Thursday, October 30, 2014

day 30: choose hope...

Sometimes, often times really, life is complicated and doesn't turn out the way we think it should.  This is one of those times for my family.  In addition to abiding in the Lord right now, I am choosing to have hope that the things we are facing with Grace right now will work out for the best.  Even though I can't see or determine what that is right now.

I love these words by Nelson Mandela.  I find that I need the reminder to base my life and choices on the hope that I have in Jesus and not the fears of this world.  Our home is full of words and sayings that inspire us and remind us of what we want to focus on.  Saying like this help center me on what is important and bring me order and peace.  I encourage you to surround yourself and your home with the words and sayings that inspire you, that remind you of what your hope is in.

Choose hope...


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

day 29: do good...

One of the best ways I've found to restore order to my life is to do something for someone else.  It takes my eyes off myself and causes me to focus on someone other than me and my family.  Not only are you doing something good, you can use this as an example for your children.  I always remember being told that the most important thing to remember in parenting is; 'it's not what you say it's what you do'.  We can tell our children how to behave all we want, but if we aren't modeling it they aren't buying it.

At this time of year especially, there are so many ways to do good in our daily life.  Food banks and soup kitchens pretty much always need supplies and volunteers.  So they are great ways to give of your time and money.  You can simply search  the internet for ones in your local area.  These are great places to take children to volunteer too.  We go to West Virginia for Thanksgiving and my boys have been helping feed the homeless on Thanksgiving day for the past 5 years. 

We also use this time of year to have our kids clean out their toys.  We go through their playroom and bedroom and have them make 3 piles of toys; give, throw away and keep.  They are getting pretty good at it now, but for years it was a battle to get them to give away toys they no longer played with.  So we started identifying who they wanted to give their toys to and it really helped.  Now they have a pile for Colin (their cousin), Eli and Sam (friends from church) and kids they don't know.  I think childhood is a great time to teach children to give out of their excess.

I also believe that the smallest, simplest act goes a long way.  I worked in both retail and in restaurants during college and I know how stressful and sometimes thankless those jobs can be.  So I'm always super nice to our servers and store clerks.  It doesn't cost you anything to be polite and ask how they are doing and it may just turn their day around.  And (again) you are modeling how to treat others to your children.

Another simple, but often overlooked, way to help others is to hold a door for them.  As the mother of two boys it is important to me to train them on how to be polite and treat women.  And yes I realize that all women can open a door themselves, but I like the old ways of manners and am instilling them in my sons.  This lesson of holding doors is twofold in our family, 1) they are learning to be polite to others and 2) I typically need help getting in and out of doors if I have Grace in her adaptive stroller.  So they have learned from a young age that being part of this family means that they get the doors for Mom and Grace. 

I also hope to never forget the example set by another women one day when I was out shopping with all three kids.  I pushing one of those huge carts with the car in the front, when all of the sudden Luke leans over and pukes on the floor.  I remember just standing there for a second 'thinking could this shopping trip get worse?'.  As I'm trying to comfort Luke, ensure that Grace doesn't fall out of the cart, telling John to stop yelling about the puke, trying to figure out how to clean up the floor and trying not to cry, a woman walks over to me and says 'it's going to be okay'.  She told me to stop cleaning the floor and tend to my children.  She would call for help and have the store mop the floor.  Then she hugged me and told me that these days would pass and I would survive them.

The comfort of that stranger went a long way in my life that day and gave me an example to model now that I shop without kids all the time.  A simple smile or a word of kindness goes a long way to making someone else's day better.

So I encourage you to do good today...


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

day 28: hospitality...

When I was in my 20's and even in my early 30's, I loved having people over and setting the perfect table.  Entertaining, for me, was about serving people amazing food in a beautiful setting.  When I got married, I continued this tradition of entertaining beautifully.  I really found joy in having you over to a beautiful meal.

