Self-Care Sunday…Different and Blessed

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If you are like most people, myself included different scares you.  Different job, different route to work, different topping on your pizza, it doesn’t matter how big or how small the difference is, there is some degree of comfort in sameness. But I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that some of my biggest blessings have come from the times when I have taken the different path, made a decision that was out of my comfort zone and embraced the chance to be, well, to be different.  That is the time when different moves out of the uncomfortable and scary and into the exciting and blessed.  If I were to ask you for a picture of your friend group, your tribe, the ones that you get into the trenches with and do life alongside, what would that picture look like?  For a big part of my life, my picture looked a whole lot like me, very little difference at all.  But my life took a big turn about 7 years ago, a completely different way than I ever expected.  And with that new way came the chance to see situations, circumstances and people with fresh eyes.  God pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me so much during this time.  And my life has been enriched in ways I could never have imagined in the process.  When we intentionally seek out people who are different than we are, who have different points of view, different life experiences and challenges, whose family structure may look different from our own, our lives become more colorful and vibrant.  And we often learn that people who seem so different than us on the outside are actually kindred spirits on the inside…and that is when the blessing occurs.  So look for ways this week to embrace different and watch your life explode with color, just like the flowers of spring!  Happy Sunday!

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Self-Care Sunday…Kon-Mari Your Life

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By now you have probably heard of Marie Kondo and KonMari method of organization and tiding your home.  If not, let me share a few links to get you started!  Her website, which offers a wealth of tips and information, her first book, which was was a New York Times best-seller, and finally, the trailer to her new show on NetFlix, Tiding Up with Marie Kondo. She states her mission in life is to spark joy through cleaning and tidying.  Now before you roll your eyes and quit reading, hear me out.  I was very skeptical of this method at first.  As someone who has loved organizing and tiding all my life, I felt like I had a good handle on all of this and the last thing I needed was to learn a whole new method, the proverbial you can’t teach an old dog new tricks mentality. But after reading the books and most recently, watching her show on Netflix, I have changed my tune. This old dog is excited to report she is happily using new tricks and having great results!  Throughout the next few months, I will be reviewing the different aspects of this method and how it can help you make the best possible use of the space you have been blessed with. I honestly feel that whatever stage of life you are in, this method can benefit you, not only in organizing and caring for your possessions but in dealing with the mental clutter that plagues us all. When your surroundings are cluttered and messy, it affects your entire life. While the terms neat and clean are subjective, everyone performs better in an environment that has some semblance of order to it.  And the feelings of pride and self-confidence that come alongside getting control of your space once and for all are genuinely life-changing.

“The moment you start tidying, you reset your life.”

Marie Kondo

Her system is a daunting one, as you will see on the trailer for her show.  Most cleaning and organization methods have you go room by room, and what typically happens is you move one pile of stuff from room to room.  With the KonMari method, you are attacking one category at a time.  While this does make a bigger mess in the process, it is quite eye-opening to see all your things gathered in one place.  It will not only shock you, but it will also help you to realize how much you have to be grateful for in your life.  That is the ultimate goal of tidying up, to learn to cherish everything you have so you can achieve happiness within yourself and appreciate what you have. So take some time in the upcoming weeks to check out Marie’s new series, or check out her book (she has two books, but I highly recommend reading the first before beginning, it lays the groundwork for the entire system).  I can promise you that a decluttered home will help you achieve an uncluttered mind, and that is something we all need more off in our lives!

Self-Care Sunday…Listening, Empathy and Grace

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So this blog post is going to be a bit different from what I normally post.  I had a post already written, a happy little upbeat post complete with a pretty picture.  And then I woke up this morning to the news that a dear friend, someone that I looked up to and admired had ended his life.  The world would no longer be blessed with his amazing photographs, photographs that were so good they many times looked like paintings.  After enduring a very dark time in his life, a time where he felt like he had nothing left to give to the world, nothing worth sharing, he decided that he was too tired to continue. People who have never felt this darkness will not understand these feelings.  And that’s ok.  You don’t have to understand a person to show them empathy and compassion.  To quote the very wise Atticus Finch,

