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Archive for March, 2012

Proverbs 17:22: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Dishes piled in the sink, bills three feet high, potty training gone wrong, car repairs desperately needed, clothes spilling out of the baskets into the room…can anyone relate?

In this crazy world called life, I have a tendency to have tunnel vision.  My schedule on a typical week looks something like this:  Mondays and Thursdays are wash days along with any other day that the clothes are overflowing.  Fridays are reserved for grocery shopping and running errands in addition to work that is left over from the Tuesday through Thursday high volume ‘work from home’ days, which leaves the weekends for playing catch up with cleaning the house, organizing the clutter, yard work, more errands, more laundry, and the list goes on.  Oh, and I almost forgot all the extracurricular school activities that are crammed in at night several days out of the week, spilling over into the weekends as well.  Where is there room for fun…Or is this the fun that I am supposed to be having?

I am learning that if I do not purposefully create fun memories and encourage lots of laughter, then life will get really boring really quickly.  My mom taught me from a young age that a mother is the heart of her home.  If a mother has an attitude of fun, then the whole household tends to be calmer and more relaxed.  Forgiveness comes quicker, feelings are hurt less often, and mistakes are quickly forgotten.

That is why I am trying to remember not just on special occasions, but as part of our regular routine, to keep that fun alive.  Baking cookies can turn into a “sweet shoppe,” complete with cash register, customers, and gratuity (if the service is good enough).  Cleaning the house can be an opportunity to practice your vocal skills by turning up the radio, wearing earplugs if necessary.  Yard work goes much faster while playing the craziest mind games you can imagine.  One of our favorites is the alphabet game using candy, DVDs, TV shows, or exotic animals as the categories.  Even driving back and forth in the car on various errands is much more fun when everyone talks in a different accent for the day, looking for different state license plates, or guessing closest to the time we will finish in a particular store and are back in the car.

What are some ways that your family takes life from ordinary to extraordinary, turning mundane tasks into opportunities for laughter, fun memories, and a more loving atmosphere?  Not only are you passing on a great trait to your kids, but they say, “laughter is the best medicine,” so you are improving your health at the same time.  I will choose that over a run around the block any day.

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Family Spirit Week

Our children’s elementary school celebrates reading month in March, complete with fun activities every Friday.  Spring Break rides the coattails of that fun experience, giving the kids a week-long break from school to regroup, coming back refreshed and ready to finish the school year strong.

That got me thinking – This year, instead of making Spring Break mundane and ordinary, with hours of watching TV, lots of “I’m bored,” and arguments over getting chores done, I am going to host our first ever “Family Spirit Week.”  Even though I will still be working while my children are home from school, I think I can make the time more interesting and less boring by interspersing some creative and fun activities throughout the day that they can do on their own, together as siblings, or with me participating when available.  This should be a nice change from our normal routine.

Every day will be a different activity for the kids to participate in, maybe even a different theme.  It will give us all a chance to use our imagination and get creative.  In addition to outfits they get to create, we will have time for various fun activities.  Who doesn’t like the chance to be silly (trust me, there is nothing sillier than watching a Just Dance competition that I am in), work on family values in a fun way (any type of competitive activity is a great lesson in sharing, turn taking, and being a gracious winner and/or loser), and participate in things that normally would be off limits.  I will be pulling out past favorites that are saved for special occasions like: Dessert for dinner, Skipping your least favorite chore, and our kids’ all-time favorite, Chore Free day.  In addition, we might add new things to try such as Backwards day or Opposite day being possibilities.  If I ask, I am sure my kids will come up with some even better themes.  This year, I think I might turn it up a notch.  One day might be “Volunteer day.”  That day will focus on doing something for others expecting nothing in return.

All of us, whether stay at home moms or moms that work from the home or outside the home, we are all busy, so Family Spirit Week does not have to be some huge, detailed, “every minute scheduled” project.  I am envisioning a week where every day there are a few fun things to look forward to.  What I am thinking about involves dressing in a different themed outfit each day, one fun activity (either for the children to participate in by themselves or with the addition of mom), one chore to be completed, and one family value that is talked about.  There will still be plenty of downtime for the kids and time to get our work done as moms.