As our family grew (we adopted 3 children in 3 years) and our home got bigger, I still wanted to have people over but lacked the the time or energy to do it like I used to.  As a result of the changes in my life and my need to focus more on connection and community, my style of entertaining has changed and evolved in the past 10 years.

Gone are the days of meticulously planned tablescapes.  Gone are the days of multi-course meals served with the perfect wines and a fabulous handcrafted dessert.  Also, gone is the stress associated with the self-imposed perfection of those days.

It's not that I don't want my home to be perfect and the food to be delicious, because I do.  It's just that right now, having people over is more about the people than the food and table.  I'd rather make a big pot of soup, bake homemade bread and serve you store bought cookies (on a pretty platter), than spend endless hours trying to make everything look perfect.  I want to connect with you, not impress you.

Because, guess what?  Everything in my life isn't perfect.  My life is messy.  My kids fight.  My laundry isn't always put away.  Ok so truth be told, I never put my laundry away.  My husband and I don't always agree.  My home is lived in.  I'd rather spend time getting to know you and sharing my life with you than stressing about making my home presentation perfect.

Now, if you are one of those people who can both entertain beautifully and connect with others then go for it.  And, please invite me over.  I don't think it has to be one or the other for everyone.  But, I also think that there is a perception that you and your home have to be perfect before you can have someone over.  That thinking leads to isolation and I'd like to break that myth.

My husband and I recently decided we wanted to spend more time having people over.  That we wanted to be intentional with our desire to connect with others.   So once a month we are having Football, Food and Fellowship after church.  It is something that we hope grows into an afternoon of connection and community.  This past Sunday was our first and we had about 30 people, including kids, over.  We ordered pizza, instead of cooking, and invited people to bring a side or dessert.  Our kids had a blast playing with their friends and making new ones. 

What is your hospitality type?  Do you love to have people over?  Do you hate it?  Do you want to but don't because your home isn't perfect?

I'd like to encourage you to take the step and invite people over.  Just do it.  Maybe start small with one other family or one other person.  Don't go crazy redecorating your home, just clean it and put away the clutter.  If I haven't stayed on top of the clutter in my home, I pile it all up and put it in the laundry room.  Really, I do.  So I give you permission to do that too.

Don't stress out about the food.  If you lack confidence in your cooking skills, find an easy soup recipe and master it.  This is the perfect time of year for soups or maybe a chicken pot pie.  I like to search the pioneer woman website for great soups because her recipes are easy to follow and the ingredients aren't hard to find.  If you don't want to bake bread, most grocery stores bake bread daily so just buy some fresh bread.  Dessert doesn't have to be fancy, cookies or a store bought pie is fine. You can even replate it if you want it to look pretty.

My point is, having people over doesn't have to be major.  It can be simple and thoughtful without being a stress inducing event.  Sharing your home and a meal with others connects you and fosters relationships.  Don't let your perception that your home has to be perfect, isolate you from others.


Monday, October 27, 2014

day 27: connection and community...

I believe that all of us long for connection and community.  That there is an underlying need in all of us to be known.  To know others deeply and to be known, to really be known by others.  To have the connection with others that we can lay down our burdens and they will help us shoulder them.

I remember longing for this connection when I became a mom 10 years ago.  I went from working everyday to being the mother of an 11 month old.  I didn't know any other stay at home moms and didn't know where to find them.  A friend pointed me towards MOPS, a christian mothering organization, and I was connected with other moms of young kids.  I really enjoyed going to MOPS and attended it for almost 7 years.  I'd love to be able to say that I met and made deep connections with other moms and we are still best friends today.  But I didn't.  I met some great moms but deep friendships weren't made.

When we moved into our home 7 1/2 years ago, I was excited about the possibility of new relationships and friendships right in our neighborhood.  But, that didn't happen.  We have a great cul-de-sac full of kids our kids ages, but true friendship hasn't happened. 

