Quit Blaming Your Stuff: 3 Questions to Help You Be REAL

So often we blame our STUFF or our CALENDAR for the stress in our lives.  Neither is correct.  Each of those are as they are because of choices we have made.  Choices to purchase something, to keep something from mom or grandma’s attic, to commit to an event or activity or project.  We have no one to blame but ourselves.  Ouch.  That hurts.  However, it is the truth.  The longer we live in denial about that fact, the longer we will live in stress, in overwhelmed, in over drive.

It is easy to accumulate.  We accumulate things, tasks, events, people, debt, the list goes on.  We get caught up in “the world” and the way everyone else lives.  We move through life on auto pilot or so busy and distracted we fail to even notice the moment, the people, our choices, our words, our actions.

My desire is not to just be organized.  My desire is to live a simpler life.  I want to live in each moment.  I don’t want the pull of the next task or event to distract me from this moment.  I don’t want the mounds of laundry, overflowing kitchen cabinets, or piles of paper to keep my mind abuzz with “you should”, “you ought to”, “you failure”…  I want life to be simpler.  I want it to be organized. I want it to reflect my style-my heart.  That life requires decisions.  It requires honesty.  It requires knowing where my time will be spent today.

Here are 5 Questions I ask myself:

1.  If I bring this task or thing into my home where will it go?  For tasks, that means where on my calendar will I put it?  For things, that means where in my house will I store it?

2.  Why do I want this thing?/Why do I want to do this task?  I am a firm believer that things need to have a purpose-even if that is to simply sit and look pretty and bring a smile to my face.  I am a firm believer that tasks I do need to fit my Life Statement.  Does this task help me reach a goal or meet a need for the people holding highest priority in my life?

3.  Can I maintain this task or thing?  I have to look ahead at my schedule and my space to determine if next week I can still find time on my calendar or will still have the space for this item.

If I can’t answer these questions, especially number 2, then I give myself 24 hours.  If the thing or task fits, I’ll know.  If I remain uncertain then I let it go, having faith that in due season if it is a necessary thing or task, the opportunity will re-emerge.

I don’t want to go through life on auto pilot.  I don’t want to miss that moment to connect with another.  I don’t want to miss the whisper of the Holy Spirit, because I failed to sit and rest.  I don’t want a home so filled with things that bring me and my family joy, but are never shared with another.  If I don’t, then I have to.  I have to quit blaming my stuff, my calendar or others.  I have to make a decision.

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The Race to Nowhere In Youth Sports

Shana Chaplin:

An incredible, heart felt article that touches on much of what I think about, pray about.

Originally posted on Steve Nash Youth Basketball Blog:

By: John O’Sullivan

Source: http://changingthegameproject.com/the-race-to-nowhere-in-youth-sports/

“My 4th grader tried to play basketball and soccer last year,” a mom recently told me as we sat around the dinner table after one of my speaking engagements. “It was a nightmare. My son kept getting yelled at by both coaches as we left one game early to race to a game in the other sport. He hated it.”

“I know,” said another. “My 10 year old daughter’s soccer coach told her she had to pick one sport, and start doing additional private training on the side, or he would give away her spot on the team.”

So goes the all too common narrative for American youth these days, an adult driven, hyper competitive race to the top in both academics and athletics that serves the needs of the adults, but rarely the kids. As movies such as “The Race to Nowhere

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Dreams Come with Faith

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As a mom over 45 I have found myself wondering where my dreams have gone?  Wondering if I have let them die, given up, or just lost my way.  Not because I lack happiness, but maybe because sometimes I focus too much on others, my family, dreaming FOR them, instead of living my own.  Sometimes my dream IS them, and it all gets mixed up.  I know I am not alone.  I hear the conversations and read the thoughts daily.  We long for so much, we get caught up in the “what should be” and can lose sight of what is, our dream, His will.

