God, grant me the serenity…part 1 of the Serenity Prayer Series

The humbling experience of fully embracing serenity is beautiful and necessary in order for me to become the person I am meant to be.

– me

Introduction: The most well known part of the serenity prayer is the first section. I think most people know this part and associate it with recovery groups, 12 step recovery groups to be specific, AA, NA, Celebrate Recovery etc. I believe it’s a theme and a guide for just about every situation in life, whether recovery related or not. I use it as a gauge for how I’m REALLY doing in my life. It is my guide for where I need to surrender, and where I need to take some specific action. There are times that call for either surrender and action as we see here.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.’

If you want to read the full version of the Serenity Prayer, I posted it here:

I’m sorry to tell you, but we don’t have control over as much as we think we do: It is a short selection with a very deep meaning, and the application of this is not as easy as it reads on paper. There’s no short path to accepting the things I cannot change. It hurts. Think about it. How much time do we spend thinking about things that we absolutely have no control over. I don’t want to accept that I lack control. It doesn’t feel good. I think this is a societal and cultural difficulty. As an American, I think I can change just about anything. If I don’t like my job, I can get a new one. If I don’t like my house, I can get a new one. If I am having trouble in a relationship, I can work to try to change it, leave it, or find a new one. We, collectively, live in a world of opportunity in our country, and it’s tempting to feel like we have a lot of control and many options.

I will just worry if I give up control, how is that beneficial?: Why do I worry so much about things I have no control over? I was at a comedy show recently and the comic said, ‘Yeah, I finally worried about a problem so much that it went away.’ The whole room lit up with laughter, because we all knew it was true. No amount of worry ever solved any problem. Ever. I’m an expert at worry though. I want to protect the things in my physical world, and also my emotional, relational, and spiritual world too. I feel like somehow if I strategize just enough that I’ll be able to overcome my own problems. I will worry a problem forever.

Jason has commented that he notices that I can’t let things go until I understand them. This is true, and not necessarily a criticism, but I do know that down side of that is that I have spent a lot of my mental and emotional energy in life processing things every which way, in order to try to understand, and often times, that is not a fruitful endeavor.

If I can’t control it, how do I move to accept the things I can’t change? Surrender and acceptance is the way forward. It starts with an analysis of the situation, and for me that begins with prayer and talking with trusted friends and family. If I have an issue, I take my honest and full heart to people that know and love me. I also take that to God. I believe that He knows and understands, and what He requires of me is to lay it down before him. It’s step one, admitting there’s a problem. God doesn’t judge us for being human, He loves and accepts us. He made us, after all, and He knows we are complex beings with emotions and lives that have challenges, hurts, trauma, and feelings. God knows we can’t do this on our own. He doesn’t want us to do this on our own. Let’s be honest, we can’t do it on our own, because that goes back to the overthinking and controlling situations.

You’ve got to surrender. Completely. No take backs. The main issue that I have with this whole idea of surrender is that it hurts. It hurts so bad. Have you ever fully surrendered a problem? When I have, it’s painful. My pride gets in the way, and when I truly stop the fixing, controlling, and changing behaviors that I am so good at, it almost physically hurts. I have a lot of pride and it’s not easy for me to get to that place of surrender. It feels like the world will spin off its axis and that things will never be the same, and that I’m opening myself up to pain, hurt, and trials. It is true that things will never be the same, but it’s a good thing and for our benefit. It’s not usually a one time process, either. I end up having to surrender things over and over again, because I forget and pick it back up, after I’ve already chosen to give it up. I can’t be the only one who does this. I’m guessing this is a familiar theme.

When I think back on my life and the worst problems and challenges I have faced, I realize that there was very little that outwardly changed by me trying to fix things, except spinning myself in to confusion and upset. When I’ve laid it down, and offered myself fully in to surrender, and the beauty that is contained in that surrender, it is a suffering that I’ve needed to embrace. Through that suffering came refining of me as a person. I’ve grown exponentially in my life through times that I thought I couldn’t go on due to the pain I was experiencing at the time.

The humbling experience of embracing serenity is beautiful and necessary in order for me to become the person I am meant to be.

