Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Two Free Books, One Free Life

Life is changing. Sometimes it's hard to get out of the hole you dug for yourself. But there's hope, and I wanted to share with you the beginning of a new chapter in my life. God is good!
We are at a crossroads. Kids will be gone within a couple of years, and we can feel the undercurrent of God moving under our feet. My husband and I have similar paths, but his work schedule went higglety-pigglety, so we have to slow down our walk on that particular path at the moment.
Until my husband's schedule smooths out (so we can start making those cooking videos), I'm putting my energy into learning and self-improvement. Right now I'm reading two fantastic books:
Boundaries by Henry Cloud- a Christian viewpoint on how to set boundaries at work, home and with family and friends so you're not wearing yourself out, and become a happier person by setting limits. Awesome read so far! I have this on my kindle app.
High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard . I got this book free by signing up to his email list ($27.00 book- almost 400 pages!) Only read the first of six habits, but I'm already seeing a difference in the way I think about things- and the way I approach both old and new projects.
I'm learning to let go of projects I can no longer do due to time constraints, and getting out of my own cluttered mindset so I can focus on what I need to to instead of focusing on the issue itself.
Actions, not reactions!
A really great read (though it can be a bit wordy) and already my husband has recommended others read it, even though he only hears the excerpts I've been reading out loud to him before bed! As for the emails, this guy has a lot of great FREE content, so you don't mind getting them in your inbox.
I also need to read Save the Cat!- a book on script-writing for the videos, though our scripts will be like organized outlines since we don't want the videos scripted word for word. Haven't read it yet, but it was listed as the best book for learning to write scripts.
In addition to reading, I'm compiling lists of writing I want to focus on, and what skills I need to learn (as per the HPH book, above) to get the books ready for print. The moving book is first up to finish, but in doing so I also have to learn basic art skills to draw simple illustrations.
I used to draw pretty well (cute and cartoony), but haven't picked up a sketchbook in ages. I bought books on drawing both people and animals (Oops- more reading!), and I hope to expand my drawing library as I learn to draw characters.
My plan is to do basic- even if it's cute little stick figures- for the moving book, then work on doing illustrations for both my women's humor and children's book.
Both need small re-writes. I'm changing the beginning of the children's book to make it fit the parable better, and just editing the other one to tighten it a bit more. By the time that's done, I should be able to draw the characters and simple backgrounds.
Another list of books are the activity/puzzle books. These are the easiest of the lot to create, since I love making puzzles. The activity books will also need illustration skills, because I want to make coloring pages as well as experimenting with 'Find the Differences' and 'Hidden Items' puzzles.
Another facet of the puzzle books are books with elementary teachers in mind.

I remember having words lists as a kid, and if the lists don't change for that particular grade, I can turn them into small books that can be bought in bulk, or can be copied (with permission) that have the lists as a myriad of word puzzles, teaching students not only how to spell the words, but to learn their definitions as well!
Me learning to draw is essential to get keep all of these books rolling out on a regular basis, and a good prolific writer is a writer that has regular income!
It's not all about the money- I'd do this for fun- but my goal is to earn enough regularly so my husband can retire and work full-time in ministry- one of his goals.
For so long I either ran myself ragged or sat in a stupor, overwhelmed at both ends of the spectrum, because I kept 'waiting for the money to do this or that'. I couldn't afford an artist, and for years I tried saving, only to find the money I'd saved was needed for emergencies. I didn't want to give up on my books, but I didn't have a solution either- at least until I started reading Boundaries and High Performance Habits.
These books helped me to see where I needed to focus, what I needed to let go, and how to do both. I was a prisoner in my own chains, finally freed.
Now I have a plan. I have a way to learn the skills I need for not just one, but many book projects, and I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. No more sitting in a hole awaiting rescue- I found a shovel to scrape a path up to the surface and breathe again!
Are you in a hole too? Focus on the actions you need to take to get out instead of worrying and wasting time staring at the dirt walls around you- get that shovel and start digging at those walls! Learning something new makes the brain wake up, makes you happier, and gives you confidence.
And who doesn't want that?
God gave us a drive to be better; He gave us a drive to achieve as well as help others. I hope my story helps you. It's just the beginning of my story. I have a lot of learning to do. But when those books come out and I help the world learn and smile, what greater impact can I have that would please God?
What will your impact be?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Focus Pocus!

