Having trouble reaching your goals for 2016? Losing steam in keeping resolutions? Feel like you weren't meant to win the race set before you? My dear friend, its not you, its the World.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying our resolutions are destined to fail. I'm not dissing your goals nor negating your hopes. But until we accept the how the world works against our bright dreams we cannot understand what we are up against.
I began 2016 determined to see everyday as beautiful, to have an attitude that went beyond what was expected and find joy for everything life throws at me. I've got great intentions. I have the drive to get it done. I have armed myself with knowledge. I have the great power of God with me. Of God in me. Why is this so hard?
Because the world is hard. I have already had days where I have felt I am utterly failing in my goals. The kids act up. Unexpected problems occur. Medical supplies don't arrive on time. I eat a million pieces of cake. I'm too tired to write.
I fail. The day ends in a bleak summary of painful unrealized dreams.
I was sharing this with one of my friends and she asked me what was the first thing I did each day.
Coffee. Feed kids. Attempt a devotional. Clean house.
My friend looked at me and said, "The world is going to come at you full of its trials and beauty. The only thing we can change is how we meet the world--with how we begin the day."
Oh. Yeah. I knew that. Or did I? I know that my best days, no matter what happens in those days, are the days where I manage to have quiet prayer and devotions before Micaela wakes up needing to be fed and changed, before Adela tumbles out of bed demanding hugs, and before I need to get breakfast on the table so my husband can leave the house with the fuel he needs to work.
But I have been skimping on this time. I want coffee first. And I want just five more minutes of sleep. No, fifteen, thirty minutes. Often I wake up and just go, go, go. It is nap time before I manage a quiet conversation with God and by then I'm disheartened and exhausted.
How we face the world each day is very key to any goal we have. I once read that people who began their day with exercise were more likely to make healthy choices the rest of the day. Dieticians are quick to confirm that a healthy breakfast will give you a better chance at sticking to a nutricious diet. So, it makes sense, doesn't it, that if we want to be emotionally healthy we should begin the day with something that sets a stage of peace and optimismo.
Because the world is going to come at us, ready or not.
How are you greeting the world each day?
Come near to God and he will come near to you.
Thursday morning I gripped the steering wheel before I had even turned on the car and thought, "Oh, God, I don't want to do this. I just want to stay home."
For a thousand and one reasons, my monthly visits seem to tax my coping capabilities. I hate taking Micaela out of her routine when she is finally doing so much learning and developing. But Albuquerque is a non-negotiable destination. Micaela's specialists and the feeding clinic are there. And it is a blessing, I have a lot of dear friends in this city and my amazing sister to stay with. So, it really isn't a hardship.
But it is still hard.
I was away from my home exactly 28 hours this time in which every second was planned and used wisely so that I could make the most of the mileage.
Those busy days are common to a lot of people's plights in life. Often we are left with a couple days on the weekend to work on family and homes. Or, for us stay-at-home/work-at-home individuals, venturing from our homes can be a chore as we get out of our comfort zone and strap children into car seats.
If you have one of those days coming up, here are a few things I have learned from my own crazy days when so much needs to be done and you have little time to breathe.
1. Live it! That's right. It is what it is--the craziness, the cranky children, the weird weather, the unreasonably long Walmart lines, and the long wait at the doctor's office. You are already in this. You are already here. So stop obsessing about how bad it is or how bad it could get. Just be here, now, in this moment, and live. You'll realize that the here and now is more manageable when you focus on only one moment at a time.
2. Have a game plan. Have a list of things you need to buy, places you need to go, and friends you would like to see. Have addresses. Keep track of time. Remember that a plan is only a plan. Things can change. But you will get a lot more accomplished if you know where you are going after each stop and keep track of time so you do not aimlessly wander Target and lose half your day.
3. Snacks and water. Do healthy and fun and don't expect to grab it on the way. You are going to feel a lot better and be able to cope with a lot more if you keep yourself hydrated and nourished with some complex carbs, proteins, and good fats dancing around in your system. Plus, those little ones will keep up a lot better too.
