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?