Do you have trouble focusing?

It's hard sometimes- there's just so much to do, and only so much time to do it in. The alarm didn't go off, you're running late, and stuff is building up, and, and, and...

Yep. Story of my life. Maybe yours too.

The fact is, I'd completely lost focus. And for a long time I didn't know how to get it back.

So I puttered, I wallowed, and basically got nothing productive done. After a lot of prayer and thought, God gave me an answer. It wasn't the situation I should be focusing on, but the actions needed concerning the situation that needed my focus. 

If focus has no goal, no purpose, no end game, it tends to meander around the forest looking at the butterflies, or runs around in little circles in a blind panic. Neither was doing me any good!

Let me give a few examples.

Little or no money: 
Unfocused mind- We have no money! We have no money!
Action- the mind does that running in little circles in a panic thing.

Focused mind- How can I make more money? How can I spend less money? 
Action- Puts the mind to work finding a solution.

Loss of a loved one (past the initial grieving period):
Unfocused mind- meanders, lost in a world of memories, not wanting to move on.
Action- mental immobility, depression, and melancholy.

Focused mind- What can I do to honor their memory? 
Action- The mind creates ways to remember their loved one, remembers the good things, and is able to move on.

Too much to do:
Unfocused mind- Too much to do, and not enough time to do it all!
Action- worry, panic, procrastination, and anxiety.

Focused mind- What can I do now
Action- Make a list, cross off as you go along, gain a sense of accomplishment, even if the entire list isn't completed.

                             (This is me during unfocused brain fog.)

I'll be honest- lately my mind had been very unfocused. I was constantly stressing out, and either going nuts or thrown into a comatose stupor. Neither action was getting me anywhere; in fact, I was getting depressed rather quickly.

Until a friend asked, 'What do I replay in my head? My problems or His promises?'


I'd been replaying all the bad stuff in my head. All of it. Was it any wonder my mind wasn't focused on anything productive or positive? Even my prayers were  'Please God, get me out of this!'

There's nothing wrong with that prayer, but when that's all that you're praying, there has to be a brain reboot.

So I changed the focus to action instead of situation. It was like magic. Focus pocus- I can move again!

What do you need to focus on? Work, home, relationships, your well-being? What actions can you do to center your focus? 

Well-being is important. We need to focus on well-being to be good stewards of the life God gave us. Self-care isn't the same as being self-centered! We need to be rested, healthy, and mentally stable to help others- it's hard to disciple when your mind is all over the place or hiding in a cave!

So take a nice deep breath and think about your mind-set. What do you need to work on? Focus on a plan of action. Then get moving and be awesome!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Forgiveness 101

Someone has wronged you. Every time you think about what happened, you feel your anger rising. How could anyone do that to me? You ask yourself. You know you're supposed to forgive them, but you just don't know how. 

Forgiving is always instant. The second you forgive someone, all is well. Forgive and forget...right?

Nope on all three counts. True forgiveness isn't instant. You can't sit by yourself and say 'I forgive you, wherever you are' and expect peace and tranquility. And forgiveness has never meant forgetting it ever happened.

So, what is forgiveness and how do you forgive someone?

Forgiveness is letting go of your anger over the situation completely. It's to truly understand the other person's point of view, and respecting how they think. The term 'forgive and forget' doesn't mean forget the incident, it means forget your anger and move on.

But how do you do that?

It's not easy. It's not always instant. But once you learn how, it will change your life forever.

My mom was a toxic person. I held a lot of anger towards her for years, and it slowly poisoned my heart without me realizing it. One day a friend helped me see things differently, and even then it took a day or two before I could finally forgive my mom. 

And this is how I did it- with God's help.

See her perspective. When I looked at the same situation in a different light, my actions could have been intrusive and demeaning, even though that wasn't my intent. I was hurt, she was hurt, and we both reacted badly towards each other. 
I also had to see things in her long view- she had a hard life when she was younger, and through her perspective, I had it easy because I never had the hardships she experienced. When I realized this, it was a lot easier to understand why she reacted as she did, dissipating most of my anger.