Let God and other trusted people in to your heart. We all need unconditional love and acceptance. Letting God in to my problems is to give Him access to my full heart. When I share with people I love and trust, that also gives them access to who I am. It allows me to be fully who I am, and to be unconditionally loved, even as an imperfect human. That feels good, to be unconditionally loved. I recommend it. If you haven’t experienced it, you need to. If you don’t have anyone in your life who unconditionally loves you, go to a recovery group. They will do it. I like Celebrate Recovery, but you have many options out there to find people to love and support you.

Sometimes we do have the responsibility to change. It’s not all about surrender. The serenity prayer does ask for us to have the courage to change the things we can. It’s not all about surrender. Sometimes I have to take action on things I CAN change. I usually only know the difference between something I can change and something I can’t change by submitting that to God through prayer and seeking wise counsel. If I hate a particular circumstance in my life, I can change that, most certainly. The flip side is, do I need to change it, or is there something I need to learn by staying in the situation and being refined because of it.

In my life, I will change things too quickly at times. I will leave a job or a relationship or somehow opt out in other ways and move on. It’s the path of least resistance for me at the time, but I have seen times where I have missed out on opportunity to grow through trials. There’s no easy answers, or a matrix that always points the way. That’s where a deep spiritual connection is important. This is where the wisdom to know the difference comes in. Sometimes we can have that wisdom on our own, but I know for me, I most definitely need God and other people to help me assess where I’m at. I need the feedback, but at some point, I own the decisions. Good, bad, and/or ugly.

Embrace the struggle of becoming a new person, and enjoy the benefits of letting go. Next is the piece about living my life. It’s up to me to stand on my own two feet and own my life and all my decisions (even ones that weren’t ‘good’ decisions or beneficial life choices) with the love of God and the support of those who love me. It’s up to me at that point to stay in surrender and to live my life the best way I know how. That will be messy, imperfect, and sometimes a big hardship, but it’s the only way I know how to live an authentic life.

I know that the best lessons I have learned in life have come from laying down my pride and embracing surrender. I believe this is a path that leads to a peaceful life and as a way to move through the challenges and struggles we all face. If this is helpful for you, feel free to take these principles with you. If not, I wrote it as a reminder for myself, so take what you want and leave the rest. I’ll be over here, remembering to surrender, daily, or minute by minute, because I forget these things easily.

Love, Leslie

12 Step Recovery Isn’t Just for Alcoholics and Drug Addicts. It’s For Everyone.

12 step recovery

12 step recovery gets a bad rap. People usually judge the recovery folks unnecessarily. It’s unfortunate because that’s a great way to avoid your problems. If the message is, ‘I don’t have a problem with substances, therefore I don’t need recovery,’ you are setting yourself up as being better than those who are in recovery. That in itself at the very least is misguided. I’d even take it a step further and say that this is wrong. If you think you’re better than others, then you have just as serious a problem as a substance abuser.

12 step recovery groups have a stereotypical image

When I picture the stereotypical recovery scene, I see a dimly lit room with a small circle of chairs. At the far side of the room is a table with an old school coffee pot and powdered creamer and styrofoam cups. The coffee is hot, but acidic and bitter, no matter how much sugar is put in, the bad taste can’t be eradicated.

Meanwhile, the circle of chairs fills up with desperate people. The sadness in their eyes is plain to see and they are looking for a shred of hope, otherwise, it’s all over. Hope is lost and they will return to their addictions.

This group meets for an hour, each person pours out their story, and then at the end, recites a small part of the serenity prayer. ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.’ Then it’s over. Someone puts away the chairs and then the group disbands for the night.

Recovery is so much more than this bleak image. There are a myriad of methods and ways to work a recovery program, and it doesn’t have to be recovery from an alcohol or drug addiction. It’s true. You can recover from anything. It takes humility, surrender, daily commitment to change, and an open mind to be in recovery and to live a life with a recovery mindset.

You can tackle any challenge that comes your way by heeding the prose of Niebuhr. It’s not just those in the traditional recovery rooms.

A note on the Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer is a beautiful and powerful selection that I truly believe is the guidebook for all of life’s problems. There is no situation that can’t be addressed by absorbing it. It signals hope and a new way.

