My “word” for 2018

My “word” for 2018

Until last year, I have never been one of those people who came up with a word for the year. I’ve always thought it was a cool idea, but I simply was never able to think of one word that described my focus for the coming 12 months.

Last year, as 2016 was coming to a close, my word for 2017 just made itself obvious to me. I knew that “intentional” needed to be my word for the year. You can read a little bit about how that word impacted me here, but it really deserves a separate blog post (which honestly, I will probably never write).

Anyway, as 2017 was ending, once again, my focus for 2018 materialized unexpectedly.

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Typology, which is by the author of a book I have recommended several times, called “The Road Back to You.” I have really loved this book, which explains the personality profile system called, the Enneagram.

Each week, the author, Ian Cron, interviews people who are different types on the Enneagram. I love listening to stories of how people have learned to maximize the strengths and weaknesses of their personality type and grow in their faith through the process.

On this particular episode, he was interviewing a woman who is a 1 on the Enneagram, which is the perfectionist. I was especially interested because I also am a 1.

As I was listening to the interview, I kept thinking, “This woman reminds me so much of myself.” About halfway through the interview, the conversation started to change. The interviewer began probing her on questions at a deeper level. I was answering the same questions in my head.

By the end, he suggested to her that maybe she isn’t a 1 at all. Maybe she actually is a 3, which is “the achiever.”

I’ve always questioned whether I’m actually a 1, because some aspects of this personality type really don’t describe me very well. But as I’ve analyzed other types, I’ve always passed over the 3. I knew for a fact there was no way this was me. In fact, as much as I didn’t want to be a 1, “at least I wasn’t a 3,” I would sometimes think!

But now, as he described the 3, an uneasiness started growing in my stomach. (And I knew I had NOT eaten any gluten!) Just the name of this personality type seemed to describe me so perfectly. Achiever.

Dang.

If you lined up 10 people closest to me and asked them to choose one word to describe me, I’m guessing at a few of them would choose this word.

I haven’t taken the test again to confirm or dispel that I am a 3. But just thinking about it really started to bother me.

I really do get so much of my value in life from what I “do.” I love to achieve. I’m driven to perform. Most people know me best by what I DO, rather than who I AM.

In fact, I wrote a whole blog post about this realization last summer when I took that sabbatical and visited the lighthouses.

After a few weeks of processing this, it became clear to me that I really don’t want to let another year go by, letting my life be defined by what I DO, rather than who I AM. The word I chose for 2018 was “be.” But that seemed short and hard to understand so I eventually came up with a phrase: “Less doing, more being.”

The problem was, I didn’t even know what that meant. How do I DO less? How do I BE more?

Does this mean I can’t DO all of the things I love? Does it mean I can’t do all of my crafts and write in my bullet journal and cook my crazy food and decorate my house?

I realized that the most important part of “Less Doing and More Being” doesn’t mean I have to stop doing all of the things that bring me joy. It is really about the motivation and attitude that come with my need to constantly achieve. I’ve found that doing things is how I gain acceptance and value. The problem comes when I start to place so much weight on DOing and become so focused on my goals that I Iose sight of building authentic, transparent relationships.

But how do you even track your progress when you are actually trying to do LESS? Where does one even begin?

Thankfully, God started to give me some clues. One of the first was a friend from my past came into my life and reminded me about a book she had recommended six months ago called, “Sensible Shoes.” She had told me that my story about my sabbatical reminded her of one of the characters in the book. I’ve already started reading the book, and some of my friends agreed to read it with me and have a book discussion. Discussing a book with a group of friends sounded like a great first step to build relationships based on BEing, rather than DOing.

After that, several other people reached out to me in completely random and unexpected ways with opportunities to BE together.

So, I guess this journey won’t be one that I get to plan. It won’t involve a goal sheet or a habit tracker. I think it’s going to be more of an adventure of being open to opportunities to BE more often and DO less often. I’m going to be paying attention to my heart and motivations when I start to DO too much. Am I trying to find value and happiness by DOing? And how to I replace that with BEing?

I have no idea, but I’m looking forward to seeing what God has planned for me this year.

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Because sometimes it’s OK to start over

Because sometimes it’s OK to start over

I don’t think there’s any word that strikes up a more boring image in the world of physical fitness than the dreaded “treadmill.” So actually writing a blog post about running on a treadmill has to be the most yawn-inducing idea ever.

But bear with me, friends, because today I’m doing just that. And who knows. Maybe this blog post is just what you needed to read today!