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In an unexpected moment, a sunset, He whispers to our soul, “Remember who you are.  Remember whose you are.”  Those dreams of old come spilling forth.  Like the warmth of the sun, they envelope me in a warm embrace.  I do still dream.  My dreams still live.  The more I am still, the more I ponder, the more I realize that even those dreams I thought lost, are being nurtured by all that He has called me to in this moment.  I can trust Him.  He does not give us the desires of our heart all at once.  He plants seeds of hope, visions of ministries, and through our daily living, daily obedience He grows them.

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Right now life is about this.  These three people fill my heart with joy.  They challenge me to be better, to give more, to laugh, to grow.  My best for them is to be the best of me.  It’s not to dream FOR them.  It is to set wings to my own dreams, to trust-have faith.  It is to live in such a way that they feel safe, loved, cherished and free to dream.  It is taking joy in hearing their dreams and watching as He begins to unfold those dreams.  I can hold on tight or I can release, having faith.

My dream was to be an advocate.  At age 14 I knew God was calling me to serve the forgotten child.  I had grand visions of working for UNICEF or Save the Children.  Instead I became a “Child Abuse Investigator” and later case manager.  I became an advocate and leader with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).  Then, in a moment, after 6 long years, heard the words, “You are pregnant.”  In a moment my husband and I knew everything was to be put on hold, the new call was to grant these miracles the very best, for me to be at home, being mom.  Why do we so often think that means putting dreams on hold?  Why did I let my mind go there?  Why do I even today sometimes doubt.

My dream is not dead.  My dream has not been completely fulfilled.  Instead, God has grown me, all while growing my dream. I am still called to serve the underserved.  I am still called to serve the forgotten child.  However, God has shown me that as He has taught me to parent, to mother, He has placed a desire on my heart to come alongside that woman, that mom who doesn’t know, doesn’t know how.  Years of advocacy, years of being at home, years of waiting.  I am beginning to see glimpses.  There are others with a similar dream.  We begin to meet.  We begin to pray.  I am reminded to have faith.

A little over a year ago I had the privilege of meeting at Family Life with the Arkansas Women Bloggers network.  We had a wonderful lunch, time of sharing and then the cherry on the cake, was hearing from Barbara Rainey.  Her words that day struck a chord and prompted me to move from discouragement to hope.  She is an extremely talented author and artist.  Her husband leads one of the most influential Family Ministries in our country.  She has children.  She reminded me “there is a season” and “nothing is wasted in developing our dreams, who we are.”  An empty nester, she has just begun a new venture, one in which her heart for family, motherhood and her talent as an artist are melded into a beautiful business-Ever Thine Home.  She reminded me to keep the dream.  Remember who I am, whose I am.  She reminded me that in His time, in the right season, He will unfold the rest of the dream.  It won’t be working for UNICEF or Save the Children, but it will be so much more, because I am now so much more.  I am reminded as Holly Gerth says in  You’re Made for A God-Sized Dream, “Your God sized dreams are not just about making his purposes and plans a reality.  They are also about revealing his character through you.  Who you are on this journey is just as important as what you do.”

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Today I will dream.  I will be the mom who cooks, cleans, plans, carpools, holds the hand, watches the girl learn to guide the horse, listens to the heartache of friendships.  I will grow.  I will need HIM, meet Him each morning seeking His grace and His wisdom for the day ahead.  I will see that not one moment is wasted.  Even my mistakes, those times I ran ahead of Him, are salvaged.  He will not let the dream die.  He will take every moment, use it to correct, teach and encourage.  I will grow.  The dream will grow.  In season, it will come to fruition.  I will have faith.  I will live faith.  Faith fuels the dream.