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

There are certain temperaments, the innate intricate way a person is created, that makes them more prone to depression.  People who have this bent have to work twice as hard as someone who is naturally more upbeat and positive to not feel the hurt and the pain of this world profoundly and passionately…in their very core.  I have always been a glass is half full kind of person, many times just thankful I even have a glass.  But there was a dark time in my life.  A time that I felt like the world was closing in on me.  A time when I felt like the people I loved more than life would be better off without me.  And those feelings were very real.  They were not something I could “positive talk” myself out of.  I couldn’t just read a great self-help book and those feelings just disappear.  They were overwhelming, all-consuming and very frightening.  And I was very ashamed and embarrassed to be feeling those feelings.  I never reached out to anyone.  By the grace of God, my suicide attempt was not successful, and I was given the gift of another day and another chance.  And I got the help I needed.  My friend didn’t get that chance, he chose a permanent solution to a temporary situation.  And my heart hurts because of that.  I had talked to him just days before and actually confronted him about my fears that he was considering taking his own life.  And others had reached out to him recently, checking on him, asking him to lunch, trying to get him behind the lens of a camera again, all to no avail.  When I first heard the news, I was hit with a wave of guilt that took my breath away.  I should have tried harder to reach out.  I could have stopped him.  The dreaded “shoulda, woulda, coulda” syndrome.  But after reaching out to some good friends and talking through these feelings, I realized that I couldn’t allow myself to dwell on these thoughts.  I did the best I could.  I wish with all my heart the ending could have been different, but I can’t let it keep me from reaching out to others.  I must continue to listen to others, to hear their hearts when their words fail them.  I must continue to feel empathy towards others who are in the trenches with this dreaded monster called depression.  To remember how it feels and how alone and isolated you can feel in the battle. And I must extend grace to myself in the process.  I am not called to fix people, only One Person can truly do that, and I am called to point people to Him.   I can not feel personally responsible for the decisions of others, because as we teach our children from an early age, the only person you truly have control over is yourself.  But I can continue to share my story, to share the lessons that I have learned throughout my journey.

And I will.

Self-Care Sunday-Fellowship Fills the Soul

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Fellowship:

Companionship; a fellowship of interest; friendship; comradeship; 

In today’s social media-saturated culture I find myself becoming more and more isolated.  And I don’t think I am the only one.  We feel like we are staying connected to our family and friends by reading short blurbs about their lives, but in reality, you are missing a key ingredient, fellowship.  Face to face, sharing life kind of fellowship. As human beings, we are created for relationships.  It is part of our DNA.  So to be the best version of ourselves, which is the very definition of self-care, we have to make sure this need for relationship is being met. Fellowship is a two-way street, and spending time with friends and investing in relationships will also contribute powerfully to my own self-care.  Is it always convenient?  Nope.  But the good things in life seldom are.

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But it is so worth it.   Fellowship doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive.  All it really needs to be is authentic and from the heart.  There is the satisfaction that comes from long term relationships that you have invested time in and done life alongside. And there is also the joy that comes from developing new friendships.  But with so many things competing for our time and attention these days we have to be intentional in making this a priority.  For the last 7 years, I have chosen a word that I want to investigate and live out in my life for the upcoming year.  This year I chose the word listen.  To myself, to God and to others. One way of listening to others is to provide an environment for people to come together.  A few weeks ago I posted an invitation for anyone who wanted to get together for some fun, fellowship, and food that my doors would be open. Was I nervous?  You better believe it, entertaining is not my strong suit. But was it worth it?  Absolutely!  I watched friends who hadn’t seen each other for a long time reconnecting and catching up.  I watched people who had never met begin to talk and share and realize they had shared interests and experiences.  I saw tears shed and hugs freely given.  I heard laughter and memories being shared.  And it filled my soul.  We need this. Every single one of us needs this.  I am making myself a promise, a promise to do this more often.  To open my home and invite people to come in and share their stories, their struggles, their victories, all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly.  To maybe create something, or teach others a new hobby or skill to try.  To inspire each other to be the very best version of ourselves that we can be, and it is going to be amazing!!!

 

Self-Care Sunday…Just Say No To the Snooze Button!!!

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We all have done it even though we know it is a horrible idea….somehow we think if I could just have 12.5 more minutes of sleep our life would be better….we know this is not the truth…we know we will not get good solid rest for those 12.5 minutes….that we will have those crazy Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans kind of dreams.  The snooze button…we think it is our friend, but in reality, it is one of the biggest deterrents to having a successful morning routine.  I promise this isn’t just me saying this. Hitting the snooze button repeatedly inflicts “cardiovascular assault” on the body and abuses your nervous system, a neuroscientist has warned. I don’t know about you, but the words cardiovascular assault makes me feel a bit anxious inside.  According to  Huffington Post

Why snoozing can be bad for you now: Like we said, the body needs some time to get you ready to wake up. When you let yourself go back to sleep, your body thinks, “False alarm! I guess I didn’t need to do anything because we’re not getting up after all,” and settles in. When that buzzer goes off a second time, Pelayo says that your body and brain are taken by surprise, resulting in that groggy, fuzzy-headed feeling called sleep inertia. The more you snooze, the more confused your body and brain get (“So are we going back to sleep or not?!”), so you’ll probably feel more out of it even though you actually spent extra time in bed. What’s more, this type of sleep inertia can persist for up to two to four hours, research has found.

