Friday, September 30, 2016

Things I've Learned From the Men in my Life

  When I first started thinking about this writing prompt I was a little stumped. In recent years I have surrounded myself with some amazing women. I've been in Bible studies with them, mom groups, tennis teams, authors of books I've read. I could think of a vast number of women I admire. It took a little more time for my mind to think about the men in my life and how they have impacted me. I enjoyed the challenge and what I recalled from thinking about influences in my life.

1) My father

  I initially felt that this was pretty cliche, but the longer I've lived the more I've learned that there are a lot of people who did not grow up with fathers who loved, encouraged, supported and invested in them. It seems like a given to me because that was my experience but I am not necessarily the norm. I have a lot of fond memories of my father. I remember playing in his workshop with wood, nails and hammers while he worked on his own project. The smell of sawdust transports me back to his workshop. He didn't seem to mind me being in there. He would let my friends and I work on projects in there (we attempted to make a boat for our pond but it was not even close to water-tight and turned into a dock). I remember riding on our riding lawnmower with him (and eventually being given the job of official lawn mower). I remember him cheering me on at my sporting events. He was a vocal supporter. I remember having a father-daughter date when I was visiting home from college. I asked him some personal questions that made him squirm a bit (probably fear that being flawed would remove his hero status - not true). I always felt secure in his love. My dad taught me that I am important, worthy of his time and support, and worth showing up for.

He still has this Christmas shirt I made him in elementary school!
2) My husband

  It is possibly also cliche that I find my husband worthy of admiration but I really don't care. He is a wonderful man, a hard worker, a loving husband and father. I admire his dedication to integrity at work and home. I appreciate his love, support and encouragement. I love his heart for serving and helping others. I could gush forever but I'll keep it short and sweet. Among countless other things, he has taught me that I don't have to do it all and that it's okay to ask for help.

3) My high school youth pastor

  I loved my high school youth pastor and his wife. They were so open and honest. They weren't afraid of sharing their mistakes because they were secure in God's love for them and hoped their testimony would prevent us from making the same mistakes. My affection for them probably increased because of their authenticity and vulnerability. He taught me that my mistakes do not make me ineffective for God. Redemption is available and God can still be honored and glorified through my life. I think he (and his wife) also planted the seed that has enabled me to be honest and vulnerable because of personal experience of how it encourages and can be an example for others.

4) My grandfather

  For nearly all of my remembered life (ages 3+) my family lived away from our extended family. Nearly every summer my brother and I would fly out to Oregon to visit our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We always had a blast spending time with everyone and enjoying the moderate climate of the pacific northwest. I have a lot of fond memories of staying at my grandparents' farm. We would catch grasshoppers to feed the chickens, pick produce, throw apples to the deer, catch cabbage moths to earn nickels, pick "puff balls" off of the oak trees, swim in the creek and shoot hoops on the side of the barn. I remember bumping around the grounds with Grandpa in his old red truck, learning square dancing basics, playing memory math games and lots of card games. My grandfather taught me that math is fun and working hard is worthwhile.

5) My friend's husband

  I haven't really spent a lot of time with the husbands of my friends but, for a while, I was part of a prayer group that was hosted at my friend's house and had a four-person core group (two of which were my friend and her husband). We all learned a lot about one another and enjoyed praying for one another, our church and whatever else was mentioned each meeting. Also, being friends for quite a few years I learned a lot about my friend's husband through my friend. I have been impressed by his obedience and faithfulness to God and his desire to honor God in all circumstances and areas of his life. His love for God and his family is evident to all. He diligently serves others with his abilities. If he can help you, he will. My friend's husband has helped teach me the power of prayer, the importance of obedience and trust in God in all circumstances, and the joy of using your gifts and abilities to serve others and glorify God.

  There are more men I could have mentioned as having influenced my life. I hope that you will think about those in your life who influence you positively and, perhaps, reach out them and let them know that you appreciate them.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Made Well: Healthy and Healing are Not Synonymous

  I had the privilege of receiving an advanced copy of Made Well: Finding Wholeness in the Everyday Sacred Moments by Jenny Simmons. I tore through it in less than a week. I loved it so much. It spoke specifically to me about various experiences in my life now and in the past. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has suffered a loss or walked through a difficult path. Jenny is so honest in sharing parts of her story and does an excellent job of sharing the stories of loss others have entrusted her with. I am not sure how else to convey the pearls of wisdom and truth gleaned in these pages other than to share some quotes from the text that resonated deeply with me. If they strike a chord with you as well, I would recommend picking up a copy for yourself. It is officially available October 4! If you pre-order before it's release, there are some freebies to be had as well.

