Grievances and Grace: Five Minute Friday

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My children have always been collectors. Rocks, pine cones, colored bits of paper fashioned into pretend clothing for stuff animals, drawing, etc. My daughter especially is quite a pack rat. I frequently have to go through her stuff and try to get rid of it when she’s not looking. I try to be sensitive to her feelings, but she gets attached to EVERYTHING. I tell my husband that it’s his fault, because he too has a strange attachment to his things. It’s a weird kind of loyalty, that some how the item represents the person it came from and any positive feelings associated with that person.

 

I no longer have as much of an attachment to things. But I do my own kind of collecting: grievances. I never thought of myself as one to hold a grudge until I had children. Then suddenly every day was filled with a list of ways I’d been wronged. I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in weeks or months, the children got into a stash of special snacks I was saving, a favorite item was ruined, unnecessary messes were made. Every disobedient act and refusal to comply seemed to be subconsciously recorded on a mental balance sheet. If there were enough of them, I deserved a break, a treat, something. Not just deserved, was entitled to.

 

I know that parenthood would be hard and would involve a lot of self-denial; but I didn’t fully anticipate how much dying to myself I would have to do. Does this mean I am a martyr? No. Or at least I shouldn’t be. There are definitely times when I resort to neglecting myself and blaming my family for it. Then I feel justified in my irritation and frustration. But that isn’t how I want to live. This also doesn’t mean that I don’t take care of myself. Obviously self-care is important, but when it steps over into entitlement, I know I have a problem.

 

Instead of collecting grievances when I am wronged by my children, I can extend and receive grace. When my emotional bucket is heavy from carrying rocks of my discontent there isn’t room for much else. Will life still be hard? Yes, because the world is broken and I am not a perfect parent, nor do I have perfect children. But I don’t have to let myself be dragged down into despair. The temptation is strong to give up, especially when I keep such a long record of wrongs. This parenting gig isn’t for the faint of heart. Grace means taking those rocks and dumping them out and refusing to pick up more. Instead, reaching out to the one who has wronged me and loving him or her a little harder.

 

I have a long way to go with this. I still yell when I should be calm. I still let out words of frustration when I should be instructing in love. But I am tired of feeling heavy with discouragement and feeling as though there is little to look forward to.  I may have been gifted with hard to handle children but that doesn’t mean there can’t also be joy. I may be having trouble finding it at times, but it certainly won’t be easy to find if I’m taking every unkind word and rebellious moment as a personal affront to my parenting record.

 

So I am slowly, ever so slowly, learning to release my hold on those grievances even as they come to me. It requires me to trust that God’s got this and that I will not be overwhelmed.

 

“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.”
Psalm 46:5 (NIV)

 

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Fit2B Inspired (Again)

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Things have been rather stressful around here lately, but exercise is one of my usual tools for self-care. I’ve been trying to make it non-negotiable, but it’s still been a struggle.

I don’t feel quite ready to move on to the Challenging pathway since my DR is not entirely healed but I still want to keep building strength and stamina. So that means, yet again, I’ll be creating my own workout routine. I always do better if I have a set plan than if I wing it. Fit2B is a great site and it has literally over hundred workouts. Without a plan, I’d spend too much time debating and not enough actually working out.

Honestly, I usually love exercise. But lately it has been hard. The kids always seem to be underfoot and I’m constantly interrupted. It has been very hot and even though we sometimes use our air conditioning, it still saps my energy. I’ve also been feeling generally icky and a bit under the weather. I know that exercise is supposed to help but sometimes I feel like I’m doing it in the sleep. So I had to ask myself what I was was looking for.

While I wouldn’t mind losing a bit of weight, my main goal is to focus on strength. My toddler is getting heavier and sometimes I still have to pick up or restrain my five year old. My body just isn’t up for it. I’ve been discouraged that my strength hasn’t increased the way I thought it would have by now. I always seem to hit this wall that I can’t seem to progress past.

 

My plan

 

Cardio (2 X a week)

This means favorite workouts like Basic Aerobics III and some longer ones like Tummysafe Kickboxing.

 

Strength Training (2 X a week)

This will often mean weights, but not always. Big (Little) Band workout works for this, but so does Weightlifting 101 and Weighted Warriors. I’m going to try mix and match a bit.

 

Full Body Workout

What you define as full body is relative. Honestly, most of these workouts are full body. My favorites in this category are 21 Tone Up and Kelly Dean’s Full Body Workout. But you could also do any of the pilates or yoga workouts as well.