Mark and I attended the same church for years.  It was the church we went to when we were first dating and then married.  It was a great church for our faith and growth in biblical knowledge.  However, I always had a sense of longing for connection and community.  It just wasn't that kind of church.  When Luke and John were 3 and 1, I started praying that God would lead us to a new church where we could find community.

Almost exactly five years ago, we were led to the church we still attend.  We were invited by some moms at John's preschool and also asked to join their small group.  Although we didn't really know what a small group was, we said yes.  Our kids were 5, 3 and 2 and we were facing some major transition issues with Grace due to her many developmental delays.

It was in this group that we finally found the connection and community we had longed for.  We were able to be known and to know others on a deeper, soul level.  All of the families in this small group had young children and were going through many of the same life stages as us.  These people, are our closest friends.  We have walked through life together and found belonging.

We gather twice a month to do some sort of bible study and once a month to break bread together.  We have found that community grows deeper when you eat together.  There is something about a shared meal that connects us to each other.

As you can see from my examples, it took many years for us to find a community that we belonged too and the connections with others we craved.  The truth is you can't force friendship or community.  Although, I may have longed to get to know others before it just wasn't right.

One way I have found to instill more order in my life is to share it with others.  Finding connection and community grounds us.  It allows us to be, really be, ourselves.  That longing inside to be authentic can be satisfied through real friendships.

Are you longing for more connection?  Do you desire deeper community and true, authentic relationships with others?  Then, I encourage you to find your community. 

In order to find community you need to extend yourself.  I know this can be scary.  Really I do, I'm an introvert.  But chances are, there is another person out there just waiting for you to extend an invitation for coffee or to meet at a park so your kids can play together.
If you go to a church, that is a great place to start.  If not, look for a group based on your interests or stage in life.  If you have young kids, take them to story time at the library.  Or find a local MOPS group or Moms group.  Put yourself out there, take a risk and invite someone to do something.

One blog I love to read is called the The Common Table Community.   They are active in their pursuit of community and connection.  I love this idea and I wish I lived closer so I could sit at their table.

How have you found community?  How are you filling the need we have for deeper connection?


Sunday, October 26, 2014

day 26: laugh...

There's a reason for that old saying, laughter is the best medicine.  It's true.  There's a whole bunch of science behind the reasons and purpose for laughter - I'm serious, google it.  But I'm not that scientific, so all I'm going to say is laughing makes you feel better and connects you with others.  Laughter can help with order and balance in your life, by allowing you a respite from the heavy and serious of life. 

When I was 30 and still single, I wrote a list of the characteristics that I wanted in my spouse.  I put good sense of humor in the top five.  There are days when I regret that decision.  Those are the days when I am super serious and stressed out and need Mark to be serious and he cracks a joke.  And then there are days when I'm super thankful that I put that as a top five.  Those are the days when I'm super serious and stressed out and need Mark to be serious and he cracks a joke.

I encourage you to find someone to share laughter with today.  Kids are the best for this because I can think of few sounds that are better than a child's belly laugh!

If you can't find anyone or anything to laugh at today, check out this video.  I can't stop watching it.

If you can't find anyone to laugh with, call me.  I'll have my kids tell you a joke that they made up, which  doesn't make sense and isn't really funny but makes them laugh in a way that will cause you to laugh too.

I hope you have an awesome Sunday.  Trying laughing today, it will help you with order and balance...


Saturday, October 25, 2014

day 25: know your limits...

This post is a part of my ongoing series, 31 days to more order.  Click this link to read all the topics and posts.

This is the second post I wrote today.  The first one was a knee-jerk reaction to a recent experience where someone was rude to me and Grace in front of other people.  Because I am an internal processor, my response came days later after much stewing.  Then, I sat down and spewed it all over my keyboard.  Knowing full well that I would never post it.  But it felt awesome good to pretend the person was in front of me and I was able to deliver the perfect response to their rude comments.

