My Decision to Unplug

 

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It was the beginning of January and I sat at my computer on a chilly Colorado morning.  As the front door closed behind the last child headed off to school, I took a deep breath, ready for a new season of life.  Now that I was not working out of the home, my time was my own–and oh the plans I had!.  It had been years since all five days of the week were mine to fill with whatever I chose– time to work, to write, to create, to grow my business.

That day, and for weeks to come, I dove into my work, training, fighting through the frustration of technology issues, mapping out my business plan.  I would spend a day or two completely absorbed in my computer, come up for air when the kids got home from school, then back to it the next day–but now spending time working on my blog, dreaming about a re-branding that I wanted to do which led me to different research as I became absorbed in the blogging world.  I bounced back and forth between these two projects with a hurried frenzy–there was so much to do before summer when my focus would need to be almost entirely on the kids.

Then, as my technology knowledge around social media branding and video marketing for my business grew, I felt God gently nudge me toward another idea using this newfound information for completely different vision–creating a YouTube channel for middle school girls, to help inspire and encourage them through an ever-shifting, emotionally challenging season of their lives.  Really God? Right now in the middle of everything else? But the excitement grew and learning video editing became a new project.

Oh, and what about the book I wanted to write?  My monthly writer’s club continued to inspire me to pursue this dream along with all the others.

With so many ideas swirling in my head (and they were all worthy efforts!) I found feeling disconnected and a bit frazzled as the end of February approached.  Which project should I pursue first?  What should come off the plate?  How can I do it all?  What about the valiant effort of motherhood? I could feel my distraction and absorption in all these pursuits keeping me from being fully present with my family.

I prayed almost daily about all of this–wasn’t this supposed to be a grand time for independence and creativity?  Freedom and growth without the shackles of a schedule?  Yet, it felt confusing and burdened, as if I was walking a path that kept splitting and every fork said “go both ways!” I knew I couldn’t do it all, but was stuck in not wanting to let go of any of it.

Then, on the first night of Lent, God got my attention through a simple question.  I sat around a dining room table at a lovely home in Boulder with five women in my writer’s group, pen in hand, trying to answer the writing prompt we had just been given: What Am I Afraid Of?

Complete writer’s block paralyzed me.  The clock ticked.  I sat, trying to go deeper than my obvious answer-spiders. Suddenly, as if all the voices and thoughts and strivings of the last two months were revealed to me in a mirror before my face, I knew my fear.  Who will I be if I do nothing? 

Were all these pursuits an avoidance of realizing that fear?  Where was I finding my identity?  Had I begun to place productivity and striving as an idol on the shelf of my life?

And as clear as those thoughts were, so was my solution.  It was no coincidence that God chose this sacrificial day to get my attention.  Lent needed to be the castle where I would abide apart from my distracted, pursuit filled life.  I needed to unplug.  I made a decision right then–I was putting everything on hold– starting in the morning.

I realized as I spoke this out loud that these women were going to hold me accountable to this–what was I saying?

What would tomorrow morning look like when that last child walked out the door…when I was used to scooping up my laptop and diving into the world of writing/blogging/video-editing/YouTubing/teambuilding/prospecting/selling?

I couldn’t even picture it, it felt as dark as our bedroom when I turned off the lights that night.

The next morning came.  Would I really go through with this?  Yes, I had spoken it out loud.

After handing the last bagged lunch to a child and sending them on their way, I sat on my couch, no laptop, and just thought.  Now what?  I looked around.  I literally didn’t know what to do with myself.  I was so accustomed to a full day of projects and checking boxes on my to do list.  But… I could do some laundry, read a few chapters of a novel (seriously?),  even watch some of the Today Show to catch up on world news.

I could pray.  Sit in silence.

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I would just slow down.

Gradually, over the next few mornings, I reframed my frenzy into contemplation, re-prioritizing my day in a way that would leave time for God to speak to me–or better said, for me to hear him.  I prayed for clarity on my future–what would HE desire me to pursue?  What would HE bless?

I rested.

I read.

I did housework joyfully–as a priority, not an afterthought.

I sought clarity.