Healing happens all the time, even if a cure doesn't. I am invited to be made well even when the broken things don't get put perfectly back together.
  I think we all often struggle with wanting everything in this world to be made perfect by God. But he has not promised to restore us completely until we are in eternity. We must continue to trust in God's provision and his timing for our healing.

As if the physical body dying were not enough to contend with, there are other deaths in this life we must walk through as well. The death of marriages, friendships, dreams, careers, relationships, stages of life, sanity and health.
  It was actually encouraging to be reminded that we all experience a number of deaths in our lives. It is healthy for us to grieve the things we lose, but we should try not to allow our lives to be defined by them. Whenever we suffer a loss, God is there with us providing comfort and offering to bring healing however he deems best.
When confession and relinquishing control become daily habits, it becomes easier to live free. Each day we are learning to live under the grace of being sparkly clean.
  I am in the process of learning to relinquish control in various areas of my life. It is not easy and I will sometimes try to reestablish control multiple times, even though I know deep down that God needs to be in control. Giving things over to him and allowing him to be responsible does give me the freedom to walk in faith and trust.
 One can belong to everything and everyone, and most of us over-belong ourselves in our quest to find home. We belong to so many people and so many things that when we sit still long enough, we recognize the gnawing feeling that we aren't deeply known by anyone.
  I have felt this way recently. In my last season I was very involved in a number of things but still felt that I didn't really have a strong community. I was expending a lot of effort but the output was not as satisfying or fulfilling as I hoped it would be. I was still in want of a real community where I belonged and was known.

Belonging to all the things keeps us from truly belonging. I am endeavoring to live a life that does not come at the cost of frenzied fury. More often than not this is accomplished through intentional un-belonging. Un-belonging myself to the many things I yearn to belong to in order to consciously belong to the few. 
  This is my current season of life. Over the past few months I have removed a number of obligations from my schedule. I am trying to scale down to the essentials in order to determine what is truly needed and what I might add that would bring value and meaning to my life. It has been challenging and I am continuing to struggle through this process. I am trusting God's leading through this season and look forward to being on the other side and seeing what comes from this intentionality.
When the fear of missing out, the inability to say no, or the misguided belief that you must be everyone's savior causes you to perpetually accept opportunities and friendships you don't have space for, your road will become so crowded that you will find yourself wondering how you belong to everyone but don't belong to anyone. The gnawing loneliness and exhaustion will creep in.
  This paragraph defines how I was feeling before I began the process of "un-belonging". I have major FOMO and it still pokes at me but I am slowly learning that I cannot be part of every good thing. I am human. I have limits. My time each day/week is fixed. When I say yes, I am also saying no. I need to make sure my "yesses" are for something truly worthwhile.
The Western soul has been conditioned to fix itself. Self-reliance is regarded as a premium character trait. We do not know how to open our hands well and receive the gifts of others...We have forgotten how to graciously accept gifts. How to let love be lavished upon us. In a culture where we expect everyone to earn his or her own way, we must relearn how to receive. We must fight the voice that says we don't deserve it, we haven't earned it, it might come with strings attached, or it could be a con. It's a gift! Mutter "wow" and be in awe.
  I have struggled for years with self-reliance. I have hated asking for help with things. I dislike feeling like I owe something (even if it's construed as a gift I still sometimes feel this way). I have been learning that refusing gifts and refusing to ask for help keeps me from being in community with others. In accepting help and admitting my need, I am inviting others into my life to know me and for me to know them. I am learning just how important and valuable it is in receiving help (or gifts) from others.

Those are the big takeaways I received from the book. I hope the quotes encouraged and spoke to you as they did me. I would recommend checking out this book. It would make a great gift to people going through a difficult time as well.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Five Influential Women I've Met

  I was excited to tackle this topic because there are so many wonderful women in my life that have been positive influences. It was hard to narrow it down to five but somehow I managed. I am so thankful to have had such positive female influences in my life. There are a number of authors,  bloggers and podcasters that have been influencial in my life so I definitely wanted to include at least one in addition to "in real life" people. I hope you'll enjoy my list and let me know about some of the fabulous women in your life.

