Friday, May 26, 2017

Clearing Your Head

Oh, this image both makes me laugh and internally cry at the same time -- because how many of us can relate to this are our reality? Replace a couple of those images with kids and a mop... some laundry... you feel me?

Which of those images gets the most of your time? Lately -- I feel like a good bit of it is stuff that doesn't matter... I was spending too much time clearing off my phone and too little time hanging with the people that matter.

What did I do? I started deleting apps off of my phone so that there were fewer distractions. I deleted all sorts of different things, but I also stopped mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. I still look at them and use them, but I don't spend the same amount of time on them these days. They just make me nuts these days anyway with their crazy, ever-changing algorithms that anyway -- so I just quit letting it take over.

I've replaced that with things I enjoy -- spending time watching a movie with the kids, writing on this blog, reading books about things that matter to me... that's how I'm spending my time these days.

It's time to let go of all the distractions and live differently. Just because the world is continuing to fill every second with noise and clutter -- replacing meaningful connection and stillness -- doesn't mean that YOU have to live that way. I'm learning this lesson repeatedly lately, and I don't think that's by accident.

Sometimes getting the same lesson over and over is because we aren't listening or open to receiving the message. If you're too busy -- maybe you just aren't hearing it. Maybe you're choosing to ignore it because you don't want to be different, I get that. Maybe you just don't want to change, but sometimes that brings on more hardships too -- so tread lightly there, friends.

I have avoided my fair share of life lessons at times, and others I have learned to lean into and embrace. One tried and true way to figure out what is going on and what needs to change is a major truth bomb that just exploded in my reality the other day. You ready for this one?

Sometimes the things you complain about can show you exactly where you need to change. For instance, if you are complaining about not having enough time -- maybe you're spending your time on the wrong things. Take the things you're complaining about and find a positive change that can help you move in a different direction. Those changes can be very small, but they can add up over time.

I'm thinking a lot about this these days -- and looking for those small things that I can change instead of complaining about where I am. I heard a quote the other day that was just so profound to me... let this sink in...

After winter always comes spring...

If this doesn't speak to so many trials in life -- I don't know what does. I feel like I've been walking around in a fog for a long time, but now I can see those little signs of life coming through the dirt lately. Now to nurture them so that they can grow into the prettiest flowers, the sweetest fruit, or the tallest trees. 

I'll leave you with this because who knew that a truth bomb like this was hidden in an 80s classic movie... 

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Fruitful Friendships

I've been a mom now for 8 years roughly, and there is a distinct shift between the friends I had before children and those I've made after having them. Now, some of the shifts have come from moving to Memphis and back while the boys were babies... but follow me here. 

There is (or there was for me) an intense time after becoming a mother -- slightly more intense because of having two babies in the span of 6 months -- of isolation and loneliness. Couple that with my extreme shyness around new people, and you've got a cocktail for a bit of depression. Just before we moved to Memphis, my doctor put me on some medications for depression because he was noticing signs of it with having two babies in itself... but that's a story for a different day. 

Since that time, we've moved home... had a couple of brain surgeries that left 2014 pretty isolated for obvious reasons... we're now entering a time when I feel very centered and like I've found myself an amazing little group of friends. We are small in number, but mighty in heart and love. 

I've found 2 women that I literally feel like I can call in the middle of the night if needed... allow them in to see the chaos and mess of our home, and they will love me right through it. Bottom line, I can be my REAL self with them. Bad attitude, occasionally petty, ungrateful at times -- self. We are from very different backgrounds, different stages of parenting, some veered away for a bit, but we just fit. 

A few months ago, we came back together stronger than ever... the kind of friendship that doesn't skip a beat after not talking for a while. The kind that needs to be nurtured and grown -- because you cherish it as much as you do your family. These two women are my sisters in life -- every bit as important to me as the sisters I got from birth and marriage. 

I hope that I bless them as much as they bless me on a daily basis as we do life together -- often through text messages and field trips with the kids -- but I look forward to our mom's nights away every month. I mean seriously, can you imagine spending 5 hours in a Chili's chatting -- and not even feeling like it has been 30 minutes? Yep... that's us. 

