Habits

I had a wonderful thought the other day: Three weeks can be a very short period of time.

It could feel long in some situations – not eating for three weeks would be terrible. The three week mission trip Ben once went on felt very, very long.

But I was thinking about three weeks being the length of time it takes to form a habit, and that is actually a remarkably short period of time. If you could form a habit in only three weeks, and then have the willpower to maintain it, you could change the direction of the rest of your life in those three weeks. Isn’t that crazy to think about?! I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s book “Better Than Before”, and it made me think about the habits I started in 2018. As I went over them in my mind, I had this startling moment of realizing that most of my goals have actually become familiar – they don’t feel strange and uncomfortable anymore, even though we’re not very far into 2018. “But how can that be, I just started doing them!” I thought.

And then I realized – it’s been more than three weeks. If you made any new years resolutions in 2018, and you have stuck with them until now, you have formed a habit! And if you got off track, you can still totally turn things around! Isn’t that a nice thought?!

Dr. Caroline Leaf says if you do something for three rounds of three weeks, you’ve made it part of who you are. I love to think about this. It makes me feel like there’s hope for change in any situation – you just have to figure out how to hang in there for nine weeks, which sounds longer than three rounds of three, so we’ll stick with that!!

Four Types of Habit Keepers

Here’s the thing: I love habits. I think new years resolutions are exciting, but I realize that not everyone does, because I’m married to someone who doesn’t get giddy about a list of resolutions like I do.

It made a lot of sense to find out that according to Rubin, there are four different types of people when it come to habits:

Upholders – have little trouble sticking to habits on their own, and are naturally very disciplined and motivated

Questioners – can stick to habits fairly well, if they believe strongly enough that it’s worth the effort. Will always need to understand the reason behind what they’re doing in order to stick with it

Obligers – are more focused on others than themselves. Need accountability to stick with any habit

Rebels – want to do what they want, when they want. If they know what others want them to do, will often do the exact opposite Everything made sense when I read about these types.

I could think of people who fit into each of these categories. Gretchen Rubin also writes that people can be a combination of two types, depending on the situation. This also fit with my experience, because I think I’m mostly an Upholder, with a bit of the Questioner thrown in. Most of the time, I don’t have much trouble sticking with a habit. I like to do the same things consistently. I still have to work at it, but I actually enjoy the effort.

But every once in a while, the Questioner in me appears, and I can’t make a habit stick unless I understand why. My daily exercise is a great example of this. I see a muscle therapist regularly, and for years, I couldn’t make myself stick to all the exercises and stretches he gave me to do. But one day, when he was working on a particularly painful spot, I happened to ask, “What is that from?” He explained the movement which brought on that particular pain, and then reminded me which stretch would bring relief. Suddenly, I was completely motivated and convinced to keep up with the stretch – I understood the why behind it.

This worked so well that I kept asking the same questions at each appointment: “What is that pain from, and which stretch gets rid of it?” I haven’t missed doing my exercises for a couple of years now, because my actions are connected with results.

What I love about knowing the different types of habit keeping is that once you figure out what type you are, there are all kinds of ways to approach habits which will work well for you.

Even though Upholders have the easiest time with habits, it still helps to know some techniques for starting a new habit, like how to make it as convenient as possible to keep a new habit going, or recognizing what could be the stumbling blocks, and removing those ahead of time.

Questioners need to know the why. If they don’t care, they won’t do it. And if they can’t make themselves care, they either need to research more or ask a lot of questions, or they might need to acknowledge that they don’t care enough to change, and let the desire for a new habit go, and focus on something else.

Obligers need to find ways to be kept accountable. There are many different ways of doing this, and I enjoyed reading the suggestions in the book, because it was clear that there are creative, positive solutions for most obstacles when it comes to new habits. There’s hope for everyone!

And Rebels just don’t care – it seems they don’t concern themselves with habits very much, and they aren’t bothered by the fact that they can’t keep good habits, because they don’t really want to. It almost seems that it’s harder part for the people around them to accept that Rebels just don’t desire habits, than for Rebels themselves. If they really want to do something, they will find a way, and no one will be able to stop them. So it’s possible for all of us to successfully stick to habits, if we want to.

Abstainers and Moderaters

The other extremely helpful information from the book was Gretchen Rubin’s explanation of abstainers and moderators. I had read the information a few years ago in a blog post she wrote, and it is one of the biggest reasons I am where I am today, so I enjoyed reading the full version in her book.

