How To Find Success in Your 2016 Goals

goals

Hi Friends!

We are 7 days into the new year and I’m sure you are following all of your 2016 goals and renewed resolutions to the T!  Like the way I committed to a “No Spend January?”  So far I have already had a massage (justified medically helpful), bought some very necessary new pants for our family vacation next month, been to the grocery store practically every day because God-forbid we don’t have protein bars and fruit snacks, and caved to an infomercial on face cream. Yep, I’m totally dedicated.  Actually the face cream moment of weakness was my husband’s fault.  He is just so darn supportive…”You should buy it honey!”

Clearly I am not ready to take on the no spending challenge. It’s actually like my commitment to not spend money has taken away all my self-control in that area.

The problem lies in that I don’t think I REALLY made a commitment to not spend money.  I bought a book, and even as I read the first chapter and the author asked us to make a decision in this area of finances for the next month, I knew my heart was not in it.  I fake committed.  And it hasn’t worked out so well.

On the other hand, I have committed to have quiet times consistently, to organize my week so that I can accomplish my work and creative goals, and to exercise.   These are all going great so far!  Why?  Because I was ready to commit to these.  I truly wanted to make positive changes in these areas.

So here are a couple of thoughts about sticking to your new (or renewed) 2016 goals:

  1. Be selective.  You can’t decide to completely revamp your life in every way this year.  Pick two or three –or even just one thing to focus on.
  2. Know What You Want.  Well we all want to be skinny and have gobs of money in our savings and be kind and patient and never yell at our kids.  But what is the reality?  What is the thing you are READY FOR?  Just like the smoker who really wants to quit smoking but can’t seem to shake the habit because deep down they want more to keep smoking.  They are not ready, and maybe someday they will be.  I thought I didn’t want to spend a DIME (well according to the book you can spend a few dimes) in the month of January but I didn’t really want that.  Not yet.  I do know that I want to continue to grow my relationship with God and that means a commitment to spending time with him each day which is why that area is working for me right now.

Take a look at your goals for this year.  We are just a week in, but what is successful so far?  What isn’t?  That may give you an idea of what you really want.  God Bless!

~Amy

Who Are You Trying To Please?

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For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.                                                        ~Galatians 1:10

When I was a teenager, I was often consumed with comparing myself to how others looked.  The hallways of my school seemed to teem with beautiful girls–the right clothes (ya know, those skinny zip at the ankle guess jeans?) or the perfect blonde curly hair–if I could only look a little more like them….then I would fit in.  The culture of my high school was a little cut-throat at times. When I flew 1000 miles away to college to escape the pressure, I landed myself in a sorority that precipitated this ideal even farther–and I found myself in a great battle with an eating disorder.

Later, when I became a teacher, a career I poured every piece of myself into, I compared myself to other teachers-whose class was the most composed walking down the hall, which teachers had students with highest test scores, etc.  As educational consultants, “the experts,” came in and out of our staff development room, teaching us about the latest and greatest, I would sit in admiration of their knowledge and authority.  So much so that I became one a few short years later.

Later, when I became a mom, I completely stopped comparing myself to others.  Except in a couple of areas…like every one.  As I sat in a mess of toys and dried oatmeal, at least two crying kids at all times, feeling defeated by how hard this new role in my life was, I couldn’t hear one more story about moms who just loved playing with their happy and well-behaved children for hours on end on the living room floor.  Would my kids rise up and praise me one day?  Would others ever ask me for parenting advice? I struggled with insecurity like I had never had before.

These days, I compare myself to other bloggers–we are a dime a dozen right now–what do I possibly have to offer that is anything special?  And, since I have started a new YouTube channel for tween and teen girls I am back to comparing myself to other teenage girls (go figure!).  Not that I want to be a teenage girl again, but my peers in this new world of media are very successful teen YouTubers with audiences in the millions-and I can’t help comparing myself to their success since at the moment I have an audience of 40.

All of this comparison has brought me to my knees over and over and over again in my life.  And God has the same message for me again, today.

His voice is gentle but prodding.

He tells me to look up, not around.

He is to be my audience of one.

One.

One.

