Life

A Time to Reflect

Can you believe 2019 is halfway over? Time seems to move pretty fast these days, so I’m trying to slow down and make room for reflection.

I’ve not made a practice of reflection in the past, but I’ve been listening to Emily P. Freeman’s podcast, “The Next Right Thing”, and she makes the concept of reflection seem almost romantic. I find myself wanting to follow in her footsteps, simply because it sounds so inviting.

Emily talks about having regular times of reflection scheduled in her calendar. One way she makes use of this time is by answering two main questions:

  1. “What was life-draining?”

  2. “What was life-giving?”

The idea centers around being aware enough of ourselves and how we’ve felt in recent months, so that we can better determine our next right thing. This allows us to intentionally live pursuing the things that bring life, while feeling confident in stepping away from the things that leave us feeling empty and dry.

It’s not an exact science. We do live with certain obligations in our lives: cleaning toilets for instance. Instead, this concept is meant to serve as a guide to help us in our decision making by keeping the bigger picture in mind.

I’ve not been intentional about making time for reflection in my life until this year. I’m new at the process, but figured I’d share with you an abbreviated version of my stab at it for the past three months:

Life-Draining

  1. Timeshare presentations. Never, ever again. The dollars we saved were not worth the heaviness I carried after the presentation. I’ll say “no” to a trip before I say “yes” to another presentation.

  2. The smartphone. Why is it, that after the scrolling or the gaming, I rarely come away feeling enriched? I have to figure out how to be better at saying “no” to my phone, so I can say “yes” to things that matter.

  3. Filling my schedule to the brim. I need space, and lots of it. When my life is too full I do not live it fully.

  4. Reading too much. Sometimes I get so lost in the story of a book that I neglect life happening right beside me.

Life-Giving

  1. Jesus. I’m not trying to sound super spiritual here, but I cannot deny the difference it makes when I take time each morning to hand my day over to Jesus.

  2. Spending time with my husband, just the two of us, on our trip to Florida. I have learned, time and time again, that our marriage thrives when we travel together. The travel eliminates distractions and allows us to give each other our complete attention. It is lovely.

  3. Quality time with my daughters. I love watching them skip down the hallway or discover something exciting. They find beauty in caterpillars and joy in the small things. They crave time spent as a family, and I want to be present for it.

  4. Girls’ weekend with a few friends. I cherish uninterrupted conversation about real things with real people who are right in front of me.

  5. Writing. The spilling of words mushed together in my brain helps me to maintain sanity, but this is nothing compared to the thrill of knowing my words have brought healing to someone else.

  6. Filling my husband’s box. Long story short, we made some significant financial decisions in order to fill a long-time dream of my husband. Knowing these efforts are bringing him life, brings more life to me than I could have imagined.

  7. Reading. Yes, This was on the life-draining list. But I’ve also remembered how much I LOVE reading! I simply need to be better about limiting myself and making sure I’m including books that will help me grow to be the best version of myself.

How will this help me in the future? I’ll recognize that saying “yes” to quality time with my people should be a priority. I’ll remember how difficult it is to breathe and think under the weight of obligations, and pause before jumping into a new project. I will live my life intentionally with purpose and direction.

What about you? What are some things about your year that have been life-draining? Life-giving? I’d love to hear about them and how you are using this information to help you move forward with the rest of your year!

If you are interested in learning straight from the source, I recommend Emily’s podcast: “The Next Right Thing”. She has a book by the same title that can be purchased here.

Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God.
— Lamentations 3:40 (The Message)

How the Enneagram Is Helping Me Find Peace with Anger

Sometimes the hardest moments for me are when my girls are upset with each other. Somebody does something the other one doesn’t like, or there is a particular toy that both parties desperately need to play with in that second, and so they whine, pout, shove, hit, scream, chase. You know, sister things.

In March, I identified that I am an enneagram 9. I enjoy personality tests in general, but this was the first time I read a description and actually felt understood. So, while the test didn’t define me, it certainly helped me understand more about myself and why I respond in certain ways in certain circumstances.