 

And I know that when I hit the snooze, I am immediately hit with self-deprecating thoughts.  Thoughts like “You are so lazy and worthless, you can’t stick to a routine for even a day.  You are a total loser”…and on and on it goes; a vicious and unrelenting assault.  And as an added bonus you are throwing off your internal clock.  Getting up at a different time every day confuses your brain.  Those stolen minutes are just not worth it, so make up your mind once and for all to just say no to the snooze button.  I know it’s not easy, but I promise it is so worth it.  Try putting the alarm clock across the room, where you have to get up to turn the phone off.  If you are a coffee drinker, try setting the timer on your coffee pot a few minutes earlier than your alarm…the smell of coffee brewing helps you wake some people up.  One thing I have found that helped me is to have something to look forward to when I get up, to do something I really enjoy doing.  For me, this is reading and journaling.  I have also found that if I have some sort of physical activity as soon as I get up, it helps keep me up.  Nothing crazy or excessive…think 10 jumping jacks or a few toe touches.  It’s that initial five minutes that is the hardest for me.   How about making a pledge this week with me, a promise to just say no to the snooze button, and see how your mornings go. You can do it, I believe in you!  I can do it, I believe in me!!  We are worth it!!!

Listen….​

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Listen

To hear something with thoughtful attention; to take notice of and act on what someone says; to concentrate on things around you

 

Since 2013 I have chosen a word to represent the year ahead.  Past years choices have been words like joy, create, bloom and nourish.  I usually don’t know the word I will choose until New Year’s day, but this year was different.  I knew listen was my word for 2019 in June.  It’s really not a very exciting word, is it?  Kinda the oatmeal version of words of the year….something that warms you up and sustains you….but gets taken for granted in day to day life.  So many times I am guilty of listening with my ears, with the intent to reply, to be heard.  This year I want to listen with my heart, with the intent to understand.  To listen to my Savior, myself, my family, my friends, my community and my world.  To pay attention with my ears, my eyes, and my heart.  To hear more than the words being spoken, to hear stories and the feelings behind the words.  I want to listen to people the way I want to be listened to, I guess it’s kind of like The Golden Rule of Listening.  I am so guilty of looking for a place to jump in the conversation, to preach or solve the problems being presented, instead of slowing down and allowing the person that has trusted me with their words to get their full thoughts out.  I will stop thinking about how I am going to respond, and start thinking about how I can be there for the person in front of me.  I will also listen to myself with grace and understanding.  Boundaries don’t have to be explained or justified to others.  If I need rest, then it is rest I will give myself, no questions asked.   I will listen to myself with the same respect and attentiveness that I am giving others.  After all, everyone longs to feel heard and understood, and this is a gift we all have the ability to give freely to the world around us.  Happy New Year!!!

Beauty From Ashes

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 For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with abandoned buildings.   But this fascination always came with a side of sadness…a melancholy feeling of sorts.  The thought of something that was once so vibrant and full of life left to stand in silence, all alone and no longer serving its intended purpose would make me feel a longing deep within my soul.  Looking back, I can also add another word to those melancholy feelings, hopelessness.  I felt that the purpose and plan for these places had passed them by somehow.  They had been created for a single purpose, and once that purpose had played out they were no longer needed.  I didn’t have the ability to cast a new vision for these places, to see them in a new light.  Beauty from ashes…

   I turned 51 in August.  As a little girl, I saw my life going in a very specific way, I had a plan and a purpose, and those words were all singular.  There was no backup plan, I didn’t need one. To say life hasn’t turned out quite like I planned is an understatement.  After 25 years of marriage, I found myself starting over with my 3 children.  I begin to question everything in my life.  My purpose, my plan, had it somehow passed me by?  Beauty from ashes….

