Sunday, May 20, 2018

Thief of Joy

I sat at a table filled with sweet sweet ladies, that I don't know well, connected only by the lovely pregnant lady across from me.  I sat listening to them talk about their new homes or their time as stay-at-home-moms, a recent trip to somewhere exotic, or a new adventure with a future move.  I looked at their polished hair  and actual makeup.  And I started to compare.  I was feeling pretty good in my skinny jeans and cute top (handed down to me by my sister-in-law).  I had actually dried my hair and put on my tinted moisturizer before coming.  But, I had ignored the piles of both clean and dirty laundry all over the house.  My sink was full of dirty dishes, and it smelled bad.  And hearing about the nice things these ladies had made my stomach feel heavy.

Author Lara Casey says, "Comparison is the thief of joy."  This is so true.  When I focus on what I have, and not on what others have, I'm content (maybe not with the loads of laundry or the stinky sink, but you know what I mean).

My house tends to be a source of discontent.  Not because it isn't enough, but because I compare it with what it isn't. 

So, I have been trying to remember all the the things about my house that is really good.

My kids love our steep driveway and the adventure they have at the bottom.  I love that our bedroom is so close to my kids' rooms that I can practically hear when one of them rolls over in bed.  I love that our kitchen is large enough that we turned part of it into a little "office" when our spare bedroom was filled with a baby.  I love that our basement is HUGE and I can shove stuff down there when I simply can't deal with it in the house.  I love my hydrangea.  I love our quiet road where my family takes walks.  And most of all, I love that this is our home, the first place my husband and I lived together and where my babies came home from the hospital.

Gratitude= Contentment

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Mother's Day and No Need for Stuff

An interesting thing happened this weekend.  Normally for Mother's Day, I like to go to our local farmer's market and look at all the crafts, eat some kettle corn (they have the BEST kettle corn), and I will often choose something that I like for my gift. My boys always make something for me in my Mommy Book (an idea I saw years ago in a Real Simple article). I say this is all I need, but my husband always wants me to have more. So we go to the market and I pick something I like. 

So a few days before Mother's Day, my sweet husband asked if I would like to go to the market and get one of my candles. I used up my favorite locally made candle, recently, and they sell them at the market.  But, the night before, I decided I didn't really want to go and look at all the stuff and deal with all the people (it's REALLY busy on Mother's Day).  I really just wanted to hang out with my kids and play. I decided I wanted to sleep in, go eat breakfast, play in the little pool and eat popsicles. Even if it meant I didn't get my candle.  

The next morning my boys surprised me with my Mommy Book and a song they wrote me (on their own with no prompting from their daddy).  Brandon had ordered me a shirt, but it hadn't arrived, so he made a little certificate that said it was on the way, but in the meantime I could use $X on whatever I wanted. 

Here's where the weird part comes in. I had no idea what to use it on. Normally, I have a huge list of things I want when I have extra money, or people ask for a gift list. But, I had no idea. And I still don't.  I've decided to order a cute decal for my Yeti knock off, but those are super inexpensive and barely uses any money from my allotted amount. And beyond that... I don't know what to get. 

I haven't been looking through the aisles at Target, and therefore don't know specific things I really want. I haven't been on social media.  I didn't realize how much that influences my purchasing behavior. Facebook has those ads all the time and they are so good at targeting people. I am careful about what I follow on Instagram, but I do specifically follow a couple of women who run businesses. They are really encouraging and I really enjoy their content. But, they are running businesses and they promote their products, and really make me want stuff that I wouldn't otherwise care as much about. 

It's a nice feeling to not have tons of stuff I'm yearning to have.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Contentment Challenge-April Wrap Up

I've finished my first month of the Contentment Challenge and I'm learning a few things. 
  • I don't buy a lot of extras for "me".  I tend to buy the extras for specific purposes, making them feel more like needs.  But, in the end, I think they are often just ways for me to feel in control when life feels overwhelming.  Instead, I should be turning to God and learning to surrender in times of overwhelm.
  • I DO buy food for myself as a source of comfort or contentment.  Same as above, I should be turning to God in times of stress, but this one is trickier as food is pretty necessary, and therefore, harder to moderate.  Clearly, I can't just stop eating for 3 months. 
  • Social media is a thief of presence and contentment.  Again, I think I'll need to write a full post about this, but being away from social media is a total breath of fresh air.
 I've found it tricky to work my Bible verses into everyday conversation with my kids.  Maybe this month, I'll write them out and leave them on the table.  The kids like to talk about stuff at dinner, so this may be a good opportunity to discuss scripture.