Stop rehashing. I can't tell you how many times I went over and over an incident in my mind until it seemed like it happened yesterday instead of years ago. The problem with rehashing is the anger never truly dwindles- it remains a hard, hot and bitter ember in your chest, and the second the other person acts remotely like they did back then, you explode.
The fact is, the event is over. Done. The other person isn't affected by it (and to be honest, most times they don't even remember the event!), and no matter what happens next you can't fix it. This has to be the hardest thing to accept before you forgive someone. You can't fix the event itself, but you can make amends for actions through forgiveness.

Let go of the anger completely. I'm not saying be cheerful about past events, but think of those experiences as spiritual growth stepping stones. True forgiveness is when you can remember the incident without getting angry about it. You can feel remorse, regret, or even frustration over it, but the anger should be gone. What good does that kind of anger do you anyway?

Biblical forgiveness means getting face-to-face with the person you need to forgive. The only exception to this (when you can do this in a room by yourself) is if the person isn't within reach or has passed on. The former can be done over the phone or online if possible, and the latter can be done through God. Try to forgive before it gets to that point though.

There's another sticky problem with forgiveness. Sometimes forgiveness needs to be on both sides, and the other side won't comply. Whether they are Christians or not doesn't matter- the same rules apply. Face to face and a willing heart to forgive. 

But what if the other party isn't willing, or doesn't truly forgive?

It's so much harder to forgive someone that won't forgive you- indignation can rise up and whisper in your ear "Hey! why forgive them if they won't forgive back?" and it's so easy to listen to that voice! 

How do I know? Because it happened to me. 

I gently told this person I had forgiven them, and throughout the conversation I could feel them stiffen up and become aloof. When I poured my heart out to ask for their forgiveness, they wouldn't even look at me. They said they forgave me, but I could tell they hadn't. It took me several months for me to finally forgive them, and I remember both the event and the talk with a great deal regret and sadness.

I have to stop myself from rehashing over their unforgiveness, because the incident is still rather fresh. and that's another reason forgiveness isn't always instant. Time needs to heal the deeper wounds. 

We need to forgive in order to move forward. God even says it in His prayer 'Forgive those who trespass against us, as we are forgiven for our trespasses'. If you don't, He won't either. From this writers perspective, I'm forgiving others and letting go of my anger!

How about you?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Life Reboot

Have you ever felt like your brain was running on neutral?

Oh yeah- I am so there- in fact, it's been in neutral for so long, not only did I miss a blog post, but I posted a Christmas poem I posted last year!

The thing is, I did this without realizing it. How's that for neutral?

Surgical recovery is hard. At first it's hard to stay still (because you have to), and then it becomes hard because you get used to not moving. It's easy to slip into a mind-numbing state, binge-watching Netflix and being served by your family instead of the other way around. It's hard because when it's time to get back in the saddle and reboot your life, you hesitate. You don't really want to give up living like a queen and mount that runaway horse yet, do you? Ugh. No.

For most of us, life is like a runaway horse- no control, chaotic, and very stressful. Why would anyone in their right mind want to get back on that horse when they could spend more time 'recovering'?

God says there is a time for everything. My time for recovery is almost at an end. My time for runaway horse-riding is approaching.

Or is it?

In between binge-watching sessions, I've been working on a life reboot. When I'm ready to mount lifes' horse, I want to be the one holding the reins. And that means there are going to be some changes in this here corral!

I'll be honest with you- before surgery, I spent many hours each day in my writing space without accomplishing much. Facebook, emails, and other distractions turn productive writing time into a long period of wasted time. Yes, I like keeping up with Facebook friends, and cleaning out my emails is a needed task, but the problem is I'm not scheduling it. I don't block out a time to do these things. Instead, I write a little, and get distracted. For hours. And it has to stop. 

While I spent hours sequestered in my writing space not being productive, housework wouldn't get done either, and I'd depend on my family to take up the slack. That was fine- even expected- during recovery, but now I need to step up as a wife and mom and start cracking the whip- on myself. The husband may be the leader of the family, but the wife is the glue that holds the family together.

That's what this reboot is all about. It has nothing to do with the New Year! It's just a happy coincidence.

