October 31, 2011

30 Days of No Defense reaches an end…

So I bet you might be wondering “whatsuh happenin’ hot stuff” with this month’s challenge “30 Days of No Defense”? 

Well two things: first of all, there are 31 days in the month, so I’ve decided to defend myself mightily on the 31st for all the things I’ve been avoiding on the first 30. Ahem. (kidding, jeesh!) Second, it’s going as well as my posts have indicated. Which is like saying “blech” or “boo-hiss”. Like that. 

When you say you’re going to do this or that or the other? There are usually 1,000,000 reasons why those things fall apart in your hands. So we’ve had a month intended for “No Defense” which has turned into a month of “Defend Yourself”. No really. Like every little thing that could be argued about or disagreed upon? Yes, this is the month in which it has become LIFE ALTERING not to argue about it. We couldn’t put these things on hold, say, until next month. No. Too easy.

So those people sitting on opposite sides of the couch down there?

30 Days of No Defense_thumb[7]
That sums up October.

And that is to say: be careful what you think you can tame over night. Especially if it’s your tongue. When you say you’re going to change a bad behavior or work on a tough spot – look out, people. You heard it here. Not nearly as easy as I thought it might be. We have struggled much more heavily with this month’s challenge than I ever thought we would. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t know how discouraged I might get when I saw just how much we rush to our own defenses when things don’t come out how we plan. Clearly this challenge has shown us how much work we truly have to do in this area of communication, gentleness, kindness, and just loving each other better. Yeah. Not so bueno.

The good news is - we see better.  Where we need to work.  Where we need to change and how.  Where we'd like to be.  And buddy do we have our work cut out for us.  A mountain of it.  But the desire and the love and the commitment to make it what it can be - all there.   And that's one of the best things that came from this month - just the realization that despite having to address some tough habits, we're in this for the long haul and willing to keep plugging away at that "mountain".  Baby steps.  Proud of us for trying - even if the results were less than stellar. 

Tomorrow starts “30 Days of Giving and Thanks” – click HERE to read all about it and feel free to EMAIL ME or sign up in the comments if you’d like to participate AND/OR blog about your Challenge so we can follow along too!

OH!  And Happy Halloween!  
I've got the cutest Iron Man and Monster EVAH'!!!

October 27, 2011

A Year of Challenges

OK!  Here is some exciting news for the Year of Challenges! 

I’m going to be posting the upcoming Challenges three at a time – and we have our very own TAB (look up there!  CHALLENGES…hooray!) to keep track of what’s coming and what’s already taken place.   If you want to take a look at what’s coming  - here’s your sneak peak and you can always check the tab across the top too. 

I’m a planner.  I like to know my options, and what I need to do to prepare.  So I started thinking it might be nice for those of you who might like to participate to have that same information.  This will give you the chance to decide if the challenges (all or some) are something you or your family might like to do also.  And it will also give you the time you need to really consider it and decide if it's right for you. 

  • The Challenges will always begin on the first of the month they are in, and end on the last day of the month.  
  • There is no "scoring", there is no prize.  Just inspiration.
  • This is an opportunity to see what we can accomplish within a year, when we set our minds and our hearts to focusing on very specific things.  

I think you will be amazed what you can do!  I had so many wonderful e-mails from those who participated in 30 Days of Nothing – the “no spending” challenge of September.  It was amazing to see the changes that had taken place in your homes and in your hearts.  These challenges will be no different – aimed in many different areas but ultimately reaching to our need for a more purposeful life. 

Here’s what’s coming – prepare to be CHALLENGED!

November 2011 - Starts in 6 days!
30 Days of Giving and Thanks

This Challenge is designed to stir up our sense of gratitude for all the blessings in our lives.  Over this thirty days, we will be finding ways each day to Give or to offer Thanks.  It doesn’t have to be monetary, but it certainly can be. 

Here’s what our family is doing:
Even days of the month (2nd, 4th, 6th, etc.), an act of “Thanks” - a note-card to a family member, co-worker, friend, or neighbor to say that we are thankful for them. 

Odd days (1st, 3rd, 5th, etc.) an act of giving, just because.  We’re going with small gifts that will either be hand-carried or mailed.  From homemade items to small gift cards ($5)

You can do 100 different things.  You can make baked goods and deliver them with a note-card every other day.  You can create homemade crafts.  You can show up at someone’s house and rake their leaves.  You can clean for an elderly friend.  You can volunteer at a soup kitchen.  You know what your family is good at and can commit to!  You can come up with a variety of amazing ways to offer Thanks or Give to others.  Whatever you decide, the discipline is to make it happen all of the 30 days of November. 

