Friday, December 8, 2017

Look Stylish and Keep Up with Your Kids


Are you also in the phase of life where everyone else (kids, mortgage, car, Target...) takes ALL YOUR MONEY? (Help us, Dave Ramsay.) That's our current season. This fact has shaped how my husband and I exchange Christmas gifts.

We've decided...We buy our own presents.


It's fun to have an excuse to spend some money on something we want. (Because, kids, mortgage, car, Target...) But we can't bring ourselves to buy each other something, just to buy something. Even if we 80% like the gift, it's still not enough. We have to be ALL IN or we don't want one more thing we don't love cluttering our house. So we look forward to sitting side-by-side on our laptops shopping for OURSELVES. (Quality date night.)


A few years ago I discovered yoga pants. Sweet, sweet yoga pants. Now, I've heard some criticism of "leggings as pants," but whatever people, you not trying to keep up with my three kinetic-energy-driven sons. I move quicker in my yoga pants. I'm like Flash. But this Flash wants to look cute, so a comfy but stylish mom t-shirt
 is what my family "got me" for Christmas.


Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash

I ordered the top-left shirt below, but it was hard to choose. Click on the link to see a clearer picture. You'll also see a price that will allow you to purchase the shirt and still have money to spend on the materials your kid needs for his science project, due tomorrow. (Affiliate links.)



                   


   


                   

    

When it comes to accent jewelry, I've fallen in love with the beautiful companies that provide people in vulnerable situations with jobs. A young woman from an impoverished community in Ethiopia now has an avenue through a company to sell her jewelry and support her family. A woman who has broken out of a red light district – known for sex trafficking – in Kolkata, India finds safety under the wings of an organization that helps her learn how to craft beautiful blankets, stylish bags, and a better life. 

Food on the table, a roof over a family’s head, a woman with pride in her business, and companies that make this happen. 

Yes, please.





Both of my bracelets pictured above would look great with my outfit. They're from Noonday Collection (not an affiliate link).

I've also bought trendy, stackable brackets from Better Way Imports (also not an affiliate link).

Moms, in this season, when you are thinking of everyone else, don't forget yourself. Because you are doing amazing things. And it's good for you to occasionally be spoiled.

One more thing, I mentioned Dave Ramsay above. His book The Total Money Makeover made a huge impact on us. Learning how to stretch your dollar is a nice gift too.

Merry Christmas and happy shopping, dear friends.


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(Blog post contains affiliate links.)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

To The Working Mom

I lingered a few feet outside the main doors of the gym where my son was playing in his final weekend basketball tournament. Phone to my ear, I discussed work with my colleague. When I hung up, I instantly felt guilty. I should be more helpful to my coworker - she has a lot on her plate. That thought had barely passed when I felt guilty for stepping away from family time to take a work call.

The working-mom/stay-at-home-mom debate stirs up big emotions. I've done both and they're equally hard in different ways. Right now, in this life stage, I am called to work and called to be a great mom. I love both roles.



Yet sometimes I shortchange each – work gets busy and home life suffers, or family is demanding and I wish I were a better employee. Here's what I've found though: Every mom feels this way. We want to excel at our crafts and we also know the season of raising kids is sacred and fleeting. We tug-of-war between the two. 

But when I'm struggling with prioritizing, here's what I remind myself:

1. Be fully present where you are. When you're at home, be at home. When you're at work, be at work. Offer each place the best of you while you're there. You don't need to stress about one when you're focused on the other. News to me. Somewhere in my career, I told myself work needed to be my life. Recently, I began collaborating with a successful coworker who rarely checks her emails at home. Gasp. Can. Not. Even. Process. This. I don't have to work until I burn out? I can fully enjoy my home life and come to work refreshed? (All the praise hands.)

2. Examine what's most important to your family and make it happen.
My family values unpacking our thoughts together. So, dinner, old-fashioned card games, evening prayers, or other activities that promote communication are a must. Even if my day is slammed, if we've had time to talk as a family, I feel good. How can you prioritize the things that connect your family?

3. Reduce commitments. If you don't, you will crash. I promise you, it happened to me. Break the news: Sorry, I can't commit. People will get over it. And don't sign your kids up for everything. Look at your calendar and create margin. Your sanity will thank you.



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Grab your free printable here on 8 Ways to Make the Everyday Easier.