Sometimes I think it would be great if you could hit a pause button like you see in commercials.  When I found myself in a situation like that I could pause the world, process my thoughts and reactions, formulate the perfect response and then re-start the world so I could deliver it.  The reality is the world isn't like that and truth be told, I'd probably still stew over a situation after I delivered my amazing response.

So, after I deleted that post, I decided to cover knowing your limits.  I'm going to give you another sports example.  Sorry.  But it is a great one to set up what I mean by knowing your limits.

One day when the kids were little, I got a lecture from another mother.  She was amazed and surprised to learn that John wasn't playing any team sports.  The fact that he did not get to play 3 or 4 year old t-ball, made her mad.  She stated that it wasn't fair to John and he was going to miss out on so much.  Huh?  She also stated that everyone else was playing sports at those ages, so he would be behind in skills.  She then proceeded to tell me that John would grow up to resent his sister (his disabled sister) because we didn't let him play sports at the young ages of 3 and 4.  Well, I've already told you I'm not great at comebacks in the heat of the moment.  My only response was to say that this was a decision that my family made and it worked for us.

Here's the back story as to why we didn't sign John up for little league until he was 5.

Can you stand the cuteness?  Oh my word!  Where did those little kids go...

This is actually a decision that Mark and I discussed at length.  We both grew up playing sports and feel there is a benefit to playing team sports.  We live in an area that has sports for kids as young as two and where travel or club teams are pushed at kids from a young age.  [As an aside, we were recently told that if John didn't play club or travel soccer at this age (10) he would never make his High School team because coaches didn't want players that hadn't been playing for years.]  So we discussed youth sports and decided that, for our family, we wouldn't sign John or Luke up for any sports until they reached 5.  We thoughtfully decided this.

Here's what when into our decision:

1.  We considered the fact that when John was 5, it would mean Luke was 3 and Grace was 2.  So signing him up for sports before that would mean I would have a 2 and a 1 year old at the field.  Keeping in mind our children's personalities and developmental capabilities at those ages, we decided our family couldn't do it.  John is super cautious and thoughtful, he needs to check a situation out before joining in.  At the age of 2, Luke was a climber / jumper who never met a stranger so he often would wander off in search of entertainment.  Well, he's still like that but at 2 it wasn't tempered by experience and reason.  Grace is also a total care special needs child, so it was difficult to take her out in public. 

2.  Mark works a lot of nights and weekends.  Which meant that, most likely, I would be the one taking all three kids to the ball fields by myself.  We decided it would be easier on the two that had to wait for hours by the side of the field, if they were older.

3.  We talked to our friends who have older children and they said that they wished they had waited because their children didn't like playing sports at the younger ages and they cried on the field.  We also didn't want John to make a decision that he didn't like a sport based on his experience at 3 or 4.  Keeping in mind numbers 1 & 2 above, we decided that we didn't want to even deal with this and so we waited.

All these reasons made this a decision that fit for our family.  Which is really the only family I'm making decisions for.  My decisions for my family shouldn't impact you and your decisions and vise versa.  So, we waited to put John in team sports until he was 5.  And guess what?  Not only were there other kids on his team that had never played t-ball, but based on the fact that John was picked for the All Star team at 7 by his coaches he wasn't behind the other kids.  As for him resenting his disabled sister, we give that to God.  We pray that God is shaping him into the man He God created John to be and that if John and Luke resent Grace, we hope they will talk with us about it.

My reason for this example is to encourage you to make thoughtful, reason-based decisions based on what is best for your family.  Do not allow yourself to be swayed based on someone else's perception of what you should be doing.  Knowing your limits allows you to make decisions based on what works, at that time, for your family.

If I had succumbed to the peer pressure from this other mother, I would have put my family out of balance.  It would have made a stressful time in our families life much, much more stressful.  Stress and order can't coexist in your life.

