Thursday, September 3, 2015

8 Tips for Planning Personal Projects + a #52for2015 Update

"I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it." Picasso

Most of the projects I do are, in some sense, for someone else. The writing shows up here on the blog and on social media. I practice piano partially (but not mostly) because I play at church. This year I unintentionally started an art project and today I jotted down some reasons this project was succeeding and accomplishing more than what I set out to. 

Maybe you want to plan a project and don't know where to start. Fear is what typically stops me. What if it all turns out to be a waste of time? Well, watching tv probably is a waste of time too and we all do that. So why not get to work? 

1. Decide your purpose. My art project was solely for me. Maybe you want to do a project that will allow you to make handmade Christmas presents for your family or crafts to sell. 

2. Pick something you like. I have always loved drawing. I used to fill sketchbooks when I was younger. However I haven't made time for art on a consistent basis since I took a drawing class freshman year of college. Use these personal projects as a space to explore something you like. 

3. Pick something small. One of the biggest excuses against doing a project of any sort is a lack of time. My original plan was to spend 20 minutes a week on a drawing. That's a totally reasonable goal even with everything else I do. It did grow over the year because I have enjoyed the project so much. But start small and get bigger instead of realizing it doesn't fit your life. 

4. Designate a work time. I decided I would do my weekly sketches on Tuesday night once the boys were in bed. When I decided I wanted to do the small daily sketches at the beginning of quiet time I tried it out for a week to make sure it would fit into real life. 

5. Build in accountability. I share my #52for2015 work every Wednesday on Instagram. There have been plenty of times I would have skipped the work on Tuesday but I knew I was supposed to share it. Granted, this is causal accountability. Nobody is going to hunt me down if I don't post but it still works. 

6. Allow your focus to change. I do the small daily sketches now; I did not plan on that at the beginning. I have also changed mediums during the year to keep the work fresh and interesting. If you are too rigid and don't grow with yourself you will lose interest. 

7. Find your supporters. Every time I show a drawing or painting to my husband he says, "I want it for my office." We joke about it now but it still feels nice. (He actually does have the elephant drawing.) There is also a large artistic community on Instagram and I've connected with some of them. 

8. Decide what success looks like. You might want to get all those Christmas gifts made or finish some projects you have already started. But have some general idea of what you want to accomplish. I want to finish 52 pieces by the end of the year (I completed #36 this week). I also want to learn some new techniques. Knowing what I want to accomplish keeps me from comparing my work to anyone else's and getting discouraged. 

I'm about to fill up my sketchbook. Obviously it's full of terrible drawings; I did not show you all of them on purpose. But I have a sketchbook full of drawings and not just tv shows I've watched to account for some of my time this year. I think it's fun to track small progress (that's why I'm keeping a list of books I've read this year); it's easy to think you're not doing anything when you really are. 

Reclaim some old passion that you haven't visited in years. Then tag me on IG or Twitter (@delighting_days) so I can see it. Or you can post it to the facebook wall. I'd love to see what you're working on! 

-Most of the drawings are based on book illustrations or Pinterest ideas. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

One Brushstroke at a Time

"A masterpiece still comes together one brushstroke at a time." Ruth Simons

Ruth is one of my favorite internet people (and I get to hear her speak at Influence Conference in a few weeks!). She has six boys. She writes. She homeschools. And she has a shoppe. That's impressive work but her words point out an easily forgotten truth. It's the little things. 

Our lives are made up of days. How we choose to live our days turns into how we live our lives. We see the overall vision for life in the Bible; it's not a secret. But the details will be different because God doesn't stamp people out factory style. He designs each person individually. My work today will be different from your work today. 

But each day we both get to choose. What kind of brush stroke will we put on the painting? Will I pick the right colors?  Will I put on strength and honor as my clothes? Will I be virtuous, prayerful, careful with my words? Will I bend my will- surrender- to the things in life I didn't expect? Does Jesus have full control over my life today? 

I get to choose where the brush stroke goes. This is a time of laying on the broad underlayers of colors. It's necessary- the painting won't be complete without it- but it's nothing fancy. 

Today I do all the unseen things. I clean up accidents and spills. I cook dinner. I run errands. I do the reading lesson and push the swings. I welcome my husband home and celebrate his work. I work on memorizing a piano piece.  I write my 500 words. I draw today's sketch. I pour the Bible into my heart and mind. I run and do yoga. Nothing big. Nothing flashy. But all important. 