Her research shows that people are either abstainers, meaning they are all or nothing kind of people, or moderaters, which means they can handle things in moderation. If abstainers are on a diet, but are confronted with a bag of Oreos, they can’t eat just one – if they start, they will finish, and eat the whole bag. It is actually easier for them to eat nothing than to eat only one Oreo.

Moderaters, on the other hand, have no problem only eating one Oreo. It is easier for them to stick to a diet if they know they have the freedom to treat themselves every once in a while.

I am an abstainer, but for years, I acted like a moderater, and it made me frustrated and miserable. My health requires me to stick to a very clean, natural diet, and if I eat any junk food, I feel terrible. But I kept allowing myself a little bit of junk food, which always turned into the entire bag of chips. I couldn’t stop myself until the food was gone. The day I learned about abstainers and moderaters, everything made sense. I’ve learned to embrace the fact that I’m an all or nothing kind of person. I don’t eat sweets, ever. I will not touch a bag of corn chips. I exercise every single day, because every other day quickly becomes never. Habits are much easier to keep when I make the decision once, and stick with it.

Moderaters are not able to understand how this approach could possibly be easier, but it just is. It’s knowing that I’m an Upholder and an Abstainer, and I’ve found my groove. But everybody has their own groove, and from my experience, quality of life greatly improves once you figure out what works for you.

It’s been a very interesting, helpful read so far, and if you’re wanting to strengthen any habits in your life, I would highly recommend this book!

So what do you think you are – Upholder, Questioner, Obligers, or Rebel? Abstained or moderater? Any tips you’ve found helpful for sticking with new habits?

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How I Did a Five Minute Plank

You guys, I am finally able to do a five minute plank!!! I’ve been working at it since December, and it feels absolutely amazing to have reached my goal! I don’t think there’s ever been something I’ve worked so hard physically to achieve. Except labor. Delivering babies is slightly harder than a five minute plank. 

Ben and I have been talking about habits a lot lately. He’s also wanting to get more consistent with exercising, and I want to be more disciplined about staying on top of our budget. How can we make these things stick?! Ben has been listening to some great podcasts about habits, and sharing interesting tips with me, so I thought I’d make a list of things that worked for me:

Reward Yourself

When we need to do something difficult and unpleasant, it makes sense to combine a tough challenge with something fun. According to one of the podcasts Ben listened to, it’s even better if the reward happens while you are completing the task – like listening to an audio book or watching a show that you only allow yourself to enjoy when you are exercising. But it works to treat yourself afterwards, too, if it’s not possible to combine the activities. In the months since I started planking, Instagram has become my little treat. Once I collapse on the floor, I give myself permission to not move for 10 minutes, and enjoy some guilt-free time on Instagram.:) If the kids need something or anything else comes up, Ben does it for me, because I’m not getting up until I’ve recovered. It’s funny how such a little thing is something I look forward to!

Accountability

We hear this one all the time, because it is SO TRUE. I need someone checking up on me. Ben has been encouraging me all along with exercising, but lately, Anika has also become my little cheerleader and planking partner. There was a day when I wasn’t feeling 100%, and convinced myself it was okay to take the day off. But then Anika came upstairs and asked me if I had done my planking yet, and was really disappointed when I said I wasn’t going to, because she wanted to do it with me. I didn’t want to let her down, so I decided to just do a short, quick plank with her. Once I got going, it wasn’t hard to keep going longer, so I did!

But as much as I appreciate Ben and Anika’s accountability, what really kept me pushing myself was having to report back to my muscle therapist every two weeks. He was always encouraging, but he wasn’t overly impressed with me when I was slacking off, and he knew I could do better. He kept telling me about the 70-year-old client he has who only took four months to reach a 10 minute plank, or the client who was stuck at seven minutes but stopped watching the clock and suddenly jumped to an 11 minute plank!!! What in the world. It would make me mad, so I’d go home and push harder. I needed that push. Find somebody who will give you a regular kick in the pants – pay them to do it, if you have to!! It is totally worth it.

Understand the Wisdom of the Process

This one comes from the pants-kicking muscle therapist. He is the most disciplined person I’ve ever met, so I asked him recently if he was always so disciplined, or if it was something he had to work at. He was surprised by my question, and said, “I’m not a disciplined person. I just understand the wisdom of the process.” He explained that once you understand the why of what you’re doing, and focus on how your future will be impacted by the choices you make today, you will have all the motivation you need to keep going.