 

Stretching

I have been neglecting my stretching and really noticing tightness in my hamstrings and hips along with pain in my SI joint. So I wanted to make sure it was a regular part of my week. I look forward to trying out Restorative Poses III, which I haven’t done before, as well as old favorites like Simply Stretching.

I’m shooting for 20-30 minute workouts, maybe longer once I get going. I really want to push myself with some of the harder ones but it is so difficult to find time for the longer workouts. I like the short and sweet ones and if you are short on time, check out my Fit2B Quick series.

I just know that I have to keep going. I don’t want to give up. It’s frustrating to have these limits I can’t yet overcome. But I’m hoping that if I’m consistent, I’ll be able to see progress.

 

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The No Spend Month

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I’ve been previewing a new book by Erin Odom (check out the preorder deals here), and it has inspired me to take a big step, one I’ve been wanting to take for a while. Last week officially began our family’s first ever No Spend Month. We defined what those terms will mean for us. Predominantly it means unless we have to, we don’t buy stuff. This is forcing us to ask what is really essential and decide if some of our various expenses are worth it.

We aren’t canceling any subscriptions but I am delaying purchasing a few things that aren’t entirely essential right now. If any emergencies come up, obviously we will deal with them. (For example: we had to pay to have a plumber come out and fix a leaky faucet that my husband had already spent two weeks on and off trying to fix. ) But we won’t be doing any outings that cost money and we are trying to keep our grocery shopping to the essentials only and attempting to get creative with what is in our freezer and pantry. (Hopefully I’ll be talking later this month about how the Pantry Challenge is going.) I will still be taking my kids to all of their necessary appointments and no one will be going without food or medical care.

Why Am I Doing This?

Because our financial situation is better than it has been in a long time, however, we are still carrying student loan debt that we’d like to be free of. After years of living very frugally we’ve given ourselves a bit more freedom with our spending. But I want to reevaluate whether our current buying patterns are really how we want to spend our money.

I’m also likening it to a fast. When we fast, it is to teach ourselves that we don’t have to have what we want whenever we want it. A little bit of voluntary self-denial can be healthy. I’m hoping that that satisfaction of paying down debt and building our savings account is more fulfilling.

I’ve been keeping a list of things I’m deliberately saying no to, so at the end of the month I can review it and see if I feel like I missed out on anything, and how much spending I didn’t do.

Last Monday, as I dropped my big kids off at VBS, a couple friends invited me to go to Panera and then Target with our remaining toddlers. I was going to say no. But one friend offered to treat me to a coffee, so I decided to go just to hang out. I’m glad I went, but I’m also glad I was on spending freeze.

I was able to enjoy the social aspect of walking through Target with friends without having to debate over impulse purchases. Since I knew the answer was no, it actually gave me the freedom to admire something and remind myself that my life was just as happy before I knew it existed.

I’m also lucky enough to have friends who support me in my attempts to prayerful reconsider my spending. It is so important when you are trying to make positive changes in your life that you surround yourself with positive supporters. They don’t necessarily have to be sharing in your choices, but good friends should be able to support you and at least not sabotage you!

I’m hoping that at the end of the month I can report back with some positive news, or at least a healthier bank account, even if I don’t always enjoy the process. Self-denial is rarely fun but it is very revealing of where our values are.

 

When You Can’t Seem to Lift Your Head: Five Minute Friday

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The last few weeks have felt a blur. We had the lovely experience of traveling to visit friends and as always the visit felt too short, then after a short stint spending time with family we headed home. That was two weeks ago but I feel like I’m still recovering. I’ve finally caught up with the practicals, like laundry. Two of the three kids had a bout of short lived high fevers. We finally had a plumbing problem repaired, only to realize hubby could probably have done himself (he had already tried but apparently he was close). Then the kids started a two week VBS, normally this is a great break for me. But instead I’m feeling drained from hauling them to and from each day.

It may be the sugar I’m giving up or the lack of coffee since my coffee maker broke or something else entirely. But I am exhausted. Even the comfort that usually comes with sleeps is denied me. It takes me hours to wake up and then I’m tired by afternoon and I slog through the evening, feeling guilty all the while for what I’m not getting done.

I’m feeling the pressure of impending homeschool documentation deadlines, ministry and leadership responsibilities not to mention the usual daily tasks of keeping everyone fed, clothed and alive. In the past this would have been a time of high anxiety, fortunately I don’t feel that anxious, but I am weary, in body and apparently in soul as well. Many of my deeper books have been set to the side because I can’t focus. I plow forward on the ones I promised to review, sometimes uncertain if I really disagree with the author or if I just can’t comprehend the concepts.

