Read and Grow.

Photo credit.

It’s happening again. And I’m so utterly excited and thankful. Life has presented me with a challenge, and God has birthed in my heart a craving to grow.

The desire and motivation are a gift. I didn’t design it nor can I contain it.

This happened once before, a little over 7 years ago. I wrote about my desire to change, to fix a character flaw. It was truly the beginning of my blogging journey as well. I had no idea that writing my way through that year would serve to fundamentally define me as a writer.

Isn’t that just the way God works? Those mysterious ways that come upon us, altering us in areas beyond imagination.

Last year, I tried to manufacture my growth by setting up a reading challenge full of deep and delightful titles. But even while creating the list, I could feel my own distance – reluctance that I ignored because I wanted to teach myself a lesson in discipline. I was tricked by my own success with growing productively into believing that I could force growth in any area. I didn’t honor my limits, I wasn’t being gracious with my weakness, I over estimated my strengths.

I was sick of being held back. I thought pushing through, trying harder, and thinking big would free me from my own struggle with my brain.  

Dealing with my ADD brain can be tricky. Sometimes I do need to “sit myself down” and “obey the list.” I’m learning that I can only make progress through this type of firmness in the area of productivity not the area of contemplation. I need to budget my energy to fuel these two parts of my mind (there’s a post brewing on this topic…). I’m realizing again that God gave me this brain with all of it’s limits and talents for His purposes to be used in His timing. 

So, I’m excited for this year and the growth I can see up ahead, but I’m not ashamed of last year’s “failure” because I recognized an important, personal limitation and learned to respect it. More on this later.

For now, I can see that the challenge in my life is CHANGE. There is change all around me. My kids are all coming out of a coasting season. Their interests, competencies, and complexities are on the rise. Taking just this area of change into view, I see that I will have to change in order to rise to the occasion of being the kind of mother I want to be for my loves.

Questions: How can I rise to the occasion on my own? What strength or talent do I possess that will allow for personal growth? Can I contain or conjure up a motive that will sustain growth over a long period of time?

Answers: I can’t. Nothing. No.

What gives? Why am I excited if I can’t do this on my own? Exactly because the desire, strength, motive aren’t coming from my decision, I can trust that I won’t have to worry about controlling or maintaining them.

It’s like the “Field of Dreams.” I feel like the Lord is showing me how much great change is ahead of me, and all I have to do is pick up the book and read. He will grow me from the inside.

And He already has. Since the beginning of 2017, I’ve been reading. I’ll do my best to share the most of what I gain from the titles this year. And I’ll keep the list here as a reference.

Books read in 2017 (I’ll link the ones I review):

  • BFG by Roald Dahl*
  • Gifted: Raising Children Intentionally by Chris Davis
  • Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
  • Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
  • Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier
  • Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook by Pearl & Serene
  • Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
  • Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae
  • Managers of Their Homes by Steven and Teri Maxwell
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • The Unveiled Wife by Jennifer Smith
  • Currently reading: The Life Giving Home by Sarah & Sally Clarkson, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, Gameplan by Sarah Harnisch 

Are you interested in following me in this process of change through reading? I’m ready to really GROW. Let me know in the comments what books you’re reading and what you recommend! Who doesn’t want to GROW their TBR list even more? 😉

Here’s my Amazon list for easy reference. If you make a purchase, Amazon thanks me at no cost to you.

* Audio book

Photo credit.

Motivation, Challenge, and My Evenings (a new tool makes the most of my time)

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I’ve come to accept that I will always need a new tool to help me keep going in the direction of my goals.

When I stop thinking critically about my life, actions, priorities, and thinking (yes, I need to think about my thinking) then drift, coast, or stand still in the areas that are most important to me. Sure, I may still be active online with social media and even in person with friends and family, but the things that fuel and energize me take the work of paddling against the current.

As a homeschool mom, I find that using tools in my own life to keep me organized, prioritized, and energized is the number one thing that impacts our home and education the very most. It isn’t selfish or distracting from that work. I need these tools in order to teach – in fact, these tools are maybe more important than the ones I use for my kids.