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4. When you don't have time, collect moments.
Sometimes busy is best; everyone is involved in beloved activities and the schedule is held together by a thread. At those times, collect moments. Watch in slow motion as your son walks into practice. Linger in that hug with your daughter. Pause in your day and collect the blessing of the moment. It'll fill your heart in ways you didn't expect.

5. When your kids are communicating, stop and listen. Look up from the phone, quit chopping the vegetables, turn off the vacuum. The to-do list will always be there, your kids won't. And know they always feel the need to unload their hearts at the most inconvenient times. Roll with the waves on this one.

6. Take time off from work. I remember stressing about the number of sick days I used. A wiser coworker said, "That's what they're for. You have kids. They need you. Take more days if you must." We get time off for a reason. Use it. The world will not stop. Life is happening right now, not tomorrow – live that way.

7. Be kind to yourself. We are our toughest critics, but we deserve the same grace we give other people. When you need time for you, take it. Create quiet moments to listen to your heart. Do whatever refuels and inspires you. Your household and workplace will benefit from it.


As I took my seat at the basketball game, I reminded myself: now is family time. I hushed the guilt for abandoning my coworker. Instead, I focused on cheering from the sidelines. And I felt motherhood be the sacred role that it is. When I walk into work on Monday, I'll be ready to give my all there, too.

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PS - Books get me through life. Especially, encouraging books. As a working mom, these books have strengthened me in different ways (affiliate links):



The Ministry of Motherhood: This book made me want to have 125 more children because Sally Clarkson left me feeling inspired as a mom. 

Settle For More: I am addicted to reading people's stories. Megyn Kelly's a strong woman whose determination is empowering.  

Own Your Life: I love Sally Clarkson.  She shares her wealth of knowledge in loving and inspiring ways. She's every mom's cheerleader.

Breaking Up with Perfect: Amy Carroll helps us let go of perfect and reach for joy.

Let. It. Go.: The title says it all. It's a great read for all the type A's out there. Plus, Karen Ehman is just fun.

Unglued: That's how I felt for an entire year...okay maybe 2 years. Lysa Terkeurst helps us make "wise choices in the midst of raw emotions."

Savor: If you're a tired mama - Shauna Niequest is your girl. I love her inspirational words that deepen our faith and help us live every day abundantly. 

If you have great reads for me, I'd love to see your recommendations in the comments. 


Photo by London Scout on Unsplash

Sunday, November 5, 2017

One Way to Learn How Your Kids Feel Loved

(Inside: Create family-connection by learning how you and your family members feel loved.)

You dropped one kid off at voice lessons, picked another up from swim team and the third you wrangled through homework with a few tears...from you. Do you get stuck in the busyness of life and occasionally find yourself wondering: Do I really know these people I live with?

I asked my dad if he could go back in time and redo one aspect of parenting what would it be? He answered: “I would focus on getting to know my kids more.” (This is coming from a man who slayed fatherhood.)

His words ring in my ears.


Photo by Jenn Evelyn-Ann on Unsplash

I want to know my family. In these fleeting years when my kids are at home – I want to learn about what makes them tick, what their interests are and how they feel loved. I want us all to learn this about each other.

I read Gary Chapman’s best-selling book The 5 Love Languages® and loved it. Then, I found the resources on his 5 Love Languages Website powerful. I wanted to use these tools to create family-connection by learning more about how my people feel loved. 

Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

Here are the steps our family took to utilize the 5 Love Languages Website and build our family connection. (I explain what we did below, but we also used a worksheet I made. Click here and I'll email it to you for free.)


STEP 1: FIND THE TIME
Dinner is the magic hour for us - everyone likes to gather and eat. However, perhaps because I’m the only female in my family, the conversation can be...well, hard to get going. (“Oldest son, how was your day?” *Fine.* “Middle son, tell me something funny that happened at school.” *I can’t think of anything.* Fifty questions later and I’ve finally sparked a conversation, but am too mentally exhausted to participate. Okay kidding - I love words.) I like that dinner means my family is trapped by hungry tummies and food, so their ears are all mine.