   It was during this time that the way I looked at life began to change.  I felt a spark of excitement, something I hadn’t felt in a very long time.  I was not hopeless.  My purpose, my plan was being reshaped, remodeled and recast.  I began to see the beauty in what was and also the beauty in what was to be.  But more importantly, I began to see the beauty in the process; the very messy, uncomfortable at times, unable to be planned process.  And I fell in love with my life, with all the unexpected twist and turns, the imperfect edges and corners, the amazing chaos.  Beauty from ashes….

   As I began to fall in love with my life, I began to see things with different eyes.  Eyes that truly saw beauty in the broken and abandoned, through the lens of hope.  It was during this time that I picked up a camera for the first time and began to explore my city and photograph what I saw.  I began to see that the buildings that I remembered from the past, the ones that were abandoned, whose purposes and plans had passed them by, were, in fact, being given new life.  There were warehouses that had once been central hubs of commerce and community that had stood empty and forgotten for years being given a new lease on life.  What appeared hopeless and abandoned became loft apartments, cafes, medical clinics, office buildings, the sky was the limit.    All it took were vision casters, people who not only remembered the beauty of the past but saw beauty in what could be.  And it didn’t have to be what it had once been.  There was a good strong foundation, the buildings had good bones.  With a little imagination and a lot of elbow grease, it could become something completely different and perhaps even more beautiful than it had been before.  There were some buildings that had been neglected too long, the destruction and the damage to the original structure was beyond repair and had to be torn down.  But even in these cases, there was hope.  The land the building had stood on was still a good solid foundation and a new building was built there.  Many of the pieces of the old building were able to be salvaged and found new life in their new home.  As I looked through my camera lens all around me I saw hope, new life, and fresh vision.  Beauty from ashes…

I realized that I could learn a lot from the abandoned buildings that I loved.  I could learn lessons of hope, perseverance, and patience.  That the scars from being neglected and forgotten for so long could become beautiful when seen through the lens of hope.  That a good strong foundation, many times the part of the building that you never even see until a storm passes through, that foundation is more important than the beautiful parts of the building that you can see.  There is beauty in the hidden part because a strong foundation represents a strength of character that doesn’t fade away like outward beauty. I learned that people, just like buildings, can have many different purposes and plans throughout their lives.  That all the different purposes and plans are important in creating the rich history of the building and the person. But most importantly I learned to view things that appear hopeless and damaged beyond repair not with a heart full of sadness and mourning of what was, but with eyes of hope, anticipating what is to come.  Truly Beauty from ashes.

Doing This Gratitude Thing

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Gratitude:

the quality of being thankful;

readiness to show appreciation for and

to return kindness….

 

I have been a journaler for most of my life.  But in the last few years, I added another practice to my journaling routine, gratitude journaling.  It doesn’t take long at all, just a few minutes before bed every night.  I made it a goal to write down 3 things I was grateful for every night, but I quickly learned that gratitude breeds gratitude.  What started out as something I was “making” myself do became something I looked forward to doing, and 3 grew to 5 and sometimes even more.  This doesn’t mean that some days coming up with just one thing to be grateful for isn’t a stretch. But an attitude of gratitude goes a long way in changing the way we see things.  When we take time to notice the small everyday things in our lives, we begin to celebrate the beautiful life we are creating.  There are so many benefits to living a life of gratitude, improved relationships, better physical health, improved psychological health,  increased empathy,  reduced aggression, stronger self-esteem, better sleep, and increased mental strength. And gratitude journaling isn’t the only way you can get more gratitude in your life, there are numerous other ways.  Pick a particular person in your life each week and seek out ways to show them your appreciation.  Find ways to involve your family in your new mindset, challenge them to begin their own journey of developing an attitude of gratitude.  Make it part of some task you are already doing on a daily basis, like brushing your teeth or washing the dishes.  While we are doing those things that we do on auto-pilot every day, we can take that time to reflect on the many blessings we take for granted every day.  Take the time to write a letter to someone from your past that has encouraged you or played an important part in your life.  Even when bad things happen in your life, try to find the good in the situation….be the person known for specializing in silver linings!  But remember, habits are hard to break, so when you let that negative mindset creep back in, show your self some grace and compassion.  Then pick yourself up, dust yourself off and challenge yourself to once again find the beauty in the ordinary!!