Many of you feel as I do- that you're on a runaway horse with no control over your life. How do we let ourselves get into that state? Not everyone has the recovery time like I was given to contemplate lifestyle changes- you have to do it as you hold onto that horse! But if you set your mind to the task, you can slow that horse down enough to retrain it.

You'd be amazed how much time you can find in between the cracks to do this!

I found my time by giving up binge-watching Netflix. I also uninstalled time-sucking games on my phone. As much as I love them, I know they're bad for me. This saved me hours per day and allowed me to open my schedule for other things I needed to get done or accomplish. Take a look at your schedule and see where your extra time is hiding!

Oddly enough, cutting down my writing time has actually increased my writing productivity! I set deadlines for myself each day (including free time like Facebook and emails), setting a timer when I need to so I stay on track. I've done it a few times during recovery (mainly because I wasn't supposed to be at my desk for hours...oops), and it worked well. I'm going to be testing this timer method throughout the week and tweak it when needed. 

Pray, schedule, read, learn, accomplish. That is my mantra for this upcoming year.

By the time I'm fully recovered, I won't be riding a runaway horse- at least for the most part- and God is going to help me enjoy the ride!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Real Christmas Joys!

Real Christmas Joys
By Beth Brubaker

Santa, sleighs and colors bright,
illuminate the dark of night,
but do not glorify the plight,
of the baby in the shadows.

Oh the glitter- how it shines!
From sparkling gifts and twinkling twine,
distracting us from the Divine-
the toddler in the shadows.

Songs are sung of snowman's tales,
of reindeers' nose and grinchy fails,
but no one hears His love prevails, 
from the child within the shadows.

Fam'lies gather, parties planned,
for feast of food and music grand, 
How can we see the pleading hand,
of the child within the shadows?

Did we forget what god did lose,
He spent His son to pay our dues,
and sent his son as a child imbued,
within a mangers' shadows.

The child when grown to man will give,
His life for us so we may live, 
When we believe and then forgive,
Blessed by the Man in shadows.

The lights, the gifts, lose their array,
inane songs fade when He comes our way,
and we can celebrate the day,
He brought us from the shadows!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

MEH-ry Christmas

I just can't 'Christmas' this year.
It's not a depression thing. It's not a Scrooge thing. It's the simple fact that I just can't physically do the things I love doing this time of year.
And I'm missing it terribly.
I'm usually somewhat ready by now- at least decoration-wise. And I usually have most of my shopping done.
I've not been working for several weeks now, and my odd jobs usually cover the extra costs. We've had years like this before, so I usually get creative and make something for everyone. I'm not remotely recovered enough to do any of my backup plans for gift-giving.
There is nothing like the feeling of giddiness you get when making something for someone else! 
I love real pine trees to decorate. Because we have cats, we usually put the tree on the porch. But my son withdrew from college and is currently a porch resident, so no real tree. We have a little three foot table tree that we decorate with cat-friendly ornaments and put on a side table for Christmas. But no one has time (and I can't lift things yet) to drag it out- at least not yet.
We usually get a Douglas fir- they smell so awesome, and when you rub the needles between your fingers, it smells like tangerines! I love the expression on someone's face when I show someone who has never experienced this. It's really awesome.
This week is usually when I'm in super cookie-baking mode. We have three traditional cookies we make- chocolate chip, sprinkle butter cookies, and monster cookies. Our record is 150 dozen, but I have yet to bake a single one. I miss the home-baked cookie smell, the scented Christmas candles, and the stereo blasting out Christmas music around the entire house. I miss the purposely off-key singing and sporadic funny change in the lyrics when my husband, kids and I are doing a baking day. Especially when Elvis sings 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' and makes the word 'mistletoe' sound so weird, we just HAVE to poke fun at it!
Things have been so chaotic, there isn't even an inkling of Christmas in our house. It feels more like October than December.
I can't lift anything, and I'm not supposed to be moving too much. I've already overdone it too many times that when I do move, I get enough glares that I know better than to move too fast or far. I feel like a tree stump amidst a flurry of bees. So I do what I can, and sit or lay when I must so I don't hurt myself...again.
It so frustrating to want to do stuff and you're not allowed!