This is a choice to say that for this year, for this month, for this holiday season - we’re reaching out to those we maybe haven’t been so great at keeping up with, or maybe those we just want to show extra love to, or to those who have needs that we can meet. 

Whatever your reasons, and whomever you lavish your Thanks and Giving on…we want to turn-around the habit of taking care of ourselves or always looking out for #1 into Giving and Thanks.  You will be blessed! (trust me…)

December 2011
31 Days of Goodwill

December’s Challenge is an exercise in stepping outside of the comfort zone.  Maybe not for some, but definitely for myself.  For this month, our family will be finding FOUR WAYS to show GOODWILL that will impact:

1. our neighbors 
2. our community
3. our church
4. our world.  

Your areas of impact will be your own choice.  

First, I’ll start by telling you that I LOVE {love} LOVE Christmas.  Always have.  Probably always will.  But there is a big difference in the way Anton would prefer to celebrate and the way I would prefer to celebrate.  I would like all of the nostalgia; perfect tree, carols and eggnog with dear friends, stocking hung by the chimney with care, plate of cookies for Santa with a side of carrot for the reindeer, snow on Christmas morning, too many presents, lots of family, and spiral cut ham falling off the bone by 4pm. 

He would prefer quiet, contemplative reflection about what our Savior came to do.  (ouch) 

So we have spent many Christmases (twelve to be exact) bantering gently about our positions on Christmas.  And we’ve always compromised for a little bit of my style and a little bit of his.  Except…

Except it’s starting to get to me a little bit.  To start with, Christmas décor is up in stores by Halloween.  That’s just pitiful – even to this diehard Christmas fan.  It reeks of money, doesn’t it?  Second, I felt a little bit convicted last year when my kids were buried neck high in wrapping paper and bows and ribbons, and were far too cranky and overwhelmed to enjoy an ounce of what they had received.  Reeks of consumerism, doesn’t it?  Third, I think it’s been happening to me for a while now that I lose sight of this every year.  I go into December saying “I’m not doing that this year…we’re toning it down” and yet somehow Christmas Eve arrives with a bit of a chagrin from both of us – it has happened again.  We I went overboard.  Reeks of “self”, doesn’t it?  We rush through the season – head to parties – see relatives – over shop – over eat – over indulge…and then it’s over.  And sometimes we have missed the whole point.

So all I’m saying, is I’m taking four baby-steps back to the meaning of Christmas – which for our family is all about a wonderful gift that had no bow, no wrapping, but cost more than money could ever purchase.   The birth, life, love and forgiveness of a perfect lamb…Jesus. Someone who truly understood Goodwill towards Man.

Now, I realize, that may not be your personal conviction – but it certainly lends me to want more out of Christmas for my kids than a frenzy of desire, followed by inevitable meltdowns.  No, I want more for them.  I want more for us.  Does this mean we won’t decorate a tree or hang a stocking or sip eggnog?  No.  However, it does mean that this year we are going to find FOUR WAYS to spread GOODWILL and try to reconnect to our fellow man – our neighbors, our community, our church family, and yes – even to our world. 

Each act will take a different form, and I’m not yet sure what that will look like – it could be caroling to our neighbors and delivering cookies, serving food at the local shelter, volunteering our time to our church, or sponsoring an orphanage in Africa.  I don’t know.  But I have hope that with each act, we will have had even a little part in restoring the brotherhood of mankind…just enough to wet our hearts for more. 

January 2012
31 Days of Nothing {Unhealthy}

Ah yes…January and the time for resolutions.  The time for joining gyms and trying to lose all that weight we gained by eating too much of the Chocolate Bundt Cake that Aunt Edna makes every year. 

I get that.  I really do.

But let’s face it; you’ve just spent two months taking care of and giving to others – so we’re going to take a month and focus on ourselves and our health.  Something I am in SORE need of.  Years, people.  Years.

Anyway – AB and I decided that for the month of January we are going to commit ourselves to healthy eating.  And maybe even some exercise too.  Ugh.  Can’t lie.  Gonna be UGLY, my friends.  U.G.L.Y. 

Much like 30 Days of Nothing in September, wherein we documented all of our meals and spending habits – we’ll be documenting pictorially our *healthy* food choices, meals we come up with, and ideas for healthier living.  We are by no means the authority as our idea of a good meal always includes a small vat of mayo.  Sadly that statement is too true.  Sigh… 

But we will be trying, just as with all the other monthly challenges, to extend ourselves beyond the norm.  To step outside of our comfy spots and MAKE POSITIVE CHANGES. 

