Friday, June 1, 2018

Ministry Momma Bear

I try really hard not to be too serious. I really do. But sometimes things just get so bear-poo crazy that there is nothing to do but get serious- or at least more serious than normal.

Our entire family works in ministry. We love it. We help people, invite people over to our home on Sundays, feed them, talk to them, and try to help them see God in everything around them. We have helped a lot of people in the years we've lived here, and have been so blessed by it all. We encourage our church members to do the same.

You know you're doing really well in the Lord when the bear-poo hits the fan. One teen in a family we were trying to help has now threatened one of my kids, and my husband. Severely threatened. The odd thing is, no one can figure out why.

And there's nothing we can do about it until this teenager actually does something. 

The only thing we can think of is this teens need for affection is so strong, jealousy has taken over and all they want is to destroy what my kids have. 

This is the same kid that cried as I held them and fell asleep against me after a volcanic incident with a parent.
This is the same kid we played board games with, who had no idea what settled family life looked like.
This is the same kid who peeled apples with us as we sang gospel songs, getting ready for Thanksgiving.

And now, the same kid who is drinking, on drugs, and is now threatening bodily harm on my family.

Normally, I would Momma Bear this teen- Angry eyes, toe to toe, with a growl that says 'Don't even think of messing with my kids!' - but I can't Momma Bear him. How can I Momma Bear a kid I'd considered one of my own cubs?

I know this teenager needs comfort so desperately. Momma Bearing is the last thing this kid needs. Inside their heart is a great person who has a craving for Gods' love. I've seen it. But the environment that surrounds them is taking over, and there's nothing I can do about it except pray, lock my doors and windows at night, and keep my own kids safe. 

My Momma Bear heart is so torn right now.

One of these blow-ups happened at our church. Afterward, my husband overheard one congregant say, 'And that is why we don't have people over our house."

That's not the point.

One incident in hundreds isn't going to stop us from doing what we do. We won't let it. God won't let it. We'll still have people over, and we'll still feed them, talk, and let them fall asleep against us, tears and all. That won't change.

But now I understand why Jesus says 'He leaves the ninety-nine to go after the one that went astray'- Because Jesus has a Momma Bear heart too. I want that kid back. I want to love on them until the hate in their heart is gone. Help them get settled in their heart and mind. 

And if they decide to remain lost? 

Well, God doesn't mind if Momma Bear prayers are made with tears.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Super Heat Waves

Once upon a time, I was sitting on the couch nearly dying of heat stroke.
It was March. 
We just had snow. 
And the rest of my family was shivering and under heavy quilts.
I, however, could've stripped down to my undies and sat on a block of ice, and I still would've been hot.
"Hey! Who turned up the heat?" I yelled to the quivering pile of blankets. Their only response is chattering teeth.


I checked the thermostat to make sure someone didn't pull an 'I just moved it a couple of clicks' stunt, but it wasn't touched. Apparently, my hormones were raging again.

But I'd had a hysterectomy. There are no more hormones...right?

A word to the wise; hysterectomies don't stop menopausal heat waves!

Apparently estrogen is stored in the fat cells, to which I have a plethora. I'm just a big hormone bank that's been saving the stuff with each pound I'd gained, which is no small feat! And guess what happens when you start losing some of that poundage? No wonder the doc told me I wouldn't need supplements probably ever!

For the past few weeks my internal oven has been set to volcanic. It used to be a humid, clammy, ogre's armpit kind of heat, one that will melt metal chairs into puddles of aluminum and sweat. But since the surgery, it's been more of a dry, Arizonian desert kind of heat.

And my husband loves it. You know, the guy with the ice-cold everything adhered to as much of my person as possible so he stays warm at night. It's hard to sleep when you're nearly being strangled by the one you love.

Even my friends are wowed by the intense heat emanating from every pore of my being. They hold their hands out over my arm, expressions of disbelief turning to one of incredulity as they warm themselves by their buddy, The Organic Radiator. Hey- maybe I'm a superhero!

Save us Radiator! We're freezing! And with a wave of my arms, the house is now as balmy as Hawaii.

Then again, I could be a super villain. Maybe I'm the reason behind global warming!*GASP*

My villain name would be Solar Flare...give me chocolate- or else! The dark kind please, because the milk chocolate melts too fast in my hand- even those M&Ms would make a chocolaty rainbow in my palm- nothing is safe! Do this or I' your ice cream! 

Noooo!Anything but that!

I'd wear a cape, but that would be too many layers...I might go nuclear.

