Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's Not the Thought That Counts

One day last week Kevin woke up from his nap and I carried him to the kitchen to snuggle for a bit. He's all cuddly and delicious after he wakes up and that time should not be wasted. In one of the those mom-moments that typically only live in daydreams, Micah walked over and rubbed his head, "I'm so glad I found you, Kevin. I love you; don't ever go away."  Totally adorable, right? Unfortunately that lovely sentiment doesn't keep him from bopping him over the head quite frequently. As I told the story to my husband I commented, "Oh well, it's the thought that counts." But really?  Do I really think that intentions matter more than actions? 

They don't. 

It's not the thought that counts. Actions count a whole lot more. People don't know your thoughts; people see your actions. Forget what you think or what you say, what do you do? Your actions scream who you are. 

I don't care if you think kind thoughts about me. But if you do kind things for me, that's a different story. That's tangible evidence of how you feel about me and it speaks about your character. 

I don't really care if my husband thinks about staying faithful to our marriage. That thought is not enough. His actions are going to speak way louder than his thoughts or intentions. I want him to be faithful to our marriage, to live that out. 

I don't really care if my children intend to be kind to one another. I care greatly about whether or not they are kind to one another. 

Thoughts do count because they are the basis of what we do but the thoughts alone are not enough. 

But to get down to the grit of life, what about me? Where do I have good intentions but no actions? 

Do I have good intentions to bless my husband but I get too busy? 
Do I have good intentions to teach my kids but the Netflix is so absorbing? 
Do I have good intentions to read my Bible but facebook is calling my name? 
Do I have good intentions to exercise but I sit on the couch instead? 

If those good intentions are things I need to be doing it's time to put some actions behind them. It's time to muscle in there with real work instead of happy thoughts. Happy thoughts only get you so far. They put you on the right path but you have to actually get out of the chair and do something sometimes. That's just all there is to it. 

You have to actually do the work. 

1. Find your good intentions.  Are they things you really need to be doing? Maybe you have had good intentions to read through "War and Peace" for years.  Is that really a priority for you? Is this what God wants you to do? Answer that first. If the answer is "no," toss the idea. If the answer is "yes," then get to work. 

2. Make a plan. When are you going to read your Bible or exercise? How are you going to bless your husband? What are you going to teach your kids? Get specific and develop a plan of action to follow. 

3. Execute it. Do the work. Get up off the couch and do some push-ups or some yoga. (And I don't mean corpse pose, people.) Close out of Twitter and read your Bible. 

Good intentions might be a good starting place but they aren't what counts. All the good intentions in the world won't get you the life you want to have lived when you are standing before Jesus. Thoughts must translate into actions. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

How's That Working Out for You?

Sometimes I give myself an out when it comes to doing the hard things. Or just things I don't like to do such as getting up earlier.

I say, "That's the way I've always been." 

I say it like it's a reason. A hard-core, this-cannot-be-changed, set-in-stone-for-the-rest-of-my-life absolute fact. But it's just an excuse. 

Here's my new response to myself: "How's that working out for you?" 

Why make that excuse as if I can't change? Like I can't learn new habits. Like God hasn't been transforming me for years. Like that isn't His plan until he takes me home. 

Why not change what I'm doing if something else is better? 

It might be hard. It might be uncomfortable. Other people might think I'm weird. But why should that stop me? 

It shouldn't, of course.  

We do this in all types of situations. We do this at church when the preacher preaches. We do this when we read a book and insist that technique is impossible for us. We do this when a friend challenges our thinking on a subject. 

We don't see that we can change.  Matter of fact, we insist that we can't and we try explain why.

My pastor says that excuses are like feet: everybody has them and they all stink. Excuses don't help you. You should stop with your excuses and ask, "How's that working out for me?" 

Is it working for you? 