One.

Not stats that spike with followers or likes or subscribers. Not admirers of my knowledge as an educator. Not children that act perfectly and grocery store shoppers that nod their heads in approval of my magnificent parenting skills-ha! Not the world that I want to see me as an attractive-ish, fashionable-ish, forty-something. None. Of. That.

Just God.

When we serve our Creator, we do not disappoint.  He subscribes, follows, likes, cheers, listens, and approves of anything we do in His name with a pure and willing heart.

It is the echo of His two clapping hands in an empty room that I long to hear.

He is our audience of One.

 

A Checklist For People Pleasing

 

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This morning I went to return an item at a store, and the woman behind the counter asked me to enter my email on the credit card scanner. This simple request always poses a dilemma for me because I don’t want them to have my email– but it makes me uncomfortable to say “no.”  Being the recovering people pleaser that I am, I mustered up the courage to politely say, “No thank you.” This felt awkward for me, because I just said these three words, instead of my normal, “I’m really sorry, but if you don’t mind I would rather not give out my email because I am trying to stop cluttering up my inbox…” yada yada, (yuck).  I then realized I was saying “no” to a fellow people pleaser because she went on and on about how it’s no problem but they need to ask for it to send coupons and for me to get a duplicate receipt in my email, yada yada.

I’ve about had it with the sorry’s and yada yada’s–especially from me.

There is a great book on the shelves right now, called “The Best Yes” by Lysa Terkheurst.  We are working through it, chapter by chapter in our Monday night bible study.  I love it because I believe Lysa speaks to so many of us who struggle with saying a simple “no”, not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, then finding ourselves weary and worn, and annoyed that we have spammy emails showing up in our inbox from retail stores.

PEOPLE PLEASING

This last week our discussion centered around people-pleasing.  In the workbook was a checklist of people-pleasing traits:

Here they are:

___   I’d rather say yes than have a confrontation

___   I don’t want people to think I’m selfish

___   I don’t want this person to be mad at me (or have ill feelings toward me).

___   If I say yes, this person will like me, accept me, approve of me, etc.

___   I want to be a nice person, and nice people don’t say no.

___  I’d rather overextend myself than disappoint someone whose opinion matters to me.

___  If I say yes, this person is more likely to be there for me in the future if I want or need something.

___  I want to be loving, and saying no does not seem loving.

p. 134 The Best Yes Workbook

How did you do? 

I checked every single one (except one).   I should probably start a People Pleasers Anonymous group.  All of these behaviors can be summed up in 4 prevalent traps of people pleasing, says Lysa:

1. THE FEAR OF REJECTION

2. THE FEAR OF DISAPPOINTING PEOPLE

3. THE NEED TO MANAGE PERCEPTIONS

4. THE NEED FOR APPROVAL

p. 134

Do any of those stand out to you?  Number three jumped out at the page and slapped me right across the face.  I constantly feel like I need to explain myself, give more detail than necessary, apologize, give the back story, etc to manage people’s perceptions.  Not to mention, how annoying is that for others? Sorry everyone.  So, I am working on the following mindset.

TRUSTING PEOPLE

Here is my new mantra:  I trust that people in my life know and love me, and if I mess up, they will see all of me and not just the messy part.  I will trust them to forgive me, to talk to me if there is an issue, and to still like me even if I am not perfect,  or need to be honest with them,  or say “no” to something they are asking.  I trust that people I don’t know will appreciate honest, respectful responses from me.

I believe that people-pleasing is born out of a lack of trust that others:

1.  Are capable to extend grace

2. Will handle and work through any temporary disappointment they may have in me

3.  Will respect the “no” or whatever else I am presenting them and still like me in the future

In short, when we people please, we do not give people in our life the credit they are due.  Here are some examples of where we don’t trust people:

~ You need to tell you boss that you need time off.  You are afraid they will be mad.  Trust that this is part of their job–managing employee absences, and they will handle it professionally.

~ You have to let a friend know that you bit off more than you could chew by volunteering to watch their children two mornings a week.  You worry you will disappoint them. You may disappoint her, but trust that she will work it out another way, and both of you will be happier in the end.