Patterns Need Not Carry On through Generations

This blog post touched my heart this morning.  My own family has been plagued by depression for generations, on both sides.  It is an ugly disease.  It is one that strikes at the heart of all those around.  It is deep.  It is dark.  It makes no sense.  It gives way to excuses.  While I have not struggled with depression myself, I have been deeply impacted by the generational impacts of the depression in our family.  The secrecy.  The shame.  The anger.  Excuses over ownership.  Condemnation over grace.  In most it creates bitterness.  In some it has created deep sorrow and despair.  In me?  Well in me, it pushed walls up.  It closed off my heart.  It created a need for perfection and striving-striving to do good, striving to keep peace, striving to nurture those hurting.  It almost sucked me into its pit of despair, but I fought hard and chose something else.  I had too much at stake.  Miracle daughters.  A giving, loving man of faith for a husband.  I had friends, deep, true friendships.  I had a purpose, one I did not wish to see lost in bitterness and despair.  I am thankful for all of that.  I am thankful for lessons in forgiveness, for understanding that grace is simply allowing God’s grace to flow to another.  I am thankful I have learned to open my heart to His mercies, the friendships, the ministries.  He gave me a word-one of truth.  He has brought it to me repeatedly, most often in those dark moments when the depression of another is seeping into the lives of all around, when it seems to become too much.  I pray today you remember this:  generational patterns DO NOT HAVE to carry on through generations.  We have a choice.  We have a way to overcome.  Depression is a physical disease.  It may continue in my family line, but the secrecy, the shame, the excuses, the striving don’t have to.  Let His spirit flow as streams of living water.  He will refresh.  He will revive.  He will bring forth the new.

“Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I will do a new thing.  Now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?  I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  Isaiah 43:18-20 NIV

For the post that touched my heart, reminded me we are not alone on this journey…  http://www.aholyexperience.com/2014/10/how-god-saved-my-marriage/

Storms Change Our Perspective

Yesterday storms rolled into my area.  The weather man predicted 4-6 inches of rain, winds up to 70 mph, and the threat of tornadoes.  I woke up in a stormy mood.  I had a large Mary & Martha event scheduled.  High winds and rain at the peak of the event were not quite what I had in mind.  My business partner and her husband are going through some life transitions, which include jobs.  One of my best friends is having to defend her job of 25 years.  I had not completed my weekend list of “to do” items and someone had backed out of an event schedule for down the road.  Quite frankly I woke up in a stormy mood, mad at the day, mad at life and REALLY mad at God.  I’d say I was just frustrated, but that would be a lie.  My feet hit the floor and I let the grey skies, high winds, rain and thunder ease me into an overall bad mood.  My thoughts were stormy.

Isn’t it amazing how quickly our thoughts can be taken captive, can alter the course of our day?  Nothing went right.  I spilled my coffee.  I had to run a load of laundry a second time because I had forgotten it the day before.  I barked orders at my kids, told my husband my story of doom and gloom which I was certain to be my day.  Soon, my whole house was feeling a bit stormy.   Not good for a Monday.  Despite my mood, I knew the day had to carry on.  I got my daughter started on her home school assignments and gathered up my supplies for the Mary & Martha event.  The storm hit and much to the dismay of the weather men, it didn’t hit with the force they had predicted.  We got some decent wind, and a fair amount of rain, with some booming thunder, but that was it.  (unfortunately south of us did get the damaging wind and there was a fatality)  I put a little praise music on in the car and began to pray.  I’d love to tell you I prayed a beautiful prayer, but it was anything but.  It went more like this, “God, what are you doing?  I swear I am giving it everything I have to obey you and this is what I get?  Seriously?  A storm on a Monday morning when I have a full day? …”  Not pretty.  Real, but not pretty.

The day went on.  The Mary & Martha event went great and in fact, I made a new friend and met some wonderful women.   My daughter got all her stuff done and we got to go watch my niece play volleyball and win.  All day long though, despite the fact that things were working out, I felt myself holding on to the storm.  I kept thinking, “I want to quit this day, go home, crawl in bed and call a do-over.”  It wasn’t until I had my pajamas on, a plate of warm chicken pasta and some Blacklist recording that I gave any real to thought to my thoughts and actions and the storm.  Just the thought of rain and high winds had gotten me all upset, worried, fretting.  The same happens in life with the metaphorical storms.  The truth was, I wasn’t ready for the storm.  I could have loaded my car the night before.  I could have sought scripture to pray for my friends.  I could have sought God’s wisdom and asked for direction for my business and business partner.  I could have called upon my prayer warriors asking for their intercession (which I did, but not until after my bad mood had sat in), I could have laid it all at His feet.  Instead I carried it.  I carried it in my head.  The thoughts took on a life of their own and became actions.  When I lay them at His feet there is no time for anxious thoughts to grow.  He fills my mind with His truth and promises.

