Friday, January 23, 2015

Return to Menu Planning

Last year, I hit a nice stride of menu planning. I even kept track of my menues and recipes on Pinterest!

It was helpful for the budget, for the commitment to eating at home, and for having a good grasp on the week ahead.

Life is very different this year than last year.  Our family has an activity every night of the week. This makes us sound insanely busy. But these are activities we are doing as a fmaily, together.

Most evenings of the week, we are taking tae kwon do together.

The kids get home from school at 4. We have 30 minutes of down time. Usually watching TV. At 4:30, TV goes off and Jeff gets them going on school work, reading, chores, etc. I am home around 4:30 or 5. We are heading out for class anywhere from 5:30 - 6:00.

Which means there isn't really time for eating dinner. There also isn't a strong desire to eat a big meal before going to do exercise.

This means we basically just make sure we get something good in our stomachs before we go to class and we might eat something healthy after class.

But I'm running out of ideas of healthy stuff that my kids will eat that we can easily have around the house.

Instead of menu planning, I need a better grocery list. A list of things to keep on hand that can be great items for breakfast, snacks, lunch, dinner, etc.

Our current list includes:
granola bars
cheese
yogurt
cereal
PB&J sandwich
applesauce (GoGo Squeez)
apples
bananas
nut thins (nut based crackers)

I need your input. I need foods to offer to my kids that won't be heavy in the stomach, that grown ups like to eat, and that don't require a lot of prep.  We need healthy grab and go.

Things I'm also considering include overnight oats, hard boiled eggs, hummus...

What do you do for your busy family?

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Basics of Prayer

I will start by saying that I am not an expert. I haven't got any special training or unique experiences that in any way make me someone that anyone else should listen to about prayer. I'm not a pastor, I'm not a seminary student. I don't get any special stars for the depth of my faith or for my outwardness of my spiritual living.

When it comes to prayer and to faith - I'm really just the same as anyone else.

I preface today because I don't want anyone to think that I think that I somehow know more than someone else. The beauty of a blog is that I'm just sharing myself. My own thoughts and opinions.

Prayer is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. I blogged about it on Monday.

Sidebar - go read that post from Monday. I have to tell you that I had my mind blown when I had an IMMEDIATE result from the person I had prayed for that very day. I'm not saying that there is an end-all fix to the stresses and annoyances of that person. But God most definitely did some work in me and in that person on that day!

Prayer, to me, is time spent in communication with God.  Sometimes, I do a lot of talking. I sometimes have a list of people I am praying for, situations I am praying for. Sometimes, I just sit and wait. This isn't listening. It's waiting. It's just being open, being in awe, sending and receiving love.  Sometimes, I just listen.  Sometimes, I pray through worship. I sing, I listen to music. Sometimes, I pray as a group in church. Sometimes, I pray while holding my daughter's hand.

I've seen a lot of things that tell you how to pray or how you *should* pray. Some religions have a lot of rules about prayer and what should and shouldn't be included and specific prayers to be used in specific situations.

I'm not one to really follow most of that. When I pray, I follow my heart.

While I believe everything that the Lord's prayer says - I don't find it to be a powerful prayer when spoken as a group. I think it's a good prayer for teaching someone about prayer. But I think a lot of times, in a group, we're just saying the words. I tend to not recite it exactly the way everyone else does. If I'm going to pray the prayer that everyone else is praying, I want the words to really have meaning for me. I will take a line or phrase from the Lord's Prayer and use it for prayer focus - "Forgive us our sins." Forgive me for the hurt I have caused, forgive me for the jealousy I've felt.

I don't think praying out loud is a requirement for prayer. I think of prayer as actually being pretty intimate - it's a time of communication between me and God. I've become more comfortable praying out loud because I think there is a time and place for it. I think that having someone pray over you, having someone speak on your behalf, is very powerful. I know that the Holy Spirit works through me at times when someone is facing something difficult and I can take their hand or I can hold them and I can pray over them right at that moment or I can offer to join them in their prayers.

