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Friday, February 14, 2020

Be The Love

"All You Need Is Love," some say and I do cherish being loved.  But instead setting up false expectations about a deeply romantic Valentine's Day, use the 14th as inspiration to be the love that others in your life can celebrate.

I'm kind of famous among those who know me well for being wild about Valentine's Day.  It remains such a fun moment for me to spoil and pamper the ones that I hold most dear.  Mostly, I want them to know they are so loved by not only me, but by their Heavenly Father.  His love is more than enough to fill our lives, if we let Him. This is the true message of love.

So how do I celebrate this annual Love-fest?  Here are some ideas:
  • Spend some energy to spruce up your space.  You don't have to wait for someone to buy
    flowers, bring some back from the grocery store after your next weekly trip.
  • Send something special to someone unexpecting.  Do you know a single mama or grad student?  Surprise them with an invite to dinner or something that shows you see their hard work.
  • Pay it forward in the drive through - just for fun! 
  • Take cookies or flowers to your neighbors.
  • Spoil your children with notes that detail what you love about them.  Leave on the table for a breakfast surprise on Valentine's morning.  Pack some chocolate in their lunch.  Never let them wonder if you think they are amazing!
  • Send a text to a friend far away.
  • Love yourself with a bath, mani/pedi or new lipstick.  Wear red or pink just for fun on Valentine's Day.  
  • If there is a man whom you admire, think about what would be special for him.  Write a note.  Bake some cookies.  Give him something to anticipate in the bedroom.  Find a way to connect.  He may never admit it, may even say Valentine's doesn't matter, but he will appreciate your reaching out to demonstrate the ways you love him.
  • Tell your parents how much you love and appreciate what they have done for you all of your life.  Send an encouraging note to a far-away relative.  Isn't it fun to get real mail these days? 
  • Send a care package to a college student far from home.
  • Offer to babysit so your friends can go out.  

There are countless ways to celebrate love, but most importantly we must take the time to do it!

Valentines Day - Skip the Dread & Drama

Nine Easy Ways to Love Your Family

Our Valentine Tradition

(This article is reposted)

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Christmas Perfectionist Must Go

Last year I realized that I am a Christmas Perfectionist.  I'm a recovering perfectionist in the majority of my life, but I still struggle with the desire to create a Christmas fantasy and it gets harder every year.  I want to give gifts with meaning, create memories that last, see all the family members, create a wonderland in our home and have time to slowly sip cocoa and decorate sugar cookies.  All this while still working, volunteering and attempting to cook and clean.  Clearly, it's not possible to do all the things.

This year, I'm being more intentional about enjoying the moments.  I've used the phrase "We'll just see what we can do" many times and let go the things that don't fit our schedule (or budget, or priorities).

Every year I feel the frenzy and begin to spiral into "should" and "must" and feeling like I have no choice.  The past few years I have felt more able to push those feelings into their place and love what IS and enjoy moments.  It gets easier with practice.  In case you find yourself slip-sliding into demands that are really too much, try centering your priorities with these questions:

Do I really want to do this?  Related: Am I participating because someone expects me to?  because I feel guilty if I don't? 

What will the activity or gift cost?  Is it worth it?  Related: Is it costing too much peace or mental energy today?

Who is counting on me to be at peace today?  What will help me get to that state of mind?  Related: How can I be gentle to myself in the season of busy?

When I say "yes," what am I saying "no" to?  Does that reflect my true priorities?  Related: How do I determine what is important?

When the schedule/weather/baking/gifts/shopping/etc. aren't the way I would like, where will I find my satisfaction?  Related: Are you letting the mood of others determine your own feelings?

So, if you can't afford the ideal gift or you don't like all the travel - take control of the things in your power to make the season the best one yet.  Stay focused on the greater good and let the momentary disruptions slide.  If you want to spend time with family, recognize that you may have to travel or say no to other things.  You get to decide how to "Do" your holiday season.