In the meantime my family will be spending the summer months grilling on my arms and toasting marshmallows over my head. We'll save so much on charcoal and wood this year!

Or maybe I'll hire myself out as a pool heater when the water's too cold. I like swimming!

The Organic Radiator to the rescue!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Rusty Gate Wisdom

God is amazing.

Have you ever been super busy? Like, crazy, off-the-hook busy> So busy that you heard yourself say (one too many times):
"I can't right now."
"Sorry, I don't have time.."
"Let me finish this other thing first..."

Yeah- me too.

Then God decided He'd had enough, and bestowed a boatload of wisdom on me that made my mind whirl.
I was busy, but not productive.
Relationships matter.
Being so busy made me miss chances to bless others.

I was busy doing 'things' instead of working on relationships.

But this week God decided to let a little light shine in through the tiny cracks in my thick head.

God is love. There is a verse that blew me away that went something like "You can make God's lessons as clear as day, but without love, your words are like the creaking of a rusty gate..." I never really understood what He meant by that. I always thought it meant you needed to speak with passion.

Passion is good, but relationship is better.

People listen more when they know you, love you, and trust you. In other words, your words have meaning when the person you're speaking with has a relationship with you!

God takes delight when I spend time with my family.
God loves it when I laugh and goof off with my friends when I need a break.
God is joyful when I open my house up to anyone who wants to come on Sundays after church.

I'm not saying forget responsibilities and goof off constantly- but there is a time to play and rest; I think all of us forget to have fun or just spend quiet time together with each other.

I may not get the laundry done when my daughter is sick, but she will remember the times I sat with her poor fevered head in my lap as I sang her to sleep. The same goes for putting off emails to play cards with my son, or a quiet evening at home reading books on the couch with my husband. These are the things my family will remember- not the fact that I always had clean socks waiting for them!

Yes it takes sacrifice and a big heart to forgo 'getting stuff done' to do these things sometimes. But the payoff is so much more rewarding when we do! Like the saying goes, "I have a messy house, but a happy family"- and what would make God happier than that?

Hug your kids, Kiss your husband extra awesome before he goes to work. Call your friend for a quick chat. Build those relationships and help make them strong. And don't forget to talk to God too- He's waiting to hear from you!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Back to the Waves

As a child, my parents took me to the beach. It was my favorite place, and I loved playing in the ocean. Sometimes I would put my back to the waves and close my eyes tight, daring the waves to do what they will. 
The sounds of rushing water would always send my heart racing, wondering if the wave would tickle my ankles, or crash against me and knock me over. It really didn't matter which; both were unexpected and delightful!

God's blessings are much like the waves of the ocean.

When I stop looking for blessings and turn my back on the waves, I get so much more out of blessing when they happen. Big or small, it doesn't matter. If I can see the waves coming I don't react as strong. I might brace myself for the bigger waves, but it isn't as much fun.

And honestly, we all need to have a little more fun! I think God is immensely pleased when He sees us enjoying His blessings.

I have no idea when the blessings will come, or what size blessing will come first. I have no idea how strong it will hit me- will I be gently blessed or will the blessing knock me for a loop? There's a thrill in not knowing when or how God will bless you when you stop looking- and when the wave comes, your gratefulness and appreciation are tenfold because it's unexpected.

And much more joyful!

Will you come play in the waves with me?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Icing Lifestyle

It's all over the internet:

Start Your Own Business and Become a Millionaire!
Be an Entrepreneur!
Be Your Own Boss and Make Millions!

Tons of people selling tons of programs- some good, some not so good. But the premise is the same. The ultimate goal is to become a millionaire. 

I jumped on this particular bandwagon with both feet. Of course I wanted to be a millionaire! They are self sufficient, can go on vacations- heck, most of their year is a vacation! Work less, make, make tons more! Being a millionaire is the end-all, be-all everyone should strive for to be happy.

Or is it?

At first, that's what I believed had to happen in order to have a happy life. Happiness for me was finally getting to go on a real vacation, where money was no object, and we could eat out every day for every meal, we could go where we wanted without having to worry if the vehicle we drove would make it, or have to make a budget for gas. And when we came home, I could swim in the backyard pool while someone else would clean my house.

The Icing Lifestyle. 

It sounds great, doesn't it? But if you read that paragraph again, you'll notice something missing. Something big. There's no Godly purpose. This dream goal isn't a lifestyle, it's a prison of self-induced greed.