This resonated with me, because I understand the wisdom now, but I haven’t always. When I first started seeing my muscle therapist, he would give me many different stretches and exercises to do, and I would, but not every day. He’d tell me to do yoga daily, but it hurt so much, I just *couldn’t*. It wasn’t until that month when I gave up every appointment, and felt like God was telling me to “act like a healthy person” when I finally got my butt in gear. I had nothing else to lean on, so I did every stretch, exercise, and yoga routine I’d ever been told to do, and by the end of the month, I was a new person.

Was it a miracle from God? Yes.

Did I work my butt off that month? Yes.

Could I have done it on my own without praying for a miracle? I would say no, because up until that point, I was never able to. I didn’t know what else to do, so I did everything I could, and prayed like crazy that God would do something new. And He did. I was finally strong enough to have a baby, and that is when Everett joined our family. It’s when I learned to push through the pain to bring about change. My body took a big jump forward during that time, but in the year and a half since Everett was born, I’ve still had a lot of pain.

That’s where planking came in. My therapist said it was the cure-all exercise because it brings every muscle into balance. It’s fantastic for people with back problems and neck issues, so he told me to start working towards a one minute plank. Then suddenly he was saying two minutes. Before long he was talking five minutes, then 10 minutes. I thought he was crazy – until that point, I had never even considered the fact that a ten minute plank was possible.

But I kept trying. IT HURT SO BAD!!! I would sit on the floor before starting and cry because I DID NOT WANT TO PLANK. I hated it. I felt more terrible than I’ve ever felt, because all my muscles were being challenged. I’d go to him and complain, and he’d pretty much say, “You have to push through it. There’s not a lot I can do to help you – your body has to adjust to using muscles in the right way. It will feel like you’re going to die.” So I’d go home, and I would feel like I was going to die, and I’d keep pushing, because I was so desperate. I wanted to be well and strong. I want to ride my bike and run after Everett.  I want to play piano again. I want to stop being the person who is in pain all the time. I don’t want my life to be defined by pain and limitations. I was sick of all of it. I had to trust that my muscle therapist was right – I was taking his word for it that this present torture would result in a strong and pain-free life. It’s taken nine months to get to five minutes, and he seems to be right – I have stretches of feeling really, really good. It doesn’t last, but it’s coming. Apparently, I won’t even feel my back by the time I get to 10 minutes. I asked him if it would take me another nine months to get to a 10 minute plank, and I liked his answer!! He said it’s like a big, heavy truck – it takes a long time to get going, but once it’s rolling, it’s hard to stop! That’s me. I’m rolling now, and I’m going to keep rolling right to a 10 minute plank…and beyond! I want to be the 70-year-old just killing the plank.

Take Responsibility

This was super hard for me to do for a long time. For many years, I had a really bad attitude about health problems and a weak body. I was angry with how my life had turned out, and I was bitter about how much harder things were for me than a lot of the people around me. I was jealous of other young moms who were living the life I wanted, and these negative feelings sent me into a very dark time of my life. I felt completely helpless.

I kept sitting around, complaining and wishing things were different. I wanted somebody to help me, I wanted God to save me, and to make it easier for me. I’ll never forget the day it all snapped. It was like God pulled back blinders in my life, and I realized how unhappy I was, and that I needed to be the one to do something about it. He was pouring out blessings onto my life, and I couldn’t even see them because I was so consumed with how terrible I felt. Something inside of me started to rise up. Looking back, I don’t really know how things started to change – it must have been that God just planted a seed, and it started to grow. Determination rose up in me, and I started searching for a better way to do things. I started trying everything, I googled and researched to figure out what to do, and Ben and I prayed a lot for God to show us what path to take.

I needed to accept the health challenges in my life, and instead of complaining about them, start putting that energy into doing everything I could to make it better. I still have times where I break down and have a good cry, and I wish I didn’t have pain in my body, but I try not to dwell on it, because it doesn’t help anything. I can’t control all of the circumstances in my life, but I get to choose how I’m going to respond to them.

There’s a verse in Proverbs that says if you don’t work, you don’t eat. I don’t get the good stuff if I don’t put any effort into it. It’s up to me. It was a hard lesson to learn.