-Would another method or a different way work out better for your or your family? 
-Would you benefit from changing? Changing how you talked to your kids? Changing how you planned your menus? Changing how you schedule your day? 
-Would you learn more from reading your Bible or browsing Facebook? 
-Would you be more spiritually inclined if you got rid of some worldly input? 
-Would you be less discouraged if you had that challenging talk with a friend? 
-Would you serve your family better if you got up earlier in the morning? Or didn't waste your whole afternoon? 
-Would you be better off if you started exercising a little four or five days a week? 

How are those excuses working out for you? Do they help your family? Will they help you become the person you want to be at the end of your life? 

Think about where you want to be- who you want to be- on your 80th birthday. Are you becoming that person today? That's how it works you know. Who you are today changes who you are tomorrow which impacts who you are on your 80th birthday. Today is not irrelevant and your excuses do matter. 

Make changes one at a time. Pick something, preferably something small, and change it. Know why you need to do it and then do it. Make the change a habit. Then start on a new one. Don't decide you are too old, too busy, or too static to change. You're not. Face that excuse. Ask  yourself, 

How's that working out for me? 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Evening Dance

Every night my husband and I practice a dance. It's not ballroom dance or anything so elegant as that. It's the dance of getting our children in bed and our nightly ritual started. It's the dance where we sway back and forth, one doing this task and the other the next. The dance where sometimes we both try to lead at the same time and someone gets their toes stepped on. It's a dance that we seem to get better at over the years although from day to day it seems we are just muddling through. We learn by repetition. Doing the same thing over and over every single night. Tucking our babies in safe and protected and loved seems to be a routine that teaches us as much as it means to them. 

We're both tired by then. Me from working with them and the house and anything else all day and him from work and transitioning home. Children are amazingly exhausting. Some days bedtime can't come soon enough and other days we put it off drinking in the joy that small children can exhibit over the smallest thing. 

The best part of the dance comes when we hit our groove. When we each give all instead of holding back because we're tired and we've done it before a million times. The best part is when we both help the other person even if it's the things we prefer not to do. We dance this beautiful routine that others might never notice, not to impress but to serve. The dance of sacrifice, of dying to self. The dance that does all the work some nights because he's still at work or I'm sick. The dance that reminds the partner at home that someone is missing. It's a repeat of all that marriage means in just a brief half hour. 

It's the repeat: the daily done over and over in small ways, in consecrated ways. It's the touch of the hand to the back when you squeeze by each other in the bathroom. It's the question of what they've read that day that they want to discuss and then the eye roll because no one can actually hear over the water and the play and the childish conversations carried on at full volume. It's the promise of being alone in just a few minutes in peace and quiet. It's the prayer for patience for yourself and the other for the time needed to put them in bed. 

Jesus is in this dance, this daily melding of a marriage. It takes more than our hearts contain to learn these steps. This making of two souls into one seems best formed when doing the repeated work. Dates and trips and getaways are nice but they can't sustain the weight of life. Only the giving of self to another in the moments of work and frustration can do that. The moments of not repeating the petty annoyances because it will only burden the other person. The moments of seeing the need and filling it even though you would rather be served. 

That dance builds a marriage, little by little, every day.  We get to practice it every night. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Don't Wait for the Big Moments, Live Now

Sometimes its easy for me to look forward to the "big" thing in my day. Whether it's a doctor's appointment or piano lessons or a church it's easy to esteem those activities as more valuable than cleaning the kitchen, making bread, or reading books with little boys. Of course they aren't but it's easy to perceive it that way. 

I've been trying to focus on what's right before me. Proverbs 17:24 states, "Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth." I want to pay attention to what's going on right here. Not what someone else is doing or what I wish I were doing. What's here under my nose. 

I find when I'm focused on one big thing several things happen. 

1. I'm discontent with now.  I'm waiting for the next "thing" instead of being content where I am with what I'm doing. I don't see the value of the present work. 
2. I'm not living presently.  I'm distracted by thoughts of the future instead of putting my mind and hands to work for me where I am now, whether it's lunchtime, writing, or homeschooling. 
3. I get disappointed easily. Sometimes the big things don't happen or they don't live up to my expectations. Ever experienced that? 