The Serenity Prayer is direction to us to live a fulfilled life, guided by a Creator, who cares for us very much. All of these things can be undergirded by the Serenity Prayer. Here is the full version:

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make things right

If I surrender to His Will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever and ever in the next.

Amen. – Reinhold Niebuhr

Love, Leslie – Stay in touch

Also, check out our podcast – No Reserve. We talk business ownership, marriage, and how we manage to do both at the same time.

Learn to speak the language of love (but also take no crap).

One of my favorite Mexico stories is when I botched the Spanish language big time.

I’ve been to Mexico many times and I have a daughter and son-in-law who live there, so I have a special love for Mexico, and the people that live there. Hispanic people are amazing and I have had the opportunity see just how amazing they are, and I learn something from each visit there. Oh, and I also love street tacos. Now that love runs deep. So deep. I have tacos in my veins.

All that said, I am truly not bilingual. I can understand some Spanish, but I am not great at speaking it. I am trying. My kids who live there are bilingual, so I’m trying to learn so that I can communicate better, but it’s a slow and painful process, particularly when you are as caucasian as they come…hello, it’s me, white girl from southern Idaho. Yep, that’s me. I still have tacos in my veins though, ok?

Several years ago, I was in Baja California with Maggie and Molly. Fortunately, I was with a group that had much better skills than I did in Spanish. We were heading out to give some food and supplies to locals who really needed them. I wanted to be able to say something in Spanish, so I asked some of the group members how to say, ‘Jesus loves you’ in Spanish. They told me and I was ready to go. Before we left, I decided to repeat what I had practiced. In the most confident way I could, I said, ‘Me llamo is Jesus’. Yeah, so that means, ‘My name is Jesus.’ So I was prepared to go out and tell every single person we saw that my name was Jesus. If that doesn’t tell you my Spanish level of comprehension, I don’t know what does. Fortunately they helped me, and finally, I got it right, Jesus te Ama’.

Everyone lived and no one was embarrassed – except me, but it still makes me laugh to this day. I’m hopelessly unilingual. Is that a word? If not, it is now. Maybe it’s monolingual? I give up, maybe I’m not even good at my native language.

Today I was thinking about speaking the language of love. It’s uncommon in our world today, and it takes practice. I mess it up a lot, but I am trying to learn. I’m not fluent in the language of love either. I’m just about as bad at it as I am at the Spanish language. I’ll never get it perfect, but I am committed to trying. What does that look like? Here’s what I’m learning and trying to apply in my life.

  1. Speaking the truth, in love. This one is only as strong as the relationship. If I’m in relationship with someone that I want to preserve, this is necessary. Total honesty and being forthright is the only way. It means being able to be fully me in the relationship, and sometimes that means the other person won’t be happy. But with an eye toward love, how I approach those conversations is key. If I’m unkind in that process, it can damage the relationship. It’s not easy! Sometimes in a weak relationship, this is too much, and the relationship is harmed. I’ve got to take that risk sometimes though, because I can only be authentically me, and I’ve got to be true to myself and who God made me to be.
  2. Standing up for myself when I need to. There are times to fully stand up for myself and that means taking a strong position and staying in it. Listening and compromise are important, but there are times when being loving is actually showing others exactly where you begin and more importantly where you END. It’s scary to do, but sometimes it’s got to be done. No matter what others think, I am my own best advocate. I choose these times wisely, but it’s more prevalent on the big issues and dealing with the world in general. If I’m being loving to myself, I’m going to stand up and fight. Period.
  3. Being silent when I need to. Silence can be a huge help in remaining in a posture of love. When things have reached a point where there isn’t any help that can come by arguing, fighting, or proving, then sometimes the most loving thing to do for myself and for others is just to shut up. This one requires letting go of what other people think. Hello, I have tacos in my veins, but also people-pleasing runs deep for me. This one is hard for me, and I hate it when people don’t understand me. Silence means letting that go, and walking away to be the person I want to be. Loving myself and knowing God loves me.
  4. Refusing to harbor bitterness. No matter which option above is the right one (and let’s be honest, sometimes all three are necessary at different points in life) bitterness has no place in my life, ever. It’s not easy to stay away from this one, because wrong and unfair and unkind things will happen in life. It’s an imperfect world we live in, and stuff happens. Sometimes I do wrong, unkind, and unfair things to others too. I know it’s a shocker, but I’m not perfect. I don’t want to be an angry or bitter person as I move forward in life. In order to not be that way, I have to choose differently. It’s a process, just like forgiveness, but so worth it. It keeps me from sinking in to a pit of self-pity or doubt, and allows me to be the person I want to be. I’m imperfect, flawed, messed up, obviously not bilingual, but I am a person worth caring for. That starts with me. No matter what. This also allows me to love others unconditionally. That means even my enemies. It can be a daily battle, but it’s one I’m willing to fight, so that I can live the best life that God has intended for me.