But I think that starting your prayer life has to start in your heart.

I'm trying to put myself in a mindset of someone who doesn't pray or isn't very comfortable with it and am thinking about how I would start.

I'm not sure I would start by talking to God, honestly. Because if I'm not really the praying type, that might feel really... out there.

I might start with meditation. Meditation that would help me feel connected. For example, meditating on God's creation. If I spend time being centered and still and quiet and thinking about and feeling about the vastness and greatness and complexity of creation... that is a method of connecting to God. And at the end... if I can simply say to Him... "thank you."  That's a simple prayer.

Maybe after trying to meditate on different aspects of faith (creation, love for all people, compassionate giving, living like Jesus, the miracle and wonder of all aspects of the human body), maybe I'd want to talk to Him more. Maybe I'd start to feel more connected, more in tune, more aware of His constant presence.

I am something of a list maker, calendar keeper type of person. So once I was building on that connection, I think I would have a list of specific things I wanted to pray for or pray about. My next step would be to put myself in that space where I feel connected and then to focus on my list. To think of each person I am praying for and to visualize lifting that person or that problem up to God. To visualize a problem that I am setting down and leaving at the foot of the cross.

Prayer is a very individual and unique part of faith for each person. For some, prayer is most powerful when down on your knees and time is dedicated each day to only speaking to God. For some, prayer is a constant an dongoing conversation throughout the day with Him. For some, prayer comes through studying the Bible and then meditating over Scripture.

I also think that prayer can sneak up on you. Like, your spiritual life has been growing and deepening and one day, you realize that you are talking to God as you drive your car.  And you realize that maybe it isn't so strange to connect to God on a personal level.  So you start to make a point to take time to speak to Him directly. Or maybe you face a crisis and you purposefully decide to pray because you just don't know what else to do - so you authentically and completely open your heart to Him.

I don't have a list of directives on how to pray. I don't have a "step 1, step 2, step 3" method. I don't have rules to follow or things you have to do or things you should never ever do.

I simply have my heart. I believe so strongly in prayer. I believe that my personal relationship with Christ is founded in my time spent communicating with Him, praising Him privately as well as corporately (in church), listening and receiving Him.

What am I missing? What would you tell someone else about your prayer life?

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Team Colors

This past Sunday, there were a couple of football games. I onl yknow about them for 2 reasons.

1. My husband paid attention.
2. A lot of people wore blue (for the Colts) at work on Friday and to church on Sunday.

I'm not a football fan so if my husband didn't watch the games, I'd have no clue what happened.

But I still would have noticed the sea of blue jerseys and sweaters and t-shirts at church.

I'm in a special position where I'm up in fornt of the church. I sing with our worship team so I get to see the congregation in one big view.

Sunday, there was a lot of blue in the seats.  Blue is the team color for the Colts. And the team and the media had grabbed on to the idea of everyone showing team support by wearing blue.  Show your team spirit.

I wonder if God's team has a color? What if we started to treat worship the same way we treat sports?

What if we sat in the pews or the chairs at church on Sunday and we had on our team colors - gold or purple or silver, maybe. A sea of color showing that we belong to God.

What if, when our pastor and worship team took to the platform... when the praise band started to play... what if we were so excited to worship, to cheer for God, that we leapt up from our seats with our eyes and hearts and minds focused on Him?

Maybe we'd even bring pom poms and noise makers.  Maybe we'd be unafraid to put our hands in the air or to jump up and down.

Maybe we'd sing along loud and proud to the national anthem - which in church is any of the songs or hymns that we sing. The music is our anthem. Anthem - "a rousing or uplifting song identified with a particular group, body, or cause"

When the lead pastor walked into the room, would we stand and cheer?  When he preached, would it be like the press conference after the game where the reporters are so eager to know more and dig deeper that the run over each other with their questions?

