Just do it

There’s a house near us that’s been two colors for years now. What I mean is the homeowner has been in the process of painting his house for a few years now. Yes, a few years. He keeps the scaffolding up. He does a little bit every few months. Now, I don’t know him personally, so I don’t know the story of why it’s taking so long to get finished. But I can bet that this unfinished job is like a dark cloud hanging over him. He’s already started the job- the house is now two colors. He knows he needs to get it done, but maybe he just doesn’t feel like doing it. Or he feels like he just doesn’t have the time to get out there to paint. But every now and then the cloud just gets too heavy so he goes out and paints another small section. But then the cloud continues looming for the next several weeks before he does it again.

Back when I was in college, many classes would have one BIG semester long project due at the end of the semester. Can I just say how much I hated these types of assignments? I would work on it bit by bit, but there was still just this big cloud hanging over me all the time. It was a big “to-do” list looming over me like the cloud over poor Eeyore, until the end of the semester when that project would finally be completed and submitted.

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Occasionally I get these types of clouds hanging over me. Several months ago, I realized that we had not had any photos printed for nearly 3 years! We had absolutely no printed photos of my toddler (2 years old) or our baby (9 months old). Everything was digital and dependent on our electronic devices continuing to be reliable. (and I recently had a friend lose ALL her digital photos! A lesson to me – Don’t rely solely on your electronics!)

So, we uploaded all our photos to an online store (snapfish), and thankfully found a coupon for 40% off before hitting the submit order button. We had over 1,000 photos to print. And they arrived at our house over 6 months ago.

And then…..they sat in the closet. And the cloud was now over my head. Looming. Following me. Now I had this big project of putting a thousand or more photos into albums, arranged by date. Ugh. The thought of it just made me want to cover up my head with the blanket and go to sleep. (Anyone else deal with stress by sleeping or is it just me?) When I had an hour of free time I would consider those photos, but would put it off and do something else instead. Procrastinating. 😦

Folks, having a cloud like this hanging over you is not conducive to a healthy clear mind. It follows you. It taints your clear thinking. I know, I know. It’s just photos. But it’s still a looming cloud of something that I needed to do.

Well, several weeks ago, I decided to just do it. Just do it. Yes, it was going to be time consuming. And with 7 children, I could not devote an entire day to doing photos. It was going to have to take place in steps. A little here and a little there. But I just had to do it. My husband helped organize the photos by date and put them into numbered envelopes one weekend, and then I set my reasonable goal of going through two-three envelopes each week until it got done.

I’ve been chipping away at it for weeks now, and I just finished! (cue: Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus) Look at these beautifully organized photo albums! Maybe it doesn’t look like much to you, but this was hours of work for me!

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The cloud has lifted. Now instead of Eeyore with a rain cloud following him, I feel like cheery Mary Poppins. The sun is out, the birds are chirping, my looming project is done. I can breathe easier. Rest easier. This project has been completed. It’s no longer that dark cloud over my head.

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Whatever looming project you have that you need to do today, just do it.  Don’t let it follow you like a dark cloud. If you need to break it into smaller more achievable goals, then do that. If you can get it all done on your next day off work, then just get it done all at once. Clean out that garage. Organize your closet. Print out your photos. Fold that mountain of clean laundry. Weed the garden. Finish painting your house. Whatever it is, just do it. Get rid of the cloud. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. You’ll feel better having it finished.

Be fruitful, healthy, happy. Clear your mind. Finish those projects. Just do it.

Grain-free (paleo) granola

Have you heard the saying that you should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a peasant? Basically this means you should eat a huge breakfast, a little smaller lunch, and a light dinner. It’s supposed to be the healthier way of splitting our daily food intake to maximize our metabolism, keeping us feeling more satisfied through the day and giving us more energy.

