A Life Contrary

living a life out of the ordinary

Archive for the category “Wholeness”

Books, man…

Books. There are so many ways that books can affect us. For the better or worse. Some can transport us to distant worlds and teach us about the ideas of courage, bravery, and perseverance. Some teach us about people who display those characteristics and more. Some books educate us on facts and figures and concepts. And some books are just for nothing else than good, ol’ entertainment – giving us an escape from whatever is going on at the moment.

It’s for this reason that I love books. From my childhood, I can remember being read Little Golden books by my mother and when I got older, I can remember my sister reading me Little Women and A Tale of Two Cities. Reading has always been a big thing in my family. I can remember reading Great Expectations in school and my mom joining in so we could discuss it. I remember reading I am the Cheese and being so shocked that I took it straight to her room and insisted she read it too. I remember my sister and dad reading Stephen King and Les Miserables and discussing it even though I had no clue what they were talking about.

So it’s no surprise to me that a book would have such an impact and change my life in such a way.

Two years ago, I heard about something called a launch team and never one to turn down a good author or a free book, I applied. It was for Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love and little did I know I was one of 5,000 applicants. Greater still, I found out that I was one of the 500 who were picked for the team. Can you believe that?  I couldn’t.  Next came a secret Facebook group and 499 new friends that I couldn’t have ever dreamed up.

What’s more?  After two years, we are still going strong and getting ready to launch another book.  I’ve been on a few more launch teams since then (10 or so), but nothing will ever come close to my first – that original group.  My friends.  My people.  My church, especially at a time when I’ve become disillusioned with so much, these women have provided a constant and a safe place to land.

Thank you, Jen Hatmaker.  Thank you, my FTL sisters.  Thank you, Jesus, for this phenomenal opportunity that I thought was once in a lifetime, but turns out I get to do again!  Keep an eye out for Jen’s latest book, Of Mess and Moxie.

Organization is the Thing…

So, I have noticed an uptick in people talking about organization, meal planning, and budgeting.  I guess it’s a thing to do at the first of the year, right?  So many people are starting with planners and calendars and lists.  And I have to say, organization is my jam!  

Planners are totally my thing.  I have a friend who had been trying to get me into scrapbooking for quite some time and in theory, I love it.  But practically, I just can’t seem to master it.  Then one day, we head to Hobby Lobby and while she was perusing the scrapbooking aisles, I saw the cutest planners and organizers.  My friend exclaims, “No wonder you can’t get into scrapbooking!  You’re a planner girl!”  And it’s true, I am.


Last year, I got a planner that I love.  It’s Mary Square’s Life Planner and it rocks.  The whole beginning is a review of the previous year and casting a vision for the current year.  There’s also a toolbox for helping you reach your goals.  It’s only a couple weeks in and I am so in love with it.  There are so many great planners out there, though.  It’s all about finding what works for you.


But I have to say that one of my other great innovations that I have used for the longest time is… Microsoft excel (or equivalent spreadsheet program).  You see, I normally plot out my work schedule in a spreadsheet and other immovable items and then see how everything will work around those.  My life works so much better with certain set items like meals, bedtime, and wake up times.

Once I have those fixed points set, I look at my to-do list (more on that in a minute) and see when the best times are for those tasks.  So, if it’s a laundry week, then I look for when I have a significant chunk of time and plug that in.  Once the to-dos are done, I look for chunks of time for self-care and fun stuff – like writing and reading.  Then I have a workable schedule and plan that I can put into my planner.

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Now, for the to-do list, I also use a spreadsheet.  Since I have a perfectly capable teenage son, I started by working on his chore list.  I broke it down by daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and ‘as needed’ tasks.  Then I noted when I had him down to do certain tasks and put myself down for alternating weeks.  So, a task like cleaning the bathroom, I would break down like this:

Week1:  Me

Week2:  Charles

Week3:  Me

Week4:  Charles

Now, the bathrooms are being cleaned each week, but I only have to do it twice a month, and he only has to do it twice a month.  So, I have my home and house tasks laid out by week.  And I use this to plug into my weekly schedule.