9’s are known as peacemakers. We love harmony and unity. It eats us up to think others might be offended, hurt, neglected, misunderstood. We have a tendency to avoid conflict because we thrive in peace. Different people have different ways of handling this. Personally, when I sense an underlying or impending conflict, I want to dive in right away to fix it before it blows up.

So, back to my girls. When they aren’t acting peacefully, I respond out of an imagined immediacy that everything needs to return to status quo within minutes. I am prone to diving in quickly in order to dissipate all issues as promptly as possible. I just want the fighting to stop, and when I sense it isn’t ceasing right away, my heart beats anxiously.

I hate the way I feel when my peace, or my peaceful environment, is disrupted. When I lose that sense of peace, I feel my body turning to anger as a response, and I despise it.

This probably explains why I’ve talked about anger so much on my blog. I absolutely hate the feeling of anger. What I didn’t know, before discovering the whole enneagram 9 situation, was just how anti-anger I am. I hold so strongly to a concept of living peacefully in all situations, that when my own anger rises, I feel like I have fallen.

It’s as though, when I am angry, I’m perpetuating the whole decline of peace. I’m creating my own barrier, blocking me from the thing I’m striving to accomplish in the first place. It’s maddening in the moment, revealing in the after.

One might think, as much as I talk about this fight with anger, that I deal with it all the time, but that isn’t reality. It’s actually good for me to realize that the overwhelm of anger only happens on occasion, because when I identify that it is only a small part of me, it begins to lose control over me.

The enemy wants me to think that I’m a hopeless wretch. And you know, without Jesus, that’s what I would be. But with Jesus? With Jesus those anger flare-ups are only one tiny piece of who I am. With Jesus, those bursts of anger can be turned around and made into something good and God-glorifying. By doing the dirty work of digging deep, claiming truth, and seeking His perfect peace, I give Him permission to use my life for His glory.

Earlier this month I posted a series of 3 blogs on the 3 hardest days of my postpartum depression. I talked about: 

  1. the initial situation 

  2. learning to deal with anger in practical ways

  3. coming to the end of myself and relying completely on Jesus 

Since publishing those words, I’ve had numerous women approach me about their own story. Several stating they were ready to start the work of counseling. My personal struggle of finding peace is helping others find their own.

The enemy wants us to think we are failing. That our issues are too much for anyone to handle, even Jesus. But Jesus says something quite the opposite. There is nothing too big for Him to handle. None of our emotions frighten Him. He’s there through it all and with us for it all. He is the ultimate Peacemaker, and should we follow His ways we will find the true, real, altogether perfect, supernatural peace.

I’m running after it. Care to join me?

God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God
— Matthew 5:9

Intentional

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The last time I did any sort of resolution for the New Year, I said I was going to lose 5 pounds. I ended up gaining 7, so you can see how well that worked out.

Somehow, something feels different this year. I don’t mean the weight (as of this morning those 5+7lbs of extra fluff were still waiting to greet me). What’s different is that for a month or more, I’ve had a word plastered across my mind and heart. I believe it is the word God has given me for the coming year.

Intentional.

I’ve heard of people choosing a word to define their year, but I’ve never done it. The words always felt too forced, so I never let the idea go past the initial thought stage. This time I can’t get the word out of my head.

It mostly stems from a realization that I unintentionally waste a lot of time. No judging here y’all, but sometimes I spend way too much time playing Candy Crush. Or scrolling Facebook. Or taking a nap.

These aren’t bad things, but when I let these simple little indulgences eat up my time, they get in the way of the bigger goals I have. Goals like, connecting with Jesus, writing consistently in my blog, updating my website, keeping up with household responsibilities, being a pillar for my children and my husband, serving my church, being available for my friends, etc etc.

None of that can happen while playing Candy Crush.

My other problem is that I haven’t been very good about writing things down. Say, for instance, both children are happily (!) working on their school during our homeschool hours. I usually have quite a lot of things I could accomplish, but because I haven’t written any of it down, I spend this unexpected free time trying to figure out the best use of the free time. And suddenly, my free time vanishes like my money in Target.