What if I focus on now? What if I look at the work in front of me and even if it's "routine" or "mundane" I do with all the excellence I have? Colossians 3:23 says, "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;"

What if I care for our home with excellence, whether it's cleaning or laundry or teaching the boys to pick up toys? It's part of my work: I am to make a place for my people. 

What if I teach and love our kids with excellence? If I persevere through discipline with a good attitude? If I go over the letter sounds again and again until they get them? If I hug those boys tight before bed even when I'm tired?  The time is limited. 

What if I pursue my husband with excellence? If I tried to be the wife that he needs? If I pursued time and passion and friendship with him? My marriage shows Christ. 

What if I tackle my work with excellence? Practicing piano, editing blog posts, updating the budget, even sketching? If I did those things to the best of my ability, building skill upon skill until I could do them better and God could use them for His glory? I don't know what the future holds. 

Wouldn't those things be a worthwhile use of my time? They may not seem exciting now. G arpeggios, repetitions of "you may not hit your brother," and another load of laundry may seem dull and tedious now but they are also beneficial. They are accomplishing worthwhile things for my family and myself. They are forming character and skills in myself and my kids. They are building a foundation to serve on for the rest of my life. They are creating the life of my family. 

So live where you are. Tackle the work right in front of you with excellence. Don't believe the lies that it doesn't matter, that you should wait for big things. You shouldn't. You should devote the same energy and skill to caring for your family and home or to filing those papers that you would to performing in front of thousands. Because no matter what we do, it's all for One. And He sees it all. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How Truth Is Important in Friendships

I had a phone conversation with a friend a few weeks ago. (I do occasionally talk on the phone even though it's one of my least favorite things.) This friend has three kids six and under and one on the way. She confessed, somewhat timidly, that she needed some time out of the house. She's there constantly: homeschooling, working for church, supporting her husband and she needs some breathing space. I replied, "I was there six, nine months ago." I think she was relieved. Relieved that it wasn't just her. Relieved that she wasn't a bad person, a bad Christian, a bad mom, a bad wife. (Now of course life for Christ means sacrifice. I don't mean that  you go around focused on you. But we can do a few things to stay sane.)

That conversation made me realize how important "me too" can be in relationships, in friendships, in real life. 

Saying "me too" may mean speaking the truth even when it's not pretty. There's nothing to be gained from trying to present yourself as perfect. It's not true and it discourages the people around you. They think "nobody else is struggling with this; there must be something wrong with me." That's not true. Maybe you haven't had the same problem that someone is entrusting you with but surely you can somehow empathize?

You can ask questions to draw them out, maybe even allow them to better understand themselves instead of shutting them off. Questions like, "Why do you feel that way?" "When do you feel that way?" "What do you think would help it?" "What does the Bible says about that?" "Have you prayed about it?" God cares about the tiniest detail of our lives and He wants us to bring it to Him (1 Peter 5:7).

I want to be a safe place. I don't want to speak what others have told me. Not behind their backs and not twenty years down the road. I want to rejoice with those that rejoice. I want to grieve with those that grieve. I want to speak the truth in love. I want to serve with compassion. I want to pray with urgency. None of this, "Well, that's just because they are stupid." 

Maybe it was a stupid thing to do. Maybe no one taught them any better. 

A lot of this involves keeping my opinions to myself. So many things don't really matter. That's why I haven't blogged about natural birth (although I'm considering a post). I've had three natural births; I have something to say about them. I've talked to people in person about them when they've asked. But it's not that important. It doesn't matter one hill of beans if you get an epidural or if you end up needing a c-section; you make that choice for your situation. I have my reasons for preferring natural birth and that's all there is to it. 

Being a friend may mean speaking the truth even if it's not the nicest thing to say. Now I'm not condoning being rude but I don't want to be a friend that just agrees to be nice. I think I'm going to quit trying to be nice actually; it's a bad goal. Instead I want to be loyal. I want to be compassionate. I want to be genuine. I want to be enthusiastic. I want to be Biblical. But not nice. 