My verse for the next week (or maybe all month) is Matthew 6:34 (the first part).

"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow..." (MSG).

Sunday, April 22, 2018

For Everything A Season

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven."  Ecclesiastes 3:1

Winter is really hard for me.  I live in an area with a relatively mild winter climate.  Even still, when it rolls around each year, I strongly consider a move to someplace sunnier and warmer.  Somehwere that i can comfortably take a picnic on Christmas day and avoid the Seasonal Affective Disorder that I've diagnosed myself with.

While it is possible to make a geographical move and erase a yearly season from your everyday life, other seasons are unavoidable no matter where you live.  Plant a seed and it still has to grow before it becomes a tree and produces fruit.

I have a tendency to always work to improve our home, our lives, my marriage, how I parent, our diet, our schedules, routines, organization methods...the list goes on.  Improvement isn't necessarily bad.  But, sometimes I forget to consider my season.

Years ago, my mom made a wise observation about my generation (and is probably true for all generations of young adults). She said that we all start out in adulthood and expect to be at the stage our parents are in, forgetting the fact that they didn't start there.  They had to work to get to that point.  We forget to consider the season.  A newlywed couple fresh out of college can't expect to have the same financial freedom as empty nesters working in a stable long term job.
Contentment has a great deal to do with considering one's season.  If I'm striving for something inappropriate for the season I'm in, I'll never be content.  However, if I recognize where I'm at (and that it won't be this way forever), contentment will come easier.
So, here's to remembering that I'm in a season of littles, and laundry (so much laundry), diapers, toys everywhere, kids jumping on the couch, questions, and snuggles, and breastfeeding, and nurturing little hearts.  And here's to loving as many minutes as I can.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Needs vs. Wants

I always thought I had a pretty clear differentiation between needs and wants.  In a very strict sense, I do.  True needs are pretty basic.  Things that keep us alive and well.  But, since starting this challenge I've found that there are other needs that are less obvious.  For instance, when B mentioned that Rascal never seems to have any shirts in his drawer, I was torn about what to do.  Another shirt or two would make life a little easier, but was that really a need?  He HAS shirts.  I just have a hard time keeping up with laundry.  However, if the child doesn't have a clean shirt in his drawer when it's time to get dressed, this is sort of a need.  I'm realizing that I have a harder time distinguishing needs vs. wants when it comes to my kids.  It's easier to say no to things for myself.  In the end, Rascal got one new shirt because Monkey got new cleats for baseball and Rascal didn't get any, so he got a shirt instead.

Our trip to Disney was pretty easy as far as buying goes.  I got myself one practical souvenir (a stainless water bottle).  Each of the kids had a set amount of money to spend, which made it easier for me to not buy them lots of stuff or overspend in the name of "vacation".

More noteable, in my opinion, is my separation from social media.  In the first few days, I found myself reaching for my phone in times of boredom, only to realize that my phone is pretty boring without Facebook or Instagram to stare at mindlessly.  It made me anxious, at first.  But now, I feel like I'm more present and less anxious, overall.  I use my phone to work on a project (currently I have some photo projects going on), play a game (which seems to draw me into a different world much less), or I just set my phone down and read or soak in the moment and stare at my cute kids doing their cute things.  This is something that's been on my mind a lot over the past several months, so I'm sure there will be a whole post on this, soon.

I stuck to the same verse for 2 weeks so that I could think on it more and have a better opportunity to talk to my kids about it.  I like talking to Monkey about things like that.  He seems to soak it in and always surprises me with his questions.

For the next week or two I'll focus on this verse:

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven."  Ecclesiastes 3:1

Saturday, March 31, 2018

My Contentment Challenge

 "...for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have." Philippians 4:11

Tomorrow is April 1, and I am embarking on a 3 month Contentment Challenge.  I am structuring it around Nancy Ray's Contentment Challenge from 2013, but am making some adjustments to better fit me.  You can read about Nancy Ray's Contentment Challenge here and here.