1) My mother

  This almost seems like a given because women are often close to their mothers. I know not everyone has this experience. And, by others' standards, I would probably not be considered close to my mother (we communicate about once per week). However, we have a very good relationship. I love spending time with her (which is rare because we live 2200 miles apart). I value her opinion. I have positive memories from childhood. Her story (at least the parts I know about) has given me great respect for her. She has shown me the value of perseverance and pursuing your goals even when there are challenges or you are not supported by those around you. She has been so open with me about her story that my admiration and appreciation for her has only grown through the years. I have a distinct memory of riding home from a high school basketball game (she came to nearly all of my sporting events, even the 2+ hour away ones) and being so engrossed in a very vulnerable and honest conversation that we ended up getting pulled over for speeding. My mom is amazing and I am grateful for her impact and influence in my life.

2) My maternal grandmother

  My grandmother died a little over six years ago. I am glad that she is no longer suffering from dementia but I miss her dearly. She was an amazing woman and I enjoyed her very much. She was a strong woman who made friends wherever she went - to her there was no such thing as a stranger. She broke barriers of her time by becoming Oregon's first female licensed water treatment plant operator - running the plant for her town (this happened during a time when the reporters referred to her as Mrs. Eugene Cherry when they wrote an article on her in the newspaper). She was a hard worker. She was firm but also fun. We loved visiting her and grandpa in the summers. We learned many card games from her. She took us to the library often. She encouraged me to work on my cooking skills (and my brother as well). She gave us chores and tasks to contribute. She was as involved as she could be from many states away and made us feel that she was proud of us.

3) My paternal grandmother

  My other grandmother also lived in Oregon and we would see her every summer as well. She was also a strong woman but much quieter than my maternal grandmother. She was a hardworking woman who raised five children, milked cows, sewed her own clothing, tended a garden, and was very involved in her community. Her life wasn't easy but she didn't seem to complain. She trusted God and made do with what she had. She taught me some sewing basics and helped me make a few items including a dress. I remember wandering through her flower garden smelling all of the wonderful roses, cracking open rocks with a pick axe in hopes of finding geodes, wandering through the cow pasture, riding bikes up to the country store for candy, and hunting for frogs. My grandmother was diligent about writing to various family members to keep us abreast of events and other family members. At her funeral, the church was packed with people who had been influenced by her over the years.

4) My former pastor's wife

  My husband moved here to GA a few months before we got married. When I came to visit him before the wedding, my future pastor and his wife allowed me to stay with them. It still blows my mind that they let a stranger stay with them. When I moved down here, we were involved in their small group and that's how I got to know her better. She hosted women's events at her house and I was impressed by her hospitality and generosity. When I became a stay-at-home mom, she invited me and my daughter over to her house so that I could get some social time while my daughter played with toys. I will always appreciate her kindness in making time for us every other week and being willing to listen and answer any questions about motherhood or life in general. She has invested in so many women, children, families and relationships throughout the years, the fruits of which are evident in all of the support and help her family has received recently walking through their own challenging life events. She is a wonderful example of someone whose joy is found in Christ and who has a confident trust in God to provide for her in all circumstances.

5) Jen Hatmaker

  I have read numerous blog posts by her (the first one being Worst End-of-School Mom Ever) and she comes across as funny, friendly and inviting in her writing. I appreciate her candor and her passion for people. She is not afraid to be her true self even when it means being criticized by others. She has a huge heart and desires for everyone to know that they are loved by God and valuable as a person. I was fortunate enough to be chosen as part of her book launch team for her most recent book, For the Love, and it became an invitation to get to know her a little better (and even attend a party at her house!). She is just as kind and gracious and generous in person as she is online. She is an introvert (like myself) and still willingly hugged, talked and took pictures individually with a long line of women in her backyard. I cannot imagine how exhausted she must have felt at the end of that night. Yet she was so warm and kind (and the rest of her family was just as lovely). I know that it must be hard to receive criticism for being genuine, vulnerable and proclaiming that Jesus' love is for everyone. I have great respect and admiration for her. Her example encourages me to be myself and not fear criticism for living authentically.

She took pictures like this with approximately 200 people!