Since I work nights some and have other things going on, I also use this schedule to work up menu planning.  For example, if there is a day that I am off, I know that I can spend some quality time in the kitchen and may plan for a more involved dinner.  If it is a Wednesday night when we have church and I work until 4 pm, I’ll just plan on making tacos or pasta with meat sauce.

This works perfectly for me.  I know that not everyone has the patience or desire to be quite this… organizational, but It works for me.  Again, I do think it’s all about finding what works for you and using that.

What are you doing this year to get yourself organized?  Have you found the perfect planner?

2017’s Word – “Light”

I have been doing the “one-word” thing for a couple years now and I have to say that it has totally made a difference.  I’ve written about the concept and how it’s all worked for a while, so I don’t know that there’s a need for that.  

I will say that this year has been a lot more difficult in choosing a word.  In the past few years, it has been pretty miraculous how God has shown me the focus for my year.  This year I was thinking about a couple different ones, but there was no real front runner.

I knew I wanted something Jesus-focused, but ‘Jesus’ seemed a little too one the nose, so I started thinking about his other attributes – healer, redeemer, love.  Then the word ‘Light’ came to me and it really seemed to fit for a plethora of reasons.  Obviously, Jesus is the Light of the world.  But also, Light is pure energy, which signifies power and positivity.  There is also the dual idea of ‘Light’ as a lessening of a burden or load.  Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is Light.

A week into the year and I’m not entirely sure how this is going to play out.  At our candlelight service on Christmas Eve, Light seemed so perfect.  Then a few days later, Nathan was at a friend’s house and the friend turned on his Christmas lights to show Nathan.  He remarked that they looked better in the night, to which Nathan replied, “Well, yes, they light does look better in the dark.”

I have been thinking about this.  On the one hand, things have been getting steadily better in our life and as Nathan keeps reassuring me, “We’re about to turn a corner.”  So, this is the Light at the end of the tunnel.  We’ve also got some major changes coming up.  They are scary, but I think it’s going to be good.  Because of this, I have to focus on the Light and not the darkness.

I’m still toying with the verse to go along with it all, but I’m thinking of John 8:12 (ESV):

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Books for 2017

Since last year’s book list was all but a complete failure, I decided to go pretty low-key this year.  Also, since I still kept buying books, even though I wasn’t reading them, I decided to pull from my shelf first for my list.  It’s kind of a light list, but I figure if I shoot through those, then I can add a few tougher ones in later.

So, without further ado, here is my reading list for 2017:

Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen*

Out of the Darkness by Kevin Jones*

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin

Bride(zilla) of Christ by Ted Kluck and Ronnie Martin

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Poets & Saints by Jamie George

None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst

The Curious Christian by Barnabas Piper

A book by CS Lewis (still undetermined)

A book by Wendell Berry (still undetermined)

Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness

The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight

The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey

Like I said, it’s a super short list right now,  I’d by averaging little more than a book a week, though at my current pace, that may be all I can manage.  However, I am also starting a book club.  This should double my list and also push me out of my comfort zone.  I’ve added some super smart ladies that I’m sure will have some great books for us to read.

What are you reading for the year?  Any recommendations or suggestions?

Goals for 2017

I’m a natural born planner and list-maker.  I love starting my day with a to-list and the joy that it brings each time I can mark another item off that list.  I love a schedule with neat lines and boxes that show me what needs to be done and when.  So, it’s really no surprise that I would begin my year with a list of New Year’s Resolutions.

However, I have gotten to the point where I no longer call them resolutions.  I’m not opposed, they just don’t accurately describe what I’m trying to achieve with my list.  It’s much more accurate to call them goals since I try to list out things I want to achieve or habits I want to instill.  I try to begin from a positive rather than a negative.

I’ve done this in several different formats and in several different ways over the years, but mainly I take the 4 pillars of health and figure out what I need to change or do better within the next year.  I list out the Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual and I’ve begun to add a Family and Work list, too.

This year I went to the next level of organization and bought Life Planner from Mary Square.  It has a year in review section as well as a place to list goals and prompts to cast a vision for the next year.  It’s pretty amazing for the super organized, detail oriented folk like me.