Moving On

So I’ve accomplished my five minute plank, but there are many, many other habits which need to be developed in my life! I’m curious to see how the lessons I’ve learned from planking will be applicable to other new habits. I’m finding that achieving a difficult goal gives me confidence and motivation to do other hard things. I can push myself farther than I knew before. Time to move on to budgeting!!

Do you have any tips for sticking to a new habit and accomplishing something hard?

 

 

A Letter to My 18-Year-Old Self

Grade 12 photo

Dear 18-Year -Old Kendra,

This week, I attended our 20 year high school reunion, and as cheesy as I think these kinds of letters are, there are some things I really wish you knew. The reunion brought up a lot of memories – some good, but some really hard. There are thoughts and feelings I hadn’t realized were still lurking around down in the depths, and churning them up last night made me wish I could tell you some things which would have made these last 20 years easier:

You are stronger than you think. You will spend far too many years claiming the labels other people have given you, and some you’ve given yourself. You see yourself as small, weak, insignificant, but just as every single person is created beautiful, resilient, and unique, so are you. You have what it takes to find your way through, and you don’t even realize it yet.

Some things which seem wildly important to you at 18 actually are not. But it won’t be disappointing – rather, it will be a gradual awakening to new passions, adventures, and tools you will discover to get you further on your journey. Hold things loosely, because they might not be as important as you think. But when you discover something worth standing up for, do it with everything in you.

Your world is very small right now. The people in your world and their opinions of you seem like everything, but they won’t always. The hoops you have tried to jump through to feel accepted and validated can be left behind, and you can go out into the world to discover there are so many wonderful, amazing people and experiences which will change how you see yourself and the things around you. You don’t have to go far to find them – you just have to be open.

You will see how much we all need room for grace, forgiveness, and growth. Just as you need a lot of time, experiences, wisdom, and depth, so do all those around you. You have some scars and old hurts you need to accept, because everybody has them. You’ve given some, and you need to take some, because that’s life. There are misunderstandings, immaturity, and a lot of private pain which lead people to do things we don’t understand. Let it go.

Many of your dreams will come true, but life won’t turn out the way you imagine – it will be better. You will look back and realize you did not get the exact life you thought you wanted, but it will be so much harder, richer, and more worthwhile.

There will be many times when it will appear as though you’re approaching a dead end, and you won’t be able to see a through – keep going. Trust that with God, there is always a way. Life and it’s challenges keep coming, and you will keep growing as long as you choose to rise to the occasion and not give up.

You have no clue what hard things are coming your way, but 20 years from now, you won’t want to change any of it. It will be the hard times which will also bring beauty and hard-earned joy. Accept all of it. You can’t have one without the other, and you will see how it’s all worth it.

You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you get to choose how well this will go. You choose your attitude and response – nobody does that for you. Don’t complain or blame somebody else for your problems. Figure out what you’re going to do about them.

Be okay with messing up and making mistakes. You expect perfection from yourself, but it’s not possible, and it makes you too hard on the people around you, as well. Go gently.

I can tell you all of this, but in the end, I know you need to go out there and learn it for yourself. And that’s okay – it would be less painful to learn it by simply being told, but sometimes it’s necessary to learn from experience. So learn. Be open to it. You are in for a fantastic 20 years.

Sincerely,

An older and hopefully wiser version of yourself.

 

When I Need to Assume the Best About People

Last week, I received an email which had my stress level rising before I’d even read it – the subject title alone got me going. I was pretty sure I knew exactly what the email was about, and unfortunately, reading it confirmed my suspicions. I was also fairly confident I knew why the email had been sent, and was having a difficult time keeping my emotions from rising to the occasion.

As I began to mentally form a response, two wise voices started saying things in my head.

The first voice was Ben’s, because he always says, “You can never be too gracious.”

The second voice was Brene Brown, who says:

quoteI had to think these things over for a little while. The ungracious, defensive part of me felt the email was critical, but how could I interpret it in the best way possible? I decided to take it as someone’s well-meaning intention to show care and concern, rather than criticism, even though it was hard for me to actually appreciate their input.

I wrote the most gracious response I could come up with, and then deleted the email so I wouldn’t be tempted to go back to it.