I sat feeling ashamed of my choices.  I sat realizing despite me, the day had gone well.  God was still in control.  My self-inflicted storm created as the result of negative thinking about a real storm was nothing compared to the storms so many of my friends are facing, storms raging across this world: cancer, persecution, death, hunger.  No, my storm was really nothing more than a lack of faith, a pity party for myself.

Storms come. Storms are real.  We often have reason to fear the storm.  But storms should not ruin our day.  They should not take our thoughts captive and push the truth far from our minds.  Storms should give us perspective.  They should be the reminder that we need God, we need friends, we need to be ready.  Dark clouds lingered for a bit this morning, but then the skies cleared and the air was crisp.  The sun sparkled off the rain puddles.  A new day.  A new perspective.  Confession from my lips.  Gratitude to those who stood in the gap for me.  A lesson learned.  A spirit strengthened.

Don’t let the storms alter your truths.  Remember.  Most of all, be ready.  Time in His word.  Share your needs and worries with Him.  Allow others to intercede on your behalf.  Rest in the quiet before the storm and then let Him and His truths see you through the storm.

New Home, New Plans, Start Here

Our moving process has just about come to an end.  The painter was back for touch ups today and the last light will hopefully be hung next week.  I have had the boxes unpacked for a while, but we are still (I am still) finding a place for everything.  I have said it before and I will say it again, while I love my new home and am ever so grateful to have had this opportunity, the best part of this move has been releasing.  I tell you, this recovering perfectionist has learned a lot about releasing over the course of the past three years-releasing people, feelings, situations…  The icing on the cake has been releasing stuff as we have prepared to move.  I feel twenty pounds lighter (in my dreams, and that’s another blog post for another day).  My family has embraced this process and I can honestly say I do believe we are down to having in our home only those things we love and find to be useful!

I was born with an innate desire to have order and simplicity.  I’m not one to like chaos, although I love change.  I’m not one to like collections.  I’m not one to like lots of color and pattern, in my home or on my person. I feel better when things are fairly simple (my girls say ‘boring’).  Piles do not energize me.  They drain me, as if calling out to me, “One more thing to do!”  While this innate desire for order and simplicity has driven me to a love of organization, I truly embrace organization because of the life it enables me to live.  I don’t ever want my home, my blog, my speaking engagements, etc… to prompt anyone to go home and begin organizing so they can present a certain image, or think it is a must do.  I don’t want any of us to emulate the pristine pictures in magazines or on Pinterest.  My prayer, my hope, is that anything I write, say, picture, about organizing creates a longing in others for peace, for a life that is fully lived.  I love being organized, having an organized home because it frees me to serve others, to use my home as a sanctuary and place of refreshment and nourishment.

Over the course of the next few months I thought I’d give you a glimpse into our home and along the way pass along some of my tips for keeping things ordered.  Today we will start at the front.  Our front door opens into our entry and dining room.  This home has been a challenge.  We have moved from a two story English style home, with lots of separate rooms, to a more English country open, one story floor plan.  I love it, but boy does it ever beg for order.

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I have yet to find an entry rug I like, nor have I landed on what to put over/behind/with the small silver chest on the entry wall.  We have 14 foot ceilings in the entry and dining.  I love the expanse.  I feel like I can take a deep breath and relax when I walk in.  I decided in this home to move away from the more traditional English colors I had used in the past, deep reds, navy blues, deep greens, and gold.  I moved completely out of my comfort zone and went with tone on tone.  The trim is slightly darker than the walls.  It is a greige.  I think that’s what they call this new trend.  The walls are subtle taupe/white.  We have a lot of family wood pieces and I wanted those items to pop and yet the home to feel light and slightly more modern.  Not sure we pulled it off completely, but it is feeling like home and we all like it.