Each month begins with goals and tasks then has the week set up with lists.  When the month is over, you have checks to see if you have met your goals and how to review progress.  Will this help me?  Will I fill it out in detail each day, week, and month?  Will it actually benefit me and my family’s 2017?  I have NO clue!  It’ll probably be like most things and I will contribute to it off and on throughout the year.  And after all, it can’t hurt, right?

So what are my goals for 2017?  Well, there are a lot of physical/health related goals.  I am signing up to run a 5K in April so I have to get ready for that.  There is also my cleanse/health stuff that I have to complete.  Seeing as I’m getting a little thick in the middle again, I know that I need to cut out sugar.  I’m also going to try to keep up here on the blog and not go silent again.  I also want to finish my chronological reading of the Bible.

There are just a few and I’m working on my plan of attack for each one.  I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at my list for 2016 and realized that I had actually accomplished some of my goals for the year.  I can only hope that 2017 will see even more success.

One Word for 2016

Considering how most people have lamented 2016, it’s almost comical that my word for the year was ‘Joy.’  But then again, what better word could you pick for such a stinky year?

I started picking my One Word for the Year back in 2014.  I had first heard of this concept and really appreciated the idea of meditating on one word or discipline for the entire year.  Studying one trait or one idea and letting it permeate all that you do and building on it each year.

While reading in Proverbs in January, my word of 2014 came to me – Wisdom.  I spent most of 2014 trying to figure out what it meant to be wise and how to increase in wisdom.  At the end of the year, I wasn’t sure exactly how to measure success, but I didn’t feel like I had achieved it.

In 2015, my word was Peace.  It came to me while trying to navigate a particularly stressful week and realizing that I had the tendency to stress long in advance of projected activities.  I tried my best to figure out how to cultivate peace in the midst of ever increasing anxiety.  I never quite felt like I had gained what I was after.

Last December, while singing hymns at the Christmas Eve service, I knew what my 2016 word would be – Joy.  It was confirmed on New Year’s Day when my husband noted that I had lost my joy.  This year I worked really hard at figuring out what joy was and how to find mine again.

Some things that I realized in perspective is that it does hold true that Joy is based on circumstance, it is in spite of it.  That is why you can take a year like 2016 and still have joy, still have it categorized and colored with joy all the way through.

To answer the question, Did I regain my joy in 2016?  I would have to say yes.  But honestly it is only by looking back at my previous words that I can tell, because a year alone isn’t really enough time.

A couple weeks ago, I had a really busy week.  Most of December was crazy.  I had a Cookie Exchange Party, a work Christmas party, a church Christmas Party, a Women’s Fellowship Christmas party, and various other obligations and gatherings.  It was enough to make an ambivert like me retreat!

One week in particular, I had 3 events scheduled plus work and home stuff, I was just ready to be done with it all!  On the day of the last event, while I sat waiting for everyone to arrive at my house and began to reflect on the week.  Instead of stressing out about all that I had to do and what was coming, I had peace.  I wasn’t freaking out or rushing around.  I’d chosen the path of wisdom and had enlisted help in cleaning instead of taking it all on my own.  I’d also made the wise choice of fixing one dish for each gathering – a no-cooking dip – so that meant that I only had to shop and prep once and had enough ingredients for every gathering.

When I looked back and realized that habits and “words” that I’d picked in years past were still affecting my behavior today and that I was still increasing and cultivating those ideas.  So, I realized that even though at the end of 2016, I may not feel as if I’m just full of Joy, that’s okay.  I definitely feel more joyful than I did in January and I’m not done yet.  I’m still growing and working on it.  How great is that?

In Which We Discuss All The Books

Well, I didn’t exactly get a book report done for March.  There’s a good reason for that.  I didn’t read anything other than Scripture in March.  One of my Lenten goals was to read through the gospels.  I decided to take that and read nothing but the gospels for most of Lent.

So, since I don’t have much to report of what I have read, I thought I’d give a quick update of what I’ve been reading.

I know that I should be reading things off my 2016 book list, but there are just so many books and so little time!  I5 Habits have decided to give audiobooks a try for more than just long distance trips.  I’m currently listening to 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit by Nicki Koziarz.  It was picked to be a bit of an experiment and see how well I would retain the information with only listening in bits and pieces.