More Christmas Thoughts:

My first year as a Single Mom at Christmas (That was a tough one)

My Evolving Ideas About Holidays After Divorce

When You're Apart From Your Children at the Holidays (Christmas morning is quieter)
A Quiet Christmas
And They're Off

December has Some Dark Days

Prepare Him Room (The Real Meaning of Christmas)

Modern Family Holiday Helps

I do hope you are Christmasing with Joy this season!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

It's Time for a List - Right?

I mean, Santa's making his, so I'm making one, too!  Here's a short list of what is on my mind this week.  There is seriously no order to this one:

1. We have had a really good year and every single person in our family seems a bit more settled and content - our Thanksgiving was filled with true gratitude. 

2. It seems like there is no middle ground between rest and action.  After two days of quiet when our kids were with their other families, everyone came home and the holiday hustle was strong! 

3. Christmas shopping is fun to me and I'm already wrapping up my list - yay!

4. I'm not a fan of cold weather, but I do like sweaters.  In December, I want to wear red every single day.

5. Speaking of red, I love it and Christmas doesn't feel the same without red decor.  I know white and neutral is all the fashion, but give me all things red.

6. If you're giving today, please consider this organization - Mercy House.  Their Fair Trade Friday box is wonderful, too!

7. Are you sending Christmas cards this year?  I hope to get mine out by the end of the week.  I send about 20 each year to family that live far away.  I think it's sad that we get to see family so rarely.

8. School is tough, but even moreso through this season where we are already trying to fit in more.  Necessary struggles, I guess.

9. The late Thanksgiving and mid-week Christmas Day leave us "missing" a weekend of holiday fun...something is gonna have to give, but we will cram in the joy wherever we can. 

10.  I really love my husband.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Sweet Side-Effect of Gratitude

I enjoy looking at home design images: Instagram, Pinterest even blogs.  HGTV gives me lots of before and after "fixers" to get inspired and my ideas just grow and grow.  It's easy for me to become dissatisfied and only see my own space as a giant project that is currently "less-than."

Like many of us during the Thanksgiving season, I am more intentional about practicing gratitude.  What I'm learning is that the side-effect of gratitude is contentment.  Contentment is such a rarity in our culture that feeds us the desire for more and fuels materialism. Being satisfied is a quality that we have to strive for because it will not come naturally.

"the state of being happy and satisfied : the state of being content." 
noun. con·​tent·​ment | \ kən-ˈtent-mənt \ (merriam-webster's)

Satisfied. Content. Joy.  These are the qualities which are the fruit of Gratitude.

The second effect I see is in my family.  They pickup on the thankfulness, too, and learn to take note of the good things we already enjoy more than the commercialism that ramps up this time of year.  I see more laughter and less hustle so we can simply enjoy ourselves with contentment in the moment.

Oftentimes, we have to turn from what we wish for and accept what we have.  Learning to be satisfied is a discipline that we can practice with intention.  The action and emphasis is on the turning.  We have power to decide what we consume via social media and to turn from the never-ending buffet of more.

Do you find contentment in the gifts you've already been given?  How can we model that for our little ones, teens and even grown children?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

What to Do When it All Goes Wrong - Do you Trust God's Way to Fulfill Your Dreams?

This photo was taken on the day my divorce became final in 2010.
I don't know what caused your world to fall apart, for me it was infidelity and eventually divorce.  I was blindsided by the earthquake which forever shifted the landscape of my life.  For many days, I couldn't see beyond the great divide of before and after.

As I forced myself through the daily routines, all I could see was the gash that ruined the life I had planned.  The crevice between was was supposed to be and what actually was.  Even as I began to accept the infidelity, I was still writing my own outcome and so the aftershocks of additional betrayals and divorce rocked my security and wrenched away all that I thought would be mine.