Because what will life be if I don't cook dinner and teach my children? How will my writing read in five years if I don't write the words today? What will be left to celebrate in my marriage if I don't nurture it now? Do your work with the future in mind. 

These are the things that add up my children's faith, character, and education. The training they receive now will shape the adults they become. Necessary though often tedious. Ordinary and yet split through with glory. The little moments that make me want to pull out my hair are changing my children's lives. The words that I write today in Evernote and in my notebook are going to turn into blog posts and podcast episodes. It all adds up over time. 

Today matters for today. Pick well. If you go to bed exhausted tonight go to bed exhausted from pouring yourself into your work. 

Today matters for the future. Consider the future as you make your choices today. Today shapes tomorrow. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Start of Friendships

We have some friends over regularly. The kind of friends where you don't worry about whether you've gotten the kitchen cleaned up before you sit down to eat or if the kids ask to sit on their lap before they have cleaned their plates.  I usually make carnitas and we sit around the table shoving our faces full of tasty pork and toppings while we discuss work and family and vacations. 

That friendship is precious and deep and it's lasted almost ten years. And it all started one day in college. 

I can still picture the office where I stood by the printer filling out my timesheet.  I tutored in the Academic Resource Center at our college for scholarship requirements and for workstudy money and I was there a lot. A girl I barely knew struck up a conversation about the Resident Assistant interviews we had both participated in the day before. 

That day I didn't know what we were starting. I didn't know that we would stand in each other's weddings. I didn't know that they would sit with us in the NICU watching our son battle for his life. I didn't know that we would share meal after meal, dreams for our futures, spots in crowds at graduations and ceremonies and fireworks. I didn't know that we would start yearly traditions of collegiate volleyball games, vacations at the beach, or summertime swimming in their pool. 

Of course I have other friendships and I don't remember their definite beginning. It was just one interaction after another. While I can't see the outcome I do know that I'm better every time I step outside myself. When I leave the black hole of "What will they think of me?" and instead ask, "What do they need?" I shift the focus from me to them. It's not an easy thing to walk up to someone new. To go to someone who might think you are strange, someone who might be a little quirky themselves and put your hand out. I've been burned doing this. There have been people who have entered my life and it didn't work out well. But I'm still better for having done it. 

Friends aren't going to drop in our laps. If we want friends we have to be friendly. And to find those close friends we are going to have be friendly to a lot of people.  But beyond ourselves and finding new friendships, you've been the new person. Isn't life easier when someone steps up and introduces herself? When you have a face and a name and a number to text in a new city? When you have someone to bring you food after you have a baby? When you have someone to go with you to that doctor's appointment or college graduation? Be that person for someone else where you are. 

I've been places where I've felt excluded. Sometimes I'm still not sure where I fit in, what my "group" is. While that used to bother me I'm learning that it's a valuable part of my life. Instead of having my group I'm talking to this person and then popping over to ask this woman about her sick kid, her aging parents, her brother that's in jail. My circle widens as I care about others and their lives instead of just my own. 

It all starts with, "Hi, my name is Lisa." I don't have to have a speech or a witty saying or an impressive fact about myself. A simple "Hi, what's your name?" works fine. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Natural Childbirth- And All the Possible Disclaimers

This is a post I was leery of writing but was encouraged to by several friends. It's not a birth story but men, be warned, it's close. Birth is intensely personal. Most women go into it making the best decisions they can and then moving on with whatever happens. I find that most natural birth stories imply that's the best way to give birth so let me offer my disclaimer. 

I don't care how you have your babies. There are no varying degrees of womanhood that hinge upon the method of childbirth you choose (or have by necessity). 

I choose to try no meds with the first for three reasons. 
1. They leave that epidural in your back. That is totally freaky to me. Also they can have side effects, however rare they are. 
2. I tend to react in strange manners to meds so why add that possible complication to labor?
3. I didn't want anyone to have to tell me to push. (Ok, that was really a reason for #2 and #3.)

Now are there occasions when I would have an epidural? You better believe it! And a c-section would be very welcome in a medical emergency. That's why I prefer to be at the hospital even though I don't like everything about it.

I don't frequently bring up natural childbirth but I've had conversations lately with several women who wanted to attempt it. So here are some ways that I make labor and delivery more doable for myself. (And please, none of this is medical advice. I delay at home in labor as long as possible and it drives my husband crazy.  You might not should do that. Follow your doctor's advice, ok?) Here goes.