STEP 2: DEFINE EACH LOVE LANGUAGE
My husband and I asked our kids what they thought each love language meant, then went over the definitions after we heard their answers.
  • Word of Affirmation(You’re doing a great job, I like you…etc…)
  • Physical Touch(Hugs, snuggles…etc.)
  • Quality Time(Going to the movies together, a family basketball game…etc.)
  • Acts of Service(Someone making your lunch, doing your laundry…etc.)
  • Receiving Gifts(Picking up your favorite snack at the store, a birthday present…etc.)

STEP 2: HAVE EACH FAMILY MEMBER TAKE THE "LEARN YOUR LOVE LANGUAGE" ASSESSMENT

During dinner, each person took the assessment on the 5 Love Languages Website’s main page. (Click the big purple button that says, “Learn Your Love Language” and follow the prompts.)


STEP 3: EACH FAMILY MEMBER BRAINSTORMS HOW THEY FEEL LOVED
1. Then, each family member recorded the order of their love languages on this worksheet.

2. Each person wrote down ways/acts/actions/words…etc…that make him/her feel loved. (Bonus, the back of this worksheet can be used to draw pictures for the speedy kid waiting on his/her siblings to finish. Mine choose to draw monsters with vicious teeth. See what your kids come up with as they are pondering love.)


STEP 5: BRAINSTORM HOW OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS FEEL LOVED
Next, we brainstormed how our acts/actions/words make other family members feel loved and recorded it on our worksheet.

STEP 6: SHARING
1. We started with our oldest son, and each family member shared what acts/actions/words we thought made him feel loved. (Kind of like a guessing game.)

2. Our oldest son then told us his love language and shared what actions made him feel loved.

3. Repeat for every family member.





Friends, my non-sappy family members enjoyed this activity. We each learned something new about each other. But, what I didn’t expect is that it helped us all better understand the power of our everyday actions.

It specifically helped me better see how parents can daily strengthen connection: Taking time to tell one kid how proud you are of them for trying so hard at their voice lessons, words of affirmation – powerful. Vanilla shakes after swim practice, receiving gifts – powerful. Sitting next to your kid while he/she struggles with homework, quality time – powerful.

And getting to know our kids – priceless!

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I love seeking out inspiration, encouragement and the everyday sacred. Want to join me on FacebookPinterest or Email (Freebies)?


Other Resources: The 5 Love Languages of Children®and The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers®.


Photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash

Blog post published with permission from The 5 Love Languages® and Moody Publishers.
The blog post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Helicopter Parenting (The Good Kind)

(Inside: Why ordinary parenting has a significant impact on kids.)

I raised my head in anticipation as the hum of the helicopter grew louder. Back and forth it rocked. I knew the pilot, my dad, was saying hello from the sky. It’s one of my best childhood memories. 

It’s true.

Except it’s not totally true.

Recently, my dad and I reminisced about his days as an Air Force rescue pilot. I told him I have fond memories of moving from one military base to the next and especially of the faithful back and forth greetings. 


(My dad flying over Rejavik, Iceland. We were stationed in Keflavik, Iceland for two years.)

Dad: “Oh, yes. That only happened when we lived in Korea. We couldn’t really see anyone on the ground. When we flew over the base, we sometimes rocked our helicopter to say a general hello.”


Me: “What?” 

Me (Searching for words.): 

Me (Still confused.):

Me: “Really? You didn’t rock your helicopter at any other military bases we lived?”

Dad: “No. Just Korea.”

What, the what? He couldn’t see me? (Of course, he couldn’t see me. But, I felt like he could see me.) And only in Korea? I was pre-school age. I’m not even sure if I have any real memories from there.

So I paused and thought. 


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Nope. I couldn’t come up with one memory that wasn’t assembled from other peoples’ stories. Well, crazy bowl of inaccurate recollections…

…I had to laugh. Did I really think I was so important to my dad he thought of me while piloting? That he would rock expensive Air Force equipment just for me? But actually, I kind of did. He never made me feel any different.

Mamas we’re in the thick of it. Knee deep in peanut butter sandwiches, carpooling to kids’ activities, homework help, and daily repeating: brush your teeth, help with the dishes, pick up your clothes, time for dinner… (No, not 5 minutes from now…come now.) Then in it all we lose our cool because our kid licked the peanut butter off the knife and returned it to the jar. (Cue instant mommy guilt.) It’s easy to feel our every day isn’t impactful.