Summer Goal Setting

I promise that my constant chatter about Lara Casey is coming to a close for a bit here. (click on the photos to be taken over to her shop) But I had to share about these amazing short books that she has created to help you cultivate a few specific areas of your life that are deeply important. 

This friendship book is larger than the other two and has some amazing ideas for growing Fruitful Friendships. It tells you what that looks like, and helps you plan action steps to help your friendships grow and flourish. This is what I aim to do this summer!

I emailed my two friends about this book -- and we're planning to go through it together over the next few weeks. Lara and another lady from her office, Jess, are going to lead us all through it on Wednesdays this summer page by page on their Facebook page... every week at noon Eastern time beginning on May 31st. 

Summer Goal Setting

This is the couples book -- which will help you set some goals for your marriage and work toward a better/deeper connection. 
Summer Goal Setting

This one for Parents can be worked on with your kids, or just with your spouse... but it's another way to set some intentional goals for building the relationships in your family. 

What I love about these books is that you get to make the goals fit your family, and Lara just helps you walk through figuring out what is most important to you in this season you are in... then set goals to build from where you are. I've got all 3 of them, and plan to make a point to do my best in these 3 areas this next year. In addition to one more area... which is caring for myself from the inside out... if I'm not running at my best health (both physically and spiritually), then I'm no good to these other areas of my life.

What tips and tricks do you have for bettering your friendships, marriage, parenting, and self-care?
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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Summer Reading List

To know me is to know that I love books... I come by it honestly because my Dad and his 3 brothers have entire rooms loaded with book shelves we are talking about floor to ceiling types of hoarding situations. I'm not at that level yet, but I did just take 6 boxes of books to Half Price Books yesterday to sell them... so maybe I'm closer than I think? (Don't answer that!)

I'm always reading on my Kindle App at night -- and I've worked my way through all of the Hannah Swensen murder mystery books, the Coffeehouse Mysteries books, and am now working my way through the White House Chef Mysteries. The fun part about all 3 of these series is that they have a food element to the stories, so there are also recipes included for the things that they talk about in the stories. I haven't made any of them yet, but a good friend of mine is making at least one recipe out of each book as she reads them.

My summer reading list includes these fiction titles, but several other things as well -- want to peek into my bag of books? (click on the photos to be taken directly to their listing on Amazon)

I'm on the book launch team for this book, and y'all it's amazing -- I'm 2 chapters in and it's literally life changing... seriously, you want to RUN over and preorder a copy of this book today! It comes out on June 27th, and truly -- you will not regret the life-affirming words on these pages. Here is the description from Amazon:

"Women often feel like they have to have it all together in order to live a meaningful life. Instead they feel inadequate, overwhelmed, and exhausted as they to figure out how to do it all. Author, business owner, and mom to three Lara Casey offers sound and grace-filled advice: “We can’t do it all, and do it well. But, we can choose to cultivate what matters.”
Welcome to the journey of getting messy in the rich soil of possibility—embracing imperfect, grace-filled progress to grow a life of joy.
Written as part encouragement anthem and part practical guide, Cultivate offers wisdom from God’s Word alongside lessons Lara has learned in her garden. Woven throughout is her personal story that helps release readers from the pressure to achieve and gives them freedom to move from planning to planting a meaningful legacy. “It’s in the imperfect—the mess of the dirt--that good things grow,” Casey reminds readers. “Peonies grow through the dirt, and so do we.” Readers will learn to embrace the season they’re in, finding balance as they interact in fresh ways with their current life scenarios, with God, and in the communities where they are planted.
Special features include

  • Actionable Cultivate It prompts throughout the book
  • A ten-week Cultivate Together discussion guide with questions for small groups
  • “Grace from the Garden” vignettes provide encouragement and inspiration
Find the joy and the freedom that comes in cultivating what matters, little by little, with God’s transforming grace."