I used the Make Over Your Mornings tool about a year ago for the first time. The course, by Crystal Paine of MoneySavingMom.com, was one of the most motivational things in my life. She helped me define (maybe for the first time) the connection between my priorities and my goals. Without her encouragement and direction, I don’t think I would have made the effort to progress in the areas of my life that were (and are) challenging.

Plus, I became an affiliate for the course, and this post earned me enough money to buy a bulk of our Christmas presents for last year. Win, win.

I tried going through the morning course again after becoming pregnant because so much of my routine was altered by my changing needs.

It was good, but not as great as the first time. I felt like I was lacking the challenge of the newness.

So when Crystal messaged me about her new course, I was skeptical that it would really work for me. It’s called Make Over Your Evenings.

I thought, “What could the difference really be?” In the mornings course, she takes a day to address creating an evening routine. I couldn’t see how she could expand that one day into a stand alone course.

But she did it, and it’s amazing.

Like the first course, it challenges me. (And the daily intro music is better than the mornings course. 😉 )

Just in the first three days, I’ve had so much success in the life application.

For example, she shares advice that challenges my thinking like this:

“I love what Marie Kondo says in the The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: ‘People cannot change their habits without first changing their thinking.’ Today, I want challenge you to change your thinking so that during the rest of this course, you can work on changing your habits.”

And challenges for my actions like a 4-question process of adding anything to my calendar and the process of creating a temporary “Stop Doing List.”

In the first day, she addresses the reasons why she created the evening course – including the fact that she created this one for the people who took the morning course. I was thinking that this course would be an alternative for those who didn’t want to take the morning course, but on the contrary, she developed this course to dig in deeper to the work already started in the morning course.

It’s so good.

Plus, I believe the structure of the workbook is laid out better with all the worksheets and resources right within each day (no more having to jump back and forth to the end). And the resources included are very practical.

My favorite resource so far has been from Jeff Sander’s post Morning’s 101: How to Create Your Ideal Evening Routine:

Keep in mind that the evening routine tends to much more flexible than the morning routine as schedules are likely to evolve more dramatically as the day progresses.”

Also in this post are the 9 Potential Habits to Include in Your Evening Routine.

The most helpful thing I took away from Jeff Sander’s post is learning to set an evening boundary. The time when all work related, house projects, or other tasks get put away and I begin to go through the routine that best sets me up to go to bed on time and to prepare for the next day.

I used to set my bedtime as my only evening boundary, with the hope that I would have already done the things that make for a great evening. But I’ve learned (through many disappointments) that this doesn’t always work. Usually, it’s one of two options: I go to bed on time but I don’t accomplish all the ideal evening helps (writing out the next day’s agenda, cleaning the kitchen, or winding down in a way that’s relaxing for me) OR I do accomplish all the things at an arbitrary start time only to realize I’m going to be 30 – 60 minutes later than I intended.

So, as I prepare for baby, schedule our summer activities, and review my priorities I’ve been so blessed by this course’s guidance in setting up an evening routine that refuels and refills my soul. It’s true that a great morning routine is built on the foundation of the evening routine from the night before.

Who wants to join me?

I’m also about to start another Whole30. If you’re interested in doing that or the Make Over Your Evening Course, contact me or comment!

Accountability peeps! This post is my challenge to you today. How are you doing with your planning and trying the Bullet Journal? If you have any more questions, you know how to reach me! Keep up the great work; your life is worth it.

My homeschool (my life) depends on it.

I haven’t been following my own advice, and I haven’t set real goals in weeks. And I’ve been getting a lot of these sideways glances.

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Day 4: Yes, You Need an Incentive.

Video: Just a few minutes a day, doing something you love, can motivate you and make all the difference.

Workbook: List practical rewards for continuing on the path that is moving forward. Write out the external motivators (simple things like a great cup of coffee or lighting a candle) and the internal motivators (the deeper things like preparing for the day allows me to better align with my purpose in life).

I go through lots of cycles with motivation. From hyper-motivated and set out to change the course of my entire life to woefully under-motivated and barely able to make my own coffee in the morning before the kids come downstairs.

Underneath motivation is a drive, and sometimes – quite frankly – I have zero drive for life. I mean I live, I eat, I maintain the most basic of tasks around the house, but I have absolutely no motivation to do anything more than just survive. And when I feel like this, homeschooling seems nebulous and impossible. Failure becomes my companion rather than my enemy.