4. Appreciate your battle buddies. My battle buddies are usually the girls, so if I see them as tiny gremlins intent on making the day even harder than it already was, then we are guaranteed to lose the fight. They are right there with me in the doctor's office and the backed-up traffic. I make sure to remind them how much I appreciate their good attitudes and how great it is that they want to sing "Joy, joy, joy," again...and again, and again.
5. Have support. I would never make it through these stressful trips if I didn't have amazing friends to visit like Jessica, (best friend from college) or my wonderful sister. Even calling friends when I'm out on errands and having them put my life back into perspective will put me back on an even keel. It is another reason why friendships are amazingly important.
As you look at your to-do list of errands today I hope some of these tips help. These days are definitely rough, but they are part of life. And I am sure that you, just like me, want to love this day and not just survive it.
I would love to hear of some other ways my readers out there survive those busy days. Comment, message, or find me on Facebook if you would like to share. :)
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
I always loved those energetic little boys in my classrooms with their mischievous smiles and sparkling eyes. They made me laugh even if they could be frustrating and disruptive as one of my students. But one year there was a little boy whom I ended up loving with everything in me as a teacher. I had no idea I could be so affected by another little soul until I met this child. For the sake of this story I am going to call him Isaac.
Isaac was a seven year-old foster kid with a rough home and a tormented past. He had fetal alcohol syndrome and deeply seated fears. His eyes were full of pain and he had a hard time in school.
Everyday was difficult for Isaac. He could fly into unreasonable fits of rage in which I would have to evacuate the other students from the classroom. He obsessed about small things as he tried to maintain control of his world. It took me about two months to gain his trust and have him believe that I truly wanted him to succeed. I think the first time I saw him smile it was so amazing that I almost burst into tears. After he realized that the other teachers and I wanted him to be successful, he worked hard to improve. But it was difficult. Every time he lost control and lost his temper again we had to start over, re-building his self-esteem and trust. His look of despair would break my heart.
That year there were often days where I had a headache from stress the entire time school was in session. It was difficult, but in Isaac's heart he meant no harm and he was trying so hard to move beyond his predestined pain. I was so proud him.
In the Bible Paul wrote, "What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of His wrath--prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory--even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?" (Romans 9:22-24)
We are all sinful little children, broken and destructive, but when I think about my experience with Isaac, I understand in part why God still loves us so thoroughly and rejoices when we choose to try to be different, to change, to grow. God knows how hard it is for us. He knows how much pain we suffer within our brokenness, but He cherishes the exact person that we are.
God's love is too powerful for Him to be hurt or resentful each time we fall apart. He only rejoices when we pick ourselves back up and trust Him to teach us a better way.
Are you feeling lost, frustrated, angry, and broken these days? Take heart. God rejoices in You, the child who has chosen Him.
If you are an introvert, like me, you might notice you have a hard time sharing experiences with others. My first instinct is to do things by myself. I think it will be simpler and easier that way. But when I take a risk and decide to share that experience with someone else, I have to admit that it is a richer and funner activity than I ever could have had if I was alone.
It had been weighing on me for a few weeks now. I needed to start my tomatoes in indoor-pots so that they could go outside when garden-planting time came. But I kept putting it off. I really wanted to do it when the girls weren't around. Or I wanted to do it on a day nice enough that the mess could go outside. But it was time, it was windy, and it was something I knew both the girls would enjoy doing. So I shared.
It was messy.
It was a little frustrating.
It was so much fun.
If I had done this by myself it would have taken a third of the time. But hey, the girls were happy and learning for nearly an hour as we planted our tomato seeds in a dozen little pots.
I felt like a good mom, too.
It was worth getting potting soil all over the kitchen floor.
And the memories of Adela talking to her "baby tomatoes" and telling them to go to sleep while Micaela giggled and rubbed potting soil between her hands, those are the memories that fill motherhood with confirmation that life is rich. That life is full. That life is beautiful.
I hope God pushes me each and every time I am faced with something I need to share with someone else. Memories are gifts. Some things are so much better shared.
