Thursday, November 29, 2018

Holidays, Christmas Time, & Facing Battles While Finding True Meaning

 The other day I talked about facing battles and what is your armor.  Today, I am going to continue with the theme of battles.

The idea came to me recently while listening to a friend, who is a podcaster and blog writer.  She was talking about battles as well and how to face them during this holiday season.

Like she said, and so have I, we all face battles.  Every day, all day, throughout the year.  Seemingly, the time between Thanksgiving and the end of the year there seem to be more battles we face.

Add in holidays, season shifts, extra time with family, gift giving, traditions, the shoulds we pile on ourselves, expectations, and those battles seem to multiply.

Sometimes we push so hard to make this time of year "perfect" but the reality is sometimes less than what we were expecting.  We get caught up in the shoulds, the traditions, the things that have worked in the past, our own expectations, change, and so on.  And when we push and push, the battles increase.

What is this time of year truly meant to be?

I know, holiday times can bring grief, frustration, anger, anxiety, fear, worry, guilt.  They can be tough.

But they can also be and feel different.  It starts with you.  Your attitude, your perspective.  That will carry through to the others around you, your spouse if you are married, kids if you have them, your family, your friends.

Do you really need to face every single battle in front of you?  Are there some things you can let go of and avoid the battle altogether?  Are there things you can change or stop this year to bring more calm to this time of year?  Are there things you can do or change to bring more peace and joy?  Are there things you can do to slow down instead of getting caught up in all the hustle of the season?

Where can you truly push?  And yet, where can you pull back?

If some aspect of this all is important to you, then by all means, push and battle for it.  But also, stop and think, do I really need to?

Because if you don't need to, then maybe let it go.

In a way, yes you do need to face each battle placed in front of you.  But you also need to pause for a moment and really think about whether or not this battle is one that you can let go of.

Take what is most important and make decisions.  Use those decisions to guide you through your battles.

Where can you ask for extra help?  Where can you just let it go?

What would truly make this time of year filled with calm? Joy?

Take this time to work your way through it all.  Then, as the holidays pass by and we begin a new year, you can take this concept along with you.

Pause, name it, look at it, decide.

Fight for what you can, when you can, where you can.  But let the rest go.

Remember, is this something that will truly matter in 5 minutes? At the end of the day? Next week?  Next month? Next year?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

We All Face Battles ~ What is Your Armor?

What battles are you facing?

Are they small or big?

What do you face daily?

What does your armor look like?

Sometimes our battles are small and sometimes they are big.  Sometimes they last a moment, sometimes longer.  Sometimes once, sometimes daily.  At some point, maybe more than once, we will all face a big battle.  All these little battles you are facing are God's way of preparing you for your big ones.

If you are familiar with the stories of the bible, the one of David and Goliath is one that I am guessing you can recall easily.  It's about David, a small young Shepard, taking on Goliath a giant 9 foot tall warrior of many battles, and David winning.

That is the short version of the story. 

I read awhile back from author Andy Andrews, we are either coming out of crisis or headed that way.

When we are in crisis, we are in a storm, doing battle.  When we are headed out, we have finished the battle, are beginning to step out and move forward.  Once we level out and hit even ground, while the ground is solid, things are starting to turn the other way.  But in time, we will be headed back to battle once again.

Like I said, we face small battles often.  Those small ones shape us, train us, prepare us for when the Goliath type battles come.

I face battles every day.  As a mom, or a parent, you know how quickly you can ruin something with a three year old when you give them the wrong cup color, food choice, tell them it's time to clean up, and so on.  As parents we face battles daily.  While it is just the season we are in as our kids begin to test the boundaries, we are facing something every day.

Sure, those are small ones.  But I have faced bigger battles.  And while my bigger battles may not be as big as yours or the same, I face them just as much as you do. 

Three of my biggest battles?  Facing miscarriage and the path that put me on, postpartum depression and anxiety.

Remember the story about David and Goliath?  How is it that David was able to succeed?  His battle plan and armor were way different than Goliath's.  Goliath's reputation superseded him.  Goliath was a warrior, a fighter, armed with spear and sword, champion of many battles.  David was a Shepard, warrior only in the sense he was brave to fight off bear and lion from his flock to keep them safe.

Where was each of their hearts on that day?  Where is your heart today?

One rock, one simple rock took Goliath down.  At least on the surface.  Deeper down, it was Goliath's lack of true armor, lack of battle plan, lack of preparedness, and attitude.  David went in with his heart filled with God.  God's armor, God's plan, God's guidance.  David fought Goliath and won because David had been faithful.