New Traditions…

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Traditions are meant to be kept, right?  I mean even if they aren’t working out for your family and the stage of life you are in, they are traditions and therefore like the Ten Commandments written on stone tablets, you have to keep them, right?  Wrong!  Change is good.  While I have learned to embrace that philosophy over these last 6 years, I am not going to lie, it scared me to death at one time.  Even if something is uncomfortable and even unhealthy, many times, we hold onto it.  Why?  Because the unknown is frightening.  With the uncomfortable and unhealthy we at least know what to expect and therefore don’t have any disappointments or unmet expectations.  Wow, that got deep and emotional fast didn’t it?  Let’s back up and talk about what this post was supposed to be about…traditions.  As changes occur in our lives, it is only natural that traditions change as well.  And maybe we have been guilty of trying to make our family traditions resemble something we have seen on Pinterest or Instagram, even though it isn’t a good fit for the people living under our roof.  Confession time…that’s what I have done with Halloween in the past.  I mean what is the perfect Halloween meal???   Chili of course!!  With chips and cheese and sour cream in rugged crockery with cornbread and crackers…or at least that was what I saw it as and therefore was determined to make this tradition fit my little family.  One problem, not one person in my family likes chili…including me.  I have finally accepted this is not my family’s ideal Halloween night meal and have come up with the following game plan:

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On the menu tonight is mummy hotdogs (aka crescent roll wrapped hotdogs), dip and chips, apples and caramel dip, and sugar cookies dyed orange (like pumpkins…get it??!!). And after a big night of trick or treating popcorn and The Great Pumpkin.  Nothing Pinterest worthy about this new tradition but I have a feeling it will be a hit with my crew, and that is what traditions are all about!!  So, the moral of this story is to use Pinterest and Instagram to inspire you to try new ideas, but let the people you love have the final say on the traditions you start and then be open to changing them as needed.  Find things that fit your stage of life and celebrate them.  And it is ok to create traditions that are just for you.  I change our mantle with the different seasons and holidays…now my kids think this is silly, but I love this tradition and plan on keeping it up no matter how silly they think it is!!

Grace…Not Just For Others

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We are all taught from an early age to be gracious to others, but I don’t ever remember a lesson on extending this healing grace to ourselves.  If I talked to others the way I talk to myself on a daily basis I can assure you I would have no friends, as a matter of fact, I would not just have no friends, I would gain a whole bunch of enemies!  I am brutal with myself…I kept up with it for a few hours this week, and here is a small sampling:

  • You are a failure as a parent, your kids are going to be ruined for life
  • My pictures are horrible, I can not possibly post them
  • I can’t believe I ate that
  • I can’t believe I didn’t work out today
  • I deserve to be alone
  • I should have read instead of watching that episode of The Office yet again
  • My kids should listen to K-Love….not the Foos
  • No one wants to read what you write…what are you thinking??
  • Good Lord look at the dust on that ceiling fan…
  •  If I were a better daughter, I would not let words hurt me
  • If I were a better Christian, I would pray more
  • Where did all these wrinkles come from?
  • I should dress more my age, I look ridiculous…
  • No wonder my kids keep a sinus infection, I should cook healthier food
  • I am so stupid
  • I can not believe I didn’t get those last things 2 things on my to-do list done

And let me preface this by saying this is a few hours IN ONE DAY, not even an entire day of cut downs and insults that I tell myself.  And I wonder why I end up feeling defeated and like a complete failure.  I would NEVER talk to anyone else like this, as a good southern girl I was taught to value politeness above everything.   Why are we not taught to extend this to ourselves?  This is a huge part of self-care.  It doesn’t matter how many routines we implement, how many hobbies we begin, massages we get, or classes we take, if we continue this toxic dialogue with ourselves it will never matter.  We have to stop that little voice that whispers in our ear night and day, recounting every mistake we have ever made.  And I think I have found the kryptonite for this unwelcome guest, gratitude.  Such a simple thing, but so much power in this word.  It isn’t easy to form a new habit, we all know that.  That whole 21-day thing can seem like 365 days when you are trying to replace a bad habit with a good one.  But the payout is worth it, I genuinely believe that.  Small victories deserve to be celebrated as much as big ones….so maybe I didn’t get those last two things on my to-do list done, I did the other four things, and that makes me pretty amazing! Perhaps there is dust on the ceiling fan, but we all have clean socks this week….so go me!  See how it works?  It’s like we have always been taught, garbage in, garbage out.  When we truly start valuing ourselves as the beautiful souls we are, we will begin to change this inner dialogue we have with ourselves every day. None of us are great at everything, but every single one of us is good at something, and those somethings are what we need to look for and celebrate. Living in guilt and despair is such a joy sucker. There is too much goodness and possibility, let’s grab a hold of that and live this beautiful life, extending grace to everyone, including ourselves!