When he called us to pray the Lord's Prayer together, would we say it quietly and to ourselves? Or would it be like that team with that tomahawk chop thing where the entire stadium fills with the noise of the voices combined with one mission?

If church was like a sporting event... wouldn't we be a lot more emotional?  Wouldn't we be jumping to our feet with excitement? Cheering for our favorite member of the team - God, Christ, the Holy Spirit? Wouldn't we get upset if someone were to "disrespect" us for our faith? Would we stand up for our beliefs about God with the same passion that we scream at the referees?

What if being a Christ-follower meant you felt and expressed the same passion, love, and excitement that is so easy to show as a Colts-follower?

Imagine how different church would be on Sunday morning if it looked a lot more like a sporting event on Sunday night!

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Monday, January 19, 2015

I Dare You : Praying for Someone You Don't Really Like

Ever had someone in your life that you have to deal with, you have to work with, you have to see regularly at school functions and you just don't like them?

It isn't that they've done anything horrible to you.

They're just... annoying.

Or maybe there is someone in your circle of influence who has caused you harm... or someone you have caused harm... or someone that you have seen hurting others.

Maybe someone who makes choices you simply can't understand, don't understand, are baffled by.

Someone who isn't necessarily toxic or dangerous to you... but someone that you generally prefer not to spend time with or have to work alongside.

Are you thinking of someone yet?

That annoying co-worker or ex-boss... that family member that just grates your nerves... that friend of a friend who is always crashing your plans...

Here's the challenge...

I want you to pray for them.  Every day. For the next week, at least. Maybe even longer. 30 days.

Admit to God that you are struggling to love this person as He loves them.

Ask Him to fill your heart with His love so that you can see this person through His eyes.

Ask Him to guide your thoughts and words and actions so that you are welcoming, affirming, and loving in all interactions with and about this person.

Pray this way every single day, maybe multiple times each day.

And see if your heart hasn't changed by the end.

See if you aren't starting to see this person in a slightly different light.

See if your heart hasn't started to soften a bit towards them.

Praying for someone that you just don't really like that much is a step towards forgiveness. It's a step toward self-growth.  It's a way of stretching yourself (and it might be uncomfortable to bring this annoying or even disliked person into your intimate time with Christ).

Write that person's name down on a slip of paper. Put it in your wallet or somewhere you might see it from time to time. And whenever you see it, pray for them. If you keep a prayer list or journal, add them to it. And in a week, write down ho wyou are feeling towards them. Make note of any interactions that were different than the last time.  And in another week, think about how you are feeling towards that person, how you interact with them, how you feel when they are around.

Start with 7 days. And maybe be bold enough to stretch it to 14 days... or even a full month.

Ask God to make big changes inside of you for the sake of benefiting someone else.

I dare you!

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Parenting Confession

I have a confession to make.  About myself. As a mom.

And here's the thing - what I really don't want is accolades and pats on the back and people telling me that I'm a good mom and I shouldn't be so hard on myself.

I know I'm a good mom. But I also know I have a big area of weakness and I know it needs work.  And the main thing that has always made me a good mom is that I seek to do better, to be better.

I have a temper.

I am a yeller.

I want to be a calm parent.

I sometimes yell because my temper goes off the hook and my child (to be honest, it's usually Teagan) has pushed that exact button and I lose my calm and I yell. I don't name call, I don't say cruel things. But I yell to get my point across.

Sometimes I yell to be heard.

Sometimes I yell to rush people.

I yell to feel bigger. I yell when I'm being lazy. I yell when I'm impatient.

There isn't much that's positive about being a yeller.

I do think that a firm tone, a raised voice helps kids realize the level of seriousness.

But when mom is quick to yell or lose her temper... there is no level of seriousness, there is only levels of angry vs not angry.

I'm not teaching when I yell.

Yes, I am. But I'm not teaching what I want to be teaching.