No guarantees that I can live on carrots alone.  (blech…not gonna happen)  But I will be giving it all I’ve got.  Cough.  Sputter.  (nervously chews nails)

Signed – The Girl in Sweatpants  (cuz that’s all that fits)


SO NOW YOU HAVE the next three challenges lined up and ready to go.  You can pick and choose what you’d like to do and leave a comment with any questions!  If you’d like to blog about it – be sure to tell me so I can brag about you here while you’re on your journey and so that we can follow your progress and get inspiration!

There will be a Mr. Linky sign up option within the context of each individual post the first day of each challenge.  That's where you can list your Name and the Link to your Blog, so we can easily follow along.

I’m EXCITED!  It feels good to head into the next three months with PURPOSE outside of the predictable.  I can safely say, I have not had that feeling in a while. 

Who’s with me?!?!

October 25, 2011

Be still my soul

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

I’m tired and my eyes are so heavy, I can hardly keep them open.  I try, but instead yawn and burrow deeper into the covers.  The small hand on my arm and the even smaller voice whispering in the darkness of the early hours of a new day.  It’s morning, he implores.  It’s time to get up.  It’s time to eat breakfast. 

My son.  The dawn breaker.

He’s eager and talkative and a hundred words pour out of his mouth while he coaches me out of my slumber.  The rest of the house is quiet, calm…and I can hear the old Dutch grandfather clock ticking away…recording the time.  He crawls into our bed, his Daddy already gone – up even earlier than our boy. 

After much chatter we agree that milk and dry cereal are in order, while Mommy showers and prepares for the day.  As he snuggles in and finds his comfort, I feel my heart coming undone.  Not because today is different.  No, it’s the same.  Over and over, it’s the same.  A year ago, it was a different kind of the same.  Different stages marking us as we go. 

And so I go to the shower where I feel myself unraveling a little. 

Hot water pouring over me and pieces of my brokenness coming to the surface while the sleep is rinsed away.  I’m failing them.  These two beautiful children.  My sin stronger than my resolve and reflecting back at me, blinding me.  Tomorrow will be the same.  I’ll promise myself that we’ll play more, have an adventure, read together.  Instead I will find my tongue sharp and my words harsh.  I’ll find my voice raised.  I’ll feel my old companion – that rigid need for order – showing up…again and again and taking over.  There will be too much yelling.  Too much chaos.  Too much frustration, as we mull through yet another day.  Rushing, trying to complete everything, trying to be everything.

Wiping away the steam on the mirror, and finding that same girl staring back.  The same, but different than she was.  Wondering again, how she got here.  This isn’t the me I envisioned.  I’m not the mother I imagined I would be.  The lines around my eyes reminders that time is moving on and that tomorrow will be the same.  That grandfather clock ticking, ticking, ticking…and bringing into focus the truth…that even though it doesn’t seem like it now - I will want back these days with them.  I will regret.  And there will be nothing to do for it.


I just find a way to be still.

If the mess from yesterday remains while we play one more round of Go Fish.

If the dishes wait while we take a walk together.

If the laundry is plucked from the baskets - clean - but not folded or put away, while we chat about our day. 

If the TV, the computer, the busy life that never ends is turned off while we read “one more story, Mommy…one more, o-tay?”

If  I hold my tongue and let my children be children.

Can I bear patiently the cross of motherhood…burdened and tired and worn down.  Feeling the weight of the responsibility to be their guide.

Longing to leave it to my God to order their days and provide for them.  That in my brokenness He will faithfully remain and wipe away the tears of my regret.  Comforting all of us when our reality is not what we imagined it would be.

Be still my soul.

My heavenly and my best friend…guiding my future as He has my past.  Always leading me back to His unending Grace.  In His grip.  Never out of His love.  Always covered.

Even when I’m too harsh…too tired…too spent.  Even then.

I check on my boy and he is as I last saw him, snuggled in our bed, enjoying his snack, sipping his milk.  He smiles at me and it melts my tired heart.

Inside I feel that pang.  Today is full of agenda items.  There will be little time to do any of the things I’ve only just resolved myself to doing. 

And only moments later, I am raising my voice over a mess made.  The brokenness comes reeling through, smashing my resolve into shards that cut and gnaw at me.  I’m the same.  Today is the same as yesterday.  My shoulders slump in the weight of reality.

But then Grace.

Be still my soul.

The waves and winds still know…

The disappointment, the hurt, the anger, the frustration, the sin that threatens to swallow me whole…

They still know His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.