One of the more difficult aspects of the health journey I’ve been traveling this past year is its unpredictability. For several days, sometimes even several weeks, I will feel great. I’m back to my old energetic self, my mind is focused and creative, and my body is functioning normally. Then, without warning, and often without an obvious trigger, I sink into a difficult place. My digestive system is a mess, I’m exhausted and lethargic, my brain is foggy, and I have trouble focusing.

Sadly, the past few weeks have been a low energy place for me. When I’m in this state, I can sleep for 10 hours at night and still want to take a nap the next day. I can eat a perfect diet of nutrient rich foods and still dread walking up the stairs because it leaves me panting for breath. I basically have to conserve my energy for what most needs to be done, and any thought of exercise gets pushed to the back of my mind.

But this morning, I woke up feeling good, and I wanted to get back to starting my day with some not-too-strenuous physical activity. At the beginning of the year, I began doing the Couch to 5K on my treadmill. You’ve probably heard of the Couch to 5K. It’s a simple running program that alternates short increments of jogging and walking. You start the program with more walking than jogging, but by the end of the nine-week program, you should be able to run a complete 5K!

Because of my ups and downs, I haven’t been totally consistent. But I have done the workout enough that I made it to Week 5, Day 3. This is the day when I was supposed to do a 5-minute walk, followed by 20 minutes of running and then a 5-minute cool down. It was the first day that I basically was supposed to jog the entire time, rather than alternating between jogging and walking.

It’s been more than two weeks since I did Week 5, Day 2. I looked at my treadmill, and I couldn’t imagine getting back on at this stage in the game.

“I should probably just give up the Couch to 5K,” I told myself. “I will never be able to do it.”

But then I had an idea that probably sounds very obvious to all of my intelligent readers, but took some time for me to come up with.

I could start over.

That’s right.

I could go back to the beginning.

Back to Day One.

Getting back on the treadmill: because sometimes it's OK to start over

That’s exactly what I did this morning, and here’s what I gained.

  1. I couldn’t believe how easy it was! I remembered doing Week 1, Day 1 back in January and how I was counting down the seconds each time I had to jog for one minute before walking for 90 seconds. Now, it was such a breeze that I kept losing track of time. I felt great, knowing how far I’ve come in such a short amount of time.
  2. Instead of feeling defeated by the treadmill, I actually felt a great sense of accomplishment that I had completed my workout. It might not have been the workout I had been planning, but I did it!
  3. Most importantly, I did something. And something is always better than nothing.

I started the morning feeling healthier and stronger. I’m getting my energy back, and thankful to be back on the treadmill. So, if you ever feel like giving up, just remember the lessons my treadmill taught me this morning. Something is better than nothing. And sometimes it’s OK to start over.

**

I would love to hear how your week is going! Have you ever had to start over on a goal or plan? What was it like for you? 

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A month of creativity

A month of creativity

One of the great joys of watching our kids become teenagers is seeing them grow in their gifts and talents. When they were little, it seemed we were always trying to give them opportunities to experience new things, whether it was a sport or an art class or a chance to learn a new skill.

As they make their way through junior high, and now high school, it’s been fun to see them start to settle in and take ownership of their gifts. All four of them (including the first grader) are great about regularly practicing their creativity, without being prodded by their parents. After school around our house often looks — and sounds — like a drum solo emanating from the basement, girls doing backflips on the trampoline or choreographing a dance in the living room and someone walking around with a video camera, excited about his next idea.

This past month was a floodgate of creativity at our house, so I decided it was time to write a super braggy mom post about all that’s been happening.

All three of our older kids got to participate in an annual talent show for the youth at our church. But this isn’t an ordinary talent show. They are put together in teams with other kids their age, and they have to draw a card with the type of act they have to perform. They get about a month to work on their idea.

Our 14-year-old was especially excited about his group. They were supposed to perform a song, and I knew that because of his passion for drumming, he had encouraged his group to do something that involved using buckets for drums.

Parents aren’t invited to the show, but I got to attend because I needed to take photos for the church. About 30 seconds into his act, I realized I better pull out my cell phone and also take video. This was really funny!

Check out his performance here:

At the end of the evening, all of the students voted for the acts in three categories: Best displays the theme of “Bold Love,” Best Teamwork and Best Overall Performance. After watching all of the acts, I was confident he would probably win at least one prize. However, I think we were all shocked when his group won ALL THREE awards! So. Fun.

In addition to his bucket drumming skills, he got to perform twice this month with his percussion ensemble at school and also gets to play as part of the youth worship team at our church on Monday nights.

I also loved the performances by our other two. Our seventh grader helped choreograph a dance for her group of 6th and 7th grade girls.

Our 16-year-old and his team had to do a rap song. While our other two kids practiced for weeks, they literally put their act together about five minutes before the show. They were still one of my favorites. They simply had so much fun performing!