Part of why I don't like it when I yell is because when I yell, I'm just trying to be the boss. I'm not trying to actually teach and parent and guide.  I just want my kid to do exactly what I want them to do on my own timeline.

And there are times that this type of obedience is important.

And there are times that I need to get over myself.

I know I'm not alone in being a yeller. And I'm not alone in wanting to change. I know lots of bloggers have put out campaigns and confessions. Books have been written.

But this isn't about any of that. This is about 2 children that live in my home. This is about my marriage - my husband doesn't like that I yell.  We both have areas where we need to improve as parents. Yelling is the biggest one on my list.

My children deserve and need forgiveness and grace and guidance. And I need to be the one who provides it.

I need to love my kids in the same supportive and gentle and loving way that I love my friends, strangers, my extended family.

And I need to start today.

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Money and Relationships #slaydebt


In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I am part of the Launch Team for my friend's book. Her name is Cherie Lowe (better known as The Queen of Free) and the book is the story of her family's fight to overcome debt.  You can check out more info on the book through this link: http://bit.ly/1vWL0jQ

I've been reading "Slaying the Debt Dragon" by Cherie Lowe.  As part of her launch team, I am also privvy to some images and tweets that she asks us to share. And sometimes those things really hit me upside the head!  This was one of them - this is something I can very much relate to on many levels.

As a kid, we had money struggles. It was just me and my mom. But new clothes weren't part of my growing up. Buying anything I wanted at the grocery store wasn't part of my growing up. Attending birthday parties or school skating parties weren't part of my growing up. We had to sacrifice some of the fun things because it wasn't in the budget.

And that often left me feeling less than. And that carried over into adulthood. And I found myself comparing what I had to what other people had and feeling like I needed to "keep up with the Joneses" in order to appear as normal as possible. Pride made it impossible to admit that I couldn't afford a night out at a restaurant with friends because I needed to make it to my next payday in 3 days.

I think about the friends I've had and the self imposed pride based choices I made and I also think about my friends now and how they see me and how I see them.

If a friend said to me... I can't go because I just really can't afford it... I would respect that. Because I've been there. And if I can afford to cover my friend, I will do so.

Because I wouldn't want anyone to ever feel like they need to torch their financial future in order to be friends with me.  Or to feel any sense of pressure to spend a certain way to buy certain things in order to be friends with me.

There is a section in Cherie's book - "Formidable Foes and Fellow Debt Slayers" - that has been speaking to my heart.  It has a lot of practical advice whether you are dealing with debt or just seeking some good advice for life in general.

For example, do you find yourself comparing your life to what you perceive about others?  "Everyone else..."  In the book, Cherie says "It helps to remember that we see only the parts we want for ourselves."  Wow! Yes! I hear people complain often about people being "fake" on Facebook, only sharing the good parts of life. Is it that others only share overly good stuff? Or is it that we are sensitive to seeing the things we think we are lacking?

And on the flip side of that...


When we start to get real about our problems... we might find that others back off, step away, or maybe even get a little mean because they see what they don't want to see about themselves in us.  I will freely admit that my owned green eyed monster (jealousy) has come out in the past when I've seen people posting and being excited about losing weight and running and being healthy. It's something I've done well in the past but is an ongoing struggle. When I see others succeeding, I have to admit my own failure in that area.

Or do I?

Maybe part of maturity is simply being able to find joy in someone else's happiness or accomplishments without turning it into something about me.

And maybe when we realize that, we can start to really take control of the important things on each of our unique journeys.

Another quick shout out to Cherie Lowe for this book. It may have started with a family in debt but the incredible message of hope and grace and peace and empowerment in this book is helpful on many levels for so many aspects of life!  Be sure to check it out and pick up or order your copy today!  http://bit.ly/1vWL0jQ



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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Friendship - Sometimes It Sucks

OK, most of the time, it shouldn't. And most of the time, friendships don't suck. Really.

But relationships... they aren't easy.