So I crawl back to the cross and to forgiveness and resolve that I’ll keep doing that every day.  Every day I must go back to the Grace that covers me – their mother, but His child.  He knows me better.  Knows my reactions before I do.  Knows my temper and my stubbornness.  Knows how I fall down.  Sees me and knows my heart – the good intentions and the bad ones.  Sees me and loves me, just the same.  Chose me.  Chose me to be theirs.  Knowing all the while how my children would help me see Him better.  How being a mother would help me to see my own sin much clearer, a gentle reminder of what has been done for me. 


Like salve on all my poor choices.  Remedy for my short-comings.  Peace for my expectations to rest in.  To be reminded.

Be still my soul.


October 17, 2011

Fun Stuff

You already know that I love blog design and I love changing the look here pretty much every couple months.  That's because it's my favorite little space on the web (being my own corner and all), and I like to keep it looking nice and tidy and in step with the seasons. 

We're only two weeks away from my November Design, and I am EXCITED!  Meanwhile, check out the two I just finished!  (click the image to see the full design)  I am LOVIN' this Fall look...

and these colors POP...love it!

Come see me if you're ready for your own fun fresh look!  Bushel & A Peck Designs

Woot woot!

October 13, 2011

Surviving or Thriving

We are always in transition.  Have you ever noticed that?  We’re moving, even when it seems like we’re sitting still.  Even when we feel that the days are long, the years seem to go racing by.  Our children’s needs are constantly changing, and they themselves are a wonder – always growing, learning, expanding, blooming.  They are different week to week.  So are we.  Each stage of our lives seems to unravel in rapid motion and we find ourselves struggling to recall what the last chapter of our days looked like.  Always moving.  Always transitioning.


Lately I have noticed our family in a slump.  We’re not connecting like we want to.  We’re not thriving, we’re surviving.  Maybe that’s why I wanted to start “A Year of Challenges”.  Maybe because in my heart of hearts, I’m desperate to do somethingAnything that has some connected value.  Not just living life and going through the motions of our stage – though certainly there is value to be found there.  But I’m talking about experiencing life in a different way.  And to be clear, I’m not talking about bungee jumping off of a tall bridge.  Uh-uh.  No.  I wanted to take on the “30 Days of Nothing Challenge” because we have become a bit stagnate.  We’re just kind of existing over here and going through the motions of our busy lives.  The kids have school, Awana, play-dates and activities.  AB has two jobs and a constant stream of rehearsals/theater/writing chipping away at his time. I have my own two jobs, raising the children, keeping our home in makeshift cleanliness.  We are not fulfilled.  We are drained, tired, and in many ways…defeated.  Is this all there is?  What’s the purpose?  Make money to spend money?  Raise our kids to go to school to get an education to get a job to make money to spend money?  That’s the goal?  We have a gnawing feeling that in the middle of all of this “life” we’re rushing through, we are still missing out on “living”.  

Do you ever feel that way?

What I’m referring does not have monetary value.  It cannot be bought or sold, much like happiness.  It’s not about winning the lottery and living out the rest of our days on permanent vacation – that’s not the version of “thriving” I’m referring to.  It’s a change in the heart.  A realization that perhaps there is more, much more to living than the daily grind?  Of course my faith in God almost requires that I recognize there is more.  Of course there is.  There can be spiritual fulfillment in so many areas of our lives if we are seeking. 

But I’m actually speaking to maturity. At what point do we truly grow up and realize that there is more that is required of us.  Not the other way around.  We don’t need more.  We need to DO more.  Extend more.  Reach out more.  Give up more.  We don’t need to acquire…we need to realize what is required of us to truly experience the abundant life we were promised.  Do we have the courage it takes to be different?  Do we have the tenacity to just STOP and re-structure?


You know how we sometimes get a flair of energy for a new project in our life?  Like weight loss or spending cuts or weekly date night with the spouse.  We make great intentions to start or stop doing certain things and a few weeks or months in, they fall apart?  This happened and then that happened and it just kind of stopped altogether?  Well of course I’ve been there.  Many times.  Little projects that kind of fall flat after a while.  A lot of that is my own weakness.  My lack of “stick-to-it-ness”.

Well, this feels different.  Bigger.  More drastic.  It feels like it’s the beginning of a lot of changes, but I have no idea what they are or will be.  It feels like the start of something terrifying and beautiful all at the same time.  I’m just like a lot of you – apathy comes creeping in.  I have no idea where to start.  I don’t know what to do.  I feel overwhelmed.  How do I make any significant life changes when I can’t even make a weekly meal plan?  (or cook for that matter)  Where do I find the “umph” to even begin.  I know I’m probably missing the bigger picture but I just can’t find the strength to pursue it.  I’m sure there’s more to life than what I’m doing, but who has the time? 