I felt guilty.  Was this really a sacrifice?  Having peace and free-time? I wasn’t giving up chocolate or Facebook or any of those other challenging things.   Then a friend reminded me that Lent is all about making room for God, where other distractions, obsessions, desires might crowd him out.  What greater sacrifice than to lay down the very things that were beginning to speak too loudly into my identity.

Clarity came.

One morning I invited my friend to my home for coffee.  She happens to be a Life Plan Facilitator, and as I shared my current journey, she suggested I schedule a time with her as a gift to me–God’s gift to me, to help me figure out my best path.

I met with my friend for 16 hours over the next couple of weeks.  It was the most intense yet most valuable experience I have ever been through.  We worked on small things–like my calling, gifts and talents, and my core values.  We created vision statements and a framework for making every major decision going forward.

By the time I was finished, I had complete confidence and vision for my future, with God’s hand and blessing pressed all over it.

The last couple of weeks leading up to the conclusion of Lent were the most challenging for me.  Many days I woke up inspired and ready to jump into the plans before me, yet, I held myself back, wanting to be obedient to the Lent sacrifice I made.

And finally Easter came and went.  Once again, I hugged the kids and sent them off to school.  But this time, I felt calm, purposeful.  I didn’t rush into anything, because I had mapped out a timeframe for my new goals–and, even though the clock was ticking, I had a peace that God’s hand was in this and I couldn’t mess it up regardless of my pace.

And here’s what I decided.

All of the prayer and processing over the last forty days funneled into one large question:  “How do I be congruent with who God has created me to be and his purposes for my life?”  

Through the Life Plan process it was clear that going forward with one or more of the options initially on the table was in my DNA.  It is in my created personality to step out and share how I am growing and what God is teaching me with others.  The following decisions were confirmed in my heart and head:

First, Creating the YouTube Channel for my daughter, her friends, and hopefully many other girls where the message that God is with them through this shaky time, and  that in these five minute videos they can find morsels of hope and strength to get them through the next hour or next day.

Second, and longer-term, blogging, speaking and writing as a package deal–all under the hope of living out God’s calling to continue to equip and encourage women in their life and walk with the Lord.

I will continue my side-business in a different format than I was pursuing before, which I am encouraged and excited about.

My soul is in a better place.  I will not be striving and pursuing.  I will be prayerful and peaceful.  There is no “end goal” except one day at a time, letting God lead my path.

I really don’t know what I am doing with either of these projects–but that is good.  It keeps me right where God wants me, in a place where I am not captain of my ship, but a worthy sailor who is fulfilling the tasks given.  I am not in control of this next season, and it is in this letting go the blessing has been revealed.

What Am I Afraid Of?

Surprisingly, it is not an absence of activity, it is doing something outside of the will of my heavenly Father who knows me better than I know myself.  I fear controlling and striving and pouring my valuable time and energy into something that I created in my own head, rather than what God has purposed me to do.

This journey has been incredible, not because of the clarity I received, or the rest I experienced.  The very best part has been the re-affirmation of God’s character. He is a faithful God, who listens to our prayers, and steps into our life when invited in order to fulfill His purposes here on Earth.  He did not let me flounder any longer than necessary, and when I felt broken and confused enough to hear him speak “Stop!” into my life, He responded with perfectly measured and powerful help in order to steer me back on course.

xoxo,

Amy

 

 

 

 

 

4 Ideas To Simplify Your Life

IMG_0267In my last post, I promised to share some new idea finds that have made my life simpler–and are “sticking!”

1. SIMPLE AND QUICK APPETIZERMozzarella, Basil and Tomato Skewers.

I chose this appetizer to bring to a dinner party this past weekend because of the busy day leading up to the event, not leaving much prep time.  This alternative version to Caprese Salad was easy to shop for and prepare.  Target had the correct size mozzarella balls, and of course fresh basil and good cherry tomatoes are a must.

Recipe:  Layer fresh Mozzarella balls, basil and cherry tomatoes on a toothpick. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar if you choose.

IMG_0268Here is the final look:

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Why this is simplifies your life: can anyone say three ingredients?