Earlier in the month, our oldest son got to perform in two other amazing ways. He had been working for about two months on a short film that he entered in his high school’s first ever Film Fest. All of the entries had to display the theme of the year, which is “The Best Day Ever.”

He took a serious approach with his positive message of how a student stood up to a bully to find her best day ever. He wrote, directed, edited and produced the film, which won second place. He was so excited, especially since his film was up against those of several junior and seniors. The big thrill for me was reading through the comments of the three judges, who are professionals in the film industry. It was amazing to read their (mostly positive) critiques of his talent.
Check it out here:

As soon as the Film Fest was over, his mind was already racing with his next short film. He enlisted a couple of friends as actors and filmed another one the very next day!

He also made his high school acting debut in February in the freshman-sophomore play. The play was a series of short stories written and directed by the juniors and seniors. He had a blast, and did a fantastic job in his performance.

He played Alexander Hamilton.

Our 12-year-old daughter has had some downtime, now that cheer season is over. However, she also has been really growing in her music ability, playing the flute. We got to watch her perform last night in one of her last concerts of the year, and it was amazing to see how far she’s come since starting band last year!

She also got to be in the spotlight for her performance in her brother’s film. On the night of the Film Fest, all of the directors and actors were invited to dress up like they were going to the Academy Awards. The girls and I had a blast getting dressed up for the show.

That brings me to our little one. She is still hard at work doing gymnastics five hours a week. But she also has been trying some new things this winter. She started a tap class, and she also is taking an acting class on Saturday mornings. Of all the things she is doing, she has decided acting is her favorite! We get to see her class perform a very condensed version of The Little Mermaid in a few weeks.

Well, my blog was starting to sound pretty dull the past few weeks since all I ever talk about is what I’m giving up and what I’m NOT eating! I thought it was time for me to record some of the other exciting stuff happening in this crazy house full of kids and their creativity.

Have a great weekend!

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When giving up is a good thing

When giving up is a good thing

Until a few years ago, I had not ever participated in the practice of giving up something for Lent. I heard my friends talk about what they were eliminating during the 40 days leading up to Easter, but I couldn’t get up the motivation to do something that would purposely make my life more difficult. I loved the spiritual reasoning behind it, but I didn’t feel it was necessary. And, come on. Isn’t life challenging enough the way it is?

During the past year, however, the act of giving something up has become a recurring theme. Whether it’s been for spiritual reasons, health reasons or just to make my life better, this practice of self denial has been an awakening for me. In fact, part of my journey in 2017 is to give up one thing for a month, each month of the year.

As I enter the third month of 2017, this is my third time giving up something this year that I enjoy. Strangely, as a new month approaches, I’ve grown to look forward to getting rid of the excess in my life. Instead of feeling dread and fear of the pain that will inevitably come with self denial, I’ve started feeling a sense of excitement to crack down on a new area of my life that has gotten out of control.

In fact, in several cases, I’ve found my life to be so much more pleasant without the habit or practice that I once loved, that I’m not anxious to go back to my old ways.

  • For example, last year, I gave up watching TV for Lent. I have loved learning new things, having time to practice my hobbies and being free from the distraction of television shows. More than a year later, I haven’t reintroduced TV into my life.
  • Last June, I was forced to give up gluten when I found out I had Celiac Disease. Having something taken from you is quite different mentally and emotionally than giving something up. Obviously, I haven’t even considered going back to gluten because of the devastating effect it has on my health. However, I’ve taken it two steps farther. In January, I removed sugar, grains, soy, dairy, legumes and artificial ingredients from my diet. Just when I thought there was no way I could add to that list, it became clear to me in February that I also needed to give up all inflammatory foods, including eggs, nuts, seeds, coffee, cocoa powder and nightshades. As I’ve been carefully monitoring the improvement in my health with this radical change to my diet, I don’t have plans to start eating those foods again anytime soon.
  • I also gave up social media in February. The best word I can think of to describe my life without it is “lighter.” I’m not as anxious. It freed me from carrying the weight of so many issues that are posted on social media. (I did cheat once, but other than that, this post will be my reintroduction, I suppose!)

What I’ve found to be so interesting about this practice of giving up is that it seems to be a discipline that is becoming easier for me to practice. It’s almost like I’ve been exercising my self control muscle, and it is growing stronger, making it less painful for me to use in new areas of my life.

This month’s elimination will be different. Giving something up for Lent isn’t just an act of self control. It is something we do out of spiritual conviction. This self denial is a way to help me focus on the sacrifice Christ made for each one of us on the cross. It’s tempting to give up the easiest thing. To chose the thing that will cause the least inconvenience, disruption or pain. But denying yourself something difficult can serve as such a great reminder of what this season is about — that He made the ultimate sacrifice for mankind.