There are many more women who have influenced my life and who I appreciate greatly and could have easily highlighted here (so please don't think you're not important if you're not one of these five!). I would love to hear about some amazing women impacting your life! Share in the comment section below! 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Trauma Often Leads to Tears

  When I saw this theme for the Friday Five I didn't know what to think. Crying in general tends to make me feel uncomfortable, whether it's me doing the crying or watching someone else cry. I tend to be a fairly even-keeled person regarding emotions. At least, I'm good at keeping them from showing most of the time. I used to be more self-conscious about crying in public but I am growing in understanding and acceptance that it is okay to have emotions and to express them in healthy ways. I thought it would be interesting to think back on my past and talk about five memorable instances of crying. It was challenging. It was also a very interesting exercise of reflection on past events.

1) When my kitten was run over

  When I was in elementary school we adopted a mother cat and her four kittens. We lived on four acres so we had plenty of room for them. Some friends of my parents came over for dinner one evening. We were outside watching them leave and, apparently, one of the kittens (named Killer of all things) had climbed up onto one of the tires. It was a terrible tragedy to witness, especially since it wasn't killed by the accident and my dad had to relieve him of his pain. I distinctly remember bawling in my room that night. It was the first time I remember being emotionally affected by an animal loss.

2) When my friend was killed in a car accident

My friend and I freshman year
  The summer after my freshman year of high school, just a week or two before school started again, my friend (and across-the-street neighbor) and her friend were killed when their car hydroplaned into a concrete pillar under a bridge. I remember my mom calling me, telling me the news and saying to find my dad. I went downstairs and told him what mom had just said and then cried into his shirt. In addition to losing a friend and neighbor, I was a bit traumatized knowing that I could have been in that car (she had invited me to go with them but I had volleyball practice). It was the first time I'd lost a person close to me.

3) When I found out my first child was breech

  I was thirty-five weeks into my pregnancy and had gone for a regular check up. The doctor was checking my cervix and noted that I was beginning to dilate. She thought she could feel the head but then realized that it didn't feel like a head so she had an ultrasound performed. She then confirmed and announced to me that my baby was breech and that, if s/he didn't turn, I would have to have a c-section. I was upset because it was not at all part of my ideal birth plan. Somehow I managed to call my husband to tell him the news and then continue on to the consignment sale to look for baby items like I had planned. Later that day, when I saw Adam at home, he asked me how I was doing and then I burst into tears in his arms.

4) A few days after my first child's birth

Am I really ready for this???
  I am confident that I leaked some happy tears when I heard my children's cries for the first time. I'm sure a lot of people cry after their children are born. What I distinctly remember is being home from the hospital (either the day we came home or the next) and being so overwhelmed by emotion (and probably hormones) and bawling in my husband's arms once again. I'm sure this is common for many women. I don't remember doing this after my second child was born but there is a distinct difference between the two birth experiences.

  This crying jag occurred just over a week after the one when I found out my daughter was breech. The time period between the two events may not seem significant but it is. After learning my baby was breech my doctor set up an appointment for the following Tuesday just to check up on things. So, five days later, I was back in my doctor's office. My husband came with me for emotional support after the last appointment, which was a blessing because at this one we learned that the umbilical cord was prolapsed and we needed to get the baby out quickly. I'm pretty sure my ob looked at us and said, "You're going to have a baby today." My husband drove me straight to the hospital, ran home to grab the bags we had half-packed and came back to witness the birth of our first child at my 36th week of pregnancy.

  Everything was so unexpected and stressful. Thankfully, the surgery went fine and the baby was pretty healthy despite being a month early. I was thrust into motherhood without my usually careful planning and preparation. I was so overwhelmed by everything that, when we returned home and were alone to process everything, the stress of the experience overwhelmed me and I cried (I didn't really comprehend how traumatic my experience was until I was working on this post).

5) When I pray out loud with other people

  This has been a more recent phenomenon, partly because I used to be terrified of praying out loud.  In the past couple of months I have noticed that I cry during intercessory prayer times. I remember sitting at a friend's dining room table a few weeks ago and tears running down my face as we prayed for one another, for our church, for our children. I recently attended a prayer meeting and cried as I prayed, listened to others pray and agreed with the prayers offered on behalf of the family.

  This more recent prayer-related crying is what is helping me to become comfortable with crying in front of others. I don't want to stop praying with people and I don't anticipate this physical response ceasing. I just need to make sure there are tissues close at hand.