Nice is too easily twisted into what I think they will like, what they will be impressed by. That's not where I want to operate from; I want to operate from the principles of the Bible and nothing else.  Sometimes that means telling friends things they don't want to hear. Sometimes that means opening up about problems in my own life and not pretending about where I am.  

Friendships are important and I want to do them well. Where does speaking the truth come into play in your friendships? 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

How to be Ready for Opportunity

Joseph is one of my favorite Bible characters. What I like most about him is that he was unstoppable. He prospered where ever he was, even in what we would call bad situations, all because God was with him. God was what made the difference. The last time I was reading Joseph's story I was arrested by some thoughts. 

Joseph interpreted the dreams of the butler and baker and asked the butler, who was to be restored to his position, to remember him to Pharaoh. The next thing you read is that "after two full years..." (Genesis 41:1) Two full years. I can imagine how this went. The first day the butler was out Joseph had to be so excited! This was going to be his day. Pharaoh would release him from prison. (I think it's also interesting to note that while Joseph was doing God's will where he was he wanted something different. Our emotions don't have to govern how we live and they don't make us bad even when we would like to change them.)

Back to Joseph, he had to wait expectantly that first day. And the day after and that next week.  He had to think each morning "maybe this will be my day.." But hope would die a slow, painful death. I don't know at what point I would decide that the butler had forgotten me or that no one cared, but I would have gotten there. Joseph must have realized at some point that either the butler forgot him or Pharaoh wasn't releasing him. 

I probably would have questioned God about why He was leaving me in prison even though I was serving Him diligently. Why I had to be wrongfully treated when I had obeyed Him. Of course now we can see that God had a plan. God was going to make him second in the kingdom but Joseph did not know that. 

What if Joseph had quit? What if in those two years He had given up and told God he was done? If he had stopped serving faithfully? He wouldn't have been keeper of the prison for sure. A little further in the chapter you see that he was abruptly called to Pharaoh to interpret his dreams. They just came and yanked him out with no warning. That must have been quite startling for a man who was sure he had been forgotten. But how was Joseph ready for that after years serving with little recognition? 

1. Joseph kept his daily walk with God. He was going to be ask to interpret dreams. Joseph is always careful to give the credit to God when he interprets dreams. That means his relationship with God had to be such that he could call on Him for help at a moment's notice. Can you imagine how different the story would have been if Joseph had stopped serving God and then had been asked to interpret the dreams? He couldn't have. Or at least he would have had to spend time getting right with God first. Life is not something we can do on our own. When God sets an opportunity in front of my face I want to be serving and be ready. 

One of the things I was most glad about when Micah had his crisis was that I was upfront with God. I had been trying to serve Him. I didn't feel like I had tucked God into my back pocket and was calling on Him now that I had an emergency. We don't know what's coming in life; we just know that we will need God. 

2. Joseph was serving. We need to be ready for what God brings our way. Whether your current place is where you dream of being or somewhere you would rather not be, serve. Serve the best you can. Ask God to help you give that place your all. It honors God and it will prepare you for the rest of your life. We cannot walk with God without serving where we are. God transforms us from the inside out when we spent time with Him and obey Him. 

The next thing may not be something "big" to most people. Joseph rose to power seemingly quickly but some of God's people served quietly, unnoticed for all of their lives. But their work was important. Maybe you are preparing yourself for a job change with these two steps. Or getting ready to add a new baby to your family or start serving in a new ministry at church. It might not be something big like going to the mission field or becoming a popular speaker. But if you are walking with God daily and serving where you are, God can keep using you. When we stop obeying, we stifle our usefulness. 

And motherhood note: it's easy to say I'm going to keep serving in these years of raising littles and I'll be ready for the big work. But that's not true. These years of raising littles are the big work. While the work is often routine and repetitive it is holy, sacred, important. This shaping of little souls to be future men and women of God is not a work to be taken lightly or passed off as mundane even if it's unnoticed or unvalued by society. Don't buy into that lie. You are doing the work with those babies. Doing the work for God doesn't mean you'll never be frustrated or question whether you're making a difference. That is just part of life. Mother with your hand in God's.)