I do not know exactly how the final product is going to look yet, but I am
excited about this opportunity to reinforce in a fun way some of the values that we have been working on for years.  I am sure there will be some kinks to work out, but if it goes really well, Family Spirit Week might become a yearly tradition to look forward to.  Of course, we will have to finish the week with a huge celebration of sorts – maybe a family movie night or a family-friendly competition either outside or with board games.  We could always do our new favorite pastime which is taking a bike ride together.  Whatever it ends up looking like, if we are together, it will be fun.

What about you?  Is there one thing that you can do purposefully this Spring Break with your kids to help create lasting memories while enforcing some family values in a fun way?  If everyone gave one comment about what your particular family enjoys, then we all could add to our resources and create different, fun family memories than we have in the past.

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Personalize It!

“Draw close to God and he will draw close to you…”  James 4:8.

I have talked often about how personal the God is that I serve.  God likes to answer our prayers in very individual ways and He does not show favoritism.  God loves to personalize each situation for each individual, knowing better than anyone does the best solution to fit each person’s needs, experiences, and desires.  One thing that is important to remember is that God is not going to go against His own beliefs or teachings for anyone’s blessings.  That, too, is reassuring, because confidence is found when the answer received is perfect in all ways just for you and your situation.

I received a particular blessing recently that began back in May 2011.  I had been working for two separate companies as an independent contractor in medical transcribing in order to have the privilege of working from home while raising our family.  I received a phone call in May stating that I was being let go; not because of my job performance, but the lines I was typing were needed for a full-time employee.  Getting off the phone, my first response was to panic.  After a few minutes, I deliberately chose a different response.  While scared about the prospect of losing one-quarter to one-third of my paycheck, effective immediately, I decided that I was going to trust God to provide for our family.  He prompted me to email a friend that I had formerly worked for and ask if her company was hiring.  They were, she was interested, and I was hired after only eight hours of being unemployed.  The only downside to this employment was it could possibly be temporary.  The company’s account was renewed every three months and if not renewed, then I would be without work again.  I had a peace that this was the job I was supposed to take and therefore, I continued to trust God for my paycheck every week, thanking Him for this opportunity to work again with a valued friend.

Fast forward to October 2011:  I had just returned from attending a Write It To The Bank seminar hosted by Dan Miller and his family.  I came back home to a job that I enjoyed, feeling that God was beginning to help me forge a different career path.  While on the trip, during the conference, I asked God to please, if it was His will, to make it possible for me to make enough money to pay the bills while working only for the main company I typed for, freeing up some time for me to pursue the journey He was leading me down.  I asked God for the timeframe of being finished with the smaller company in December or maybe January at the very latest.

December and January came and went.  My workload had doubled since returning home in October and I was feeling a little frustrated:  I needed more balance in my life, I needed more time to get things accomplished, and I wanted to see some results.  I realized my attitude was not helping anyone, especially myself.  So, I chose, once again, to give God my frustrations, ask Him to help me find balance, and be thankful for the two companies that were allowing me to work for them.  By changing my attitude, I again felt peace that I was where I was supposed to be at this particular time in my life.  I gave up my time tables and just waited for God to show me what He wanted to happen in my life, grateful that I had work and a plan.

February 2012:  I received a call from the smaller company wondering if I could work more, not less.  I was flattered and willing to help out, but explained to her how much work I was currently doing.  She asked if I would rather quit than continue with their company because of the current workload I was already experiencing.  After explaining how I had been praying about the situation and not really feeling like God was calling me to quit, I agreed to hang on until the end of February when more information would be available regarding the account.  Again, I chose to trust and felt a real peace that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.  Almost exactly one week later, the decision had been made for me.  The company did not receive the renewal for the contract, and by the end of March, I would be done with this particular company.  I am incredibly thankful to be able to work at a job I thoroughly enjoy, for a wonderful boss, while walking in God’s timetable the next step of the journey that He has planned for my life.  I will miss the other company and the experiences that they gave me, but I am so thankful that they were willing to hire me back in May of 2011.