“Each time he [Jesus] said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Tools at our fingertips, I don’t think we can afford to continue to feed our own sense of apathy with excuses.  Our world…our Nation…your neighbors are hurting.  Maybe you’re hurting.  I certainly have my fair share of those days.  There is need all around.  How self-absorbed have we become that we just keep our heads down, our eyes set and keep on walking.  Can I keep looking myself in the mirror and feeling that I’ve somehow done my share?  Or that those problems are better left for someone else to take care of – I’ve got enough?  For me, no.  So I need to force my concrete drenched feet to start taking steps away from “self”.  It’s exceedingly hard for me to imagine it…but I don’t think I can bear the alternative anymore.

So first, my plan is to do this, and I’m not trying to be cliché when I say this to you:  I’m going to pray about it.  I’m going to literally sit down and ask God to show me how I can make significant changes in my life that will help my family to thrive and not just to survive.  So that means this is my first change – I have to set aside time to have a quiet time with the Lord.  No, not that random “I have a few minutes here” nonsense.  I’m really going to have to commit myself to making this an intentional life-changing priority.   How else can we truly know where we’re supposed to be or what we should be doing if we’re not listening to the One who orchestrated our innermost being?  Giving up control of your life and trusting in God’s goodness to lead you?  Yeah, that’s a tough one.  Thriving over surviving?  Totally worth it.

I know these things are true:

* Those faces up there?  Anton and I have been given a much greater commission than to simply feed and clothe them.  We sense to our core the responsibility to show them what Love, Kindness, Giving, Trusting, Encouraging, Serving, Helping, and Ministering to others looks like.  To fear God.  To honor your parents.  To love your neighbor.  In some ways, we are.  In too many other ways, we are failing miserably.

* We were meant for more than just surviving.  We WERE.  Believe it!

* I am responsible to show my beautiful children what “thriving” looks like.  If I am more concerned with what TV shows I am missing….well….what can I possibly expect from them?

* There are millions (yes, millions) of opportunities for us to reach out to others. From little, yet effective ways to big life-changing ways.

* We are accountable for our choices and decisions.

* Our choices and decisions matter deeply

What happens between the living and the dying – that’s all about our choices.  We were given free-will for a reason.  How we use that free-will is showing up more and more in my conscience every day.  And the question remains of whether or not those choices that I have made or will make will show that I honored God.  Have I shown these two amazing kids who have been entrusted to me – of all mothers – to me, what our lives should look like?  I don’t have all the answers to life’s questions – none of us do.  We are all different.  All unique.  All having our unique set of talents, gifts, and strengths that we bring to the world around us.  How we use them, how we give those talents, gifts and strengths away….I think that’s where we find ourselves thriving.

“Tell those rich in this world's wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they'll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.”   1 Timothy 6:17-19


October 11, 2011

Today was the day… 10.11.00

So it was 11 years ago.  Anton was teaching middle school and I arranged to get off of work to come and see his students perform a new play during Chapel, because it was really important to him and to the kids that I be there.  So there I sat, several rows back from the front and off to the side. 

When the play ended, Anton got up to speak to the student body about what the play they had just seen was really about.  Trying to connect the dots and show them how God’s hand was always in his life and is always in their own lives.  In fact, he said…what better proof could he have, than that God had brought a wonderful woman into his heart – and that woman (who was now being ushered to the front by two students) had been a reminder in his life that God is in the business of details – knowing exactly who we need and bringing us our perfect match.

The rest is blurry.  I sat on a stool at the front.  The children were ooh’ing and aah’ing.  Anton was walking slowly around me, listing out all the ways that I had made him want to be a better man, and before I could understand I looked to the back of the church and saw my family – standing against the wall – cameras and video cams in hand – smiling from ear to ear and waving to me.  Then I knew.

I turned my eyes back to AB and he was kneeling saying “so, I have a question to ask you” – which was followed by thunderous applause and roars from the students and the staff and my family…and anyone else who happened to be in the room.

I started to cry.  I covered my mouth.  My heart was pounding so hard and so loud, I was SURE the entire West Coast was hearing it.

“Would you do me the honor of being my wife?”

Overwhelming emotion gave way to humor…and I looked to the students and shrugged saying “I don’t know…what do YOU think?”  They cheered unanimously. 