I need this in my life -- I need simple, easy, and imperfect... I need more real and less Pinterest worthy snapshots of what life isn't. I'll be putting this one at the top of the list, it's first up after I finish Cultivate. I've got Emily's Next book on preorder as well! Here is the description of the book from Amazon:

"As a busy wife, new mother, business owner, and designer, Emily Ley came to a point when she suddenly realized she couldn’t do it all. She needed to simplify her life, organize her days, and prioritize the priorities. She decided to hold herself to a standard of grace rather than perfection. This mantra led to the creation of her bestselling Simplified Planner®, a favorite among busy women everywhere—from mamas to executives and everywhere in between.
Grace, Not Perfection takes this message from a daily planner to an inspirational book that encourages women to simplify and prioritize. Designed with Emily Ley’s signature aesthetic, this book gives women tangible ways to simplify their lives to give space to what matters most. With a focus on faith, Emily reminds readers that God abundantly pours out grace on us—and that surely we can extend grace to ourselves.
Have you been told you can have it all, only to end up exhausted and occasionally out of sorts with the people you love? Are you ready for a new way of seeing your time? Learn to live a little more simply. Hold yourself and those you love to a more life-giving standard in Grace Not Perfection, and allow that grace to seep into your days, your family, and your heart."
My sister sent me a text yesterday about this book -- so naturally, I had to get it -- but the premise sounds like it's right up my alley. It's a book about setting up schedules and routines so that everyone knows what to expect next and if that doesn't speak to my sweet James' need for order and structure. If this one sticks with me -- I'm going to check out their book Managers of Their Chores. Here is the description: 
"Completely revised and direct from Titus2! What resource could be better than Managers of Their Homes to bring families peace and order? The answer is the newly revised Managers of Their Homes!! Managers of Their Homes has been thousands of moms' go-to resource for the past 17 years. But with time, comes even more experience besides our own and the pilot families who tested it out. We've gained new insights that we realized were vital to include in this treasured book.
Each chapter has been extensively revised and more helpful tips added. You'll also find a special chapter on how to schedule when a mom faces health challenges or is on bedrest. Plus, what good is a schedule if you can't make it run smoothly? Schedules ARE stress-busters, but you need the proper tools to make it that way. So with that in mind, we've given practical help on implementing despite the challenges you face.
In addition, the chapter on putting your schedule together with the included Scheduling Kit gives an optional route if you choose to subscribe to the online scheduling software (ScheduleBreeze). The book's new design and format makes for a super easy and comfortable read.
Grab your revised copy of Managers of Their Homes now! Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to go to bed each night, with the peace of mind that you accomplished what you wanted to each day, such as a clean house, AND homeschooling? Tens of thousands of moms prove it is possible, every day. This book INCLUDES the Scheduling Kit."

I saw an interview a week or so ago or maybe it was a podcast talking about it -- but this book sounded like something that interested me. I feel like I need some help and tips to help make sure that my kids are better than what I'm seeing lately -- both in my home and in the world. 

"In The Collapse of Parenting, internationally acclaimed author Leonard Sax argues that rising levels of obesity, depression, and anxiety among young people can be traced to parents abdicating their authority. The result is children who have no standard of right and wrong, who lack discipline, and who look to their peers and the Internet for direction. Sax shows how parents must reassert their authority—by limiting time with screens, by encouraging better habits at the dinner table, and by teaching humility and perspective—to help their children thrive in an increasingly complicated world." 
I heard someone mention this book, and it just sounded like something I needed to check out -- I can't decide where it'll fit in the order of priority -- but it's definitely in the top of the stack. Here is the Amazon description: 
"Today’s busier, faster society is waging an undeclared war on childhood. With too much stuff, too many choices, and too little time, children can become anxious, have trouble with friends and school, or even be diagnosed with behavioral problems. Now internationally renowned family consultant Kim John Payne helps parents reclaim for their children the space and freedom that all kids need for their attention to deepen and their individuality to flourish. Simplicity Parenting offers inspiration, ideas, and a blueprint for change:
• Streamline your home environment. Reduce the amount of toys, books, and clutter—as well as the lights, sounds, and general sensory overload.
• Establish rhythms and rituals. Discover ways to ease daily tensions, create battle-free mealtimes and bedtimes, and tell if your child is overwhelmed. 
• Schedule a break in the schedule. Establish intervals of calm and connection in your child’s daily torrent of constant doing.
• Scale back on media and parental involvement. Manage your children’s “screen time” to limit the endless deluge of information and stimulation. 