Remember how we make up stories in our heads? It can be easy to take a comment or email the wrong way, and make up all kinds of reasons as to why someone would say or do something annoying or even hurtful. But more and more, I’m seeing how I need to make generous assumptions of other people – when they question my choices, or when I’m mentally questioning theirs! Can I assume everyone is trying their best? That doesn’t mean it’s THE best, or even THEIR best, but could I at least say that in their situation, with their current resources and abilities, they are trying their best?

I remember a friend once saying, “Nobody sets out to make really bad decisions on purpose.” We all have our reasons, our weaknesses, and our moments. I’m trying my hardest, but I fall short, and I need a lot of grace. So does everybody else.

Now, I am completely aware of the fact that sometimes, it does NOT look like people are trying their best. It was hard to make generous assumptions this morning when I went to check on my girls’ bedroom after I asked them to clean it up, and it was still a bit of a disaster. Was it their best? Probably not.

And I’ll never forget the day when my high school gym teacher made some assumptions about my performance on the basketball court. He stopped the game, and came storming over to me with whistle blowing, arms waving, and voice yelling, completely humiliating me in front of the whole class.

He assumed I didn’t care about doing my best, but what he didn’t understand was that I cared too much – I was so worried about making a fool of myself, it was self-protection to not try, because when I was purposely not trying, no one could see how bad I still was if I actually tried.

When I think back to that painful memory, it makes me wonder if people (even children who are asked to clean up their rooms) are held back in some way from doing their best. When Kaylia goes into an overwhelmingly messy room, she shuts down. She uses a variety of tactics to avoid cleaning it up, because her brain just can’t take it in. If I hand her one item at a time, she has no problems taking that item and returning it to the right place. I’m trying to teach her how to do this on her own – don’t look at the pile, just grab one item, figure out where it goes, and keep repeating until it’s all done. But that’s really hard for her. She’s held back from her best.

So let’s say we’re all trying our best, or we have issues holding us back from our best – I’d say either one calls for grace and generous assumptions.

I want to learn to expect the best from people. And when they can’t give it, I want the sensitivity to realize we are all held back with old hurts and emotional baggage, but usually, we’re all trying really hard.

What’s the most generous assumption I can make?

My Thoughts on Taking a Break From Media

social mediasource

Oh, those smart people who take a break from Facebook. Or Pinterest. Or anything else, ONE THING AT A TIME!!!

But taking a break from Facebook, Pinterest, blog-reading, and TV all at the same time, has been quite the…..let’s go with “adventure”. If I read fiction, I think I could survive just fine, but I don’t do that either, because it always results in staying up until 2 am to finish the book, and then I’m super-crabby the next day.

So basically, I’ve cut out all forms of mindless entertainment, and let me tell you, there are times when I really, really want to do something mindless. I can only be productive for so and so long before I just want to do something fun.

For the first time in my life, I feel completely bored, and desperately want to get out of the house. I need a change of scenery, I need a new hobby, I need hockey season to be over so that Ben can stay at home and entertain me. I guess we’ll play games. And do puzzles. Or something.

I feel ashamed to admit how hard this has been for me, and I feel even more ashamed to admit that last night, I sat on the couch and bawled to Ben about this gaping void in my life that needs to be filled.

The funny thing is that as long as I kept myself busy with social media or TV, I never even noticed any void. Facebook and blogs made me feel as though I was getting social interaction more often than I really was, and TV gave me something fun to do when Ben was out playing hockey. I kind of wanted him to go play hockey every once in a while, just so I could watch an episode of Downton Abbey. How sad to think these things convinced me that I had a “life”.

Last night, Ben tried to comfort me. “Sometimes God removes things from our life so that He can give them back to us in a more purified form,” he said. I believe this to be true, but in this case, having gone without these “fillers” in my life for three weeks now, I don’t actually desire to refill my life with them.

I will go back on Facebook, because I miss seeing the new babies, and the vacation photos, and the list of art supplies everyone was supposed to bring to class today (oops!). I will reconnect in this way, but very cautiously.

I will go back to reading blogs, because that is also part of the world that I choose to live in. I read and learn and grow from other people’s thoughts and information, and then in turn, I put out my own thoughts.

But while I plan to re-enter that world, I do not want to use any of it to fill this void I’ve become so aware of. It has become very clear to me that God has emptied my life for this season so that I will seek how He wants to fill it.

A number of people who heard about my media fast have said, “Oh, that sounds like something I should do!”

And by all means, if anyone feels called to do it, please act on that urge.