"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
My beautiful mother was, well, to put it nicely, a collector. She had dozens of hobbies, mountains of interests, and collected various objects for decades before God took her home to heaven. I remember how frustrated I found clutter to be when I was growing up and now endeavor to keep such infiltration of unwanted objects from collecting on tables, counters, and the top of the microwave.
You can't blame me right? Clutter causes waste and keeps us from getting rid of the trash in our lives. But before you say "Amen, sister." I must give a bit of a confession.
I have harbored such a great deal of prejudice towards clutter in my home that I overlooked how it seeped in to other areas of my life. Take a look at this list and see if you might have some of or similar issues with clutter.
Phone Apps The day that I finally upgraded to a smartphone the world of amazing handy apps unfolded. I quickly cluttered up my phone with preschool learning, weather, facebook, KLOVE, and random games. Suddenly every time I answered a text I was also checking notifications from various apps and playing a quick game of match 3. Last night I snuggled on the couch to watch TV and realized that many of those useful apps were wasting valuable time in my life and needed to be thrown in the trash. Especially the games.
Projects I believe I must have a distorted view of my own life and capabilities. Why else would I decide on taking so many projects all at one time? Right now I have mending, tomato plants that need planting, frames to fill with photos, and various other projects in boxes upstairs that make me cringe. Sometimes I never get to those projects and realize that I wasted time and money on something that was never going to happen. It reminds me that before I take on more I need to un-clutter those projects from my ever-growing to-do list.
Housework Okay, I go through nasty little phases where I'm obsessed with ridiculous things like sideboard dust and ever-bleaching the microwave. They end up being the most stressful times in my life and I often have take a step back and really think about priorities. My little girls would benefit much more from story-time with a good book than a wired-mother armed with Windex who things that the digital numbers on the oven are not shiny enough.
Bible Studies It sounds weird, I know, but often when I am going through a rough time I turn to a knew Bible study or devotional to help me to cope. Before I know it I have a stack of studies and devotionals to get through during my few "Quiet Times" with God. I race through the books and skim verses, eager to cross each off my list for the day but am more frazzled and less peaceful than before. I find I am more spiritually nourished when I set all but two Bible Studies or Devotionals to the side and really devote myself to spending time with God so I can listen to Him as I learn.
TV Shows I use TV shows to unwind a lot. It is something my husband and I enjoy sharing. But we have to be careful. With Netflix and DVRs we can easily wind up with a dozen shows we "need" to watch and suddenly our evenings are gone with no real fruit to show for the time we committed to staring at the TV. This hurts a me great deal since evenings are my best writing times with the girls in bed. I know I would rather throw most my shows in the trash than to throw away a shot at my dreams.
Are there areas of your life that need to be uncluttered? Are there things that are making you waste valuable resources? What is standing in the way of simply throwing them in the trash?
The Bible says, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Luke 12:34
Where are your treasures?
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."
Grab some fun writing materials and do it: Write down your favorite everyday things.
I know there are ten things in your life that bring you happiness everyday. I don't think they are the same for everyone, but I bet if you grab a pen and paper you would be surprised how sweet life really is.
I was having one of those down days. Sometimes it feels like life just keeps piling it on. I'll never catch my breath, I'll never catch up, I'll never finish. It is a difficult attitude to beat. The only thing I find that helps is to focus on NOW and leave the next day, the next hour, the next ten minutes in God's hand. NOW has enough demands of its own.
Today I gulped back frustration as I looked at my to-do list, my cluttered home, and the Mount Everest stack of laundry and realized that I have to make another trip into town soon to get groceries. My mind clambered for a lot of quick-fixes for my attitude--chocolate, putting on a good movie, laying face-down on the bed and groaning. I started humming My Favorite Things from Sound of Music and decided to make a quick list of my favorite things that happen almost everyday of my life--beautiful, sweet things that give me courage, strength, and smiles to enjoy the day.
Making that list was the funnest thing I've done in a long time I grabbed my favorite markers, pens, and paper and was amazed. My list is above. I think it is something we should all do and be aware of. Once you realize how fulfilling those little things are, you take the time to savor them throughout the day. And then it is not such a bummer day after all.
Life is sweet.