If this helps you, please take what you want and leave the rest. If not, that’s ok too. This is a reminder for me, and if my transparency is of any benefit to you, you are welcome to read along.

Love, Leslie

Mile 26.2 – Life Lessons

Leslie Anderson Oregon

Leslie Anderson Oregon

On December 2, 2018, I had one of the proudest personal accomplishments of my life. I ran my 15th marathon, and this one was set to be a personal record, and Boston Qualifying race for me. I had put in all the work. I was ready. The weather was perfect that day in Sacramento, it started in the 40s and was set to get to the mid-50s which is perfect running weather. The sun was set to shine, and even though California International Marathon always starts before the sun is up, the sunrise didn’t disappoint that day. I’ve run that race on many occasions, and this was truly an ideal race day set up.

Oh, before I go on, one thing you should know about me if you don’t already, is that I only speak in marathon and running metaphors, so you’re going to need to bear with me here. Also, I was in Sacramento this last weekend (no CIM this year due to Covid) and I spent the weekend reflecting on previous experiences in that race, so it’s fresh on my mind.

I started out that day in 2018, and the miles were ticking off in perfect times. I was controlled, rested, and ready to go. My pre-race carbohydrate loading was on point and I had the perfect outfit and my favorite running shoes on. I know a good running outfit is key, so that was so important!! Every time my watch beeped, I would look at my split time and it was right where it needed to be, 8:45ish for each mile. It was magical. I knew I was having a good day from the start and I kept smiling when I saw those mile splits and the other runners were inspiring me as we all ran for our personal reasons, but together in this race.

I did have one major issue that day though, that worried me from the start. 10 days before the race, I had busted up my wrist in a fall. After 16 weeks of really good training for this race, I was on my last longish run of 10 miles and I tripped HARD on a sidewalk and landed on my hand. It was instantly painful and I almost threw up because it hurt so bad. I’m pretty tough, generally speaking, I went through childbirth of 4 of my 5 children without medication, and come on, I train for marathons for fun, so pain is my friend. This injury hurt bad. I knew it was bad when it happened, and 10 days later on race day, I couldn’t move it and I had a brace on it. I had trained so well, and this was so unfortunate. You could say unfair, but I say unfortunate. It was an accident. Life happens, you know?

This was not a good place to be in for a marathon, because you really need to have both hands for holding water, and eating during the race. The only worse thing would have been a leg injury, but the hand was a tough break (pun alert!). Also, the constant jostling of running was hurting it as I ran that day. Every step reminded me of the pain. I was distracted with worry, but I didn’t want to let it stop me from having the day I wanted. I adjusted my race plan to walk through the water stations so that I could drink one handed. Normally I carry my own water bottle, but I couldn’t do that with only one available hand.

The miles were still ticking off perfectly as I ran more and more, and I started to feel confident. I ignored the pain in my wrist, trusted my training, and just ran. Running is spiritual for me, and that day was no exception. That cool sunshine was there, and the crowds on the course at CIM are incredible and I got so much energy from the cheers and signs of the strangers that were there.

I think generally people know about the ‘wall’, even if you’re not a runner. But, just in case you don’t, here’s the explanation. The ‘wall’ is the point in a race that runners refer to around mile 20, when you’ll know if you’re going to finish well, or just finish. Sometimes you might even quit. Your body’s energy stores are physiologically running out by then, and depending on your training, how rested you are, and how well you’ve run the race up to that point, you may or may not hit that dreaded wall. It’s pretty scary, because you just don’t know if you’ve done everything right, until you get to mile 20, when the wall tells you exactly what your fortune will be.