I hope sharing my experiences has been helpful and encouraging to you. Have you seen any patterns in what causes the physical release of crying in your life? Have you cried over similar experiences? It's always encouraging to be reminded that you're not alone in your experiences.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Oh the Places You'll Go...On the Internet

  This is a very interesting topic. Where am I spending most of my online time? It's tricky because, unless I'm working on a blog post or sending a lengthy email, I tend to consume my media on my phone via apps. I try to be very intentional in when I pull out my computer (and should probably do the same with my phone). I really don't want my kids to grow up with the memory of me always on some sort of electronic device instead of interacting with them. I don't want to give up quality time with my husband to catch up with what's going on in others' lives. I'm still working on navigating social media and its role in my life. But I digress. Below are five bookmarks I refer to quite often these days (in addition to the standard email, blog and Facebook).

1) PicMonkey  

  Earlier this year I realized that if I want to become more serious with my blogging (and avoid being sued) then it would be beneficial to create my own graphics rather than do a Google search like I had previously done. I definitely don't want to pass others' work off as my own nor would I want someone to do that to me. A friend who has more blogging experience than I do shared this site with me and I have found it easy to use and navigate.

2) Instagram
My first Instagram photo, 2013
  I know this is not a new site. I opened an account three years ago just to post a cute picture of my kids from my phone. I have since occasionally post something, often as part of a book launch team. Two weeks ago I decided to try the 365 Challenge, where you post a picture of your life each day for an entire year. I thought it would be fun to look back at the end of it and see what my year looked like. It appears that most of my pictures may end up being of my son and my cat as they are who I spend the most time with during the week as a SAHM. Perhaps I'll work on getting myself into the picture more. I have a friend who knows a lot more about Instagram and she has been helping me to grow in knowledge of its workings.

  I also like that, since it's pictures with comments, it is a very encouraging, positive, happy environment. No one is ranting about the state of the world or politics. Everyone is being honest and kind (at least, that's my experience so far). I intended to learn how to use Twitter this year but I like Instagram so much better that I think I'll just stick with it and continue to be Twitter clueless.

3) Duolingo

  I really like knowing Spanish but my proficiency has decreased over the years over lack of use. I would like to start speaking it again to improve my conversational skills and recently set it up as a new goal for myself. My first step toward gaining the courage to begin speaking with my neighbor (who is originally from Costa Rica) is increasing my familiarity with the vocabulary. Someone talked about using Duolingo to prepare for a vacation to Mexico. I had downloaded the app a long time ago but never used it. I have now been working on it for a month. It's set up like a game or challenge so it doesn't seem like work but I know I'm learning.

4) Meet the Peppers

  This is a website created by a married couple who promote the idea of Great Love instead of Perfect Love. They started a podcast about a year and a half ago as a project intended to give them more quality time together. They titled it Marriage is Funny (because it is) and each episode talk about a couple of topics relevant to their lives and most likely to every couple. I heard about it on a FB group thread and have loved it from the beginning. I can relate to almost everything they talk about and think we could be good friends if we ever met in real life. I didn't start listening to it until this spring when they were a whole season in so I'm still trying to finish season two before season three starts (this week I think, so I will probably still be a few episodes behind). I highly recommend checking it out. I have gained a lot of wisdom and perspective from them sharing their lives with their listeners.

5) Go Comics

  In our house we receive a physical copy of the Sunday paper and then a digital subscription the rest of the week. I don't tend to check it out online so I was seriously out of the loop on some of my favorite comic strips. My husband told me about this site so I have started using it to keep up with the storylines of some of my favorites. I like that you can create a list of specific comics so that you don't have to scroll through all of them each day. And you can go back in the archives to catch up if you choose to start a new strip.

  Those are five of my frequently-visited sites. Do you have any go-to sites that you think I might enjoy checking out? Leave them in the comments!

Monday, September 5, 2016

August Book Review

School has been back in session for a month. This means new routines and activities which cut back on my free reading time. However, I still have evenings and some weekends to get some relaxed reading in. I only read two books in August but that's probably two more than many people. Below is the list along with my thoughts. To read previous months' book reviews, click on the month: January, February, March, April, May, June, July.

1. Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck by Jon Acuff

  I bought this book last spring when it came out because I thought it would be a useful book even though I wasn't currently (nor am I now) working in a paying environment (SAHM). I am now beginning the process of republishing my book and (hopefully) writing a second book. It's definitely the beginning of a potential career and I thought the book might be helpful.