Would you be ready if a big opportunity opened up in your path this week? Have you been staying close to God and serving? 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

5 Rules for Social Media

Social media is an inescapable thing these days. To be transparent, I don't want to escape it. I love that I can see updates from missionaries and friends on Facebook, exchange barbs with some college friends on Twitter, and share pictures and stories of our life on Instagram. 

For all the things social media is good at, present day awareness isn't one of them. It's easy to spend all day checking for updates and seeing what everyone else is doing and ignoring what you are supposed to be doing. I don't want my family to remember seeing me behind a phone all day or that I stared at a screen instead of looking them in the eye. 

I've been working on setting some limits on social media. The Instagram and Twitter accounts are actually for the blog and Facebook is just my own personal account so I handle them differently. I post on Facebook sporadically, randomly. But I do talk to people and message people and it's the best way to contact people you don't know. This has happened three or four times over the past few months and it's worth the trouble that Facebook is. I disappear off Facebook for weeks occasionally and then I'll post something every day for a while. 

I try to approach my other social media accounts with some strategy and planning. The accounts for the blog I want to handle more professionally because I do look at it as work. That's why it gets done. So I scratched out my plan. 

1. Schedule posts. Every Sunday I spend some time scheduling posts for the church's Facebook and Twitter. Then I plan out Instagram stuff for the blog and links to share on Twitter. Occasionally I even plan tweets that aren't links but that I can schedule ahead as I look at the calendar. This saves me from having to post all the links in real time when I should be reading to my boys or cooking dinner. As I find content to share I just open it in Safari on my iPad and leave it until Sunday. (I use Buffer for the church and Hootsuite for the blog Twitter. )

2. Turn off notifications. I turned off all social media notifications on my phone and iPad. This way what someone said or didn't say can't distract me while I'm going about my life. I can check the apps at my scheduled times (like during quiet time or right after the boys are in bed) and not worry about them until then. I can assure you that nothing happening on social media is that important to me. (And I do realize this is not how you are supposed to handle Twitter especially. I just don't care.)

3. Don't complain. I realized when I first started using Twitter that my first impulse was to complain: to whine about problems in a cheeky way. Sure I was putting a spin on it but it was still whining. Stop it. My goal is to post only encouraging stuff. I don't mean that I can't be real; of course life is full of problems. Sometimes life is hard but you don't have to whine about your husband and kids and your house and your job all day either. What do you want your perspective on life to be? I've found gratitude to be an amazing attitude changer and I want to display that on Twitter as well. 

4. Don't criticize. It amazes me to scroll through Instagram and see people blasting a stranger for something they posted. "Why would you ever feed your child McDonalds?" "You shouldn't put that outfit on your kid." "Your child is buckled into their carseat wrong."  I even saw a commenter say that she felt a blogger liked one of her children better than the other. How outrageous is that? You are only getting tiny glimpses of life so shut up. I might give an opinion on a question but only on a question. Not just because I have an opinion. 

5. Live a full life offline. That's the only way to be interesting online- be interesting offline. Use the time you would spend idly surfing social media to learn a skill or read a book. Speak truth and speak freely about what you are learning and how projects are going. You have nothing to write about if you aren't living. 

Live and take pictures while you're at it. After all you do need something to post when you are online. 

How do you feel about social media? How do you manage it in your life? 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Cleaning Your House Doesn't Make You a Bad Mom

There's a new thing going around nowadays. It's called my-house-is-a-disaster-so-I'm-a-good-mom. And of course the caveat is that if you clean your house you are a bad mom because you should be spending that time with your children. Hence the popular quote, "Good moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, dirty ovens, and happy kids." 