There's no cake. It's all icing.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to do all of these things, but if this is all you want out of life, that's a problem. And to be honest, this used to be my goal! I don't thinkI'd make a good millionaire. I'd be to prone to get lost in being spoiled and pampered, and not think much about helping others.

Oh, at first I thought 'When I become a millionaire, I can help people out of the same ruts I'm in. I can help a lot of people!' Let's be honest here- some people are worse off when handed a wadful of cash. Cash isn't the answer to everything.


Money isn't everything. 

Well, dip me in butter and call me a biscuit, this was a new concept for me!

I have three online gurus I listen to. One is a millionaire, one might be a millionaire (but doesn't state if she is or not), and one is more of a thousandaire or six-figureaire. And they all agree on one thing- you need to have purpose to live a happy life.

The money is the icing on the cake- not the cake itself. The cake is your Godly purpose. The icing is the blessings that come with the cake.

Have you ever had cake with too much icing? The first taste might be good, but after a while you don't want to finish it- it's just too sweet. Either that or you get a sugar rush the size of a small state, and wind up crashing in the middle of the birthday party!
But a cake that has the right amount of frosting not only tastes better, but lasts longer because you can enjoy it more. You can savor it. And when you're done, you feel satisfied.

It took a lot of prayer and looking deep within myself to realize I don't want to be a millionaire. I'd be perfectly content being a six-figureaire, and not a high six-figureaire at that. After talking with my husband, we both realized we'd be content with less than a third (or even a quarter) of a millionaires salary, so that's our new goal. Enough so we can do all the things we've been dreaming about, but also allows us to remain financially humble and help others wisely. 

Maybe you could handle more icing on your cake, maybe you'd be content with less. Just remember to make the cake the best it can be first, and God will bless you with all the icing you need!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Limits Equal...Freedom?!?

I know- that sounds weird, right? How can limiting anything equal freedom? 

Well, if you limit your food intake, you're freed up from all that extra weight...
If you limit your time underwater, you won't drown...
And if you limit your work, you have more time to recoup and recharge.

Limits are starting to sound really good, aren't they?

I still have yet to do the first, I do the second one only when swimming, and the third? The third is what I've been focusing most of my attention on lately.

Lent allows me (since it's still going on until the 25th), to limit myself. I refrained from having a screen in my face for most of my day. Doing so lead to another limit- this one concerning time. I had to find a balance between work and relaxation that would make me a vegetable or a workaholic. 

Last week I had a plethora of time, but the total time spent wasn't blessing my family. Writing is my passion, but when I was honest with myself, not a full-time job- not yet. The two airport driving jobs I do weren't bringing in enough regular work, so I decided to take the plunge and drive for Uber.

At first it was great. Then I began tipping those scales into all-work-and-no-play mode. I had to limit my time so I could be a better blessing for my family at home. Money isn't everything, though I admit, it truly used to be for me!

By limiting myself, I found I had more freedom. I worked when the family didn't need me. I'm home when they do (for the most part- they've learned that me not being there 24/7 is okay too.) When I was home I was productive and even made time to play games with the kids. Yes- even teenagers (especially teenagers!) need some fun mom-and-dad time! 

Have you ever noticed when you have a lot of home time you don't feel like doing much else once the chores are done? Or working all the time makes work really boring and tedious? If you limit your time with both, the blessings are incredible!

If you're finding yourself tired or bored with life, see where your time is being spent. Find the places that might need limits to be more productive. I never realized that I could get more done in a limited time frame until I only had 'this much time' to get it done! 
If you have hours and the tasks takes an hour, you have all day to get it done. But if you limit yourself, things get revved up and you now have more of a reason to finish in the time allotted- freeing you up for the rest of the day!

Look at your day. Find places to limit yourself. Then get out there and be a blessing- and blessed!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Lent Life Lessons Part Deux- Slips and Stumbles

Two weeks into Lent...not sure if it's gone so fast or not fast enough!

Two weeks of no PC games and no Netflix. No TV at all, really- not even Youtube, unless it was educational, or something a family member was watching. I relinquished all control of the remote.

My family loved it. Apparently I'm a remote hog.

Ten days in was my first true stumble- I didn't even realize I'd done it until I'd clicked onto another video...and another. It started innocently enough- there was a post on Facebook that was interesting, and I played it. (And yes, it was educational!) but then, that sinister sneak of a sidebar had something that was tied to the video I just watched, so I clicked. Next thing you know, I'm watching clips from Jimmy Fallon.