More than a dozen years have passed since those first cracks began to emerge and I can now see that what was lost was a necessary removal.  The dreams I dreamed were not wrong, I just didn't trust the way God would choose to fulfill them.  I hadn't yet fully surrendered to whatever He would ask of me.

Here is what I would tell myself while still standing on swaying ground, freshly absorbing the shock of a life in crumbles.

Grieve, but don't become consumed with "what if..."
This was a big one for me.  Even as I experienced that my current state of life had been far from healthy or even normal, I longed to return to what was familiar.  I had to work to live in the truth of my reality versus what I wanted things to be like.  Acceptance isn't a one time event when a person has been living in denial for a very long time.

Release the future you designed (God doesn't owe me...)
Of course I would have never told you that God owed me anything, but I lived with that mindset in my expectations of a life with certain benefits. Even when accepting loss, I felt like God "owed" me an explanation - a reason for my pain. Being stripped of identity as wife and minister forced me to consider whether I would serve God regardless of the outcome.  Too often we serve Him to get what we want.  It's humbling to admit and this thought pattern needs to change.

Look for the gifts you didn't know you needed.
It's easier to be the answer to someone's prayer than to be they needy one, isn't it?  However, being truly needy revealed unknown sources of help and the true gift of community.  Rather than judgement, I was met with love, acceptance and support.  For a solid month, women of my church helped with childcare as I transitioned into working more hours.  They brought casseroles and salads and fun games to love on my children.  I was loaned a vehicle, had my utility bill paid and so many more ways God provided when I truly couldn't have know my need would be so great.  I spent so much of my life in control and this was the only way I learned to let go and really allow God to supply.

Allow the new story to take root in your heart.
This is the good part...but it takes wandering through a great deal of loss to get to this point. As you begin to accept that the life you had been living isn't going to be the life you have moving forward, you can suddenly be open to a whole new world of possibility.  For years my stability was based on my position, my possessions and my partner but now I began to allow Christ to define me.  I learned to be satisfied with very little and to imagine a new future, unknown but with great hope.  Let your blank slate become a launching pad for a new adventure.

There is so much more to say about each of these steps and we often circle back through from one to another.  Once you've endured the kind of life change that forever shifts your trajectory, you can choose to get stuck in regret or to acknowledge and learn from your experience.  I encourage you to do the hard work of letting go of your past dreams and allowing God to unfold your story in His way.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Make the Most of the Days (When Your Kids are Gone)

These cuties are gone for the week.
One of the challenges of divorce and co-parenting with an ex is that sometimes your children are gone for extended periods of time while traveling with their other parent.  If you are centering your family life around your children, their absence will be devastating and that should be a red flag to shift your perspective.

In any marriage, the husband-wife relationship must be the priority.  In second marriages, it's harder make that true because the children existed prior to the relationship and there is more history which creates a tighter bond.  I've witnessed marriages fail because one spouse cannot put the other above their child.

For me, I have to remember that it isn't either/or.  It's possible and healthy to have both.  So, those times my kiddos are vacationing with their dad become prime opportunities to relax and enjoy my husband.  With intention, the extended holidays where my children are with their dad are islands of connection in the busy schedule for my husband and me.

I know it stinks to wave goodbye while your children go to enjoy a vacation with their other parent, but take this time to really invest in your relationship with your husband. You and he are the foundation for your family.
  • Plan some downtime and relax without demands.
  • Cook his favorite meals.
  • Wear something new in the bedroom or just on the sofa (or simply pull out something you have cared to wear for a while).
  • Be his girlfriend and remember how you engaged with him while you were dating.
  • Make a simple date.
  • Book an evening with adult friends.
If you're like us, between careers and children, it's easy for our relationship to get leftovers.  That might keep you afloat, but nobody is excited about leftovers.  The secret sauce of second marriages is that you often have some time alone while kids are with their other parent.  Seize that opportunity!

Even the most ardent love needs connection to be sustainable. Don't allow your husband to become the last person on your list.  Yes, kids are depending on you and yet he is, too.