There is a reason why marriages fall apart.  There is a reason why friendships come to a bitter end.  There is a reason why family members turn on each other.

Feelings are hard. Relationships are hard.

As parents, we try to teach our kids to be kind to everyone, to be friends with most, to be discerning when choosing those closest friendships. But those are things that we, as adults, even struggle with.

Our circle of friends influence us and how we think and what we do.

Years ago, in my first marriage, my first husband and I started to spend a lot of time with friends who were recently divorced. I thought my mom was nuts when she said that spending time with all those recently divorced people will lead us to divorce.  But we did end up broken apart. Not just because our friends were divorced. We had serious problems between from before the day we spoke our vows. But having a social circle where the others in the group had a different kind of freedom... where they seemed to have found an answer to the problems... it introduced divorce as an idea. As a living thing.

The friends we choose influence the things we do, the things we say, the choices we make.  The friends we choose determine how we spend our time, our resources, our efforts.

I think there is a key word there.

Choose

Not everyone in our circles have to be our friends. Sometimes, there just isn't anything in common. Sometimes, there are life choices that just don't mesh with your own values. Sometimes, there isn't time to really build that new relationship and foster it to friendship.

Choose

We have to carefully choose the people we call friends. There is  quote I saw recently -


We need to choose people to be our friends who will make us live better.

That can be tough.

I'm going to call out my closest girlfriend - Christy. Christy is a special person in my life. We have a lot in common even if we don't do many activities in common anymore. She is very involved in community theatre and I'm very involved in my church and now in tae kwon do with my family. But we have core values that are the same. We have a sense of humor that is similar. We love diverse foods and cultures and experiences. But most of all, I know that if I'm making a mistake, she will call me on it. And if it's a big one that has the potential to really harm people, she's the person that would go to my husband or someone else to help her in helping me.

And she knows I would do the same for her.

I remember back in college I had a friend (we're still friends) and his life was unraveling. He was spinning out of control. I was trying my best to be a good friend but the relationship fell apart. When I opened up to my mom about it, she made the choice to contact this friend's dad and fill him in on what was going on. Because she would have wanted someone to step in to help me in the same way. At the time, it was mortifying for him and for me. Looking back, credit is given as it being a pivotal life saving choice.

See? Sometimes friendship sucks. Because you have to do hard things. Or you have to decide to step away from the relationship because it's unhealthy for you. Or you realize that someone just doesn't mesh with you. Or you see that the friendship may lead you down the wrong path.

Friendship ending... or pulling apart... or going through uncomfortable growth? That part of friendship sucks. Because it can be painful. Because you have to make hard choices.

A strong, close friendship gives you someone you can trust, someone you can laugh with, someone you can share with, someone you can open up to, someone you can rely on. And sometimes to get to the point where a friendship is truly helping you live better... you have to go through some painful growth in the process. But getting through that difficult growth can have incredible rewards.

Christy gave me a gift for Christmas that really touched me and really spoke to the value of our friendship. It's 2 hearts side by side and connected. And it says "I'm glad in God's design, your path crossed mine."

That's important to me, personally. Each relationship is God given - whether it's a relationship with strong benefit to my life (like my marriage or my friendship with Christy) or whether it's a relationship where I learn from mistakes I made or mistakes they made (like my first marriage).  Every interaction, every crossing of paths, whether they run together for a while or they simply cross for a short time, every interaction is designed to teach, to ignite growth. Every person in my life, every joy, every pain, every frustration, every sadness... it all helps me grow in God's purpose.

Doesn't mean that hurt feelings don't hurt. Doesn't mean I don't get petty. Doesn't mean I don't make mistakes. Doesn't mean that things are magically easy. But it does mean that I can understand that this hard time will lead to something positive, something in His plan for my life or my friend's life or in someone else's life. And that at least helps me gain perspective on the hard circumstances and better see the blessings in the good times.

Friendship. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it's life saving. Most of the time, it's a joy and a blessing.


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