Here is what I plan to do for my Contentment Challenge:

  • No shopping for extras:  I don't tend to shop a lot for clothes or goodies for myself.  But I do buy lots of little extras in the form of organizational items that I "need" for one thing or the other, clothes or doo-dads for the kids, baskets or rugs or table cloths or blankets.  Basically, all the things you don't go into Target for, but leave with anyway.
  • Gifts are OK-with discretion.  I do a lot of my extra purchasing in the way of gifts.  I buy things for the kids they don't need (see above), but I'm really bad at buying things for a gift "at some point," often with no specific recipient or occasion in mind.  So, for these 3 months I will only buy gifts for specific occasions happening in the near future.
  • Avoid window shopping unless its for specific goal or gift items.
  • Exceptions: 
    • We are going to Disney World during this challenge.  While I don't intend to go crazy, I'm simply not going to say no to a few souvenirs for the family.
    • Babies R Us/Toys R Us is going out of business, and I have some gift cards/reward points to use.  I'm going to do that and if there are any insane deals on things we can actually use or even save for birthdays/Christmas/etc., we may get a few things for that, as well.
  • No social media.  Nancy Ray's challenge is basically about purchasing things.  But, I think a lot of discontent comes from the constant comparisons we make while mindlessly scrolling through our social media.  I'm going to stay off of my personal social media accounts in favor of real connections and actual conversations.
  • Scripture: I plan to choose a scripture each week to focus on and hopefully even discuss with my kids.
I hope to blog through my journey each week, so check back.  I'm going to aim for Sunday posts.

And last but not least, GRACE.  I have a lot  going on, so if I don't get to my weekly posts or forget to choose a new scripture or something, I'm not going to beat myself up over it.

The verse for my first week is Phillipians 4:11 "...for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have."

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Love Your Enemies, Love Your Self

6-year old ninja cake, because...duh

"So what would you do if there was a boy who was mean to you, but then there was a really bad guy trying to hurt him, what would you do?"  I asked my 6 year old who just professed that he wants to be a ninja when he grows up so that he can save the good people from the bad people. 

"I would save him too." (This is the answer I was hoping for. Love your enemies, right?)

"You would?  Why?"  And he told me how he would still want to save him.  And we talked about how it's important to be nice to people, even if they are not nice to us.

Then my mind shifted suddenly to a Facebook post I had just read about a single mom and her daughter being watched and followed by several men at my local Walmart, likely trying to target someone into human trafficking.  I've read several posts like this, lately.  The parents are walking through the store and someone seemingly innocent stops to talk to the child, or to the parent while others stay nearby hoping for the parent to become distracted. 

Honestly, I often feel scared reading these.  Sick to my stomach.  And I often finish reading it and try to shake off the feeling and tell myself I should stop reading stuff like that.  It's hard to be in a world where you need to be informed, but also need to not become agoraphobic for fear of what is outside your front door. But after reading this particular post, something struck me.  We are often taught to be kind and polite (which is important), but are not often taught to be strong and confident and stand up for ourselves.  Sometimes I allow things that make me a little bit uncomfortable, because I don't want to offend someone.  But honestly, if I don't want the strange lady in the line at Bruster's to pinch my son's cheeks, (because I want him to know that he has the right to say no to unwanted touch), well, then I should feel OK asking her not to touch him.

I remember several years ago we were playing at McDonald's and a little girl kept trying to play with Monkey.  He kept running to me at the table crying, but wouldn't tell me what was wrong.  So I watched her very carefully to see what was going on.  I finally got it out of him.  She kept calling him "baby".  She looked to be about a year or two older than him, so I'm sure she just thought he was cute, and was trying to be sweet.  But he was taking great offense to this, as he was a Big Boy.  And so I told him that he could tell her to stop calling him that.  And he responded with concern in his eyes "But that's not nice."  And I knew right then, that we needed to teach our children to be kind, yes, but not at the expense of standing up for themselves.

 My little Ninja Turtles
We've worked through this theme with our kids in the years since.  "If someone hurts you, use your words and say 'Don't do that, that hurts me.' Or 'I don't like it when you do that.'"  And we teach them that if the person continues doing it, they are allowed to take further action. Stop playing with the child, tell a grown-up, or by golly, if that kid is hurting my child, I am OK if they push them away or hit them back.  Even Jesus yelled and threw over tables when it was called for.

So my mind shifted to this thought I had had just the day before.  Why are we taught to be kind and polite, but not to stand up for ourselves?  Are we taught to be kind at the expense of our safety? "It's always good to be kind to other people, even if they aren't nice to us, as long as we are safe." I told Monkey.  And we talked some more about being nice and also being safe

"I know" he said to me, "that's what I said."  <---I love this kid.