I love Jimmy Fallon. He is such a kid at heart! But what I was watching was definitely within the No-No Zone for my Lent Media Fast.


I barely lasted ten days!

I could have beaten myself up over it, but to be honest, I now find myself getting annoyed when I do. Mistakes happen- I fell back into a bad habit without realizing it, so it wasn't as if I twirled my handlebar mustache and said 'Yes! YES! I shall now intentionally do this bad deed and break my Lent commitment! MWAHAHAHAA!!'  

That was a metaphorical handlebar mustache, by the way. I hope not to have a real one for several years yet. But the metaphor is still valid.

So back on the Clydesdale I went, making sure this time I would behave myself. 

But I slipped again! Just an hour later!

Frustrated, I wound up turning the computer off after that and looked for something better to do- like wrestle greased alligators naked. At least then I wouldn't be able to click on any stupid distracting links!

Lucky for me I didn't need to go naked alligator wrestling. I had an entire house to declutter. I did that for most of the day until I had to make dinner- another great thing to do to keep from being distracted- and it blesses my family!

The rest of the week went well, and I learned a lot more from my gurus, including scheduling time for fun and rest as well as the busy must-get-done stuff. I'm even working on a calendar for the week, month, and year so I can plan fun things way ahead of time (like Creation, which always seems to creep up on us and we never have the money to go!) as well as bigger projects (like the cooking videos) and goals (like getting debt free ASAP). 
This scheduling project alone should take me a few days to a week to properly implement, but once I get the initial balls rolling, it will get easier and easier. My main goal is to have a plan in place by the end of Lent so I don't have time to binge-watch shows anymore- unless I plan them!

Fourteen days down, twenty-six to go. Twenty-six days to get my schedule and my Schmidt together. My muse has awakened from her coma, and pesters me with ideas all the time again. Frankly, I thought she was dead. I hadn't had a fast flow of ideas this much in ages, and it makes me excited for the future once more. 

I'm so glad I did this challenge for Lent!

Lessons Learned:

I'm a much happier person when I'm productive.
I'm a less happier person if that's all I do the entire day.
Fun times must be scheduled as much as work time- otherwise it might never be scheduled!
I found that when I'm busy I eat less and eat better- especially if I purposely heat up healthy dinner leftovers for lunch the next day.
Scheduling exercise is a must as well- and something I need to work on...badly.
I sleep like a brick at night after a productive and fun day- better sleep than after a completely productive one!

How are you doing with your challenges (if you made them)?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Lent Life Lessons

Lent started on Valentines Day this year. Weird. I only know that because someone said Lent fell on this goodie-indulgent day, and I know many people who usually swear off chocolate for Lent, aren't doing so this year!

This year I decided to give Lent a try. I don't normally do Lent. Ever. But this year I decided to see if I had the guts to give up something and stick with it.

And it had to be something big. Giving up small stuff wasn't going to cut it.

God and I have been at odds lately. I've found myself going to Netflix and PC games more and more, drowning myself in games and TV characters lives so I can forget the troubles in my own universe. Games let me attain goals. Attaining goals is good- though with games it's short-lived.
Very short-lived.
And once the Netflix show is over (or in my case, the entire dang series), there I am, back to my own life.
Back to life...back to reality... (I hear you humming it!)

I found myself unable to get out of the game/TV loop. Then along comes Lent. A chance to attain some real goals. But could I do forty days? That's a really long time!

I glanced at my messy writing desk, the piles of unfinished projects, the unread books, the cluttered craft table, and an email cache that could gag an elephant. Then I wondered if forty days was enough.

So I took the plunge. No Netflix. No PC games. I allowed myself games on my cell phone, but deleted the longer term ones and kept Solitaire and Flow Free. And the only entertaining screen watching I could do was if another family member was watching something on the big TV- which isn't often. Basically, when the family sits down to a show or movie, I can too- which is no more than twice a week, if that.

I woke up Valentines Day with an agenda.
I cleaned, straightened, and decluttered papers, and went through emails I've been meaning to read for almost a month. I barely made a dent in them. I also printed out recipes I'd been saving in my emails for months- which are now three hole punched and ready to go into my 'try these' recipe binders. Yes, binders. Plural. But that's a project for a different day.

I'll be honest here. I was sorely tempted to play some games when going through my emails. It was more out of habit than an actual desire, so I managed to squelch it quickly, but the want was still there.

By eight o'clock that night, I was nodding off. The day seemed to last forever!