2. CHORE APP–no more nagging

I love this.  A friend was sharing with me how this app was working for their family–tracking and organizing chores.  I wasn’t sure how effective it would prove for our family–mainly because this chore tracker pays kids for chores, which we have not traditionally done (we have been in the camp of “chores are part of contributing for the family–allowance is what we give you to help you learn to manage your money.”).  However, our kids are all older now and have lived through many years of teaching in that mindset, so giving this new idea a try seemed worth it.

The app, called ALLOWANCE AND CHORES BOT allows you to input each child, the chores you would like them to do, the amount they will get paid for, and individual schedules for the week.  All the kids then get the app on their phones, and it gives daily reminders and schedules.  As the parent, I can “ignore” chores that are not done and there is no pay, or “approve” chores once complete.  We have been using this for about a month and a half now, and while it requires me to daily open the app and approve chores, it is keeping everyone on a system without me reminding–that’s the best part.

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Why this simplifies your life: we all use technology–keeps it all on one place for the whole family, and NO NAGGING.

3. FRIDAY CEREAL

This is for all moms who want to simplify their morning routine with kids.  Years ago when our children were younger, we started having issues with cereal.  I IMG_0539would buy healthier versions of cereal and then have one “fun (unhealthy)” cereal in the pantry, but of course everyone wanted the unhealthy cereal every day.  I couldn’t keep track of which child had had what cereal when, there was arguing, pleading, begging….all the pre-cursors to unleashing 7:00 AM crazy mom.  So, I gave it some thought and the next week I introduced “Friday Cereal” to the family.  I explained that every Friday the kids could have whatever chocolaty, sugary cereal they wanted, but the other six days of the week they had to make a healthier breakfast choice.  All agreed–no one likes crazy mom–so we began.  I wasn’t sure this would “stick” but we still use this system in our house ten years later.

Why this simplifies your life: whether it’s cereal or something else, it takes the one daily decision off your plate and gives it a predictable system.

4. CASH BUDGET

This is an example of a system that should stick–because it is so helpful to staying within your budget–but often doesn’t because of the discipline and perseverance it requires.  I mentioned in my post about Our Year Of The No that we were going back to a cash budget after going on and off over the years.  After counting cash and sorting envelopes now for almost two months, I can say it hurts so good.  It’s like being on a diet…the “financial weigh in” at the beginning of next month will feel so satisfying, but the daily discipline and denial takes patience and big picture thinking.  I will post more on my daily learnings of cash budgeting soon.

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Why this simplifies your life: the clarity in physical cash takes all the stress and guesswork out of finances–I know at all times how much I have to last me until the end of the month.

Hopefully these ideas meet some “system” need you have in your life.  If these don’t stick, don’t worry–they were just not the right fit for what you needed.

xoxo,

Amy

 

GraceFULL Home In 2014

Hello Everyone!  I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Years.  Ours had a bit of sickness involved, which took out our immediate family and my Dad over holidays.  Sometimes my high expectations for it all to come together over the holidays just doesn’t account for things like throwing up and disinfecting every possible surface. 🙂

I wanted to share a few family pictures with you from the last part of 2013 before we move into 2014!

 

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Hannah (16) on right got her first job at Nick and Willy’s Pizza–wow, they grow up fast!

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This is the beautiful tree that became our Christmas tree this year–we had a great time for our annual tree hunting expedition in Winter Park, CO.

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This is our women’s bible study–at our Christmas party!  These women are all amazing and I am honored to do life with them!

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Maddie (left) at her winter cello concert with her good friend Kate.

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A family pic from the second story window of an old barn–yes we crawled up inside–a little gross 🙂

photo 4555                            Our dogs, Mo and Roxie, tuckered out on Christmas Day.  Tough being a canine.

Those were just for fun, but on the serious side I wanted to share some thoughts as we enter 2014.  You may or may not be a New Year’s resolution maker, but I happen to be one.  There is just something so freeing about putting closure to efforts and events of a period of time, and getting to move forward with a fresh start, new energy, and new dreams.

So, would you join me in making a few this year?  And you don’t have to call them resolutions if you don’t want to–maybe goals.

The next three posts are going to focus on the three resolutions that I am proposing for myself this year.  Of course, you will have different ones, but possibly these will resonate with you in some way.