I know I need to find a way to rest, all the usual outlets have been mostly denied to me and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m not buying anything unnecessary for a month and I’m taking a pantry challenge, thus tightening up our grocery budget. (You’ll hear more about this later). I’ve given up sugar, and unintentionally cut way back on coffee (a broken coffee maker will do that to you). Exercise usually helps me feel energized but now I drag my body through the motions. I can blame it on the low sugar diet, the hot and humid weather or hormones, but none the less I am left with only two things to sustain me; sleep and Jesus. (Have I mentioned that my quality of my sleep hasn’t been great lately either?).

Yes it sound cliché, even I think that. But it’s also true. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m just putting one foot in front of the other, praying my way from moment to moment and hoping that tomorrow will be better.

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Right after I wrote this post I ran to drop my kids off at VBS and this song was playing on the radio as I drove home, in the rain, feeling like I had nothing left to get me through today, even though it was only 9 AM. It felt especially appropriate.

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Fit2B 6 X 6 Pathway: Final Week 6

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Goal: 6 LONG Fit2B routines in 6 days!

Final Week! This has been a tough few weeks for me, for so many reasons. But I wanted to push through it anyway. After this I’ll be stepping back to do some short routines with a focus on bumping up my intensity (heavy weights, etc) without necessarily working out longer. This week had a lot of long workouts, some of the longest on all of Fit2B. So the biggest struggle was literally finishing them.

 

 

Rockin’ Yoga & Pilates

I had some fun using my son’s toys for props in this workout. (He also added himself as a handy prop on several occasions. But a 27 lb, 21 month is makes it a little too difficult to do inclined planes in my opinion.) This workout is exactly what it sounds like, a combination of yoga and Pilates but done at a slightly faster pace using lightly weighted objects to bring up the difficulty.

 

 

Great Glutes

This workout is divided into five segments that can be done altogether or one at a time. This was much harder than I thought it would be. The hands a knees portion, while effective was probably not tummy safe enough for me since my DR is still open. The whole thing was a little much for me to devote all to one muscle area, but definitely effective.

 

 

Peaceful Blend

This workout is exactly as it sounds, peaceful, slow moving and yet appropriately physically demanding. Slow sustained work is often as hard, if not harder, than fast, intense work. Let me just say this about a 40 minute slow moving workout. It is almost impossible to do with small children around. With a faster moving routine (like Basic Step II for example), it’s easier to block out the whining, fighting and general chaos that ensues whenever I try to workout while my kids are awake and not in front of a screen. In this particular instance, I refused to pause and break up their fights, but the noise was definitely distracting from the gentle, relaxing tone of the workout. (My 21 month old was particularly interested in the kitty that made an appearance during the workout and after the cat walked off screen kept saying “bye bye, kitty” which was distracting but adorable).

If you can do this without distraction you will get so much more out of it. That being said, there is still a benefit even if you aren’t able to completely engage because of outside distractions.

 

 

Backside Burner II

This is one of the few workouts this week where I felt strong. I was able to do it, and it felt like work but it wasn’t totally unattainable. It’s nice to do something that feels possible, even if it is difficult. Despite it’s name, this workout actually works much more than just your backside. It even has a bit of upper body and there are plenty of opportunities to modify it to make it more challenging if needed. It starts standing but most if it is done on the floor. While this isn’t a favorite workout of mine, it was exactly what I needed this week.

 

 

Tabata Kick & Squat

While my stamina has improved a lot, this workout was still very difficult for me. The movements themselves actually aren’t too bad and the one of the best parts about any Tabata style workouts is the build in rests. However, I still found myself huffy and puffy by around halfway through. It is longer than I can usually manage all in one sitting, but it’s also a good one to break up into sections if needed because, again, Tabata lends itself to that. I’ll definitely be coming back to this one as I get stronger.

 

 

Fusion Mix 1

I had to break this up into two different sections because it is a pretty intense workout and it’s LONG! As in over 60 minutes. In my house, the chances of 60 minutes of uninterrupted workout time while the children are unconscious and not in front of a screen is virtually 0. But it is something fun to work towards as I get stronger and more flexible. I can see the appeal but as a general rule I think I’m more of a cardio & weights girls, which is totally OK.