~ You plan a vacation after telling a few close people you are watching your pennies.  You feel you need to manage perceptions by explaining you travel on points, fly free, and go all-inclusive so it costs next to nothing every time you talk about your upcoming trip (totally guilty of this).  You don’t need to do this.  It’s no one’s business, and you need to trust that probably no one cares~in fact they are most likely happy for you!

GOOD ROLE MODELS

I have a couple of close friends in my life who are excellent at kindly setting boundaries, expressing their feelings, and not tripping over themselves to make everyone else around them happy. Guess what?  I RESPECT those friends immensely! For example, I just had a friend yesterday nicely but directly share that she was disappointed in the customer service she received from a company I work for.  While that is always a little disconcerting or uncomfortable to hear, I was so glad she shared that with me so I could explain and correct the situation.  If the situation were reversed, I would tend not to say anything for fear of hurting my friend’s feelings–how helpful is that to both parties?

My friend trusted ME enough to be honest.

I look to these friends as examples of how I can grow in this area of my life.

WHAT DOES GOD SAY ABOUT PEOPLE PLEASING?

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  Galatians 1:10 NIV

Wow. That’s convicting.

In fact, if there is one thing that will cure me of people-pleasing it’s knowing that God is not pleased when I do this!  If He is to be my “audience of one” than pleasing Him releases me from winning approval of everyone else around me.

Friends, let’s let go of managing other’s reactions. Let’s be kind an respectful, but honest in our communication.  We cannot please everyone all the time, that is okay–we will all survive!

Instead, let’s focus all our energy on pleasing God, since His opinion of us is the only one that truly matters–and will always be full of love and grace.

There is so much more to be said on this topic, so I will write more later.  Now, I have to spend some time unsubscribing to emails I signed up for that I didn’t want in the first place.

Yada yada.

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways To Love God Back

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Last night, as we prayed over our family’s Valentine’s dinner, we mentioned that we are so thankful to God that He is the origination and perfect example of love.  All that we try to accomplish in this area as humans is at best a far cry from how God loves us–in a completely unconditionally, no strings attached, eternally crazy about us way.

How can we possibly love God back enough?  Loving Him of our own free will is the cornerstone of our Christian walk, and sometimes we need some concrete ways to show it.

Here are 5 ways to love God…back.

1. Create Space In Your Life For Him

More than just the hour in your seat Sunday morning, with the familiar cadence of your church’s program, you can invite God into your daily life, your daily hours.  When you open your time, feelings and thoughts up to Him, you allow him to move in your mundane–creating pockets of clarity, direction, words spoken in circumstances.

It could be pausing before responding to a child’s emotional outburst, and sending up a silent “Help! How do I handle this better than the thirty other times this has happened?” Or, listening to that nudge to talk to the neighbor in the grocery store who really, really needed to know someone cared enough to ask how she was doing.  Or, at work, inviting God into a difficult and challenging relationship–asking for his direction on how to handle it.

God created us to be in relationship with Him, and when we shut him out, barreling through life on our own strength and brokenness, we aren’t doing our best to love Him back.

Love God by inviting him into all of your circumstances.

2.  Realize Your Brokenness

I mentioned the word brokenness in my last response.  It is the crux of our understanding of what Christ’s death on the cross meant.  If we fail to grasp that we are sinful people, all of us, and we need a redeemer, then the blood shed by the Son of God is meaningless.  We can love God but admitting that we need redemption, that we need the crucifixion to connect our imperfect selves to our perfect God.

Yet, how many of us continue to live in a prideful place, fighting back  whenever we are called out on our brokenness?  How many of us feel that admitting we are wrong means we’ve lost?  My daughter and I were having a conversation the other day about her arguing with me.  She, in her incredibly astute self-awareness said, “Mom, I know I am wrong sometimes, but I don’t like to tell you because I don’t feeling like I’ve lost.”  (She’s my little warrior).

Ah-hem. Yep, been there my whole life.   Admitting we are wrong is so difficult, but in our failure to do so, we deny our redeemer to do what he does best!   Redeem.

Love God by letting him redeem you.

