, eventually you would give in, right? But, if you don’t allow yourself to dwell on thoughts of the thing — if you dismiss these tempting thoughts right away — then you are able to stand strong and resist.

Nowhere has this been more evident to me than in my eating and my attempts to lose weight. The more I think about eating when I’m not hungry, the weaker I get. Eventually, I have made enough excuses and rationalizations in my mind that I end up giving in.

However, on the (still rare) occasions when I dismiss the tempting thoughts outright, and distract myself with other things, I find myself victorious, and moving forward!

Taking control of our thought life, then, is so extremely important! It’s a cliche now, since it is said so much, but it remains true:

YOU NEED TO CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

Something that has been helpful to me in becoming more aware of my thoughts has been to write out the negative things I think, and then — directly beneath the negatives — write out the positive alternatives. Psychologists call this exercise “reframing”. So, for example:

Negative: I cannot lose this excess weight.
Positive: I am taking baby steps toward losing my excess weight, and getting healthy

Negative: I am so stupid when it comes to this!
Positive: How can I go about learning more about this so that I feel more confident and capable?

It is important to remember that Satan will do anything and everything he can to “kill, steal, and destroy” what is good and positive in our lives. He is intent on keeping us stuck in the mediocre and mundane, so he puts negative thoughts in our minds to keep us from living in the Truth. He knows that if we get control of our thoughts, he’s going to have an awfully hard time making us miserable from that point on.

Another great way to change your mindset is to “reframe” with Scripture. Logan Wolfram, in her book, “Curious Faith”, calls this “Praying the Opposites”.

Say you’re feeling discouraged. The opposite of this would be feeling hopeful. So you would then look up verses in the Bible that talk about hope, and you’d use those verses to pray to God, asking for Him to “renew your mind” according to what His Word says.

You can do this with the negatives you are thinking about yourself, as well! For example:

Negative: I cannot do this!
Positive: Philippians 4:13 says that “I can do ALL THINGS through Christ, who strengthens me!”

Negative: I will never be able to pay my bills this month.
Positive: Philippians 4:19 tells me that “My God will supply all of {my} needs, according to His riches…”

So, don’t let the devil win! Take control of your thought life, and pray for a renewed mindset. It’s the only way to walk in victory.

WHAT NEGATIVE THOUGHTS DO YOU BATTLE WITH THAT YOU CAN TURN INTO POSITIVES? HOW WOULD YOU REFRAME THEM?