I said “Coach B…I would love to marry you”

And there it was.  Just like that.  One of the best days and moments of my life.  Followed by our amazing wedding.  Buying our first home.  Having our son placed in our arms for the first time.  And being given the amazing gift of our Keira Joy.  So many milestones that all hinged on that single moment in time.  On that one question.

A moment…a day…a decision…that is permanently etched on the inside of my wedding ring…”October 11, 2000”

That night we celebrated at Morton’s Steakhouse, looking young and happy and full of life.  I cherish these pictures taken right before we left for that dinner – my beautiful ring shining on my finger.  Knowing full well every time I look at them…a million different decisions, moments, chances leading up to meeting Anton could have changed these pictures.  Eleven years later and I still think to myself; I could have missed this.  Even through the rough times.  The ups and the downs.  The pain and the joy.  AB is my other half in every way.  We have built a life together, one day at a time and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

10-11-2000 Proposal-rev2

Thank God for the blessing of His unending attention to detail and knowing exactly who we need. 

Love you, AB.  I love you back.  I’m proud to be your wife.

10-11-2000 Proposal 2-rev

October 9, 2011

Slow to Speak

“Mommy…come….come”  - waving his hand at me and motioning me towards his room.
Smiling like a Cheshire cat.
The room I had heard him playing in with his sister.
The room they had been in for at least fifteen minutes.

So I followed as he ran ahead of me, catapulting himself onto his bed
and jumping and smiling and singing and jumping
and giving me that knowing smile. 

Look what I did.
Look at my room now.

The room that was clean.
Operative word: clean.
Or maybe the operative word is “was”

15 minutes people.


My instinct was “what the frig happened in here!?!?!?”
My second thought was “what the friggity frackity happened in here!?!?!?
Then I remembered…
Slow to yell speak
Slow to freak out anger

YOU try it. See how far YOU get.

so I back peddled away from the instinct I am prone to
I sighed a heavy sigh that comes from tired mothers everywhere and said
“let me get my camera”

Oh, and I made him clean it up.
And he did. 

And nary an angry word was heard from either camp.
Imagine that.

October 5, 2011

More difficult than I thought…

30 Days of No Defense

James 1:19 - "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry."

In case you didn’t read THIS POST, you might not know that Anton and I have committed ourselves to a year of challenges.  One per month, starting of course with last month’s 30 Days of Nothing – which we finished amazingly strong – and going through August of 2012!  This month we’re focusing on an internal struggle – to treat each other (our kids, and our spouses) with kindness and gentleness, putting into heavy practice James 1:19 (above). 

One of the things we are really anxious to work on in our family is being too angry, too quick to speak, and way too fast to DEFEND our actions.  We need to develop an attitude of gentleness toward each other.  So for one month, we are going to work each and every day to live by this verse.  We are posting it on the refrigerator, on the mirrors, and anywhere else we think it might help us to remember.  Anton and I are going to work very hard at listening and not defending when a conflict arises.
Now you’re caught up!  If this challenge is not for you (I need your secret!)  – follow along anyway, and be sure to stick around and see what’s coming for November! 

When you draw a line in the sand with yourself, be prepared.  Be ready for all kinds of things to happen.  All kinds of Murphy's law kinds of things.

When you say you’re not eating chocolate or sweets anymore, be prepared to be inundated with the most deliciously irresistible array of confectionery goodness you have ever seen.  When you commit to exercising, just plan ahead that every time you get up to go and DO IT, you’re going to be met with the worst case of apathy, and the most overwhelming sense of exhaustion – making it seem next to impossible to meet your goal.  When you plan to avoid spending, as we did last month, you can just assume that everything you never knew you wanted will be on SALE at unbelievable, unbeatable, unfathomable prices.  Trust me on that one.

And so it is also true that when you say “this is the month that we’re going to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry"?  You can bet your sweet bippy (what’s a bippy, by the by?) that you will find yourself tuning out whatever someone is trying to tell you if it goes in contrast with what you want to hear, talking over those you love to prove your point, and feeling your anger boil over in a nano-second when you feel you’ve been wronged in the slightest way.

You might find that you yell more.

You might experience excessive bouts of anger and frustration over the simplest of things.

You might find that listening with gentle intent to someone you are already yelling/angry/frustrated at is akin to cramming your entire leg into a coke bottle.  Or fitting into your high school jeans. Ahem.  Impossible.

So that is all to say; this Challenge is kicking my hiney.  All up one side of the wall and down the other and back around again.  And as Anton put it so well, a Challenge like 30 Days of Nothing was easier in many ways, because it was very tangible.  Here’s five dollars – now don’t spend it.  On the contrary, a challenge like this, where you are forced to look at your emotional instincts in a different way – and try to overhaul them?  Try to revise how you're head has been responding for a long time, and reprogram your heart to respond instead?  Ugh.  So much more difficult than I thought...