Yet, here’s what we’re really doing… 

When we pack their lunches, we’re reminding them we consistently provide for them. When we take them to their activities, we are telling them we support their growth and interests. When we call them for dinner, we are giving them a place to daily unpack their thoughts and be heard. When we make them do school work, we’re relaying their education and future are important to us. When we give them boundaries, we’re providing a sense of security. When we require they help with chores and family responsibilities, we’re cultivating a strong work ethic. When we work through family conflict, we are teaching them in a protected place to learn to deal with life’s inevitable waves. 



Dr. Leman hooked me when he said something like this not exact quote in the intro of his book, "Don't let the experts tell you how to parent. Trust yourself." (Yes, please. I'd like to hear more of what you have to say.) I loved Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.   On my shelf to read next are The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are and Have a New Kid By Friday. He gives practical, fantastic advice that will empower you.


Then, their solid home base gives them the confidence to eventually spread their wings and let them catch the wind. They’ll use what they learn from us in the real world. It’ll be passed down to their kids, grandkids, great-grandkids… And passed horizontally to their friends, relationships, co-workers… Our impact keeps rolling. A mom's ordinary love leaves an extraordinary legacy.

Stay the course, strong mamas. Your kids won’t remember the tough moments with the same type of I’m-a-failure-as-a-mother-because-(insert what gives you mommy guilt)-intensity you will. They’ll remember a mom who loved them and was there for them. They’ll remember a mom who always rocked her helicopter at them, even if in fact she did not.

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I love seeking out inspiration, encouragement and the everyday sacred. Want to join me on FacebookPinterest or Email (Freebies)?


PS - I think you would also like this related article: How You Unknowingly Made a Huge Impact Today

Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash

(Blog post contains affiliate links)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Did you see your sacred moment?

Do you know what my recent favorite moment was?

I stood outside in the driveway, m
y fingers laced around coffee with salted mocha creamer. The steady bounce of the basketballs leaving my sons hands and thumping against the backboard floated in the air. 




Laughter trickled across my ears. The wind gently swayed the trees and set the last of the season's flowers in motion. 

The normality of the moment was surprisingly soothing – that kind of moment when time freezes in the briefest of seconds and blessing after blessing in your life illuminates as if it's your first time seeing them. (Again.)

Then it was over.

It reminded me of the verse: "Be still and know that I am God."  (Psalm 46:10, NIV)



Because before it passed and one brother started bickering with another, and the mug became empty and we needed to pile into the car and go, in that moment when I was still - I felt Him.

What about you? 

Did you experience a sacred moment smack in the middle of the chaos lately?

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I love seeking out inspiration, encouragement and the everyday sacred. Want to join me on FacebookPinterest or Email (Freebies)?


PS - If you want a book to help you slow down time Present Over Perfect did wonders for my soul.


(Post contains an affiliate link.)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Walk Away from Worry with the Magic 5:1 Ratio {Printable}

(Inside: How to reduce worry.)

I looked down at my wounds.

Two lines of raw skin replaced where the strap to my fancy shoes had just adorned my feet. Every time I wear those sandals, my feet spend the next week recovering. Yet I still talk myself into that stylish pair BECAUSE MY OUTFIT WILL LOOK PERFECT WITH THEM. (Evil laugh from the knife-like straps on my sandals.) 


Then that evening, I'm searching for my fleece lined socks with the same desperation a castaway spans the ocean for human life.



You’d think I'd toss those fancy shoes, but instead... A week later, I'll examine my outfit in the mirror and think, "What if I throw on those cute white strappy sandals? A few blisters are normal..." You see the pattern, right? 

I haven’t learned to hold my hand up to the initial thought "what if" even though it leads to pain. 

Fashion isn't the only place in my life I learn the hard way – I repeat this pattern with worry.


What my worry-pattern looks like.

For example, when I pull the covers over my feverish kid, I think: 


"But what if he doesn't heal? (Stop worrying, he’ll be fine…) What if his fever lasts forever? (I can worry a little, I mean it’s normal…) Why does he have bruises on his leg? Did he have them before the illness? (I should keep pondering this so I’m prepared for all possible scenarios.) What if the bruises combined with the illness means he has leukemia?" (Let me google it.) Oh my gosh, he has leukemia. I’m. Positive.