1. Keep it quiet. I want everyone to be quiet and leave me alone. Don't talk to me. Don't ask me questions. And certainly don't turn on the tv. (Some people really like music during labor. I'm afraid I would never want to listen to it again.)

2. Keep it calm.  I do not like to have people in my room. Although I'm relaxing about this- I actually let a student stay when I had my third. But less people equals less noise. 

3. Don't tense up during contractions. Purposefully relax even your big toe if you are tightening up. None of the dramatic hand-crushing tv scenarios. Sorry. 

4. Breathe slowly and deeply during contractions.  However I never did the lamaze breathing. 

5. Don't lie on your back. Nothing makes contractions worse than being on your back, especially if you are having back labor. 

5. Be nice to your nurses. It won't kill you, even if you are in labor. They won't mind if you don't chat it up or if you wait to answer a question until a contraction is over. But be kind. They are there to help you.

6. Pray. A "Jesus, help me" during each contraction will do. You don't have to get all flowery or eloquent. 

7. Remember "this too shall pass." Seriously, contractions come and go (back labor not so much though). You will eventually have that baby. Labor is not forever. 

This is obviously not a comprehensive look at labor and delivery or natural childbirth or anything really. I should include thoughts like "enjoy one of those popsicles before you get in transition and don't want one." Or "stay home and distract yourself for longer than you think is necessary because anything is nicer than hospitals and iv's before you have to do it." But I'll skip all of that. If you want to discuss more- email me

Give birth however works for you. I do know it is miraculous to realize what actually happens. A small human has grown in your body and you're about to hold him in your arms. Congratulations, Mama! 

P.S. Even though it's not the best quality picture, that is my absolute favorite mama picture up there!

And p.p.s. Don't say, "But it was all worth it, right?" especially if you're a man. It makes me want to punch you in the face. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What God's Work and Breakfast Have in Common

During one of my morning runs (you know, back when I was doing that thing) I was watching the fog roll across the mountains and thinking about our Sunday School lessons. We were learning about who God is and we started with God the Creator. He made everything and He holds it all together. He inhabits eternity and gives life and breath to all things (Acts 17:25).

I started thinking about how He makes the sun rise every morning. He puts the fog in the air. He makes the baby birds chirp. He makes the seasons rotate- spring, summer, fall, winter without fail just as He promised after the flood (Genesis 8:22). He made each valley and each mountain. He paints every single flower with color. 

Parts of God's work are as routine as ours. We get up each morning and spend time with Him. We get dressed, make the beds, make the breakfast, clean up the spills, apologize for messing up, forgive others, cook lunch, fold the laundry, change the diapers, take little boys to the potty, push the swings, practice the same piano chords, sit at the keyboard and write again, kiss the husband welcome home, give the baths, tuck children in bed. Then later we collapse into bed and get up to do it all over again. And again. And again. 

Just like God does. The God who gives breath to our bodies and air to our lungs does it with every breath. The same God pumps blood with our hearts and fills the world with sunshine every day. He sends the rain and makes the grass grow. His work is infinite. It's universal and breathtaking.  But He also does what seems to be mundane by repetition.  The beautiful peonies that bloom for such a short time- all that effort and labor for something no one may see or appreciate and yet they are gorgeous. The sunsets are painted in stunning color every single night. Most people don't even notice but they are always there. The stars that twinkle- that's just the few we can see. They spread out in a vastness that's hard for us to understand. There are wonders in the galaxy that no human will ever see and yet God made them. God sustains them. 

Why do we expect our work to be any different? We also have a work and it's often repetitive. It feels ordinary. Our wild hearts crave adventure and applause and fame instead of desiring faithfulness to making our world beautiful and sustaining the part of the work that we are to do. 

That breakfast we cheerfully offer every morning because bellies are hungry. That diaper we change with the giggle and game for the precious little boy heart. The hello kiss we save for the husband who has labored in his own part of the work that day. Do they not all beautify our world regardless of how ordinary they seem? 

Over and over, seemingly on repeat, we serve with work that's not noticed, not applauded. We should do that work with faithfulness and a desire for excellence. God doesn't skimp on those flowers even though He makes so many and has for so many years. They are all individual works of art. That's how I want to approach my day: as an individual work of art. What am I putting into today? 

Our work is a pale shadow of what God does. It's not beneath us to plug away at the ordinary. It's a fulfillment of our being. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Our Family Motto- At Least for Accidents

Someone accidentally dumps his cheerios at snacktime. The cup gets knocked off the table at lunch. The toy tower gets kicked over again. We change dinner time because Justin has to work late. We change clothes and run lunch out to him at work. 