Understanding your strengths, likes and dislikes and personality type really help with knowing your limits.  I have a friend who hates to cook, but she signs up every time someone sends out meals calendar.  This stresses her out and causes her to complain about it.  I have encouraged her to stop signing up to make meals and to find some other way to help the person in need.  Most likely, if someone needs meals they could also use help in other areas.  But she feels like she should because other people would know if she didn't sign up.  I told her that I love to cook and to make meals for others but even I don't sign up for every meal request.  I need to make sure that my schedule could handle the extra time, money and effort to provide another family with a meal.  Knowing my limits allows me to not put myself and therefore, my family out of balance.

I encourage you to know your limits, make decisions based on those limits and stick with them.  This one thing can bring order to your life by limiting or eliminating what causes you stress.  Remember, you are only responsible and accountable for your own family.  Know your limits...


Friday, October 24, 2014

day 24: set attainable goals...

I believe there are three keys to setting attainable goals.  In order to achieve a goal it needs to be; specific, measurable and you need to be accountable about your goal.  I'm going to walk you through one of my recent goals so you get the idea.

I am a runner.  I love to run.  But sometimes I lack motivation to do so.  So, a few years ago when I brainstorming for my yearly goals.   I wrote down that I wanted to run more.  Which sounds like a good goal but the problem with that goal is that there was no way to measure if I succeeded or not.  A goal like that leaves me asking 'more than what?'.  This is where being more specific in your goals comes in.  

 1.  Set Specific Goals.  The more specific you can be the better.  I sat with my goal for a while and thought about what I really meant when I said I wanted to run more.  Did I want to run a certain number of days a week or month?  Did I want to run a certain number of miles?   Did I want to train for a race? 

As it turns out, I decided my goal was to run a half marathon.  It had been 20 years (literally 20 years) since I ran a race that long and I really felt like I wanted to see if I could do it again.  As I was figuring this out, I got a post card in the mail from Team In Training, a running program for the Leukemia & Lymphoma society that will help you train for a race in exchange for fundraising dollars.  I looked at the races and one of them fit our family schedule perfectly.  So I signed up through this program.

2. Set Measurable Goals.  Make sure you can track your success.  This is why your goal needs to be specific, you need to be able to see whether or not you are on track to achieve your goal.  I was given a half marathon training schedule and was able to track my progress weekly by whether or not I ran the suggested mileage.  It was great to have a specific program to follow while training for this run. 

3. Find Someone to be Accountable to.  Tell other people your goal and have them help you by supporting you in your dream to achieve something new.   I knew that the training was going to be a big time commitment, so I talked it over with Mark and got his agreement that this was something our family could support me in doing.  I was also accountable to the team I was on and it was great to have that support.  My race was in April, so  I trained during the coldest months here in Pennsylvania and I am a total wimp, I hate being cold.  But it felt good to be able to say I had run in snow, ice and freezing temperatures in order to reach my goal.

My amazing big sister, who is a breast cancer survivor, was at the finish line to support me.  

Once you have achieved your goal, CELEBRATE!  It is so awesome to decide to do something, set a goal and then achieve it.  You need to allow yourself to recognize what you've done.

I would love to run a marathon.  It has been a goal of mine for a long time.  So I've recently decided that I want to run a marathon before my 50th birthday (which is WAY closer than I want it to be).

Now, I do realize that not everyone wants to set sports specific goals.  And truthfully most of my goals revolve around learning new skills or reorganizing my house.  One of my current goals, since my birthday was just last month all my goals are new, is to read 12 meaningful or impactful books in one year.  I'm busy determining what that criteria means in my life and find books to put on my to be read list.

So your goals can be as simple as clean out the hall or guest room closet.  You know the closet that seems to hold all the stuff you have no other home for?  Just make sure you can be specific about what you want to achieve, you can measure whether or not you did it and share your goal with someone.   

I encourage you to set goals that are specific and measurable and find someone to be accountable with.  As humans we thrive when we have something we are working towards.  Set goals, it will help you find more balance and order in your lives.