I’ve learned two things:  I retain more than I thought and I find myself listening more often that just when I’m commuting or in the car.  It may only work for certain books, but I am definitely going to try to keep up on the audiobook thing and see if I can double my reading.  I’ve even started a list on Hoopla of books that I want to listen to.

Loving My Actual Life

I’ve been picked for two new launch teams and I can’t wait to share more about each of those books.  The first is Loving my Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall.  I’ve just downloaded it and hope to get it done soon.  The second I’ll be writing about soon.

Love DoesWhen I Don't Desire GodI also bought Love Does by Bob Goff and When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper.  I haven’t gotten started on these yet (see above), but we’re going to have Chas start Love Does soon and I’ll probably read it with him.

 

I also picked up a copy of Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs at work the other Present Over PerfectLooking for Lovelyday and started to thumb through it.  I got through the introduction and realized that I must read this soon.  Shauna Neiquist’s Present Over Perfect will also be released soon, so chances are, I’ll be grabbing a copy of that, too.

None of the books above were on my 2016 list, but if you’ll remember my list was pretty light for just this reason.  I don’t know that I’ll get to all of these or even those on my list soon, but a girl can dream, right?

So, what are you reading?  What have you read this year that has really stuck with you?  What must I add to my ever growing list?

Quieting the Noise and Listening for Answers

Confession time:  I both love to pray and simultaneously don’t do it nearly often enough.  Don’t get me wrong, I do like to talk to God while driving or when washing dishes, etc.  Talking is easy.  I do it all.  The.  Time.  That’s why I love it.  I can vent to God.  I can tell him all my troubles.  I can share whatever it on my heart without fear.

That isn’t what’s hard.  No, I have much more of a problem with the listening aspect of prayer.  I have trouble being silent and letting God get a word in from time to time.  Did you know that the word translated as prayer in the bible is overwhelming more of a listening than a talking type of prayer?  Around 75% of the time, it is used as listening rather than talking.

Listening.

Sitting still.

Being silent.

These are things that don’t come naturally to me.  Even as I sit here typing away, I keep thinking that I need to turn on some music or have an audiobook or podcast playing in the background.  But this is what God wants.  He wants us to be silent so that we can hear His voice.  Now certainly He can make himself known over the sound of all the noise, but why should He have to do this?  Why can’t I take a little time each day and listen for Him, listen to Him?  Because it is amazing what He has to say.

Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me!

Often times, we think of God speaking to us in prayer as a call to action.  We pray that He will tell us what to do in a certain situation or give us direction on major life events.  Sometimes we pray for others who are going through something, an illness or loss.  We pray for healing and comfort.  We pray for all kinds of things.  But do we listen, too?  Do we wait to hear what God has to say?

God answers our prayers in a great many ways.  Sometimes He uses signs.  For example, my pastor was trying to discern whether or not to start a sermon series on Philippians when several things began to come together culminating with a guy coming into the bank where he worked had on a Philippians 4:4 tee shirt:  Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, Rejoice!

Sometimes God answers our prayer with Scripture.  A friend shared last week that she’d been praying for God to show her how to work through a grieving process when she was shown Romans 12:1-2 and knew immediately that she needed to start renewing her mind and begin to change her thoughts so she’d be more in line with God than with her grief.

Other times, God can answer prayers by simply having a friend send a cookie through the mail.  And you receive it just after having the worst day ever and needing a pick-me-up.  (This happened to me a couple weeks ago).

And sometimes, God doesn’t answer our prayers.  At least not immediately or in the way we were expecting.  Sometimes the answer is ‘No’ and we simply don’t recognize it at the time.  It’s hard for us to realize that the God of all Creation may not actually give us the desire of our heart.  It’s even harder for us to realize that sometimes that desire of our heart, isn’t actually what we need.

Regardless of how God shows us the answer to our prayers, or what the answer is, we still have to acknowledge that God does answer prayer.  We just have to be willing to listen to it and listen for it.

 Want to hear more about prayer, or more specifically answered prayer?  Check out the link up at Mrs. Disciple and hear what others are saying.

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Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner, but Sometimes She’s There Anyway

We’ve all heard that birth order can, and most often does, affect personality, but I hadn’t realized how far reaching this can be.  I’ve always heard friends talk about their kids and how, “she’s definitely a middle child,” or “somehow, I got two first-borns.”