Being faithful in all times.  All times.  In battle, leading up to battle, just coming out of battle, on solid ground.  All times, being faithful.

Can you say that about yourself?  Are you always faithful, no matter the circumstance?  Do you take God with wherever you go?  Do you wear an armor of your own or do you put on God's armor?

We aren't promised that we won't face battles.  But we won't face a battle we can't handle.  And we can handle those battles, even the Goliath sized ones, if we keep God on our side, put on God's armor, faithfully fill our hearts daily.

It is not always going to be easy.  But we can surely lighten the load if we trust and lean on God.

God's armor gives you a belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness,  feet fitted with the gospel of peace, a shield of faith, a helmet of salvation, and a sword of the holy spirit of the word of God.

I am not sure where your faith lies.  But I do know, we all face battles.  We all will continue to face battles throughout our lives.  Where do you place your heart, your attitude, your armor in these times?

You are not alone in fighting your battles. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

May your day be filled with peace, blessings, and those that mean the most to you. 

If you are in a rough season right now, take a moment to pause and look for one blessing, one thing to be grateful for right now.

Take time to rest, be present, make memories, get some fresh air, and to be quiet.

After today, take this with you tomorrow, the next days, weeks, months, years.

*Photo credit: Google search images, AAA Newsroom*

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Gratitude ~ Acrostic Poem

Give the day a chance to 
Really open your eyes to the world
Around you, to the moments in front of you
Take it all in
Invite in the joy and peace
Trust in what is
Unveiling itself to you
Dare to find the blessing, 
Even if you are amidst a stormy season

A Loving Kindness Message ~ On Gratitude

Take a moment. Close your eyes.  Breathe deeply.  Let it out.  Tell yourself... 

~May you find peace and blessing in the moment you are in~
~May you find grace and gratitude in the storms you are facing~
~May you be wild and free in love and growth~
~May you see and feel the blessing of a grateful heart~
~May you be filled with gratitude each day you face~

Homeschooling ~ Awesome App Idea

Part of our curriculum this year is a focus on reading, sight words, and phonics.  While I used to teach the reading part of the curriculum in my classroom to Pre-Kindergartners when I find a good app to assist along the way, I will turn to that for guidance.

Well, I have found two great apps.  One is called Alphabet Aquarium, the other is Reading Eggs/Mathseeds.

I found Alphabet Aquarium when my oldest was about 2 1/2.  He has a love of learning and questioning, so this app was a great introduction to letters.  I didn't use it a lot, but when I did he loved it.  He was a bit jealous of baby brother and me nursing, so it provided for a distraction free time while I nursed and he would still be doing something educational.

Now, brother is 3 and wants to be like his older brother who is doing reading and math lessons.  So, he has gotten into Alphabet Aquarium.  He too loves it.  I wish I could find a similar concept for number learning as well.

Alphabet Aquarium has 5 activities to do with each letter.  First you match the letter, then you build the letter, next you make an animal that starts with the letter, and the last two are matching activities where you match a picture of an object that starts with the letter to the outline.  It is a great blend of activities to use when you are just getting into letter recognition.  Oh, and the letters are all upper case letters.

My oldest uses Reading Eggs and Mathseeds.  Both go together usually when you buy the subscription.  But they both go through all the necessary components to reading and math through fun, interactive, repetition, and practice activities.  Each map reveals the next level to build upon the foundation that begun in map 1. 

I know, I know, but it's technology and don't you understand the issues that go with using it?

Yes, yes I do.  And I will say, we limit the amount of time they get used and how long each time.  My youngest will do a few letters a couple times a week.  My oldest gets to do one Reading Egg lesson and one Mathseeds lesson each week.  Occasionally he will do two lessons.  But if he is doing stuff on the ipad, he doesn't get any T.V. that day.  When it comes down to it, they are each maybe on it for an hour a week max.

If they are going to be using technology, they are going to be learning from it.

At this point, my oldest has been using Reading Eggs and Mathseeds on Mondays and Fridays since the start of the school year in September.  Before that he would use it on and off, but not consistently.  He is currently reading at Kindergarten age (which is a Kindergartner), has 17 of 200 sight words, and has 94 of 237 phonic skills.  Not bad for 8 weeks in and once a week for Reading Eggs.

What apps have you found to be helpful for your home school?

Anyone know a good number app for a 3 year old to work on number recognition, counting, and creating the number?