This experience showed me many different lessons:  When I actively choose to have faith in God instead of giving in to fear during situations that are incredibly stressful and seem quite hopeless from a human perspective, He always comes through in an incredibly personal way.  When I actively choose to trust God for wisdom in situations, He again always gives the right answer at the right time, His time.  I find that sometimes the answer is not just to bless me, but also to bless others.  When I give up my agenda, choosing to praise Him and trust that His will is best, even if the answer is “no or not yet,” that is usually when God shows off with his answer the most.

God never disappoints.  In my experience, He has never given me an answer that has been detrimental or negative for me or my household.  He will, however, allow less-than-ideal circumstances in my life to teach lessons or help me grow in faith or show me something I would not otherwise have learned, but He, Himself, has always been dependable, personal, and individual in answering my prayers to supply our needs, and sometimes, more often than not, allowing us to enjoy some “wants” too.

My prayer in telling this story is that you will desire to want to experience God personally in your life too.  The great news is that you can – but it is up to you to choose!

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Fear or Faith

“Courage is just fear that has said its prayers,” (Dorothy Bernard).

We are all afraid of something.  What we are afraid of may look different, but the feelings experienced when fear sets in are very similar.  It is the rapid heartbeat, the lump in the throat, shaking all over, or the feeling of wanting to run, scream, or hide.

Fear has many different forms, each form causing a different reaction.  While the fear of failure may paralyze some people and keep them from pursuing their dream, the fear of dying young or having an early heart attack may spur others on to healthier eating and regular exercise.  We have a saying in our house:  Courage is not about never being scared, it is about not quitting even while still afraid.

In my opinion, you cannot talk about courage in the midst of fear without including the element of faith.  Faith in something that motivates people even more than fear does.

While fear can motivate some people to achieve great things, it causes paralysis in others that keep them from pursuing their destiny.  Faith is much more powerful than fear, without the negative consequences.  Faith is courage with wings.  Faith essentially says that you are relying on Someone who is bigger, stronger, and much more competent than yourself to help you figure out what decision to make, direction to go, or even how to begin to conquer that ever-consuming paralyzing fear that you have struggled with for too long.  Faith, like everything else in our lives, is very personal.  Therefore, when making the decision to hand your fears over to the One who can handle them by choosing faith, it is amazing to see just how personal the answer is that you will receive.

While both fear and faith can be motivators in our lives, when given the choice, I am going to choose faith.  Faith that my God is personal and knows what is best for my life and faith that when I follow His plan instead of mine, it will be better than anything I could have chosen for myself.

Where does someone start who wants that kind of faith?  It is really quite simple.  God talks about how much easier it is for a child to have faith than adults.  This is not because children are dumb; instead, it is because they are more trusting and do not try to handle their problems themselves.  God wants us to trust Him and hand our problems over to Him, without taking them back.  When I do that, I am always humbled to see just how personally God answers.  I know that He is willing to do that for me, and that makes me excited to think about the amazing things He is waiting to do for you!

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James 1:19: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (NIV).

Just as we learned earlier this week how vital it is to our children’s emotional wellbeing to be heard, it is also extremely important that we put into practice this concept with our spouses, friends, and coworkers.

How many arguments would be avoided if instead of half listening to our loved ones concerns while formulating the perfect response in our heads, we just sat back and really heard what was being said, underneath the words, listening to the heart of the person who is speaking?

I know that I am guilty of replying with, “I’m fine,” when asked how I am doing when in actuality that is the furthest from the truth.  Sometimes all someone wants to hear is, “No, really, how are you doing?”  Then maybe they would feel free to share what is really on their heart to a trusted friend, without the risk of being judged, lectured, or criticized.

There is always time for further discussions and opportunities to express your opinion if asked.  I can almost 100% guarantee that something said in anger or frustration, or labeled as “constructive criticism” will be remembered by the receiver long after you have forgotten the words that escaped from your mouth.  As Joyce Meyer says, “Don’t judge others.  God likes variety and we’ve all got our own little brand of ‘strangeness.'”