A manifesto for protecting the grace of childhood, Simplicity Parenting is an eloquent guide to bringing new rhythms to bear on the lifelong art of raising children."
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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Intentional Summer

This year I've been setting monthly intentional goals for myself, and some months I keep up with them better than others. I love the heart behind this process though because there is a series of pages at the beginning of the process that you work through to uncover your intentional goals for the year. At the end of each season there is a small refresh section where you can reevaluate where you are and if you need to adjust your goals for the upcoming months.

They also have some great practical and fun things for you to read through along the way as well. 

This is what the goal refresh page looks like for the summer -- and I will be resetting some of mine this time around. I want to change the way I attack some of them with my new mindset lately and give myself some new action steps to work toward meeting each of them. 

Part of the other side of the page getting ready to set your specific goals for June. Then you continue to move into the June tab. 

One last page before setting up your list of monthly, weekly, and daily task items -- you get a chance to get a few things off of your chest. It's freeing to fill this page out before you move on to the next step. 

This tending list helps you to then get your mind around setting small attainable action items to make little by little progress on your goals. There are times when items go undone -- but there are also times when you can fill in the little progress bars to completion too. It's all a process of just trying to do the best you can. 

Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 24th, Lara Casey the creator of Powersheets will be on Facebook Live talking about the process and hacks! I would welcome seeing any of my friends on the live broadcast along with me. 
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Monday, May 22, 2017

Seasons of Change

I'm not sure when or how it happened, but suddenly I'm at a place where I just am feeling so deeply grateful for the paths I've crossed in the last year.

If I look back about a year ago... not quite, but July 2016... things were looking very dark and I had a lot of turmoil in my life. There was a friendship that wasn't working, a community that wasn't working, and just general unhappiness. One morning, I woke up and it just wasn't my chosen path anymore.

I took a step out in faith and I walked away - as I've said before - when your heart attitude mirrors something that you don't like, it's time to walk away. I've done this a few times in my life, and I think that it's the place where I am able to uncover exactly where I need to be. Things along this new path may not always be easy, there will surely be rocks and obstacles... but it will be worth it.

This doesn't always look like a huge fight, but sometimes it is a drifting apart that just gets to a point that it needs a clean break... so at the end of July 2016, I made that clean break. It was time, and while it's hard and painful... it was truly time. I walked away. I don't harbor any bad feelings about any of it, but for me - it was freeing to be able to move in the direction that works best for my little world.

To shift my focus on things that matter to me -- and things that would matter to me when I'm at the end of my life. Who would be around me, what things would look like... and where I would be the most at peace in all things.

Ironically, it was at the same time that I started hearing about someone that has quickly become one of my favorite inspirational figures -- Lara Casey -- the first time I encountered her Facebook Page, she was completely open, raw, and vulnerable about having to start completely over on writing her new book. I was instantly drawn to her realness and her spiritualness even in the time of a huge struggle... and I just knew -- THIS is the type of person that would inspire me toward that place I am heading. She is a kindred spirit for me too because she also has two littles that are 6 months apart in age - so she gets exactly where I've been in that.

I'm looking for simplified, spiritual, and grateful... that's where I'm heading. When I reach the end of my time here on earth - I want the words -- spiritual, generous, loving, and grateful to be spoken about me.

  • I want my family to know how deeply they were loved - even if it was imperfectly loved.
  • I want my friends to know how much I cherished doing life alongside them.  
  • I want people to think of me as being generous with all things - while also making sure to do those things well.
  • I want people to know that everything they've done for me is appreciated... even things that I didn't like. 
  • I want to take my last breath with everyone knowing that there isn't a single thing that I regret. 
Life hasn't been perfect, there have been many ups and downs along the way -- but all of those things shape us to the place that we are meant to go according to God's plan. There can be frustration in not knowing the ultimate plan, but everything worth having is worth waiting & struggling for. 

This quote is so true, now with some hindsight on where I've been spent the last year of my life, I can absolutely relate to it. In walking away from one friend, I lost another one for a while -- but we've reconnected and things are just much more fruitful right now in where we are. I look forward to growing our friendship, and that with another one who has never waivered in her support of me... good things are coming. 

My hope in writing this is to share that over the coming posts -- I'm going to show you more about this new outlook on life, share what I'm doing to get after these things, and love my people well. I hope that you'll stick around with me on this journey. 
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