My kids are old enough now that they know the difference in my demeanor. They can tell what kind of day we are going to have based on whether or not I care if they watch PBS Kids first thing in the morning or not. Now, I don’t think it’s life-altering to allow them to watch Wild Kratts every morning, but the sad fact is that any show (no matter how educational) makes an imprint on how they will go about their day.

So, I survived a major slump in December. I wanted desperately to start January with fresh motivation. Pregnancy aside, I know the difference between physical limitations and mental blocks. I’ve been through the homeschool year cycle 3 full turns now, and for this fourth cycle I want to make sure I’m continuing to put more of myself into the success of our year than the year before.

Isn’t lack motivation usually the first domino to fall?

Which leads me back to the Make Over Your Mornings course (yes, I’m talking about it again because I’m working through it again – I’m not afraid to come right out and say that I need to re-makeover). As I wrote out my homework for Day 4, I realized I have some really great motivators already in place (the ones that worked really well before the day I saw the 2 pinks lines) if I would only rise and shine for my life. I felt a renewed sense of purpose. Finishing Day 4 was easy, and I felt accomplished.

Until the moment the alarm went off the next day. And the next.

I completely bombed. Like, getting out of bed an hour later than planned, bombed.

And with this failure came the bullying feeling of shame.

Emily Freeman describes it this way:

When fear bullies my soul, I know it because I spend lots of time wishing I was someplace else.

  • I become obsessed with building my life
  • I am frantic to catch up.
  • I feel like I’m missing out.
  • I search but don’t have hope of finding.
  • I build but don’t have a vision for finishing.
  • I strive but don’t believe I have what it takes.
  • I compete.
  • I compare.
  • I hide.
  • I feel ashamed but I don’t know why.
  • I refuse to move toward others.
  • I dread small beginnings.
  • I look at other people’s eight-foot assignments. (That only makes sense if you’ve read chapter 5.)

The solution to this soul-bullying is love. (You’ll have to read the rest of the chapter for yourself because I’ll get in trouble if I copy any more of it here.)

And when I woke up on my own this morning, 35 minutes before my alarm feeling well rested, I knew it was for love that I am awake. It’s for love that I’m alive.

When I live without love, I lack motivation every-single-time.

When I live without love, I don’t care about PBS Kids watching in the morning.

When I live without love, I hit snooze 3 times.

When I live without love, I slump and our homeschool routine slides later and later into the day.

When I live without love, I get dreadfully close to wanting to give up all the good things in my life that I have had to work so hard for.

So, Crystal is right: You need an incentive. And I believe there are rewards for hard work. I must enjoy the incentives for what they are, but I can’t cling to them when the motivation runs out. Because I’m not Pavlov’s dog and I can’t truly be conditioned to behave a certain way indefinitely, so I must stay in better tune with my heart and soul. I must recognize my need for living in tune with love.

My homeschool (my life) depends on it.

Links to what’s helping me right now:

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#Back2School in #31Days: Day 4 – Using Pinterest with Caution

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You know that sinking feeling? The one where you have no idea how to begin bailing yourself out?

Like scooping water out of a sinking ship with a small toy bucket?

Yeah, that’s me and Pinterest.

Once I click open the page, I get that I’m smaller than a pigmy shrew feeling. I want to crawl in a hole and ignore all the pretty pictures for fear that my life will end up in pictures and somehow side by side with all the beauty plastered all over the inter-webs for the world to see.

Plus, I’m easily overstimulated by color.

So, to say I usually avoid Pinterest would be an understatement. (And Target too – but that’s another story for different series.)

That is until a few weeks ago.

I’ve grown so much in understanding how I tick, what motivates me, how to keep momentum toward my goals, how to accept my weak spots without shame, and all that rolled into some healthy strength to be able to face the once was scary things in my life.

I knew I needed some clever ideas for how to use our small space in our new home, so I started a board for that on Pinterest.

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But first – I outlined these rules for myself!