For today, instead of trying to fix things, lecture, get your point across, or make sure someone knows how you really feel about their situation, think about just listening to not only what is being said, but to the heart of the person who is doing the talking.  You just might be surprised what you discover about them, and ultimately, also, about yourself.

 

 

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You Never Listen

Proverbs 17:28: “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” (NIV)

It is my responsibility as a mother to tell my children many things.  Some of those things include what chores they need to do, reminding them more often than I should the best time to do those chores, as well as instructing them on the proper way to complete said chores.  It is also my responsibility to buy nutritious food for them to eat, prepare healthy meals with a few snacks thrown in to keep life interesting, and clean clothes for them to wear.  In addition to providing for their physical needs, it is my responsibility as a parent to teach my children basic values, life lessons, and common courtesies so that they will grow into responsible adults who contribute to society, not detract from.

One thing I fail to remember too often is that part of my job description does not include telling my children how they feel.  It has to be quite frustrating “to feel one thing and have someone you love and trust keep telling you the opposite” (Maggie at Just Say NO to Mommy Brain!).

I know that I certainly do not appreciate being told by anyone how I am supposed to feel, especially when I am upset.  When I have had a bad day, I usually just want to vent my frustration, cry a little, or forget about it.  I do not want to hear that what I am feeling is not really what I am feeling.  Sadly, that is exactly what I end up doing to the ones I love more than I should.

I got a firsthand glimpse of this when my two-year-old fell down.  After quickly assessing the situation to realize he did not get any serious injuries, I responded by clapping and cheering, thinking that by making light of the situation I was helping him grow up not to expect emergency room treatment every time he gets a scrape.  His, “No, Mama, no yeah!” told me exactly how he was feeling.  He did not want the cut and dry version of assessing his injuries (or lack thereof).  He wanted to be heard.

It only gets worse when the pain becomes emotional.  Hurt feelings from friends at school, being excluded from an activity no matter if intentional or accidental, and feeling out of sorts because everything that could be counted on in life is now different are just a few of the ups and downs that our children have to encounter while growing up.

Just as when I am facing difficult situations in my life and need to be heard, my kids need and deserve, even more of that consideration from me.  I feel honored that I have the kind of relationship with my children that they want to share their feelings, fears, thoughts, and emotions with me.  I need to remember that those feelings, fears, emotions, and thoughts are precious and need protection.  I will have plenty of time another day to teach life lessons and instill character-building traits – but right now, I need to remember that having them feel heard is much more valuable than making them listen.

 

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“I have learned to view what others may see as obstacles as my opportunities.”  (Tyler Sexton)

Do you ever notice that there are different personality types in the world:  those that see their mistakes as failures and those who view their mistakes as opportunities?  I tend to be very hard on myself, expecting nothing less than perfection in much of what I do.  That is not necessarily a very healthy perspective.  I am working on refining that about myself so that instead I can model more a person who sees opportunities for growth in the various obstacles that cross her path.

I am not sure if a person is naturally born looking at life in such a positive way or if it is the influence of those around her that gives a person such a healthy perspective.  Whatever the case may be, I think that if a person really wants to, she can slowly change her mindset from one of viewing life negatively to viewing what life has to offer with a more positive attitude.

My husband and I want to raise our children to view their challenges exactly that way.  For someone to whom that does not come naturally, this is a tough assignment.  I think of myself as a relatively positive person, but when stressed out, busy, or preoccupied, if one of my family members spills milk for the fifth day in a row at dinner, my first reaction is not going to be, “Wow, another opportunity to learn where to position your glass.”  Instead, in all honesty, as it is dripping off the table and onto the dog, it more likely is, “Oh boy, one more thing to clean up.”

I do notice, though, the more refreshed, focused, and less burned out I am, the better I am able to cope with life’s little mistakes, no matter who makes them.  That really puts things into perspective for me and leads me to this conclusion:  I think viewing obstacles as opportunities is a combination of a person’s genetic makeup and a certain mindset.  That gives me hope that I can someday achieve a more balanced perspective in my own life, and I might just be able to pass along a healthier perspective to the next generation that I have been blessed to guide along the way.

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