Life doesn't always ever go just as we'd like. 

When it doesn't- whether because of accidents or changes in plans- we're trying to teach the boys to respond with "No big deal." 

No big deal that we're sweeping up cheerios again. 
No big deal that we're retying the shoes. 
No big deal that we were planning on reading and now we need to give the baby a bath first because he had a blowout. 
No big deal that we need to pick up what we dropped when we walked down the hallway. 

I want to teach them that most things are just no big deal. They might not be what we expected or wanted. We might be tired of doing that particular thing. We might be frustrated at doing something again. We may want to be upset with someone who inconvenienced us. But instead we're going to take a deep breath and say, "No big deal." Because really- it's not. 

None of those things matter and we can control how we act about things. We need to consider how we make others feel by our actions or reactions. We need to make ourselves enjoyable for others to be around even when things aren't going the way we would like. (We all know those people that are difficult to be around unless everything goes just their way.) So we say "No big deal." 

This seems to take a lot of work to teach. But we keep going over and over how we want to respond to accidents and inconveniences. 

It often takes me longer to grasp concepts than it does the children. I get tired of the monotony some days. I don't want to clean up another accident or sweep up the cheerios or change the shirt because someone spilled spaghetti sauce on it at lunch. I never knew how much grace and patience I was lacking until it was tried every day. It's easy to think that you are patient and kind when you are surrounded by adults who mostly treat you in a mature way. It's more difficult with little people who act like little people. Little people who don't know how they are supposed to act and are sometimes slower at learning it than we would like. 

So I'm learning to say "no big deal" and do with a cheerful heart. To do it with actions that back up the words and give them the peace to own "no big deal" for themselves. If you say "no big deal" to the little things then you save your energy for the things that are a big deal. That's really a better place for it, don't you think? 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Conferences and Change

Sometimes you need a kick in the pants to get moving; sitting still is always comfortable. I'm part of The Influence Network and I love their monthly classes (writing and painting, anyone?). Each year they have a big conference in Indianapolis in September and I said, "eh, I'll go next year." 

Guess what? There is no next year. This is the year of the last big conference. (I feel like that could be an official title. "Year of the Last Big Conference": doubt they're going to take that up.)

So I'm going this year. Justin and I discussed it for weeks. How we would work out the money and the details and the children. And then we discussed it some more. Finally we decided it was worth doing and I bought my ticket. 

I'll be there a month from today. Right now I am all kinds of excited and not nervous at all. When it gets closer I know I'll be all kinds of nervous but hopefully still excited. 
It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things. Leonardo Da Vinci
It's easier to just keep doing the same things. I could practice piano faithfully every day and in twenty years my playing could sound exactly the same if I don't change how I practice and learn new things. 

Change is uncomfortable. Even considering change makes me mentally tired. I would rather just go to sleep. But it's necessary for growth. (Maybe that's why babies sleep so much? Or at least you hope they do.)

Change is why I'm working on different ideas for the blog facebook page instead of just quitting it. 

Change is why I'm working on post ideas for #write31days. I'm going to participate this year and I have an awesome topic that I can't wait to write about and share with you. Follow along on the facebook page for some question and answer sessions about that. 

Change is why Phylicia and I started the podcast. We wanted to use a different avenue to get out the message that Jesus can change your life. Being a Christian isn't living the same life just knowing the end is different. God wants to transform your entire life. 

Change is why I refuse to make excuses. It's why I'm turning in the volunteer application for our crisis pregnancy center. It's why I'm going to a planning meeting for a local homeschool volleyball team (I may get to help. There is a serious happy dance going on here.)

It's easier to decide to do it next year or next time. Of course that's out of the way with the conference. It's the last year they are doing it. But what about other things? I'll start the diet next week. I'll work on my ________ skill next month. I'll write that letter, call that friend, take that class next semester. What are you waiting on? What's wrong with today? Get over there to the instrument and practice. Drag out the camera and take some pictures. Sit down at the computer and code or write. 

Work takes effort. Growing is hard; stagnation is easy. But only one of them will get you to the life that you want to have years from now. Consider just one year from now. Think about where you could be if you did the work today. However small it may be, if you do the work today (500 words, a tiny sketch, editing a blog post, 30 minutes of piano) and then you do the work tomorrow and the next day and the next day in a year you'll have made significant progress. 

Decide to do hard. Don't take the easy way.