 

This week was the toughest, but my biggest success was actually working out every day. So from that perspective, this pathway felt like a success. Now I have to decide how to move forward. I want to keep focusing on 6 days a week but I’m going to give myself at least one day a week to focus on just stretching. I’m also going to try cutting sugar in my diet to see how that affects my energy levels and cravings. I’ll be doing shorter workouts but still trying to keep my intensity up. The last few weeks have been harder than I thought they would be. I’ve discovered that I’m stronger than I thought in some areas and weaker in others.  But it still feels good to be able to check this pathway off and call it done.

 

 

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How Can I Learn to Enjoy Just Being with Them?

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I am a structured person by nature. I like check lists, due dates and schedules. Even when my time is supposedly unstructured, I find myself trying to create some kind of structure. When my daughter was a baby and I was staying at home for the first time, I wasn’t into baby schedules. (This was partly because she didn’t really sleep so it was difficult to plan for that). However, I still had some anchors to my week. Sunday was church and then dinner with the family. The second and fourth Tuesday morning of the month was my MOPS group. Then I started adding in other things. Most Monday nights I led our church dance ministry. Every other Thursday we met with our writer’s group. Weekends were taken up with grocery shopping and other errands but usually afforded us some unstructured time to spent together as a little family.

 

Now that the kids are older, the schedule has become more complicated. A midweek kids program at church during the school year. Multiple different VBS programs during the summer, swim lessons, maybe a weekend trip or too, a formal vacation if we are very lucky. But I’m finding it difficult to find unstructured, unallocated time to spend with my kids.

 

We also homeschool, which you would think would lead to tons of extra time together, in fact that was one of the reasons we chose this path for our family. But it isn’t working out that way. The day is taken up with school work, making meals (of which there are many at our house as our kids seem to always be hungry) and some version of cleaning up. (Full disclosure, my house is rarely clean for more than 30 seconds. But since we host a writer’s group every two weeks, we try to make sure the house at least looks picked up and the rest is basically avoiding pest infestations). I do an average of 12-15 loads of laundry a week. All of that takes time. In between I’m trying to manage our finances (which can get downright complicated at times, especially where our needs outstrip our funds; yes, medical bills, I’m looking at you.) keep up with my blog, find ways to earn extra money or dream about when I used to get a paycheck.

 

The point is not to list all the things I do on a daily basis. But my days are very full. Having my kids with me all day seemed like it should have given me more time with them, but often it means I have more work to do. I’m always working it seems and sometimes I can’t figure out how to stop.

 

I don’t enjoy them, at least not the way I want to. I have gotten better at this with my toddler. I can wrap him in an extra long hug and then put him down and watch him meander away to play. I can read him one short story until he is bored and then he goes away happy. My big kids are more difficult. I can’t figure out what to build with Lego’s, especially when my kids want to tell me how I’m doing it wrong. If I sit down to color, an argument breaks out or someone begins eating the paper and I never end up getting to focus. My daughter tells me no less than four VERY long, winding stories each day. I try so hard to care. Because I want her to talk to me. I want to light saber battle with my son without worrying about the messy kitchen and the unpaid bills.

 

I don’t want them to remember their entire childhood as “Mommy was busy.” My husband and I talk about how we want to spend more one on one time with our kids. But the reality is that by the time dinner is over and the dishes are washed, we’re exhausted. Weekends are errands, catch up on household projects and the dreaded lawn mowing. Whole family outings often end badly and feel like a waste of time and money. No matter what we try to do, it doesn’t feel good enough or special enough. So we settle for almost nothing.

 

I wanted this to be one of those posts where I lay out my problem, describe the process we went through to find a solution and then share how we make it work. But I’m not there yet. Right now I’m still grappling with the problem. Maybe you are too.

Motherhood is much harder than I ever would have thought.

The Lesson in the Blessing: Five Minute Friday

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They don’t always feel like a blessing. I know they are, these wonderful, amazing creatures who carry my DNA. But some days, I doubt whether this was the best life for me. Usually I see the fault as my own, not theirs. They are children and all the wonderful and terrible things that come with that. I am supposed to be the grown up, the one who keeps it together. But lately I’ve been so tired that I don’t want to be the adult. I want someone else to clean up the messes and make the hard decisions.

I think sometimes they make me angry not because they make my life difficult, but rather because they show me what I lack. I am jealous of their freedom to play and run, unencumbered by worry or pretense.

Then I remember, I am supposed to be a child too. My father has everything under control and I am free; if I would allow myself to release the anxiety and stop worrying about tomorrow. Instead of envying my children, I should join them.

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