So far I have intentionally done two things to help me be intentional with my time this year:

  1. I enlisted a friend to read one book a month with me. I like to read, but sometimes I get distracted by little what-nots on my phone, and before I know it my time to read has vanished. I’m already 75% through my first book, and we haven’t even officially begun yet. Just knowing someone else is doing this with me helps me stick to my goal and gives me a desire to see if I can accomplish even more than my original number.

  2. I bought a planner. This isn’t the first time in my life I’ve owned a planner, but I never seem to know what to do with them. I tend to record appointments each month, and then just glance at it every now and then. Not very helpful. What I’m excited about in this planner is the goal tracker. Each month I can write down specific goals and record whether or not I’ve met them. Knowing myself, I’ll be much more intentionalwith my time knowing it’s going to be recorded in ink.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t find time to write, but the truth is, I may just have to buckle down and write in the less convenient moments of my life. I’m not saying it will be easy, or perfect, but I do believe that by being more intentional with the cracks*, I’ll be able to make headway on the greater purpose I believe God has for me.

What word would you choose for this coming year? What strategies have helped you be intentional in the past?

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward - to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” Phillippians 3:12-14 (The Message)

 

*writing in the cracks is a phrase I’ve seen used in my hope*writers group. Can’t claim that one for myself!

About that Christmas Puppy

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I’m pretty sure that by this point you’ve already done it. You’ve selected the puppy and you are eagerly awaiting the moment you can bring that sweet little ball of fluff home and video the delighted squeals of your children. You will be the hero of the day, you bringer of the Christmas puppy.

That is, unless your child distraughtly bemoans, “I wanted a cat!” Not that I know this from experience or anything.

But do you really know what you are getting yourself into?

It will all work out okay in the end. I can say these words because I absolutely ADORE the dog we got for our girls two Christmases ago. He snuggles in my lap every morning whilst I have my quiet time. He’s the happiest, softest, fluffiest, sweetest dog I’ve ever met. He treats the girls like they are his puppies and he doesn’t think twice about the way they grab and hug him all over. 

However, heed my warning before you bring your little guy home: it took us a full two years to get to this point.

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Alright, so let’s face it. The timing was not ideal. The girls were 4 and 2 at the time. I knew this would mean potty training a child and a dog simultaneously. I did not anticipate quite how difficult that task would be.

I think, deep down, I knew it wasn’t the best time for us to get a dog. But you see, the thing is, my husband HATES dogs and getting one for Christmas was HIS idea!!!! Please understand, when your husband of 10 years suggests getting a dog for the first time in your marriage, you push aside any logic and you go write a check.

Due to hubby’s deep aversion to all things canine, I gave him full reign over the type of dog we would get. He requested the same breed as our neighbor’s dog, a shih tzu, since it was the only dog he had ever halfway tolerated.

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Shih Tzu’s are notoriously hard to potty train. I’d say it took us a good year and a half before I felt really comfortable calling him potty trained. Even now, I have to leave him in his crate when we leave the house so that he doesn’t have an accident.

But do you know what it’s like to potty train a puppy in the middle of winter when you have a toddler???

First, notice just how small this puppy was. Rule number 1 of potty training a puppy is to lavish love and praises and treats whenever they tinkle outside. However, the grass was taller than he was! It was very difficult to tell if he had accomplished something worthy of such grand celebration, or if he was just fascinated by the nearest leaf. We spent a lot of time outside and it was cold.

Also, keep in mind that while I was spending all this time outside praising and watching puppy, my kiddos were back inside the house. Think about this for a moment. My choice was to either leave my little ones, inside, by themselves (bracing myself for impeding disaster), or wait the half-hour it would take to get them ready to come with me. By that time, puppy would have an accident. No matter what I chose, the two-year-old was often in tears.

Potty training a puppy also meant getting up in the middle of the night to take him outside. It was like having a newborn all over again, except I didn’t have to nurse him and I could shove him in his crate when I went to bed. So, not really much like a newborn at all except for the lack of sleep part.