But know this: Media lies to us. That sounds overly dramatic, but it’s the hardest truth I’ve come across in the last few weeks.

Media tells us we are more connected with people than we really are.

It tells us we have important things to do with our free time, or perhaps that we don’t have any free time.

Media will convince us that it’s the best thing to turn to when we are lonely, bored, sick, tired, or unfulfilled. It will help us to forget our problems, and can make escaping look very, very appealing.

This probably makes it sound as though I think media is evil, and I really don’t. Like pretty much everything else in life, balance is very, very important. Media can be used as a wonderful tool. But it’s a powerful tool, and must be handled with care.

So I wanted to seek balance, and I desired to face myself without any pull to easy distractions, but I got a lot more than I bargained for. And I’m only halfway done!

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts: Have you ever done a media fast? What did you learn? Would you ever consider fasting from it? Why?

Three Things I Want My Girls to Learn About Pain and Suffering

Family Pictures 2012 240 edit

There are many times when I am not the mom I wish to be.

Beyond the fact that I’m just plain human, and I mess up on a regular basis, I’ve also been living with some physical challenges which hold me back from all I wish to be.

Although I’m doing much to improve my quality of life, and eliminate the amount of pain and suffering I carry with me, the fact remains that each and every day, my girls get front row seats to this “show” – my show of how I navigate a life of physical challenges.

I am fully aware that there are many people who suffer far more than I could ever imagine. In the big picture, the discomfort I experience is not that significant.

But in all honesty, the daily pain I experience can make me cranky at times. It tempts me to feel sorry for myself. It keeps me from bounding out of the house with unlimited energy and enthusiasm to spend time outside, or do all kinds of fun, adventurous things with my girls.

And it hurts my pride, because I never want people to pity me in my weakness.

So I used to wish it away. But I’m slowly changing my mind….

I don’t know if I will ever like experiencing pain and discomfort, but I have seen the results of it, and I really, really like those.

I have never met anyone who wished for more sickness, or more suffering. And yet, I have repeatedly come across amazing, joyful people with great spiritual depth who have pain and suffering somewhere in their life story, either past or present.

Struggles can bring such strength, if we let them, but who wants them?!

So as I live this life with difficulties I would never have chosen, how do I set a good example for these little girls who see it all?

How can I be grateful, each and every day for this life God’s given me?

If I can’t be the active, energetic wife and mom that I want to be, how can I be what God wants me to be, right here, right now, in the midst of the discomfort?

What is my life of pain teaching Anika and Kaylia?

1) Compassion for those who suffer.

Maybe having me as their mom will make them sensitive. Maybe the idea of people living with pain will be more present in their minds, and they will become aware of how to help others, to come alongside them in their pain. Maybe they will be more grateful for their own health, not taking it for granted, and allowing it to fuel their desire to help others.

2) Healthy choices for their future.

I spent many years making poor choices regarding exercise and diet.

When I was in junior high and high school, “sports” basically meant volleyball and basketball, both of which I couldn’t stand.

Turns out, I love yoga and cycling. But it took a major wake-up call for me to start exercising, and exploring what physical activity I enjoyed as an adult.

And food? Chocolate and carbs (ideally chocolatey carbs!) made up the majority of my diet in college. That same wake-up call got me eating peppers in every color, sweet potatoes, eggplant, and cucumbers in astonishing amounts.

I hope that our girls will learn to enjoy physical activity, eating well, and taking care of their bodies much sooner than I did.

They may not – everyone gets to make their own choices, and I made bad ones for many years of my life. But I’m hoping that Anika and Kaylia will make healthier choices because it’s what they see every day, and they get the “before and after” – they see firsthand what happens when someone does not take care of their body.

John Maxwell shares about his heart attack in his book Make Today Count. It dramatically changed the choices he made on a daily basis, and I love the following quote:

…Men who survive an early heart attack (and learn from it) often live longer and healthier lives than those who never suffer a heart attack.(Maxwell, p.24)

Hardships can cause us to rise up. We can become stronger as we face difficult challenges.

If my health came easy, my girls would not get to see the choices I’m making in this difficulty.

3) Acceptance for whatever God allows into their lives.

Every day, my attitude says something to my girls. I know they can’t possibly understand what pain or discomfort I put up with, and I don’t want them to, but they will know how I choose to face the day.

Do I search for the joy in it?