Well by this point in your reading of my story, you might be thinking I hit the wall that day. Nope. I got to mile 20, and I was still spot on with my splits. I was tired, but things were going so well. I knew without a doubt at that point I was going to finish well. I had 6.2 miles to go, and I ran them as well as I could. Anyone is so dead tired by that time in a marathon, but I was running through it, and I could visualize the finish and the possible BQ time was in sight. I knew it would be close, but I was fighting with every step. I continued walking through the water stations and then running my heart out and ignoring the pain in my wrist.

At CIM, you round a corner at the end, and you run up the last .2 toward the state capitol. There are thousands of people there cheering and it’s an amazing finish line experience. I was there! I had done it. I was finishing another marathon. I felt amazing. I didn’t know exactly what my official time was, so I needed to see that clock at the end to know. As I got closer, I could finally see the official time on the clock in those red numbers and as I crossed, I saw 3:56. I needed a 3:55 or better to qualify for Boston.

I knew at that moment that I had missed my goal by one minute. I was so happy with the race I had run, and it was such a proud moment, but that time on the clock stung. I crossed the finish line, got my medal, cried the happy tears of a marathon finisher, and finishing with a sub-4 hour time. I met up with Jason and literally hobbled to get coffee and food and sit down. I had run so well, and my legs were done for. I knew the next days would be painful, but that good kind of accomplished pain. That missed goal hurt though. It was a black cloud over that day. It was hard to be happy when I missed my A goal time. I chose to revel in the B goal and not let it ruin my day.

I looked a little while later and I actually missed hitting that 3:55 by only 4 seconds. 4 seconds. If you consider the water stops I walked through, I could have found 4 seconds!! Come on. Seriously. What a cruel twist of fate. I had trained so hard, and that stupid accident had cost me my BQ.

I continue to think of that day as a proud accomplishment. I hope to get back to marathoning one day and try again in the future, but that 4 seconds has taken me some time to process and I’ve had some other challenges, aka a broken leg this year, to deal with, so it hasn’t been in the cards for me yet. We’ll see if that happens. It is still a fond memory for me, and I love telling the story, and reflecting on how well trained I was then. Nothing can ever take that away from me. Even if I never ever run another step again, I am proud of this accomplishment as the best personal non-family accomplishment of my lifetime thus far. Even though I messed up, it was still a great race and I had done the very best I could.

The point of this post isn’t really even about that race, although I was reflecting today on how that race shaped me, and has changed me permanently. I learned a lot about myself through this unfortunate incident.

Sometimes life is just like that mile 26.2. Things are going along well in life, and then either the unexpected, or a mis-step, or a big fat mistake happens, a monumental screw up, or an unfortunate accident and then realize that things are going to go differently than you thought. Or you think you’re going to do something really well, and nope, it’s a disaster that you didn’t even see coming and didn’t want and wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Sometimes those things just happen and it doesn’t make us any less or bad people. It makes us people. We succeed, we fail, we screw up big time, and sometimes we get things we don’t deserve (whether good or bad). Embracing those lessons and learning from them has been the key for me when I find myself in these types of situations in my life. I’ve learned a lot, even this year, and here are some of the key things I do when I’m processing a difficult marathon, or a difficult time in life, generally.