I’ve always been the baby of my family.   Youngest of all the cousins and in my class at school, too!  I hadn’t really thought about how that affected me until the other day when I was standing in the sanctuary after church and my husband, our pastor, and a deacon were talking.  I tried to put my thoughts out there and add to the discussion, but every time I began, it fell on deaf ears.

Later the same day, Nathan and Chas were talking… passionately, in the car and I was trying to interject and be the voice of reason, but in the car with two loud boys, I was just overpowered.

This has always been an issue for me.  I’ve always felt unheard and often that my words don’t matter because of it.  When I am talked over or just plain ignored, it brings back old fears and hurts.  I tend to clam up and it is a major confidence hit.  For years, I would never try to jump into conversations because of that fear.

Not having a voice can be paralyzing.  Even more so when that lack of voice is merely perceived and not real.  It is a tool of the Adversary and shuts up more people, especially women, than we can even imagine.  There are many reasons why we may feel that our voice is silenced.  Most often it is due to hurt or trauma.  I am not one of those.

No, my muteness is of my own making.  This makes it difficult to overcome because there’s really nothing concrete to overcome.  It’s all an abstract idea in my head that makes me believe that my voice isn’t good enough; I’m not good enough.  I’m still working through this.

This blog is one of the main ways that I try to beat this.  Putting my words out there in a medium where they can be heard and my voice is out there.  I still fear having others read them.  I still worry every time I hit publish, but I’m doing it anyway.  I’m trying to push through one blog post at a time.

Whether anyone reads these words or they are just for me, I see triumph each time one is posted.  A sense of accomplishment every time I know that I overcame and pushed through that fear.  Victory at each post that gets published.

And in a world where it is he, who talks loudest, that is heard, I’m learning to value quiet and to truly discern when it is time to speak up and when it is okay to be silent.

Find your voice

How do you use your voice?  What do you do to speak out?

Embarking on a Journey to Find my Passions

I’ve never been one to talk about my passions.  Part of that is the puritanical way in which I was raised (the very word – passion – was definitely NOT part of my vocabulary).  And part of it is the fact that there was literally never much that I was passionate about.

I have always loved to write.  Crafting fictions and poems from my youth, but it was never something that I felt a yearning to do.  It was just something that I always did.

I have always loved music.  I played flute in junior high and whereas I never excelled there was always something great about seeing a piece of music come together.  I’ve also loved listening to music.  Not tied to genre, I definitely like to explore.

Likewise, there are things that I have adamantly avoided, like public speaking or the plague.  I’m not one to get up in front of groups and speak.  I’ve also never really fancied myself a good teacher, which is ironic considering that we now homeschool (more on that in a moment).

I’ve found things that I would describe as my jam (like music) or my happy place (like cooking), but I’ve never really had something that was my thing.  This thing that is mine and that I do and if I don’t do it then I just don’t function.  I’ve never really had a passion before.  Even when going to college, I couldn’t decide on a major or “What I wanted to do when I grew up.”

But the Lord has been bringing me on a journey.  Late last year, He gave me the word ‘Joy’ as my #oneword for 2016.  I hadn’t thought about how all that would play out, but I have been truly trying to seek out joy and learn more about what brings me joy and how to seek it out.

By way of this, I came up with three goals that I want to work on for the year:  Focusing/Meditating on Joy, Running, and Writing/Blogging.  As I set these goals, I realized that writing was part of joy for me.  I realized that writing was more than just something that I liked or enjoyed.  It brought me joy.  It really was a passion!

I’ve since discerned that I have a true passion for women’s ministry.  God broke through my public speaking/teaching barriers when I was at a chapel that needed teachers and I was pretty much it.  I’m still not super confident, but I’ve learned the value of women studying and learning about God and His Word and have submitted myself to doing what needs to be done to accomplish that.

It is still a learning process, but at 35 I’d say that it is about time for me to figure out my passions and actually do something about it.  I’ve got two goals (one is this blog) that I’m actively working toward achieving that coincide with my passions.  Hopefully, I will share these along the way and how God has set these passions in ways that will honor and glorify Him.

Pursuing Passions

What about you?  What are your passions and how are you using those to achieve goals or glorify God?

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