They are in the categories of:

SPIRITUAL, PHYSICAL,  and FINANCIAL

So, stay tuned for the next post focusing on how we can renew ourselves SPIRITUALLY this year.  I will share some hopefully inspiring ways to renew your passion for walking closely with God.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

My 10

My last post (scroll down) was about finding 10 things each day to be thankful for.

Here are my 10:

(in no particular order, but starting with a funny one…)

1. For my dogs.  Someone told the joke the other night: “How can you tell who likes you more, your girlfriend or your dog?  Lock them both up in a trunk for 4 hours and see who is most happy to see you when you let them out.”  Ha ha, but boy do my dogs faithfully welcome me back with leaping and wagging each and every time I have left the house and returned–even if it’s to get something out of my car.

2. For my husband.  I will have been married to my best friend  20 years this January 1st. God has been faithful in growing our marriage through the wonderful and the hard.   Jonathan is such a serving, loving husband and I am so thankful for him.

3. For being able to sleep on a mattress each night when so many around the world sleep on the ground.

4. For the fireplace in our home which you will find me sitting by if I am not grocery shopping, doing laundry, cooking or working.  I am thankful for warmth–another comfort so many go without.

5. For my three beautiful children.  Life as a parent is often messy, and complicated, but never dull.  I am so grateful for the three lives that Jonathan and I are responsible for, and how I see God working in their hearts.  They encourage me to be a better mom each day, so that I can love them the way they deserve. They are amazing people whom I am blessed to know.

6. For our extended family.  We are so blessed to have all of our parents and siblings in our lives.  They are amazing grandparents and aunts and great aunts and uncles to our children and the love they give is a gift I do not take for granted.  I do not know what I would do without them.

7. For Wheat Chex.

8.  For knowing God, and Him knowing me.

9. For my friends.  I cannot express how grateful I am for the friends, near and far, that God has brought into my life.  They are my rock, my joy, my laughter.  They encourage me to be a better person, and I am thankful for that.

10.  For provision, although lately catching my self sometimes wishing it was more than “just enough” but so thankful that it is “just enough.”

There are my first 10 and I’m just scratching the surface…..

 

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A Wedding Today

As I sat on my couch this morning, writing another post for later this week, the doorbell rang.   I opened the door to this fresh smiling face, remembering why she was here.  This young lady was one of the bridesmaids for a wedding we were attending later this afternoon.  She was here to join the rest of the girls downstairs in our basement before the day-long preparation for the wedding.

We have a beautiful young Godly woman named Sarah who has lived with us this past year, and today is her wedding day.

As I opened the basement door to show Sarah’s friend downstairs, sounds of joyful laughter and chatting filled the stairwell, as did the fragrance of pampering and preparations.

I was struck by the importance of this day for Sarah.  Not just the “importance” of a wedding, but the deep down significance of the committment she is about to make.  What would I tell her about marriage if she asked?

That while it may not always be easy, it is a beautiful weaving of two souls over many years of experiences, trials, disappointments, and victories. That even though you are convinced the other person needs to change, the true change comes from within yourself–through grace and forgiveness and acceptance.  I would remind her that she is marrying a sinner (and that she is one also) so don’t hold her future spouse to the level of a saint. The quote, “The purpose of marriage is to bring you to the end of yourself” has beautiful significance if one chooses to accept it.

I would share that the legacy of committment and perseverance even through the dark valleys of your relationship will echo for generations to come, and that some of the best moments are those when you both just hold each other, with words unspoken, knowing that regardless of what stresses weigh you both down, all will be ok as long as you have each other.

Finally, I would tell her that the greatest gift in life is to have married your best friend.

Those are the words I would share with Sarah, because it is the truth I have found.  But not today.  So much of that is just learned in the journey together, hand and hand and hand–with God.

Sarah just came up the stairs on her way to the events and preparations of the day.  I ran to give her a hug and tell her we are praying for her.  We will see her in white as she walks down the aisle.

These are the photos from the wedding later that day.  It was an amazing wedding, so filled with love and joy, and centered on God’s beautiful gift of marriage.

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