  The book was VERY helpful. In it Jon talks about creating and/or building a Career Savings Account. He goes in depth on the four components: Relationships, Skills, Character and Hustle. I enjoyed taking stock of these components in my own life and seeing where I need to build up or strengthen.

  Reading through the book helped me think about what I will need (and need to do) to accomplish my goals. It motivated me to put in the work that will be required and gave me hope that I can be successful in my endeavors.

  If you are feeling kind of "blah" whatever your work situation, I would suggest checking out this book. It may motivate you to figure out why you are not enthusiastic in your current situation and help you take steps toward a more enjoyable work life.

2. The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica N. Turner

  When I first heard about this book I was quite excited to read it and discover new ways I could fit in a little personal refreshment into my day. I especially wanted to figure out how to make time to work on writing - books, blogs, notes, etc.

  It seems kind of funny to think that I had to read this book during my current "fringe hours" in order to learn how to utilize them well. And actually, reading the book was a great use of my time. I found the book to be very practical and encouraging. It reinforced the importance of taking time for yourself to pursue passions and to rest/reflect/pray.

  The book has questions for reflection and response at the end of each section to help you think about how you can apply and make relevant to your own life the things discussed in each chapter. I think it's a great book for anyone who doesn't know how to find or make time for personal goals and endeavors in their current schedule.

I only read two books in August but I felt they were both geared toward helping me to work on my goals. They offered excellent advice about working smarter and making time for what's important to you. I would love to hear of any books you've read that are beneficial to achieving your dreams.

Friday, September 2, 2016

I Quit: Five Things I Want to Remove From My Life

  No one likes to be called a quitter. It has a decidedly negative connotation. It’s a word used to try to cajole others into continuing to persevere through a course of action. People continue on in an endeavor or commitment even when they might not think it the best decision for them because they fear being labeled a quitter. Why is quitting such a shameful thing?

  Sometimes quitting means realizing the futility of a specific task or path and choosing to go a different route. It’s admitting that there is nothing good to be had in continuing. There are a number of things that are good to quit: toxic relationships, unhealthy eating habits, lying, stealing, addiction, a job you hate that sucks the life out of you. In this context, quitting is a good, brave thing.

  There are some habits and thought patterns in my own life that I would be better off without. In these instances I believe quitting would be healthy and brave and beneficial. Today I want to share with you five things I’m going to work on quitting.

1)      Allowing fear to dictate my actions.

  I tend to overanalyze situations and decisions. I think about possible outcomes and the reaction that might come from them. I allow what someone might think or say about me to keep me from doing what I believe to be what is needed. What I need to do is be true to what I believe is right and not worry about how it might be received by others. I can’t control what others think or do and I shouldn’t allow a perceived reaction to hold me back.

  I also allow fear to keep me from taking steps toward accomplishing my goals and dreams. Part of the fear is criticism and rejection from others. The other part is negative self-talk that I am not qualified or smart enough or influential enough to write and publish an article or book. Who am I to think someone would pay for my thoughts and advice? If I never step out of my comfort zone and push through the fear, I won’t get to the satisfaction of trying and, perhaps, even succeeding. Fear wants to keep me ineffective. It wants to keep me from reaching out to others and perhaps encourage them with my words and experiences. What a shame if I allow fear to keep me immobilized.

2)      Trying to control everything about my life.

  I am a planner and scheduler. I like to know what’s going on in my daily/weekly schedule. I have tended to take the initiative to reach out to anyone I was interested in getting to know to set up a meeting or play date (depending on whether they have children). I have gotten overwhelmed, overscheduled, and burned out on a number of occasions. God has been working in me to learn to rest and to trust him with my life (schedules, relationships, etc). It’s still very much a work in progress but I have enjoyed a less structured, more leisurely schedule the past few months.

3)      Self-condemnation/negative self-talk.

  I’m sure many of us have that unkind voice inside of us that tells us that we are not enough. It likes to remind us of our flaws and failures. It tries to undermine our self-confidence. I believe it is related to perfectionistic tendencies. Something inside of us wants to be perfect and above reproach and we chastise ourselves when we show our humanness. I have struggled for years with my perfectionism. I am slowly accepting that it is not possible and I am only asked to show up and give what I have, whether that is much or little. If I approach each day open and willing to work diligently and with my whole heart, that’s the best I can do and it is enough.

4)      Pretending I have it all together.