Day two was interesting because after I was finished running errands, I was hoping the kids would want to watch something so I could watch too. My daughter was nice enough to offer to switch her choice of show (Transformers- anything Transformers!) to something I would be more inclined to watch- an animal program. We watched a single episode together before we both got back to chores.
I loved it, but part of me knew better that to sway my daughter's choice again- that was bending my own rule- a big No-No. So back to work we went.

I got through a few more emails- I'm involved with three guru type life coaches with free content, so most of these were newsletters or short videos of things I needed to watch. Not wanted to watch per se, but needed to watch in order to learn something. Learning videos are allowed because I'm not using them to escape.
I took a few more virtual comedy classes I'd paid for months ago, but never could 'find the time' to finish. I managed to read a little, but not as much as I should have.

My craft table was cleared off and sorted. I'd found half of a cookbook in the piles of crafting printouts- this half-book had the recipe for Pizzelles I'd been looking for since November! Lucky for me the other half (that was still downstairs where it should be) wasn't thrown out (though I almost did!) and the book is now whole once more. This was the only recipe I really liked for Pizzelles- I felt like I'd found buried treasure!

By the end of day two, I found myself nodding off again around eight o'clock. Why was I nodding off an hour before my actual bedtime?

Because I was active. 
More active than I was watching Netflix or playing PC games. My brain was more active too, because I was learning most of the day. I almost gave in to habit twice near the end of the day because I was tired and wanted to relax. So I forced myself to walk away from the computer, shut off the TV entirely (it's usually in sleep mode) and sit and read instead. I fell asleep- I mean checked my eyelids for light leaks- within a few minutes, then gave up and went to bed early.

I learned a lot about myself in just two days.

I learned:

I'm much more productive when not distracted.
I'm more physically active- I like to work a little upstairs and then go downstairs when things get tedious (and vice versa).
Emails don't seem as overwhelming, now that I see the numbers going down.
I see progress in decluttering my home and work spaces.
I feel more accomplished.
I also found myself sleeping more solidly than before.  A very nice side effect!

The rest of the week was interesting because the 'shiny' was beginning to wear off. What do I mean by that, you ask? It means I started something new, and the excitement was waning. Fast.

I began to realize that in taking out all of the 'fun stuff', I'd never added any non-screen fun stuff to replace it. It's draining to clean and work and learn all day long with no interlude to let the mind rest! It's also not good to find fun things to do, because forty days of nothing but work not only makes Jacqueline a dull girl, it makes her grumpy and not want to make it to the finish line.

I have to change things up if I wanted to keep things going!

So some of my reading material was switched out with books for purely entertainment purposes. I set aside some crafts to do once certain things were cleaned/cleared off in my sewing space (which also makes for good motivation to get the work done!)

I also programmed our entertainment system for different types of music to fit my changing moods- relaxing tones for reading or background noise, thumping, upbeat music when working, or silly songs when I'm doing something particularly hard or boring. And when it gets too much and I need some quiet time or prayer, it shuts off with the touch of a button.

I wish I could say everything is worked out or scheduled, but I can't, because life changes. I love having things all lined up in neat rows, but I know this is not the season for that- it's a chaotic season and I need to roll with the punches- and it's so much easier to roll when my eyes are focused on a PC game or Netflix!

Today is the sixth day. Just the sixth day. Six down (almost) and twenty-five to go. And I'm so glad you're here taking the walk with me in spirit! I appreciate you, my dear readers!

Are you walking down a similar path? Have you given up something for Lent- or just in general to see what happens or make a lifestyle change? Tell me about it in the comments!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Tough Love 101

Tough love is never easy. That's why it's not called 'Rainbow Unicorn Fart' love.

It's tough.
It's love.
And it breaks Mom hearts all over the world. Dad hearts too.

Parents don't want to tough love their kids. They want them to listen, learn, and as they get older, debate, learn more, and grow.

But sometimes debating turns to arguments. Ears close on both sides of the fence. And the fully fledged bird refuses to leave the nest. 

Parents have to make their babies take wing if they refuse to do it themselves. And it's one of the hardest things for a parent to do. 

We constantly ask ourselves...
Have we been too harsh? Not harsh enough? 
We taught them all we know- why aren't they flying? 
Have we made life too easy? Too hard? 
And what steps do we need to take now so our children can go out in the world and be the stellar beings God made them to be?

So what do you do with a child that doesn't make much effort to be independent?

You go to the Bible.

Proverbs 12:11 says Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.