  1. The most important rule is look for items you already own that someone is using differently or creatively.
    • I tend to be an “inside the box” type of thinker, so this helpful scan is huge for giving me a new perspective
    • I stop myself if I start looking at pins that would require me to buy any thing
  2. Never look for the sake of “just looking”
    • This wasn’t a time to tackle creating a list of ideas for the garden, garage, or any other space in the house
    • No rabbit trails allowed
    • Getting caught up in looking at pretty things slows me down and dissolves my motivation
  3. Use the search carefully
    • The more specific words the better
    • Put the most important word first (even if it feels weird and out of order)
    • Don’t waste your time if the first results don’t look right at a glance, do a new search right away
  4. Scroll quickly, don’t look for pretty – look for key components like size, space, and matches to the search terms
    • Make a list mentally or on paper of 2 things:
      • What your components need to be
      • Any unused furniture or supplies you already own for repurposing – keep the vision of using these things in mind
    • Don’t get caught up in color – keep only the key components in mind
  5. Think in scale – don’t try to match something point for point – there are somethings that work well smaller or larger given the space you have available
  6. If the pin earns my click, then go to the source and decide within 1 minute if the project is A.) practical B.) possible (preferably within a 1 week time frame) C.) purposeful for more than a few months and D.) peaceful (will the finished product bring joy to my life and help me to breathe)
  7. Zap distractions, this isn’t a time for idealizing, dreaming, or if I ever win the lottery-thinking
  8. Use the categories at the top navigation, under the search
    • For example, I typed in “Homeschool Book Storage” and I have the option of just scrolling the results OR narrowing the results to specific categories like: Bookshelves, Built ins, Dining rooms, Classroom organization, Desks, Magazine holders, DIY, Tips, Home Libraries, and the list goes on…
    • Also, under the categories are Pinterest’s organization – you can choose to look at “All Pins, Your Pins, Pinners, or Boards.” I like to look at both “all pins” and “boards.” Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 6.31.24 AM
  9. Once you’re finished pinning, review the board
    • You’ll see that I don’t have a ton of pins on my Homeschool Room board or my Small Bathroom Solutions board. That is on purpose. I went back through my boards after searching, and decided between conflicting ideas. I can have two types of craft organization or towel storage systems.
    • Weed out ideas that won’t really work quickly. Don’t let your board get so full that then you don’t know how or where to start.
  10. Use a timer (one of my favorite household tools ever!)
    • It may sound silly, but I set goals for what I want to accomplish on Pinterest and I time myself.
    • Time is a resource, don’t give it away for free – make sure there’s a return on your investment.

My searches were for:

  • Drawer storage ideas – we have 8 unnecessary drawers in our schoolroom. Seriously, I’m open to suggestions as to how on earth to use these extra drawers. (I’m not a fan.)
  • Homeschool room ideas – lockers, desks, shelves, etc. I wanted ideas for using the wall space we have for storage and flow. So, thinking about using a table for a desk means that we will need to have separate storage for books and supplies. (I know you may be thinking about the 8 unnecessary drawers right now, but don’t. These drawers are wooden and deep – difficult for kids to open and shut. Not ideal for keeping a single subject inside.)
  • Small storage spaces – for ideas on how to use the closet that I pictured here in Day 3 – that catch-all space. (Tomorrow I’ll show you what we did with it!)

Things I did not search for:

  • Craft storage – this will be a future search. I wasn’t ready for little detail ideas. I knew I needed to get major pieces put together first.
  • Workbox systems – I already found the system I like for keeping the kids’ materials separate, organized, and easy to access. (I use this cart, I explain a little bit about it here.)
  • Wall decor – I quickly decided this one already. We only have 2 walls – so one gets the chalkboard and the other will get a map of the world.

So, I’m feeling good about my healing relationship with Pinterest. I think we may be able to be friends after all. I respect it for the tool that it is, and I respect my limits in attempting to use the tool wisely without falling prey to the never ending pursuit of the elusive “perfect.”

Have you found a good way to use Pinterest? Do you have a great Pinterest story? I’d love to hear it! Let me know in the comments.

If you’ve missed a day, check out the index of posts: click here.

Further Reading:

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Ending the Struggle Between Good Mom and Bad Mom

As a mom, it comes with the territory that mistakes will be made. And with my mistakes, I felt an over abundant amount of guilt.