Since the MINUTE we said “this is what we’re going to do for October” – we have been overwhelmed with petty arguments, fruitless defenses (each of us thinking our position to be right) and ridiculous scenarios that involve things like how a shirt is folded, how rice should be cooked first before being put in a casserole, or how long should nap-time really be.  Yes.  Those “ultra important life-ending” issues that just couldn’t have come at a worse time.

There is no use denying it.  Our 30 Days of “no defense” is five days in and in many ways – five days failed. 

But can I tell you something else?  I have never been so convicted of how much we are the opposite of the verse we’re trying to live out.  Thus, all the more reason to work extra hard at making it work.  All the more incentive to push harder to be quick at listening, slow to speak and slow to anger.  An area I confess to needing LOTS of work in.  Maybe a lot more than I originally thought…

Can you relate?

P.s. typically, this is a Comment Free Blog.  And I like it that way for lots of reasons covered on my "Comment Free" tab.  However, given that we are doing a year of Challenges from September 2011 - August 2012 - I really wanted to make it easier for my readers to participate and share.  So comments will be turned on for a while on most but not all posts.  Thanks all!

October 1, 2011

Happy October

So yes.  It’s true.  I love October.  I love Halloween.  And I love trick-or-treating with my kids.  Because I love dressing up and being silly, and eating too much candy.  And I have a deep affinity for caramel apples that I can hardly explain.  Warm, gooey, buttery caramel.  Oh my drool….

And so you get to enjoy my Happy October Blog Theme!  Fun, fun fun…

Note ** Just be ready for this here blog theme to change every month through February – far too many designs rolling around in my head for all these fun holidays!!  Can’t contain.  Must design.

I’m happy to report that the Blog Design business is still in full force.  And I’ve been so lucky to have the best clients with the most beautiful taste!  If you need a new bling-a-ding look for the coming holiday season, I’ll be thrilled to hook you up! 

You can visit me HERE to place your order for a fresh, new look!

Come see some of my latest designs like these:

Header - 5

Header - 4

Header 5-2

Header - 1

Header -3

Happy October to all of you wonderful people!

P.s. Be sure to read the post below to see how we finished strong with 30-Days of Nothing and to learn about October's Challenge 30-Days of "no defense"!

Day 30 came and went…

30-Days of Nothing Challenge - COMPLETED

To be honest, I was just focused on trying to IGNORE the fact that I was on the final countdown.  And because I ignored it, the day went very fast and I had no time to melt my energy on any last minute temptations.  In fact, last night I got to be out with an amazing group of girlfriends – and they were counting down the hours with me right up until we were all too tired to keep it up and called ourselves “old” at 11:10pm. 

I could probably talk a lot about the benefits of a self-discipline like this; money saved, exercising of will-power, lessons in frugality and realization of habits.  All of those things are worthy reasons to have done it. 

I could share with you how even in the 11th hour, Anton withstood the temptation to spend with what boiled down to some pretty amazing integrity.  You see, he had to go to a meeting and it was at one of his favorite (I mean, FAVORITE) burger joints.  There he sat for two hours...with a glass of water...while his co-workers ooh'd and aah'd over their hamburgers and fries.  Not easy to do.  Especially when you have a gift-card in your pocket.  (EEK!)  But it's the principle - something I admit he is much better about than I am.  I would have whipped out the gift-card faster than a jack-rabbit can rocket across a field!

On the other hand, there are other reasons to do this challenge; with the ever-changing economy, it’s nice to remind yourself that you can in fact, do “without” all the extras we’ve grown accustomed to.  And not just minimally, but really and truly living well.  Because you saw the meals we had – it wasn’t Hungry Man every other night.  It was good eats!  And our outings were creative – mall picnics, play-dates, library visits, and good times with friends.  We were forced to be creative with how we spent our resources, and in doing so, we found wonderful ways to be together that didn’t involve money at all.

And to be honest, we were forced to re-evaluate where our funds go, and self-examine if we’re happy with the answers.  To re-assess if we’re using our resources wisely or purely for self.  Are we investing in things that have long-term reward or short term gain?  And I’m not talking about an IRA.  I’m speaking about heavenly treasures.  The whole…”Because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."….gulp.  (Luke 12:34)  We’ve had to ask ourselves honesty, where are our treasures stored?  In the “stuff” we’ve managed to acquire?  In our house?  In our cars?  In our dining choices?  Is our treasure in our money?  Because I don’t have to tell you…that is a serious short term gain.  Shouldn’t those who have been entrusted with much, DO much?  And you need only look at the rest of our world to know that you (yes, you) are blessed and have been given much. 