  1. Faith – I need it. I have it. I believe in a God who is bigger than me, and who loves me, no matter what. I can be much meaner to myself than God would ever be. He loves me even if I fail, and His love for me doesn’t change. My faith is my compass and I rely on prayer and reading the truth of the Bible when times get tough. I accept what it says and I work to accept the grace that God has for me.
  2. Music – I love music so much. It’s part of the fabric of me, truly. Sometimes it’s Limp Bizkit’s Break Stuff (give that a try if you are pissed off, it’s a good one) and sometimes it’s Hillsong Worship’s No One But You (when you need encouragement). I listen to music to center myself. I listen in the car, in the shower, on a run or walk, and when I’m writing.
  3. Loving family and friends – I hang with people who love me unconditionally. I have two good girlfriends who know every single little thing about me, good, bad and ugly. I have Jason also, who also knows everything about me and we choose everyday whether we will move together in life, or move away from each other. Letting myself be loved in hard times is a key, and it feels good. Other times, I love them when they need it most, and sometimes there is no return on that. When I’m down and have nothing left to give, I know I can rely on those who love me unconditionally. If you don’t have those people in your life, you need them. If you don’t have unconditional love in your life, go to a recovery group, you’ll find unconditional love there, I promise.
  4. Boundaries – This one is simple but hard, and I’m still learning. Keep the good in and the bad out. Be around safe people. Recovery groups are great about teaching this too. You don’t have to hate people to have boundaries with them. It’s actually a loving thing to do, to keep boundaries with people who aren’t kind or who are hurtful. It shows them where you start and end. You’ll get to know that about them too. You’ll also see where you fall short and can improve and become more safe to be around. We all need that. We can all be unsafe sometimes. I can honestly say I don’t hate anyone. Not one single person, and that’s because of boundaries. Trust me.
  5. Do fun things – When times get tough, do the things that make you feel good. One foot in front of the other is sometimes necessary, but it’s no way to live long term. When I find small ways to enjoy my life, even when I’m coping with something it helps me to remember who I am. It’s ok to have fun and even laugh. I often choose the outdoors, music, running, walking, reading, or writing. Stupid movies help too. Spending time with my family is right up there too, and laughing with Jason and the kids is the best medicine.

Thank you for reading along with me. These are a few of the things I want to remember going forward, and lessons I am learning. I really wrote this post for myself, but if it’s helpful to you, take what you want, and leave the rest.

Love, Leslie

Letting go.

Leslie Anderson Salem Oregon

Letting go. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and I know you already know this. They are words we often hear in our personal growth endeavors and the way forward to avoid bitterness, resentment, and staying stuck. There are libraries of books and self-help materials on the ‘how to’ of the subject. None of them really have the precise formula for how to ‘let go’ or what that process really is, which is painful and debilitating. I think it’s a grieving process and it’s an acknowledgement of powerlessness, which we all know is the first step in healing. Letting go is to let better things in and to finally close the chapter on something that hurts so badly. It’s a process that is much like grieving in that the timeline isn’t concrete and it’s messy. The stages flow in to one another and soon enough you don’t even know where one stage ended, another one began, or even where another one began again when you think you’ve moved past it already.

Jason told me a story recently that made me think of letting go. When he was a teen some guy wanted to beat him up. The other person had (wrongly) accused Jason of stealing a leather jacket and was ready to fight him after school. The whole thing was a spectacle and a typical high school drama scene. Students were standing around after school, waiting for the big fight to take place in the parking lot. The other guy punched Jason when he wasn’t even really looking or ready for this supposed fight. Jason looked at him and then turned on his heel and walked away. Jason just made the decision to not make a big scene and to let go of the outcome. Two days later, the puncher apologized.

As Jason told me, sometimes letting go doesn’t mean you lost. It means you’re ready to move forward. It reminded me that fixing, controlling, and trying to change outcomes often don’t help and it usually makes things worse. Sometimes you have to fight, and other times, the way forward is taking that sucker punch and moving on, no matter what the outcome, living a life free of drama is always worth it. Not easy but worth it. Humans love a big drama scene. It’s what makes the news and tv sensational, when you’re watching someone else’s drama. It’s not so much fun when it’s your own life playing out as the center of the drama, am I right?

As a side note, people that will watch drama unfold in your life as bystanders are not your friends. Your friends will check on you, hug you, encourage you, and support you. Others will stand by like the schoolyard crowd and watch to see if you fall. I’ve chosen to ditch people in my life that don’t have the best intentions for me.

Now, if someone can remind me of this story about every other week in my life, that would be great. I’m stupid and I forget things I just learned. Or I’ll just reread this 56789 times, maybe I’ll absorb it. Probably not, but it’s worth a try!

If this is helpful, please take it, and leave the rest. If not, know I’ll be over here, working on letting go.

Love, Leslie