Christian Living

Climbing Last Year’s Mountain

Sorry guys! I know it’s been a couple of weeks. We’ve been sick again. It’s hard to get back into a routine after such a long time of being out of it.

I love New Year’s! I love feeling like I can let go of the failures of the previous year and start over with a fresh slate. No mistakes in it. I find, however, that I can get discouraged when I make my goals because I want to be further along than I am. It’s a time to look at the mountain and re-realize I haven’t climbed it. That’s not always true, and often, I forget to congratulate myself for the mountains I have climbed. But sometimes, it feels overwhelming just looking at the next year’s goals and seeing how similar they are to the previous year’s goals.

I’m learning two strategies to manage this type of stress. The first is to ask myself why I didn’t climb my mountain. I have to admit this type of introspection isn’t always that much fun. Sometimes it’s because I’m afraid to fail or I’m paralyzed by indecision over the best way up. Sometimes it’s because circumstances outside of my control kept me from climbing it. For example, several years ago my doctor told me I had to start sleeping 12 hours/night or I’d end up with an auto-immune disease. I tried doing a sleep study and following their recommendations but because the sleep doctor didn’t address my nutrition or my PTSD around sleep, I didn’t make any progress. I didn’t know what I didn’t know (and probably neither did the doctor).

In 2017, I learned about sleep on a cellular level and what I needed to do nutritionally to set myself up for good sleep. I also worked on my PTSD around sleep. Lo and behold, I’ve been sleeping through the night consistently for the past few months. For the first time in my whole life, I fall asleep quickly and easily, sleep until morning, and then wake up. I used to have sleep days like that two or three times per year and now they’re the norm. I love that kind of progress! But it didn’t come until I started dealing with the root problems instead of trying to treat symptoms.

The second is to give myself some grace. We can get so focused on accomplishing our goals–especially us people who are into personal development–that we forget to give ourselves grace. Success isn’t about perfection–it’s about getting back up when we fail, working on our projects when we can even if it’s not as much as we would prefer. It’s about doing our best with the circumstances we’ve got. Maybe I don’t have brain power to write one day–I don’t need to cudgel my brain into submission. Really, I probably just need a break and that’s okay. If I do force myself to write, it’s not going to be good quality and it’ll just reinforce a belief that writing is hard and not fun–work. That’s not the kind of writing I want to do! I love authors who obviously have fun with their stories–it makes the story fun to read. No one needs to read work that makes them feel bleh.

So, as we all start to execute our New Year’s goals, I challenge you (and myself) to implement these two strategies. Let’s ask ourselves why the goal hasn’t already happened and then address the issues that come up. And let’s give ourselves grace.

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Christian Living

Putting Out Fires… Before They Grow

Crazy fact: I didn’t even realize I hadn’t posted a blog last week until now. That’s how sick we’ve been. It’s amazing how everything falls to the wayside in the midst of illness. Both my husband and I are more than ready to return to our regular schedule.

I can’t tell you how happy that makes me 🙂 It means that our regular schedule is one that pushes us towards our goals, rather than our goals getting lost among the day-in, day-out reality of school, housekeeping, etc., etc.

How do we do that? Planning ahead and prioritizing the important–that’s the short answer. I really love the concept of risk management over crisis management. Risk management is when you take time to look at your schedule (or finances) and list out potential issues before they become issues. It allows you to take the stitch in time approach (you know, “a stitch in time saves nine”) where you solve the problem before it can get started. Crisis management, on the other hand, is when you live like a fire fighter, constantly putting out one fire after another. Problems are already full blown fires when they come to your attention.

For us, risk management means we sit down every Friday and talk about what expenses are coming up and how we want to budget for them. We also talk about our schedule for the upcoming week and what things need to get done–as well as what might potentially turn into a crisis. For instance, we make our own liver pills. It’s time-consuming, but it’s the only way I’ve gotten my kids to take liver 😉 So, I added making new liver pills onto our list before we ran out of the old ones. I didn’t want us to be out and then suddenly have something new added to the list (especially not something that takes extra time). We didn’t actually finish the new pills before we ran out, but the running out wasn’t a surprise. New pills were already on our radar.

Last week, on our podcast, Epic Every Day, Evan and I talked about how the holidays are coming. Thanksgiving is two weeks away!! TWO! I still can’t wrap my brain around that. Probably because we’ve been sick and out of our routine for the past two and a half weeks. My brain thinks it’s still October. But we’re preparing. We sat down with our kids last week to make a family holiday must-do list (stuff like making cookies and going to our favorite lights displays). Today we did more Christmas shopping and are having a gift wrapping party tonight.

A pinch of prevention is worth an ounce of cure. I’ve been wondering lately where else we can apply a pinch of prevention. I’m sure there are places I’m not seeing–time to ask God to show us where those places are! So how about you guys: any great ways you’ve found to consistently nip problems in the bud?