Proverbs 19:15 says Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry.

2 Thessalonians 3:10 says For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat."

You teach them God's will. You show them the scripture. You talk, help them come up with a game plan, but you don't execute it- your fledgling has to. 

Even our pastor was asking why we're still feeding our fledgling! At the time three square meals a day was the norm; we had to make some changes.

We did. Our fledgling just got used to the changes and made no changes to their behavior. We upgraded (or downgraded?) more changes with the same result. Nothing we did worked.

We had to start pushing our child out of the nest.

This is where a parents' heart breaks. We have to send them out into the world and lock the door behind them. In our case, The fledgling in question has Aspergers. Very high functioning and quite capable of holding a job, but makes almost no effort to find work- for more than six months now. 
We've done everything we can think of to help, but we're waved away like annoying insects. It's been a strain on the entire family, and though we hate to do it, we need to let our fledgling go.

We found a program for autistic adults. Our fledgling has a certain amount of time to find work, but when that time is up (by the end of this week), we have to make a call for this program to come and get him. They have the training, knowledge and the 'I'm not your parent' factor that will help our fledgling fly on their own. They provide housing, and teach the skills needed to be independent.

We love them enough to let them go. We have to. If we don't, we're enablers. And let's be honest here- we won't live forever (at least not on Earth!) and what will happen if my fledgling can't fly when my Father calls us home?

None of us would prosper from it.

Tough Love 101- As a parent, you have to do things you don't want to concerning your kids. You have to let them deal with their own consequences. You have to let them get hurt, flounder, and yes, even get into trouble in order to get them to understand the world doesn't owe them anything- and that they will prosper only if they are willing to work for it.

God does this all the time. His heart breaks when we mess up. Sometimes He rescues us, sometimes not- and we have to learn to do the same for our children when the time comes.

I pray that God gives me the strength to not only do this if I have to, but to not cave in if it does happen- and to give my fledgling the strength to fly.

We hope someday soon to see our fledgling soar!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Don't Wait For Normal

Have you ever told yourself this before?

'I'll wait until things settle down.'
'I'll get back to my normal routine soon.'
'I can't until things get back to normal again!'

The problem is, most of the time, things don't get 'back to normal'. 

Normal isn't normal anymore. Our old routines, schedules, and our lifestyles change at a rapid pace, and we always hope to get back to normal once more. We were satisfied with life until God throws a monkey wrench into the works.

How do I know? I've been trying to get back to my 'normal' for two years!

I don't remember my old normal anymore. I remember working a lot, losing weight, and life seemed to be running quite smoothly. I'd been writing regularly, and even published a few journals. I was on my way to hire an artist so I could get my written works in print.

Then came the wrench. Or should I say wrenches. Many of our friends and family were called to heaven. I had to have major surgery. And in the midst of recovering from all of that, my son's college aspirations went merrily down the toilet. Then the many jobs I used to have dwindled down to no jobs- some by circumstance, some by choice.

There were also some good wrenches. I've been able to take online classes, read some great self-improvement books, and find ways to make my own illustrations. My husband's schedule went from first to second shift. Several opportunities for an at-home business popped up.

I have to stop waiting for the old normal to come back- it packed its bags two years ago, and yet here I sit, day after day, looking forlornly out of the window waiting for it to come back like the prodigal son.

The old normal is gone for good- I'm not waiting for it anymore. I'm going to create a new normal from the chaos.

In fact, I think chaos is my new normal! Everything has changed; My eating habits, exercise regimen, and our financial situation; our family life and even bedtime is completely different than it used to be.

So many things have changed that I'm still reeling from it- but I'm also learning to roll with the punches and appreciate the positives.

I have more time with my husband because he doesn't go to work until the afternoon.
My son is learning more about responsibility and independent living at home before he leaves the nest.
I have quiet time in the evenings to read, or spend some 'mom time' with my daughter.
My husband and I have time to start an at-home business.

I don't know why God threw so many wrenches our way in the past two years. I'm not focusing on why it happened, because the end result is the same- our lives changed to a new normal. Life will continue to change. And though there are hard times, God gets us through the chaos and back on track. 

Don't wait for your 'normal' to return. Get up from the window and make plans. Do something. Don't wait for things to settle down. They probably won't. Even if things do settle, they won't settle the same way they used to! 

I know it's hard, but you can do it. God is always by your side, lending you His strength, wisdom, and guidance with every new step you take. Now go take those wrenches and build yourself a new and better normal!

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?