And did I mention, the dog would eat his poop? Yeah. There was that. His favorite thing to do was sneak off, poop when I wasn’t watching, and clean it up himself, which was so considerate of him. I still have to monitor this.

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And potty training was just ONE of the issues we dealt with. Before buying your Christmas puppy, please consider all of the following:

-puppy chewing up your children’s toys
-puppy chewing up your children’s pants’ legs (there was a while there when every single pair of pants had holes in them)
-puppy having random bouts of diarrhea or vomiting
-buying special food to avoid the diarrhea or vomiting 
-puppy running away when outside without a leash (avoidable if you have a fence)
-puppy greeting every single guest by jumping all over them
-vet bills
-paying for training sessions that may or may not be successful
-accepting that training your children how to work with the puppy may be even harder than training the puppy how to deal with your children
-boarding/dog-sitting fees when you are out of town
-etcetera etcetera

But of course, you’ve already met that sweet little puppy, haven’t you? And he or she is SO cute and you’ve already picked out a name. 

In that case, ignore everything I just said and ENJOY your sweet little house mate!! And please, show me the Christmas video!

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Breathing Amidst the Busy Season

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Life is full of seasons.

First, and most obvious, are the four seasons of every year: winter, spring, summer, and fall. I love living in North Carolina because we get to experience all four seasons, but my favorite is summer. I can’t stand being cold and I love never having to wonder what the weather is going to be that day. The forecast? Hot. End of story.

There are major life cycle seasons. Grade school, college, dating, first job, newlyweds, new home, first baby, etc. Each of these seasons teaches us something new about ourselves. I’ve noticed that when I transition from one season to another, I’m likely to gravitate toward other people in a similar season. Is this true of you too?

Other seasons are much less obvious and often unexpected. This can look like a season of job searching, moving somewhere new, fighting health issues, or perhaps being a primary caretaker of a loved one. These seasons can be hard, rewarding, challenging, exhilarating, or exhausting. They push us to our limits and beyond. How we handle these seasons can make us stronger or leave us stagnant. Sometimes it’s circumstances beyond our control, and other times it’s a result of decisions we have made. No matter the cause, we have the opportunity to let the season change us for the better. Are you in one of these seasons right now? Have you come out of one recently?

The holiday season is upon us currently. This one comes every year and some of us love it, while others dread it. Personally, I love it, but I’m ready for a breather when it all comes to an end. Where do you fall on this line? 

My current season is one I have brought upon myself, despite feeling like I finally figured out how to conquer it. A season of busyness.

Why do I do this to myself?

This past spring and summer was a breathing season for me. I said “no” to a lot of great things I would usually have gone out of my way to do. But by the end of summer, I felt a surplus of energy and proceeded to add everything in all at once.

It was too much. So, you know what happened? The pieces of that schedule that I was most excited about took a back burner. The things that would bring me the most life and energy, were the ones that got neglected.

For me to be the best version of myself, I require time away from my kids. I’m a stay-at-home momma. My children are my job, my life. I love them to bits and pieces, but sometimes I want to strangle them. I’m learning that for me to be the best momma I can possibly be, I have to incorporate regular time that has nothing to do with my kiddos so that I don’t all of a sudden blow up and fall to pieces in front of them.

I don’t know about you, but I require rest. I require breaks. I need time to breathe, to think, to be still.

My season of busyness will be ending after Christmas, so I’m currently evaluating what I can truly say “yes” to. And as we enter this Christmas season, I’m reminding myself of what is important. What actually matters. All my commitments are positive and good, but what are the things that fill me in such a way that I can continue to pour out to others?

I hereby give you permission to take a break. Maybe that means you get store-bought rather than homemade for that cookie exchange. Maybe it means throwing gifts in a bag instead of wrapping. Maybe you can hire someone to clean your house or simply decide to let your cleaning standards slide for the time being. In this incredibly busy holiday season, choose what’s best. Focus on what matters. 

How will you give yourself a chance to breathe? Will this allow you to then breathe life into someone else?

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 37:5-6