  I think this kind of ties in with all of the above. I am afraid that if I show my flaws that I might be ridiculed or judged or rejected. Pretending I have no issues or needs is like a cocoon of protection. But just as it keeps hurt out, it also keeps love and acceptance from getting in as well. We all know no one is perfect but we like to act like we’re the only ones who have made mistakes or have scars from past experiences. I have learned that being open allows others to do the same and am working on putting down my self-protection front of pretending to be okay all of the time.

5)      Judging other people.

  I know that this is addressed in the Bible and is not a desirable trait but I still fall into this trap and it affects my attitude and words. I have read and know personally that we often judge others about things we know we struggle with as well. We tend to judge others to make ourselves feel better or more superior. However, judging doesn’t benefit anyone. It doesn’t improve my relationships with others. What I would prefer to do is to trust that everyone is doing the best they can. Everyone has a bad day and that might be the day I cross their path. I am not always observant of what’s around me and not considering those around me which may cause me to inconvenience or annoy someone else. If I can give myself grace, I ought to give others grace as well.

So these are five things I would like to work on quitting. Is there anything you would like to quit? If you’d like to read what other people are saying, head over to

Thursday, September 1, 2016

August Goal Review

We have officially completed the first month of school! It's once again time to check in on my goals for the year. You can read about previous months by clicking the links: January, February, March, April, May, June, July. Without further ado, let's get to it!

1. One arts and crafts time with the kids each month

  I realized we hadn't used paint in awhile so I suggested it for this month's activity. The kids really seemed to enjoy having a blank piece of paper, a plate of paint and free reign. They both painted two papers. K asked me to participate on the second one as she was working on creating "a gallery of artwork".

This was God watching over a sunset and some sheep.
The rainbow and hearts were my contribution. Paint is not really my creative sweet spot.
The finished (or nearly finished) paintings.
    When they were finished with the paint, my daughter asked if she could have supplies to decorate a cardboard box she had. I found some dinosaur stencils I thought J would enjoy. I helped him draw them on the paper and then he chose to decorate it with the same supplies K had for her box. They had a good time.

  Sometimes I feel like there isn't much of a point to these random arts and crafts time. However, I am understanding more and more that we all feel good when we are able to create something and express our creativity in some form. While a number of creations will eventually end up in the trash/recycling (shhh, don't tell the kids), I know the kids are proud of what they create and enjoy the opportunity to control what they make and what materials they use. My daughter always talks about how much fun it was. She would probably do it every day if given the opportunity (and I have to fight my guilt that we don't).

2. Blog at least twice per month

  Last month I posted something new three Fridays in a row. It felt good to have a regular schedule so I thought I would try to continue the Friday posts this month as well. I started with a post about five things I want to learn, the topic coming from a blog link-up I thought I'd try out. The second week I talked about my least favorite household chore because it was on my mind. The third week I started the week off with a post about a book I recently read (along with a book giveaway) and ended with a post about the challenge that is parenting children for their first three years of life. My final August post was a celebration of my 100th blog post! I successfully blogged each Friday in August which is a big deal for me. I'm already feeling overwhelmed at the thought of there being five Fridays in September and one week being on vacation so I'll go ahead and give myself grace not to post every week.

3. Grow in gratitude, contentment and generosity

  This month I got back into the habit of gratitude journaling most days of the week. It's very encouraging to think about blessings and joys and express my appreciation to God. It helped that we started a new schedule with school and I get a few hours without the kids three days per week.

  I struggled a bit with contentment this month. I am content in some areas of life but not all. But I believe my main area of discontentment has been a prodding from God to spur me to action to change the circumstances. I have been wrestling for months, waffling between decisions, unsure what the proper path is. I have made a choice but am nervous about embarking on this new path. I will trust God and ask him to lead me to a place of contentment in this area.

  My heart has been growing in a desire to be generous. I am more open to opportunities to practice generosity with various resources - time, things, money, prayers. I do still have stingy and self-serving thoughts but I know I'm a work in progress and will never be perfectly altruistic and others-focused. Any step forward ought to be celebrated.

  I did not memorize any new verses this month. I have been reading the Bible and receiving encouragement from specific scriptures but memorization did not make it on this month's to do list.

So, that was my month. How was yours? Did school start for someone in your household this month? Did it change your ability to work on your goals? Are you good at giving yourself grace when you fall short?