Do I enjoy the little bits of progress I’m making?

Do I stop to notice the sunshine, and the colors of vegetables or the blue of the sky?

Do I look into my girls’ eyes and truly listen to what they’re saying?

Do I choose to have a good attitude again and again, even when I’m tempted to give up and feel sorry for myself?

I want to live this life well, whatever it holds.

I want my Anika and Kaylia to look back on our home as being a wonderful, happy place, and know that I chose to make it that way, even if it was difficult sometimes. (But I definitely have a lot of work to do in this area!)

In her book, The Resolution for Women, Priscilla Shirer writes,

…You can trust that He has planted you right now in the place where you will be the most personally productive. Even it you may not be inherently pleased with the person He’s made you to be, even if you may not be abundantly happy with the circumstances you’re currently living, you can be sure that God has planted you here with design and intention. He has selected the “soil” where you’re presently growing. Every kind of season and weather you experience has had to pass through His fingers before coming into contact with you. It’s all been divinely designed to surround you with the conditions that allow your unique gifts and abilities to reach maximum potential. To grow. To yield. To produce. ( Shirer, p. 56)

I want to live this life to the fullest – right here in my present situation. It doesn’t matter at all that I wouldn’t have chosen it – it’s what I get for right now.

I choose to accept and appreciate all that’s happened in my past.

I choose to embrace today.

I choose to work at making tomorrow different.

And even if it’s not different, I still want to choose a good attitude.

What impact will that have on my girls?

I have no guarantees, but it seems as though it should be a good one.

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What’s your area of difficulty and struggle? Are you learning from it? Any lessons you hope to pass along to those around you?

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And a quick reminder that you still have a few days to enter the draw for Priscilla Shirer’s book The Resolution for Women. Leave a comment about someone who inspires you. Who do you look up to you? Who do you admire, and why?

Slow Down

I was cutting peppers the other day, rushing to get everything together for my pot of soup and feeling rather distracted, when I suddenly looked down, and really saw what was in front of me.

The bright red of those peppers, combined with the green plants sitting on my counter were such a fresh, appealing scene right before me, and I hadn’t even noticed it.

Oh, that happens far too often! All of those beautiful, wonderful, simple things that are easy to miss because life gets hectic.

I’m reading an absolutely fantastic book right now called Slowing Down to the Speed of Life. I found it at the MCC store for 25 cents, and I will be forever grateful to whoever donated it to MCC!

It is just exactly what I’ve been needing to read right now. The authors talk about how we rush around, and multi-task, and try to fit so much into a day, that it leaves us feeling stressed, frazzled, and short-tempered. (That pretty much sums up where I was at when I picked up the book!)

I’ve been reading wonderful new ideas for how to slow down, and live in the moment – to notice the little things, like red peppers!

Slowing Down suggests that whenever we are feeling flustered, irritated, or stressed about something, it is a sign to us that we are trying to do too much at once, and it’s time to slow down and live in the moment.

The other day, I was late for an appointment, and got stuck in some crazy traffic. I was getting extremely impatient and fidgety, because there was nothing I could do about the frustration of my delay. My mind was whirling, and grumpiness was coming, when suddenly I became aware of what I was doing.

It was my signal! Time to get perspective, and stay in the moment.

I happened to glance to my left, and wouldn’t you know, right there was the most beautiful bush, covered in white blossoms.

I said to myself, “In this moment, that bush is very beautiful.” And really, this present moment is the only one that matters.

Everything in me started to unwind, and I began to look around, searching for anything else I could enjoy while I inched along in traffic.

And guess what? By some miracle, I was not late for my appointment after all. I could have gotten all worked up about something that didn’t even happen. I could have missed those flowers.

I could have missed the bright red peppers.

I could miss the sparkle in those big brown eyes when Kaylia asks me for another story.

I could miss the excitement in Anika’s voice when she tells me (in the greatest detail imaginable) about her latest idea.

Each moment is new and unique. You’ve never had this moment before, and you never will again. As you tap into the beauty of your constantly changing moments by becoming more oriented to the present one, you’ll find yourself struggling with your moments far less and replacing your judgments with love and appreciation. (p. 142, Slowing Down to the Speed of Life)

Be all there.

Allow the stress to remind you to get back to this moment, and what you can do in it.

Notice the beauty around you.

Chop some peppers!

Or whatever. But do it with your eyes open!