Our dining room is a big part of our home.  Not in terms of space, but in terms of how we live.  We LOVE to entertain, and so our dining room really does get lots of use.  I am blessed to have a 1960 Ethan Allen dining set once owned by my mother-in-law.   In fact, it was her gift to us just two short years before she passed.  I treasure it.  I love the simple lines.  She loved order as well, so she had great storage pieces.  There is a bar cart my husband’s father still uses, so I don’t have it yet, but one day the set will be completed again.

We keep our dining table extended, ready for seating 8.  I love to decorate for the various seasons, but always try to keep the decorations centered on the table, so nothing has to be moved in order to use the table.  It just makes life easier.  I like to throw a few books and decor items in the china cabinet, but by in large, I store china and crystal in the china cabinet.  It keeps it safe.  It keeps it close at hand for use.  For those of you who never use your china, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.  I got to meet and hear a Royal Doulton VP speak shortly after I got married.  A real treat.  He took a china plate and through it on the floor.  It didn’t break. He took a piece of every day dishware, through it on the floor and it shattered.  Bone china is actually very strong.  It is resistant to chipping and breaking.  Now, if you slam it up against the granite counter, well, no help there.  My point is, while it may look fragile, it really isn’t.  I could go off on a whole other path here spiritually comparing women to bone china and reminding us how very strong we are, but…  I also learned that bone china is dishwasher safe.  I heard you gasp.  And yes, my grandmother and mother just might faint.  It is the truth.  bone china, even with gold or silver banding is dishwasher safe.  The trick?  DO NOT use dish detergent with lemon in it.  In all actuality using dish detergent with lemon in it is bad for ALL your dishes, glass ware, cookware etc…  The lemon causes pitting.  Use the plain Jane dish detergent.  I use the good old Cascade plain.  I have for 24 years and my china is as beautiful today as the day I got it.  My gold bands are in tact.  The second secret is to let it air dry.  Adjust the setting on your dishwasher-it’s simple.  I tell you all of this to say-USE YOUR CHINA!  Why have it, why store it, if you are not going to use it?  If it just isn’t you, not your taste, you registered to get your mother off your back, then take a deep breath and let it go.  If you love it, dream of using it, then get it out and USE IT!

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I keep my silver in the silver drawer.  You can buy replacement liners and/or spray for the liners at the Container Store.  This keeps my silver from tarnishing quite so quickly.  Again, I keep it here so I will use it.  And we do-even a little tarnished.  I also keep our table cloth, chargers, table runners, box of plate stands etc… and a box of candles in the cabinet.  I literally have everything at my finger-tips when needing to set a quick table or prepare for a festive gathering.  You’ll notice the table cloth drawer is not full.  I keep a cream table cloth and a brown one.  That’s it.  I have found those two meet my needs.  And in all honesty, more often than not we just use place-mats or chargers.  I know there are TONS of gorgeous table cloths out there.  I know many of you have drawers brimming with them.  My question is, “Why?”  Do you use them?  How often do you think about using them, only to decide you don’t want to iron them or you don’t want them to get dirty.  My challenge to you is this-free up the space.  Get rid of them.  Life is way too short to fret over table cloths.  Keep the one or two you REALLY use.  Release the rest.

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I change out the art next to the china cabinet by season.  It’s an easy spot to add some holiday decor, yet doesn’t clutter things or require moving a lot of other stuff around.   During the fall I actually have framed pumpkins my kids did back in the 3rd grade.  I loved the look of them and as a mom, I struggled during those elementary years with storing their art.  I actually have quite a bit of it framed and we use it in our home.   It’s amazing how many comments we get.  I love it.  My girls love it.  One day I hope their children will love it and be inspired.

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As I have sought to become less of a perfectionist and more of an organized mom seeking peace, beauty and a full life, I have come to realize that having less often means having more.  Our dining room is fairly simple.  I have let go of a lot of stuff-and I am ashamed to say so.  Good grief the decorations, table cloths etc… I have spent money on.  Oh well, lessons learned.  As you can see.  I use every inch of the china cabinet and keep the table open for guests (which also means I don’t have to store the table leaves).  I have tried to be creative with my kids’ art, saving money at the same time.  While simple, we love our dining room and we use our dining room.  We serve friends and family there.  We play games there.  On occasion the table is cleared and we work on scrapbooks there.  We enjoy it.  And that dear friends, is a full life.