Whether you want to give something up for Lent, for other spiritual reasons, to improve your health or even just as a challenge, here are a few things I’ve learned this past year about giving up:

  1. I’ve found it helpful to learn that some people are abstainers and others are moderators. I wrote about that here. It’s easier for abstainers to go cold turkey, while moderators often prefer an approach that involves “tapering off” or “setting boundaries.”
  2. Taking a before shot can be a powerful motivator. This could be a literal photo or it could take another form, such as a written statement of what life is like and how you want it to change. This act of marking your starting point is like a commitment you are making to yourself that things are going to change. With every “before” shot, comes an “after.” You are committing that things will look different in the “after”. I wrote more about that here.
  3. Change your perspective. Instead of seeing your denial as something negative, reframe it as something good you are doing for yourself. Click here to read about how I’ve been reframing my food choices as a gift I’m giving myself.
  4. I’m a believer that giving something up for Lent should be a personal decision that comes from a spiritual conviction. But for your everyday acts of giving up, it’s always nice to have a support system. Giving something up with a friend or at least sharing your goal with someone can turn it into an exciting journey!

What about you? Did you decide to give something up for Lent? Is this a practice that you think can make a positive impact on your life? 

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What I discovered during a month without social media

What I discovered during a month without social media

I’m wrapping up my month without social media, so I thought I would check in and give an update. I thought this would be a difficult month, fighting the urge to check in on friends on Facebook or get my fix of visual happiness on Instagram.

Instead, this has been quite a transformative month for me, and it really didn’t have much to do with the goals I set for myself this month. The biggest change that occurred for me this month is that without the constant lure of social media, I freed up a ton of prime retail space in my brain to pursue other things.

I also relieved a lot of stress and anxiety that comes with keeping up with social media. My brain on social media is kind of like having a radio playing all day long. It’s background noise that occupies my thoughts and inhibits my ability to focus. Flipping it off for a while has been so refreshing. It’s been a relief to separate myself from the political conversations, not to mention the constant barrage of food related posts, DIY ideas and product marketing.

Here are a few other things that have happened as a result:

  1. Speaking of “product marketing,” without the ability to promote my blog on Facebook, my readership has dropped by about 98 percent. That was discouraging at first. It was hard to publish a blog post and look at my stats to see I only had three readers. “Hi, you guys!!” But I get it. I know that most people don’t really incorporate blog reading into their daily schedule, and if they do, they are going to jump onto a blog with relevant content that’s right in front of them. It reminded me of why I write, and how therapeutic it is for me!
  2. I’ve really enjoyed the daily devotional that I’ve been doing this month. It’s called, “I Am,” by Michele Cushatt. Each day helps replace negative self talk and comparison with the truth of who I am as a child of God. I have fallen behind on my reading a few times, but for the most part, I’ve been keeping on track. Each day’s passage is short and engaging, and it’s been great to start my day with this encouragement.
  3. The biggest change that has occurred for me in February is once again with my diet. (Just when you thought I was done talking about this!) When I finished Whole 30 in January, I was feeling great overall. But I couldn’t figure out why some of my autoimmune symptoms were actually far worse than they were when I started. Through my research, I found something called the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. I’ve been diving in with both feet, gathering information, listening to podcasts and incorporating this way of eating into my lifestyle. I’m planning to write about this in much greater depth in the next few weeks, so if you are one of my three remaining readers, I hope you will come back!
  4. If you thought Whole 30 was an intense diet adjustment, that’s because you haven’t heard of Paleo AIP (autoimmune protocol). It focuses on removing all inflammatory foods from your diet, so your body can start to heal from autoimmune disease. Back in June when I went gluten free, I thought it was hard. Now I’m also grain free, sweetener free, soy free, legume free, dairy free, nut free, egg free, seed free and free of nightshades, which include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, chili powder, paprika, red pepper and all other spices made from nightshades. The diet also eliminates all processed food, food additives, refined oils, refined sugars and alcohol. Needless to say, I have spent a ton of time researching recipes and figuring out what I can eat. I go to the grocery store at least once a day because I consume so much produce!

I seriously can’t wait to write more about all of this. It’s really making a big impact on my life, and I’m excited to start chronicling my journey.

I will be reintroducing social media in the month of March, and I’m working on a plan to do that gradually so it’s not like flipping on hard rock music at full blast.

Until then, let me know you stopped by! I would love it if you would say “Hi!” in the comments and let me know one thing that’s new with you in the month of February! 

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