What I wish I had was a quick reference guide for things to not feel guilty for – for example: “child who will not eat what is put on their plate” and the quick reference says that’s a 1 on the 5 point guilt scale. Phew. I don’t need to feel that guilty.

Guilt is a huge and ugly force we wrestle as moms. It doesn’t help us function for the future because we’re constantly checking back to see if we’ve “made up” for what we did wrong yesterday. Feeling guilty promotes the lie that if I feel bad enough, then I will change. If I view myself as a “bad mom” then I will want to strive for “good mom” tomorrow.

The endless struggle between “good mom” and “bad mom.”

Every morning when I wake up, I review either what I’ve done or what I need to do and I motivate myself somehow. Generally reaching out to my goal of being “good mom” with guilt from being “bad mom” as my faulty motivation.

When my oldest was a toddler and my middle was just a baby, I desperately wanted to be “good mom,” but my good was never good enough. My kids cried, fought, went on strike against nap time (which felt like a personal attack on my sanity), and I didn’t have any help. Day after day, my desire to try to be “good mom” faded into a jaded reality.

My strength, confidence, and resolve dwindled to next to nothing. Worse, my identity was under attack, and I thought more and more that I would be destined to remain “bad mom” permanently.

Ending the Struggle Between Good Mom and Bad Mom Smiles weigh more

As my kids grew, my goal changed from reaching for “good mom” to trying to just stay neutral. I viewed my motherhood as a scale to balance. Good actions, words, attitudes on one side – bad ones on the other.

I drove myself crazy trying to simply keep track of the weights on the scale. I burdened myself to breaking by the end of each day. I never felt worthy of my rest because there was always more to do.

Life wasn’t a gift. My children weren’t my joys. I had made them my judges.

I thought I had to make them like me and be happy with me (all the time) in order to earn the “good mom” merit badge.

Ending the Struggle Between Good Mom and Bad Mom Toddlers don't make good judges

But that’s all behind me, and you can put it behind you too.

This is what changed it all for me: I asked myself the question “How will my kids remember me?” Who am I to them every single day? What am I good at? What makes me, me and therefore their mom? Not somebody else, not their best friend’s mom. My kids just have me, and they will remember the things that made us, us.

Thinking from this point of view – casting a long view of my mothering – I realized that I was okay that my “good” was not going to look like baking cookies every day or creating crafts every day.

Identifying these as unmet expectations of myself allowed me to realize that my kids never asked me to do this anyway! Sure they want to make cookies sometimes, and yes they ask to make crafts occasionally, but I couldn’t appreciate the sometimes and occasionally. In my mind, I was deceived into thinking that every day and always were the standard, and that just wasn’t possible.

I wasn’t appreciating the person I was designed to be because the scale said I wasn’t “good” enough.

Ending the Struggle Between Good Mom and Bad Mom She will remember this feeling

False burdens started falling of the scale that I had heaped up in an effort to motivate myself to be better. With my new view for motherhood – embracing who I am, and setting my sights on how I want my kids to remember me – I had a starting point for true inspiration. I could see the moment in front of me as an opportunity, not a test. I saw my kids as future adults – with their personalities still in tact – and I engaged with them in fun and free ways.

I was able to feel again, and with that I could direct my feelings into further motivation for change.

Just don’t be “bad mom” motivated me a little bit before, now I had a vision for what good I could contribute, and that motivation was much more empowering. I focus on one “bad mom” habit at a time, and when I see small incremental growth it provides even more motivation.

The encouragement is inside, and it isn’t based on a winning scale.

I discern the voice of conviction from the voice of condemnation. Did you know that Satan burdens in generalities, but the Spirit convicts in specifics?

So I hope you can receive this for what I intend it to be: encouragement to be the person you were created to be and to set aside the scales and the guilt. Maybe you’ll use a different question to cast vision for your future, but face your identity – start small, and end the struggle.

Sometimes my deepest need is for another adult to know that I’m alive and trying, to relate to me.

For someone courageous to come and take a burden of false guilt off my scale. 

I have been helped so much by Crystal Paine in her course: Make Over Your Mornings. She has been like a mentor to me, giving me permission to take off the guilt and put on purpose. Click here to learn more about her course.

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