I challenge you to rethink your dining room.  If it’s really not your style to have one, then repurpose the room.  I have helped a client turn hers into a craft room.  A friend of mine uses hers as a billiards room.  If you want to use your dining room, then do.  Clear out the chests, get rid of the excess.  Use it, enjoy it.

Fear is the Key to Freedom

From Deb @ Breathing in Grace

From Deb @ Breathing in Grace

 

If you’ve read much of my blog you know I struggle with fear and worry.  You also know I am a recovering perfectionist.  I guess it is highly possible the two go hand in hand.  I am so thankful God has chosen to speak to me a great deal about these two things.  Fear.  Worry.  I had convinced myself both were a sin.  Yep, big black, dirty sins.  That would lead to beating myself up over the worry and fear.  And you know how the cycle goes. The beating up, the battle in the mind, leads to more fear and more worry.  It’s really quite exhausting.

I believe all of us have been there.  Some of us just stay there longer than others.  I confess.  That would be me.  The recovering perfectionist.  The one that got to the end of her rope, couldn’t fix the world, much less her extended family, couldn’t do it all, missed the boat on some great chances.  The one living life exhausted and finally tired of living that way.  The one who knew there was more to life than this.  I could regret it all.  I could regret I didn’t learn sooner.  But, what good is that?  It only leads to a renewed cycle of fear and worry.

I am grateful.  I am grateful God’s grace never runs out.  I am grateful each morning is full of NEW mercies.  I am grateful He walks with me.  I am grateful that when we finally release He gives us rest, freeedom.  I am grateful I said yes to letting go of perfectionism.  I honestly thought letting go of perfectionism meant I’d be free of fear and worry.  Not so.  You see, the greatest lesson of all in this process of letting go (and it is a process, don’t kid yourself into thinking you can quit anything cold turkey) has been understanding His truth.  Fear is not a sin.  Fear is a feeling.  God created it.  He created our minds and bodies to respond to it and in those responses we are often protected.    The sin comes in letting fear oppress us, hold us back from obedience and faith.  God knows I fear.  His word says that is okay.  His word tells me He has a plan for fear.  The plan is to keep going WITH Him.  The plan is to acknowledge the fear, to look it in the eye and say, “This fear is real.  But I will not let it win.  I have God with me, in me, around me.  I will walk with Him THROUGH this fear.” Too often I let fear oppress, hold me captive.  That leads to worry.  That leads to inaction.  That leads to nothing good.   God has taught me and reminded me that putting feet to my faith is what matters.  That thing that terrifies me, is most often the one thing needed to move me towards my God given calling.  He never says He will take the fear away.  He never rebukes us for having fear.  He simply says, “Do not fear” and then gives a directive.  For the Israelites it was “do not fear”, put the blood on your doorposts and the angel of death will pass over.  To Abraham is was “do not fear”, gather my people and I will lead you to the promise land.  To Mary it was “do not fear”, go tell Joseph and I will give to you my Son and you shall call Him Jesus, Messiah.  DO NOT FEAR is never a chastisement.  It is always a directive, followed by an action we are to take, followed by a promise.  Fear is not a sin.  Fear is often the propelling force.  It is the force pushing us to greater faith.  It is the force that says, trust me, put feet to your faith and hold on.

The worry thing.  Well, it is a sin.  I am still struggling with it.  It wins most often when I have let fear win.  There is something liberating though in coming to the truth that I need not fear, fear itself.  It’s hard-hard to embrace, but I am getting there.  When fear strikes I am learning to sit, to be still, and to listen intently for His directive I KNOW is to follow.  Then I pray.  I pray for strength to do it, to take the step.  The most beautiful part comes in holding His hand watching for the promise to unfold.