Can we have some balance here? I prefer not to live in a pig-pen. I prefer to teach my children about order. God is a God of order after all. Please note the meticulous detail He provided about the building of the tabernacle for one example. God committed the care of our homes to us (Proverbs 31:27, Titus 2:5) It's not a role that we can just shove off because we don't want to do the work. Or we haven't taught ourselves about scheduling. Or we don't know how to clean. When you don't know something you can't just write it off as unimportant. You need to find someone to teach you. 

(I think we have forgotten that people have to learn. We come into life ignorant. Some other person taught us everything we know. Cut people a break and start teaching with your life and your words. Be available to get involved with people and teach them something you know how to do.)

I clean my house because I don't want to live in filth. I clean my house because I believe children learn better in places of order and schedule (there's research to back this up too). I clean my house because God told me to care for my home. I clean our home because I want to teach my children to work and they help me. I clean our home because I want to be able to open our home to others without being deathly embarrassed. I clean our home because our little world is to be a reflection of God's world. I clean our home because my children don't need me to entertain them 24/7. 

You can be a good mom and have a clean house. Of course I don't mean that your house is spotless and the laundry baskets are always empty. These little people take up hoards of time. But the work can be done. They can do it with you and it's good for them to do so. There's usually dust under our couch, probably some random toys too. I sweep our kitchen multiple times a day and there's always crumbs under the table. Sometimes a load of laundry stays in the dryer overnight. But the health department wouldn't shut us down. 

1. Have a cleaning routine. Knowing what you should do is half the battle. It removes the mental exertion from cleaning. If you know you *always* (see number three) clean the kitchen on Mondays then on Monday you clean the kitchen. 

2. Let your children help you. Give them a dusting cloth or a wet rag. Let them help you clean out the tub and dust the bottom shelves. Let them move chairs to mop and pick up toys to vacuum. Let them dance and chase each other to the noise of the vacuum cleaner. 

3. Be flexible. You'll run into days when cleaning doesn't get done. That's ok. When the cleaning is a habit and the house gets cleaned well most weeks when you miss one it's nothing major. Move things to different days. Know the "short route" to cleaning when life is super busy. Know what can be "not done" and the place still look presentable. 

4. Have certain things you do everyday. We pick up toys before we move onto the next thing. (At least we do normally and I always regret it when we don't.) I go to bed with a clean kitchen because nothing makes me feel further behind in the morning than a dirty kitchen. Wash/dry/fold/put away a load of clothes every day. Make your bed every morning. 

There are ways to clean and mother in some sort of equilibrium. You are not a bad mom if your home is not a disaster. And of course, a clean house does not mean you are a good mother either. Motherhood is so much more than the physical appearance of your home. But your home does matter

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When Their Hard Is Your Easy

Last fall I was in a rough spot. I was in my third trimester of pregnancy, my two boys had hand, foot, and mouth disease, and Justin was on a business trip. We couldn't go anywhere. Contagious, y'all. No one wants that. We even ended up missing missions conference at our church and it's my favorite weekend of the year.

At first I tried to be stern with myself and remind myself that my problems were nothing compared to some people's. While that was true I needed to give myself grace. It didn't compare to some people's problems but it was hard for me right then. It was ok to tell myself that instead of beating myself up for feeling so discouraged. 

We are all at different stages. It's natural to judge someone else based on where you are in life instead of where they are. If we could see life from their viewpoint we would be more compassionate 

You don't tell your third grader to "suck it up because third grade is nothing. Look what your brother is doing in eighth grade!" (At least I hope you don't.) We must move into the problems and difficulties of others even if they seem to be no big deal to us. 

Maybe it is easy. But you don't know it's easy until you've done something harder

-That first run after five years would be nothing to a marathoner, but it's hard. 
-That first baby doesn't seem intimidating to a mother of five, but it's hard. 
-That high school speech class may be a cinch to a public speaker but it's hard. 

Life is full of hard things. Sometimes even good things are hard. Hard doesn't mean bad and it doesn't mean you don't like where you are. Hard is just growing space. 