"I can't wait until I have a baby." "Goodness, it feels like forever the doctors are asking me wait to recover from this surgery." "I'm just going to have to wait until we can afford it to go on vacation." Waiting is all around us. When I open my ears I hear how much we dislike waiting for those big things around us, but even small things--bank lines and being on hold--try our patience.
I've had to do a lot of praying about waiting. For a while now my little family has been in a holding pattern--or at least that is what it feels like. The last month or so it weighed on me more than usual. I wondered how long do I have to wait before we see the steps to a secure future laid out for us? When will the time be right for me to pursue a more serious writing career? How long will we have to wait before Micaela can walk or talk? I want my answers now. I want them so I can feel safe again.
It seems so unfair, so wrong that I must wait. I want life to go forward, not be forever stuck in a holding pattern.
I was talking to a dear friend of mine who has been hoping for a child for a long time. It hasn't happened for her and it weighs on her. She is an amazing woman and has been a truly wonderful mother to her teenage stepson, but she longs for a baby. I hurt for her. It is so unfair. But last time we talked I realized something. Her life, marriage, and health has not always been ready for a child A light bulb came on and goosebumps grazed my arms. God loves her so much that he is making her wait.
God's perfect timing is truly an act of love.
I stepped back and thought about waiting. As my husband and I wait to figure out more definite steps to take as a family towards our future, we learn how to be a closer-knit team. We talk more about everything and are at peace with each other realizing how wonderful it is to have the same values and desires for our family. As I wait to dive into publishing, I develop my writing skills and learn to listen to God's voice. As I wait for Micaela to develop I appreciate everything about her and Adela--their personalities and how loving and precious they are.
The wait has never been something bad.
It has always been full of God's love.
What are you waiting on? And while you wait, what do you fill your mind with? Do you fill you head with frustration or do you open your heart to change?
It is time for me to stop hating the waiting. I am just as safe here as I am in some invented future when I have all I have asked for.
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
“It hurts so good!” Okay, I know it is a quote from Dumb and Dumberer but it pops into my head about a lot of things in life. Like eating a piping hot quesadilla and burning my tongue. Like staying up so late reading an amazing book that my eyes water. And, it definitely applies to exercise.
When you have little ones in your home, exercise becomes a form of art. You have to figure out a way to raise your heart-rate and make muscles groan without waking up kids, stumbling over kids, subjecting them to harsh weather, or making your own blood-pressure fly through the roof when they think mommy’s workout it is the perfect time to interrupt your life.
Sometimes I think I have done it all—walks with the stroller, Zumba in my living room, 30-day fitness challenges during naps, elliptical machine during movie time. I can never stick with one mode of exercise for long. As kids go through different stages, our houses change, and interest wanes, my form of working up a sweat evolves.
But I fight for it anyways.
Exercise brings me peace. It harnesses energy. It makes me feel confident. It makes me feel ready to take on the world. I even use it for writing block.
Amazing. It is worth fighting for.
But it is also so easy for me to give up when life throws a curve ball. Exercise feels counter-intuitive. When I am exhausted I want to sit on the couch, not do squats. When I’m feeling down I want chocolate, not a fifteen-minute run on the elliptical machine. When my toddler throws a tantrum I want to shut out the world, not invite my girls into the living room for a few minutes of booty-shaking when we all need to work out our wiggles.
Yeah, exercise doesn’t make sense but it works every time. Every time.
Right now I am trying very hard to change my perspective of physical workouts. I want to change my mind from seeing them as chores to seeing them as blessings. I want to be as excited about getting outside and walking as I am about chocolate and good books. I want to feel that keeping in shape is as important as eating, breathing, and sleeping.
Our pastor at church is fighting a heart-condition brought on by a lifetime of overeating. A few Sundays ago he humbly cautioned his congregation to care for their bodies and to go beyond the lies and forces of the world that keep us from getting and staying healthy. That is what God wants for us—to have bodies ready to do his will. Bodies that support great attitudes. Bodies that set us up for peace, joy, and success.
God is with me in this and that one thought exhilarates me to no end.
I’ve got this.
It is going to hurt so good.
The sluggard craves and gets nothing,
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"...and God was already there with me."