I think Anton and I felt a lot of conviction about how we give.  How much of our resources are wasted each month on temporary satisfaction and convenience?  How could those resources benefit others.  And how does God require us to use what He has given us.  I read a quote yesterday that really struck a chord with me…

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.” - Stephen Colbert

Ouch. That from someone who is admittedly not a Christian, and who meant it in the most sarcastic of ways. Still, it hit its mark a little too well.  Because it's far too accurate.   

That’s the most important thing we’ve learned about 30-Days.  We’ve been blessed with so much – far more than most of the world can claim.  And yet.  Here we sit, whining about missing out on Taco Bell because we can’t be bothered to cook from the plethora of food sitting at home in our pantry.  A luxury millions of children go without their entire lifetimes.

Have we become that jaded?  Have we really turned a blind eye to so much suffering, right in our own communities?  I’ll speak for myself.  Yes. 

Perspective, it turns out, through firsthand application, is everything. 

It’s everything.

Day 30 Menu – no pics

Breakfast: English Muffins and jam

Lunch: Leftover Chili – mmm mmm good!

Dinner: So, I got to indulge in a wonderful meal made by my sweet friend Laura – we had a lovely spinach salad with goat cheese and strawberries, Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Spaghetti receipe (OMG DELISH!) and Brownie Sundaes!  Let me tell you – it was amazing!  The best part was sharing it with about 14 other amazing women!  Sooooo fun! 

Meanwhile, back at La Casa ABCB, the kids and Anton had homemade nachos. 

I have loved following those of you who have participated – even if it was just the Empty Pantry portion…

I have loved getting to know some new friends along the road…

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing about our experience…

And I am proud of the way we finished strong!

If you participated but did not blog, would you e-mail me your story?  I would LOVE to read it!  You can E-MAIL ME HERE

And don't forget to congratulate those who made it alongside me!


So now what?

Well - a couple of things.  We've decided that Challenges are really good.  For all kinds of reasons.  They have lots of benefits, the least of which is honing our DISCIPLINE.  So with that in mind, and a great Challenge officially over - we've decided to do a new Challenge every month for a year.  Some I will blog about a lot - others I will mention, invite you to join, and then not spend a great deal of focus on.

For the month of October, we will be participating in the following Challenge:

This is a family challenge to live by the following verse for 30 Days (and hopefully far beyond): 

James 1:19 - "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry."

One of the things we are really anxious to work on in our family is being too angry, too quick to speak, and way too fast to DEFEND our actions.  We need to develop an attitude of gentleness toward each other.

So for one month, we are going to work each and every day to live by this verse.  We are posting it on the refrigerator, on the mirrors, and anywhere else we think it might help us to remember.

Anton and I are going to work very hard at listening and not defending when a conflict arises.

I read a great article by Joshua Straub in the magazine "Thriving Family" by James Dobson's Focus on the Family.  A wonderful quote that really stuck with me was this:

"The famous preacher A.W. Tozer wrote that one of the five keys to a deeper spiritual life is to never defend ourselves.  When we do, we put up emotional guards that make us hard and self-centered.  In turn, we cast blame in an attempt to protect ourselves."

And then about marriage and family life:

"{We} found that gentleness did not depend on who was right, but on lowering our defenses and handling each other with care."

They ask some really thought provoking questions for married couples and families alike - see how they grab you:

  • How have we shown gentleness toward one another?
  • In what areas of our marriage/family life do we need to practice gentleness toward each other?
  • When we're tempted to defend ourselves, how can we protect one another instead?

So if you'd like to take the challenge with us - if you feel your family could use a good dose of "No Defense" and more gentleness, then we'd be honored to have you along.  You can grab the image above to blog about your 30 Days, and link it back to Bushel & A Peck.  As always, those of you who don't blog - I love to hear from you - feel free to e-mail me about your participation and experience!

I'll be writing about our "No Defense" victories and our (inevitable) short-comings over the month of October - and as always - keeping it real.  

I have an AWESOME and very difficult personal challenge brewing for January.  After the holidays.  After all the traveling, parties, and extreme dessert overload that is October – December.  I’ll share more information later when I have the details worked out!  You know you want in...stay-tuned!

Thank you to all of you who encouraged us through this month and for all of the amazing gifts and thoughtful e-mails and notes I received.  What a great group of people my readers are! Muah!



P.s. More about my awesome October Blog Theme tomorrow!