1. Recognize where the other person is. Have you been there before? Remember how hard it was for you. Really remember the struggles you had moving into a new job, adjusting to a new baby, dealing with a sick parent, bearing a strained relationship. 

2. Acknowledge to the other person that it's hard. Their situation is hard. Don't act as if they shouldn't be struggling. Don't be so protective of your image that you can't say, "Wow, I really struggled with that (or something like it) when___" and let them know we're all in the same boat. And we all grow. The hard things now may be easy things later. 

Sometimes we need someone to tell us that their life is hard too. If you come across as having it all together or being perfect you can't help anyone. No one can relate to that. We all have problems and difficulties and sometimes even our greatest blessings are hard. That's life.

3. Save the platitudes. Of course they are said for a reason; they are almost always true. But you don't have to say them. "You'll sleep when they're grown" will make an exhausted mama cry.

4. Offer help. Help- not advice (unless they ask). Maybe it's just a listening ear but sometimes that's all the help a person needs. A lot of time we can work through the problems or come up with a game plan to tackle them if we just talk about it. There are practical things you can do to help: take them food, run errands, watch their kids.  

Please, please don't look at someone who has trusted you with their heart, their perceived inadequacies and say, "Well, I did it and I survived." or "Well, I had it harder because of blah, blah, blah." They will only feel embarrassed that they can't handle it on their own. They'll learn not to turn to others (or at least not you!) when they are struggling. 

We struggle. People struggle even with simple things at times. Why don't we offer others a hand up instead of kicking them further down?

Lastly give yourself grace. Maybe you are struggling with something and you don't think anyone else is. Everyone else seems to have it down. Don't be discouraged. You'll grow into it. Acknowledge that it's hard and ask God for help. 

Be a person who takes the concerns of others seriously. Bear their burdens, meet their needs. Don't brush off their hard because it's easy to you. 

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Romans 12:15

Monday, June 1, 2015

June Goals: Habit Training

A lot of people have been talking about the power of habits on podcasts lately. Could I tell you which ones? Of course not because I didn't write it down when I was listening. Common knowledge is that we only have so much willpower to go around so if we have well-established habits we do those things without thinking. That allows us to save our willpower for something else, like eating chocolate cake.

Homemaking habits have saved me with small children. Washing the dishes as soon as we eat, starting a load of clothes first thing in the morning, and cleaning the kitchen before I go to bed all contribute to a smoothly running home. I've had personal habits for some time. I just get up in the morning and fix my hair and put on makeup. It's not always fancy but I'm presentable every single day. I've also started a new exercise "program" that I'm trying to make a habit. It does involve running in the morning so you know, it's less motivating than some things.

I've been trying to establish creative habits this year. So far I seem to have conquered writing every day and my weekly sketches. (And every day means at least 500 words a day, excluding Sundays.) I've been practicing the piano pretty much every day for five years but the piano lessons have helped me focus on what I'm practicing. That makes a difference too.

For June I want to add one new creative habit. I'm going to do one ten minute sketch a day (I always take Sundays off), excluding Tuesdays because I want to do my 20 minute #52for2015 sketch that day. Is this art fancy? No, it's certainly not. But my piano playing five years ago was less than fancy; it was horrid. And now I can play fairly competently. So in five years I could drastically improve my drawing skills as long as I don't let bad art stop me now. Everyone (with the exception of some prodigies) starts out doing things badly. You get better with practice.

I'm going to divide my page into four squares and do one square a day. I've actually been doing this for the past week or so to make sure it was realistic for life in this season and it seems to be. This exercise has actually been something I've looked forward to doing every day since I started working on it. At the moment I'm going to go with similar themes on each page like I did on the one pictured here.

Then a few other June goals.

1. Two reading lessons a week with Micah.
2. Finish memorizing Psalm 19 with the boys.
3. Go on one out-of-the-house date with Justin. We missed this for the first time this year last month.
4. Lay groundwork for a new project. (Was that mysterious enough?)

So what about you? What habits do you have that help your life? What habits would you like to start? Pick one and try it this month.