Then my stomach twists, my brain fogs and as he's shaking with a fever, worry’s hijacked my body and shut out hope. For days. (For both small and big issues.)

Can you relate?

Do your "what if" thoughts lead to: 


      Step 1: "But what if..."
      Step 2: Start listing out possible bad things that can happen.
      Step 3: Add more. (Just for fun.)
      Step 4: Lose all rational thought. 
     (Nailed wallowing in worry’s pain and losing all hope.)


Are you tired?



I don't know what made me say enough. It wasn't moving, my mom's cancer, miscarriages or job loss; instead, it was an insignificant moment like someone didn't text me back over nothing. My brain simple felt tired of the hamster wheel of worry. Worry dominated my mind and robbed me of happiness and hope. 


Corey Ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place 
(Get a free printable of this quote.)


Are you done too? Are you tired of your daily strength being hijacked by worry? What if we had a tool to significantly reduce our worry? What if we do what we normally do – rise to meet the challenge – but worry free? Do you want to join me in this?

Deciding we are done with worry is easy, retraining our brain is hard.





When we worry, it's like having a ginormous crack spider webbing in all directions through our lives. Different actions heal different parts of the crack, until one day we take a step back and realize we feel mended. Today I'm giving you one suggestion to heal a part of that crack. 


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(Stay tuned for more healing ointments. I'm writing an eBook on shedding worry and I'm almost done! Sign up here and I'll keep you in the loop. *And give you a monster discount.*)
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Onto my strategy...but, hang with me because I'm going to explain why this works first.


The psychology behind it.

My child's doctor and I were discussing parenting. I'd described a difficult stretch and she firmly stated, "Your positive interactions with your child must outweigh your negative ones." But that thought wasn't concrete enough for me. Happy You Happy Family has a wonderful article on the How to Connect With Your Child: the Magic 5:1 Ratio with kids. It's based on Dr. Gottman's relationship research that found healthy marriages have five positive exchanges for every one negative exchange.

Sweet numbers. I can wrap my head around that.


Present Over Perfect helped me focus on being in the moment and not worrying about the future.


If the magic 5:1 ratio can improve our relationships with our spouse and children, it can also improve our relationship with ourselves.

Science shows that for one negative thought – we need five life-giving thoughts; proof that God created us to walk closer to hope than toxic words. You guys, we can outsmart worry.


How we retrain our brain. 

When we think "what if,” instead of letting our mind spiral down the rabbit hole, we can stop and entertain five positive thoughts.


Check out Since I Became a Mom's related article: 


But for me, it has to be truth, not fluff. Only substance can convince me to let go of worry. (My worry is stubborn!) The positive thoughts must move me towards hope. Truthful hope. Extravagant Hope.

These are God's promises to us, messages repeated in different ways throughout the entirety of the Bible - real thoughts from God to you!

1. God is for us. Always.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)

2. We can't fully comprehend God - and that's a good thing. While we're walking among the trees, God's above looking at the whole forest.

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:28-31, NIV)

3. We don't have to do anything to make God love us more.(Attention, perfectionists! Ahem - me!) The entirety of the gospel is based on a grace-filled love where God chooses us. We've asked Him to walk beside us, so be assured that He does with absolute adoration and love.
"May have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." (Ephesians 3:18, NIV)

4. God will get us where we need to be. He writes his plans for us on our hearts through giving us talents, interests, and wisdom, but often the path to the goal is not what we envisioned.
"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps." (Proverbs 16:8-10, NIV)

5. God can coax good out of every hopeless situation. (Notice there aren't promises of a perfect, easy life – rather a rich, full one.) 

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Walk away from worry.

(Bonus - a printable from Corey Ten Boom's quote is included!)

I made a printable of these verses and placed them in my most visited spots: the mirror, the refrigerator, my purse, my car…

Let's quit telling ourselves that pain from worry is normal. We don't have to let worry tarnish our precious time here on earth with sweaty palms, a rapid heartbreak and a mind that just won't let up. We don't have to allow that pain into our lives. 

I threw away my stylish shoes to remind myself, I don't have to choose blisters on my feet. So, wearing comfortable shoes, I can walk away from worry by hitting every negative thought with five glorious promises. 

You can too.

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I love seeking out inspiration, encouragement and the everyday sacred. Want to join me on FacebookPinterest or Email?


(Blog post contains affiliate links.)