I first expressed these feelings in Facebook- I don't normally like to post stuff like this on my blog, but I realize some of you might be feeling the same, and a friend encouraged me to share my thoughts with you. She also shared a blog post that helped me a lot.

Being Still

It's not easy being at rest in the world today. Gadgets and tech in our faces, people constantly bombarding us with needs, and schedules that are filled to the brim with everything but rest and peace. So sometimes God has to step in and remind us to rest and be with Him for a while.

Christmas isn't about all the hullabaloo. Inside I know that. But I still get so caught up in the busyness that I forget why we celebrate Christmas in the first place- to spend time with God. 

We celebrate His son's birth. 
Even most companies close so people can rest and spend time with their families.

So that's what I'm going to do. God gifted me with recovery time, so I'll use it wisely.

I don't need decorations.
I don't even need a tree.
Or presents.

The gift I've been given and supposed to share is time. Something that can't be refunded at the stores.

It's so much more precious that anything in this life we could ever acquire.

So this Christmas season, when no one is here, I'll read, pray, and recover. When they're home, I'll talk, laugh and enjoy my family, friends, and neighbors.

I still miss those traditional things, but now they don't seem as important as they did earlier.

At the beginning of this post, it was a MEH-ry Christmas. But now? It's getting a lot more Merry by the second!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Holiday Recovery

I have a problem that I just can't control.

Those that know me know I love giving to others. I like making things, baking, and the best time of the year for me to do this en masse is during the Christmas holidays. Every year we bake a bazillion cookies (okay, our record is about 150 dozen, not a bazillion, but you get the idea), and other goodies like pies and breads, and we enjoy giving most of them away. My husband even makes this awesome hot fudge for ice cream. 
We blast Christmas songs, singing at the top of our lungs as we move about the kitchen and dining room like a well-buttered machine for at least a week, and when the baking is done, I'm usually the one to create goody baskets for friends, family and other folks that surround us, like teachers, trashmen, and postal workers.

It's a lot of work, but so much fun to see people smile when they get one of our baskets!

This year is different. For many reasons, I can't do the things I normally do for the holidays- and it's driving me crazy!

I'm physically unable to make treats this year. I can't even go shopping! I took one little ride with my husband the other day- I didn't even get out of the van when he went food shopping- and it exhausted me. No shopping by myself, grocery or otherwise, for at least a few more weeks.
Despite the crowds, I love meandering about the stores looking for Christmas gifts. I love the music, the twinkling decorations, and even the cold weather as I shop. I don't fight the crowds- I just allow myself a ton of extra time so the experience is a pleasant one.

But not this year. Bah, humbug!

Note to self- never get major surgery before the holidays!

My husband usually makes and sells pies this time of year for our Christmas fund- but he had to turn down people simply because he's too busy taking care of me and keeping the house in order. He is one tired fella, and all I can do for him is hug him when he sits with me on the couch. Poor guy.

We are hospitality people. We were born to give. And it's irking me that we can't do that this year. It truly breaks my heart! People like us need to give to others, otherwise we're miserable- It's a hospitality thing.

That's why you'll never see conferences for hospitality people, because we'd be too busy trying to help each other run the darn thing; no one would attend the talks! Weird but true.

Let me help you...no...let me help you! To infinity and beyond. Yep, that's us.

Giving is a big part of out holiday, and when we can't give, I'm just not feeling Christmas-ish. So here I sit, wondering how I can get everyone to do Christmas in January instead. I guess that's the control freak in me, always trying to find a loophole to make it work.

But I have no control. God does. And I know He's using moments like this to grow me. 

Ugh. I don't want to be growing- I want to be shopping, and baking, and wrapping, and, and, and....

Maybe He has a point. That's not really what Christmas is about. But I don't need to tell you that- there are tons of articles online concerning 'The Reason for the Season' each year- you don't need me to preach to the choir. But sometimes I get so lost in the giving that I forget why I'm doing all of it in the first place.

So I'll sit and recover. I'll pray. I'll read my Bible. Maybe chat with a friend or two about God and His will for us this next year. Maybe ask my daughter to make me some Christmas cookies.

But most importantly, do a little growing as I heal.