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Decoy Levels

Have you ever been playing a game, getting all excited that you’re about to win when all of a sudden you realize that you misunderstood what it took to win the game? It’s not a very good feeling, is it? I recently realized that one of the Freefall games I play on my phone has quite a few what I call “decoy levels.” Basically, you’ll have the same objective (e.g., light all the fires) for ten levels in a row and then on the eleventh row, there will be a bunch of fires, but the objective is to get rid of a hundred blues, or something of that nature. Maybe it’s because I don’t play often enough, but I get into a rut where my brain just looks at the level, sees the unlit fires and goes, “oh, right, need to light the fires.”

I’ve been thinking about how life is like that. As Tolkien put it, we can get distracted with “dishes and doilies.” For instance, I find myself focused on how much physical pain I’m in sometimes, just so I don’t have to think about my stress level. Or I obsess over something that doesn’t matter–e.g., how clean the house is–because I don’t want to deal with the fact that I’m not succeeding in an area that does matter. I firmly believe that’s exactly why some people become workaholics. They want success and can find success in work and it becomes addicting.

Anyway, I’m in the middle of reading a book about figuring out what really matters based on what’s important to you/who God made you to be. Someone who isn’t made to be a writer isn’t going to put writing high on their to-do list. It’s been really good! I’ve found myself thinking that knowing those things is the way to combat getting distracted by dishes and doilies.

As my daughter said when I was explaining to her why I have a Freefall example written in my Bible study journal, “I just read the goal first.” You had to have been there to find the humor–she’s almost ten, very sweet, and she looked at me like I was nuts.

If we have a clear objective, it’s much easier not to get taken in by decoys. I absolutely adore that God gives us a clear objective, and that it’s written over and over throughout Scripture. For example, in John 15 Jesus talks about how it’s our job to abide in Him and let Him bear fruit through us. In Phil. 3:11-13, Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s another great example of growing in our relationship with God while letting Him bear fruit in us. It doesn’t take a lot of Bible reading to find that goal written down.

We don’t have to wonder what the goal is. I keep reminding myself to start with the first things first: work on abiding; ask God to show me where I’m not abiding and why that is (which in my life is typically because I’m believing a lie of some sort) and then work to align with His truth.

So, how are you doing? It’s halfway through 2016. Do you gut-level know the goal, and are you working towards it? Or are you distracted by decoy levels?

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Goals or the Lack Thereof

Sitting here, I find myself staring at the screen and trying to remember anything to write about. It’s amazing how small and out of focus my world has become. We tried to go somewhere a couple weeks ago. It didn’t work out well, so I’ve had to accept I’m still housebound. I have to admit it was a blow, though not an unexpected one. After all, I’ve had since July of last year to adjust, right? (Who knew whooping cough could last so long?!!) I’m pretty sure the out of focus bit is more a result of the emotional turmoil of this past year.

We watched the new Annie movie with our kids today. I actually really liked the remake. However, I re-realized that I don’t really have any goals right now. I haven’t had goals in so long. I’ve been a very goal-oriented, push-through-no-matter-the-cost kind of person my whole life. It’s a little disorienting to be going nowhere right now. Just waiting. Trying to let my body heal up enough that I can rejoin society or just even be able to get through a semi-normal amount of activity in a day, despite the fact that some days it feels like a pipe dream. Trying to let myself grieve, even though there’s always this part of myself that argues it’s been plenty long enough.

I have always defined myself in terms of “do” and now I find myself forced into the world of “be.”

It’s so hard to practice what you preach. Six years ago if someone had asked me what a person had to do to be worthwhile, I easily could have expounded on the reality that we are all worthwhile simply by being God’s creation. Yet now I’m antsy and dissatisfied in “be” mode. I’ve learned that it takes just as much (or maybe more) to live in “be” rather than “do.”

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The Daily Struggle

“Carmen, you outdid yourself.”

“That’s the best reason to get up in the morning, Player… to do it better than you’ve ever done it before.”

~The Tigress, Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?

My kids have been borderline obsessed with Carmen Sandiego lately. It’s prompted some great discussions about geography and history. This particular exchange has been echoing in my brain quite often. I’ve found myself asking if I have that goal. Do I aim to be more surrendered, more of a conduit for God’s love, more present and authentic with anyone I come in contact with? I have a yearly goal that by the end of the year I would have gotten better at those things, but I don’t think I ever have a daily goal to do better than I’ve ever done before. Frankly, most days, my only goal is just to get through the day without a) losing my mind from pain/exhaustion, b) doing absolutely zero chores, and c) being a horrible mother. Somehow my world regularly shrinks to where I live in survival mode. This is not to say that it’s always survival mode–there are moments and hours where I can hang onto how much I love my life and the things God is doing.

Anyway, as I’ve been meditating on this quote, I’ve been wondering what it would look like if I got up every morning determined to do better than I’ve ever done before–not to get my house cleaner, etc., etc., etc., but to be more surrendered, more present in each moment… more fully myself… to live each moment deliberately, as Henry Thoreau would say.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” (Walden, [New York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., 1910], 118)