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Time Change ~ Switching into Savoring the Slow

As we enter into the fifth day of daylight savings time ending, I am left wondering.  Why is it such a tough thing to work through?  And why do we still even have it?

Throughout the year we are faced with moments where we can slow down, busy moments, moments where we wish we could slow down, and moments where we wouldn't mind having a fuller schedule.

Is it one of those, the grass is greener on the other side?  Or, at least greener until you are standing in it, surrounded?

We have usually kept our schedule of activities, adventures, things to do pretty flexible and open.  Sure, some weeks are packed from Sunday to Saturday with outings, but than we dial it back and hang closer to home for a bit.

What is keeping you from savoring slow and slowing down, more often?

As I sat there, just a few days into the daylight savings time ending (despite the extra hour, I dislike the idea of daylight savings) I am looking at the week ahead, knowing that last week we were home a lot and this week we have a full week.

And yet, I feel a sense of loss of motivation, energy, and just wanting to hunker down at home more.  The lack of sun, the colder weather, the snow already flying makes me feel it even more.

I go through moments where I try to intentionally slow down, but it is usually some outside aspect or when I truly listen to my body that I make the shift.  However, it is usually only a short period of time.

Here we are, closing in on the end of another year.  I look back and often wonder, where did it all go and wonder why we didn't get certain things done or why did it go so fast or how are we already to November.

It seems as if time speeds up from the day after Halloween until like the middle of January.  We get caught up in the hustle and bustle of holidays and season change.

But what would it look like if we instead, slowed it down and kept it slow?  Refocus, reset, rest, revive

What if we changed our perspective, from how much can we get done, load the calendar, that we have to be a part of the hustle and bustle to more of a let's be in the moment, listen to ourselves to the others around us, and be okay with having some empty time slots?

What if we let this switch carry us through beyond the new year?

It has become common place to respond to the question, how are things going? with a busy, crazy, good or great.  But why?  Why don't we respond with an okay, alright?  And why do we feel guilt for not packing the schedule tight?  It is almost like a badge of honor, the more stuff we have going on the better things are, the better we look, etc.

So with this time change, as we head into the holiday season, let's change our perspective.  Let's slow things down, be present, set up space for things to not be filled to the brim.  Let's instead fill ourselves, loved ones around us with presence and moments.

But beyond that, let's keep it going.  Let's keep this slower pace going in the year to come.  Allowing for the ebb and flow of those sometimes extra busy weeks or moments, but still coming back to a slower point.

What would you do if you slowed down?  How would you fill yourself, your family, your friends?  How would you let go of the to do lists and just be present?

Let's make space and time for the things we truly want to fill our time slots.

*Photo credit: Encouragement at a Glance from KTIS*

Friday, November 2, 2018

Season of Gratitude

As we get closer to Thanksgiving, we tend to show our gratitude more and more.  Letting ourselves focus throughout November, we create a one a day post of what we are grateful until the end of the month or even a photo a day challenge of what we are grateful for or even find a creative project that we do daily with the theme of gratitude.  Sometimes, we wait until Thanksgiving to unload, around the table, the things we are grateful for.

But what about the rest of the weeks, months...the rest of the year?  Shouldn't we be thinking and sharing about our gratitude more often, even daily?

I have worked on gratitude as a daily practice on and off over the years.  I would write a list of things I was grateful for each night, or write a sentence, or even try to use November to focus on gratitude.  Through it all, I found that when I was consistent I felt uplifted and energized.  However, I also found that when the daily life came into play, it was usually the first thing I would skip.

I recently went through a 7 day Gratitude is my Superpower course with Shawn Fink leading the course.  After going through it and with the start of November, it got me thinking.

Am I grateful, like truly grateful?  Yes, I am.  But do I always talk about it, or write about it, or ask what others are grateful for?, not really.  Do I share about it, think about, recognize it every day?  Honestly, no.

I know I have a lot to be grateful for.  But I also know I could do better acknowledging it.  Even if I don't write about it each day, at least say it out loud or in my head before bed.  Beyond that, I could think on it and acknowledge throughout the day, in the moment sort of thing

You see, in order to cultivate a heart of gratitude one must practice gratitude daily.  For each of us, this may look a little different, but it is something we each can do.

Even in the hardest of hard, those storms we weather, we can still find something grateful.  Yes, it is hard to see sometimes, but there is something there if we focus for a moment, not on the storm, but on gratitude. 