3. Have an Attitude of Love In All We Do

Why do you make the decisions you do?

If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise.  If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would it do? Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love.  If I gave everything I have to poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever.                        ~1 Corinthians 13:1-3Living Bible (TLB)

This verse speaks to those who do great things but for the wrong reasons.  We should take every decision to do good and filter it through this thought:

“Am I doing this out of love, or something else, like guilt, people pleasing, peer pressure, our own striving to look good, etc?”

If it’s not done with God’s nudging and a joyful loving heart, don’t do it.

God values love above all else, and those in the bible who experienced Jesus’s wrath in the full were the Pharisees who presented well on the outside but had empty hearts.

We love God by acting out of love in our lives.

4. Obey His Commands

So it’s probably easy for you not to steal from Old Navy or Best Buy, or maybe it doesn’t seem difficult to stay faithful in your marriage, and murdering someone on your way to the grocery store seems highly unlikely.  But what about some of the more subtle things God asks of us:

Do not be lazy, do not covet, do not gossip, be honest at all times, manage your money well (ie, do not overspend), do not have any idols before him (Starbucks anyone?), use self-control, be pure sexually, take care of widows and orphans (can you name any you are currently caring for?), resist temptation, love others more than yourself…and the list goes on.

I do not accomplish all of those perfectly ANY DAY.  So I can always work on loving God better.

 But if someone has obeyed God’s teaching, than in that person God’s love has truly reached its goal. ~ 1John 2:5 NCV

5. Love God Through Prayer and Reading the Bible.

When we sit before God and ask him to speak into our heart, our day, our thoughts, we find relationship!  And when we read His divinely inspired word, that is living and sharper than a two-edged sword, we find treasures of hope, wisdom, guidance, and what I love the most, we learn about the God who created us and loves us more than we can imagine.

That is loving God.  To seek and to know Him.

Blessings to you this Valentine’s weekend!

 

The Year Of “The No” For Our Family

BLOG chalkboard--Year of No

While on an “extra” vacation a month or so ago, Jonathan and I decided that we needed to create some serious new money habits in 2015 (similar to the “serious” new habits we said we would do last year, except that we would actually do them).  Habits might be too permanent of a word–we will see how this year goes.  This new mindset needed a name, something to make it feel big and real.  “The Year Of The No” was born and given a title, and will possibly be put up for adoption in a couple of months depending on our fortitude.

In general, we do try to live financially wisely.  We carefully consider our spending, and every dollar that leaves our wallets matters.  I work very hard as a mom to compare grocery store prices, shop the clothing sales, and even try to be conscious about accelerating slowly in my SUV to save on gas.   I have been coloring my own hair for years and since he will never realize what he is missing with the ears and the tail and the bows, I groom my own dog.  If there is something I can do myself, why pay? (This mentality causes me to have to steer visitors eyes away from the paint on the ceiling and explain my orangey looking locks on occasion).

However, as our kids get older the expenses seem to climb higher.  And, while I am great at saving in many areas, I will throw the budget out the window for a great date night dinner out or an opportunity to travel.  And, while we are thankful to have enough money for our monthly budget, there are often unforeseen costs that sneak into our life (an several hundred dollar ACT prep course for our junior, two cars breaking down in a matter of a week, a medical insurance deductible that needs to be met, oh and quite a few vet bills lately), making our expenses outweigh our paycheck more often than we like.  Anyone relate?

We have realized we just don’t have a comfortable “margin” in our finances.  And the only way to increase those borders is to create some tough but good new spending patterns.

Jonathan and I went through our budget with a fine tooth comb–if you want a great sheet for budgeting, click here (and scroll down to budget worksheet).

This is the list that we created for our family:

BLOG chalkboard--Year of No

1.  NO EXTRA VACATIONS  Our family has one traditional vacation that is the memory making, family strengthening, familiar like a pair of worn but extremely comfortable shoes vacation to our family cabin in northern Minnesota each summer.  We save for this trip all year so this is remaining on the table.  All the other traveling we do during the year, however, is going to come under careful scrutiny.  One trip that is very difficult for us to give up is an annual trip that Jonathan and I take to Mexico together.  It is incredible for our marriage and our own memories.  That is not going to happen this year, and instead we are going to be intentional about date nights and finding quality time together.