But in those moments opposite the storms, we can show our gratitude as well.

Where it gets lost most often is in those moments in between.  Where everything seems to be just going alright, nothing big happening in either direction...kind of like an even keel.  That is when we tend to let our gratitude fade away.

No matter where we are at, no matter the season, no matter the time of year we can find one thing each day to be grateful for.

So why wait until the first of November, or until Thanksgiving Day?  Why not start now a gratitude practice that you can continue beyond November?

Yes, go ahead and do the creative gratitude projects throughout the year that match up with seasons or holidays or the month.  But just add them into your daily gratitude practice.  So when the season or the holiday or the month ends, your gratitude practice continues.

How do you create a daily gratitude practice?  Keep it simple, keep it visible, keep trying, and start where you are.  Remember, there are going to be days that you miss, but keep coming back to it.  Just like anything new, it takes time and practice to form consistency.

Find a journal.  Find something for you to write in that you like, the feels right to you, that allows you the space you need.  I have a few of those one a day sentence books where you write one happy thing or thought to remember or one thing you are grateful for.  They are great, also an easy way to get started.  For me though, I have found I need more space to write, so I choose journals or notebooks.  Even your phone can be a great place.  I don't know of any apps specifically for gratitude practice, but last night I pulled up a new memo and type a quick list of a few things I was grateful for.

Set up a space to have your journal, even a few pens ready to go.  Make it in your line of sight throughout the day.  It will serve as a reminder to take a pause (even if it's a short one) to jot down a few things.  I have mine on my coffee table and even got gel pens (haven't used them in over 15 years) to go with it, making it more fun and colorful.

Remember, gratitude practice can be done any time, anywhere.  While waiting at a stoplight, out on a walk, during a meal.  When you start opening up your eyes, your heart, your mind you begin to see a different perspective around you and can find joy, gratitude in the little things throughout the day, even amidst the chaos and busy.

You can write a list, you can write a sentence, you can take a picture.  Do it in a way that works for you.  I am finding that I enjoy giving a little more detail.  While at times, a list is what I have time for.  You can even write on a question a day if that is what fits your flow.

Awhile back I found a new perspective on daily gratitude practice.  It came from Dave Ramsey.  His idea was to answer the following questions: Today I am most grateful for..., Today I am most thankful for..., I found delight in/when..., I loved when...

Since finishing the 7 Day Gratitude is my Superpower course I have found a reset in my daily gratitude practice.  It isn't put away in a basket under the coffee table.  I have my journal out and pens ready.  I try to take a pause in the afternoon to write instead of waiting until the kids go to bed.  While sometimes that is when it happens, after they go to bed, I have also found that by the end of the day I am just ready to unwind and it gets lost.  I combine the ideas from both Dave Ramsey and Shawn Fink.  I use the questions Dave suggested and then go into detail the way Shawn suggested.

This is how it works best for me, for now.  Is it possible that it will change?  Of course.  As everything changes, so too will this.  But I am planning on keeping it going in some form, even if I am on a trip (which is usually when I would set it aside completely, then take a bit to come back to it).

Do you have a daily gratitude practice?  Share yours below in the comments. 

Have you thought about starting one?  What is getting in your way of starting?

Have to tried to keep one, but somehow it seems to get set aside more often than not?  What trips you up along the way?

Setting up a strong foundation of gratitude can carry over into every area of your life, as well as those around you.  I encourage you to go beyond November, beyond Thanksgiving to grow and continue your gratitude each day, throughout the day, in your own way.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Checking In

I have been a bit absent in my writing and posting this month.  As it seems with the change of seasons, I found myself in some seasonal changes and adjusting.

I decided, sort of by choice, to just let whatever scheduled posts I had go out and see where that would end.  I am looking back now and see that there has not been a lot this month and here we are headed into the evening of the second to last day of the month.

I have been working behind the scenes, or should I say, in real life.

But through it all, I have realized how much I miss putting my fingers to the keys, opening up, and seeing where it all goes.

I am grateful to have this time to write, to take you along on my journey, to grow, to learn, to be.

Thank you to all who follow along.  Thank you to all who check in and see what is new.  Thank you for reading.  Thank you for staying by, even when I don't post as often.

As we head into November, and some busy, some crazy weeks ahead, please continue to join me on this journey.

I have lots to write about, to share, to invite in.  So where you are in your journey, maybe we will find some type of understanding, connection, inspiration, motivation.  Hoping, dreaming, being.

Until the next post, may you find the grounding you need.