We had also planned a family trip somewhere warm this winter which we have told the kids would not happen.  Instead we are putting $200/month in savings for a big trip next year when our oldest is a senior.

Because our family can fly for free, it makes it so easy for us to say “YES!!” to travel opportunities.  So we will carefully evaluate the importance of our vacations–spending time with extended family? Important. A last-minute get away with another couple?  Probably not this year.

This category is a tough one for me personally, since I value traveling and spending time together so highly.  I am trusting God for other opportunities for our family that accomplish the same goal without the expense.

2. NEEDS NOT WANTS 

For every purchase, from socks to a new ski jacket for our kids, we are asking,

“Is this an absolute need this year?”

“Can we wait a year to buy it?”  (socks might be a challenge, but what if took the time to hunt down all the missing socks in drawer corners, under beds, etc?)

I remind myself, we already have more than enough.

3. CASH BUDGET

I have attempted this a few times over the past 20 years, but I fizzle out after a few months in–the envelopes, getting to the bank for cash, keeping track of which categories I had to “borrow” from–it’s all a pain.  But, we know that when our credit cards are tucked away in a drawer there is a much smaller chance of going over budget.

4. CREATIVELY EAT

This category represents all food–in the pantry and going out.  I am working hard at using all the food we have in the house to make creative meals.  All I have to say is this will be interesting.

Our out to eat budget is fairly small, so we will need to hit the happy hour specials!

5. ZERO DEBT GOAL

This is important, not only as a good steward of the money God has provided us, but to be content living within our means.  Often unexpected things come up, however, and that circles back to why we are creating more margin in the first place.

6. RECYCLED CLOTHING

I’m not talking about hand-me-downs (although those are great), but shopping only at consignment stores for the year.  There are some great finds to be found! I have already begun to prepare my kids for this as spring/summer approaches.  We will try diligently to find what we need at these stores first, and as a last resort try retail.  I want us all to learn to simplify, reduce and reuse through this concept.

7. PLEASE THE BANK ACCOUNT FIRST

Of all the money habits shared, this may be the toughest for me.  Along with eating out and vacations, my biggest budget buster is wanting to please others!  I don’t ever want to spoil anyone’s hope for fun that includes us by saying no.

I also want to please my children, which is why shopping with my two girls does me in.  Not that I cave to everything they want, but I tend to feel the need to check into a mental institution after a big Kohl’s trip.  My psyche goes through an incredible tug-0f-war of wanting to say yes to the 5 pairs of jeans, 6 shirts, 3 sweaters and some new underwear, yet having to say no to half of everything (feel like a mean mom), then being convinced of yes to 3 more, oh and we forgot shoes, and then repeat about eight times, mix in strong attorney-like negotiation from my twelve year old, a worn and increasingly crabby mom, and a sudden desire to drive to New Mexico by myself.   I am not exaggerating.

This is all due to the fact that I am a pleaser.  So, I am going to continue to please…just the bank account instead of everyone else in my life.  I can rest in the fact that our bank account totally loves me.

8. LIBRARY MENTALITY

This final new habit is new for me.  I like new things–that new card table at Costco that would be so handy, new kitchen utensils that I only use once year, even new tools for our yard.  Why?  Because I don’t like borrowing.  This is related to my people-pleasing.  I don’t want to bother anyone, and it’s inconvenient to borrow and return.

Yet, if I had more of a library mentality, that we can all share and re-use items that we have, it would be so much better for our pocketbook and the environment.  I never mind if someone wants to borrow something from me, and instead of caving to my child wanting new ski jacket this year, what if I asked around if a friend had one waiting to go to Good Will?

 

So, there is the list.  Hopefully if you run into me at Target buying new socks you won’t secretly judge me for not crawling under my 14 year-old’s bed that morning to find more socks (ewww), but know I am sincerely trying to incorporate these habits as much as possible into our family’s life.  Here goes!

Have a great week and if this was helpful please share on Facebook or through email! Thank you.

~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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