We definitely eat breakfast like a king at our house. My children load up every morning on fruit, 2 eggs, roasted vegetables (see here for recipe), and some yogurt (see here for recipe) with this grain free granola. I know it sounds like a lot, but remember, breakfast like a king! By eating this big breakfast, my children easily stay full until lunchtime, with no morning snack or meltdowns because of hunger.

I tried a few different recipes for grain free granola that I found online, but we had complaints about each one – not sweet enough, too salty, too chewy, etc. We finally just developed our own and we’re all happy with it!

It is a little chewy, a little crunchy, just the right amount of sweetness. The great thing about it being grain-free (even if you do eat grains) is that it has a lot of protein, fiber, and will keep you full much longer than a traditional oat based granola.

We typically double this recipe and it lasts us a couple weeks. We do have 8 people eating it though! Also, as a side note, in our experience Amazon or Aldi usually has the best prices on nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Paleo, grain-free eating can get expensive, but remember too, you’ll eat less volume than with grain based foods because paleo, grain free foods keep you feeling satisfied for longer. (no morning snacks needed for your children!)

(wondering why we’re grain free? See here.)

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Here’s the recipe. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but it’s so easy that my 10 year old daughter usually handles making this one on her own!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups almonds
  • 2 cups walnuts or pecans
  • 10-12 medjool dates (if you have smaller regular dates, use 14-16)
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 3 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup

 

  1. First, chop the first 3 ingredients in a food processor – not too long or it will be powder – just pulse until the nuts are about the size of the seeds.
  2. Pour into a big bowl and then add the next three ingredients (seeds and coconut) and mix.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon and maple syrup over low heat.
  4. Pour liquid over the nuts and seeds and mix well.
  5. Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet.
  6. Bake at 300 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, stirring about halfway through. Cool completely and then store in an air tight container.

 

Enjoy friends! Eat like a king every morning. And be fruitful, happy, healthy!

 

The hope of the future

We got some baby chicks and ducklings Thursday evening. They are just the cutest little things. Tiny, soft, curious, and cheeping continuously. Why is it that baby creatures of any sort seem to be so much cuter than the grown ones? It seems to hold true for all animals and even people too. There’s just something special about babies.

I think one of the things that draws us to little creatures and babies is the hope and eager anticipation for the future. When I look at a little chick, I can see the potential future – that this little chick will grow to be a hen who will peck around the yard and lay eggs for the family, or will maybe be a rooster who will greet each morning with a hearty “cock-a-doodle-doo”. That little duckling will grow up and fly off to a nearby pond to swim around and eat stale bread thrown by eager, excited little hands. IMG_6104

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It’s the same with our human babies – we see the potential of the future and wonder about who and what they’ll be. What color hair will she have? Will he like chocolate or vanilla ice cream better? Will she choose to be a teacher or an engineer? Will he enjoy basketball or woodworking? Who will she marry? How many children will he have?

There is so much potential, and so much unknown about who they will be. There’s a sense of wonderment and anticipation.

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However, once the child is big and grown into adulthood, then, well, we know pretty well what they’re like. They’re already what they’re going to be for the most part. There’s not much element of anticipation anymore. We know who they are, what type of people they are, what they have chosen to do with their life. Sure, they may dye their hair, or take up a new hobby, but for the most part they are who they are. There’s no longer much sense of wonder or amazement when they’re 40, 60, 80 years old.

The beautiful thing for those of us in Christ though, is that we do still have something amazing to look forward to. By the time we reach midlife, our course in life is pretty steady and unchanging for the vast majority of us. But the wonderful thing is that we still have eternity, another world to look forward to. This is one reason why those of us in Christ can live life with such joy! This earthly life is not all there is. This life with bills, sicknesses, hardships, is not the end. One day, we will have glorified bodies and spend eternity in heaven with our Lord Jesus Christ! Hallelujah, Amen.

We can still live with hope and anticipation even when we’re 90, eagerly awaiting the new life that we will experience after death. I know this sounds too good to be true for those who don’t know the Lord, but this is where I have found my hope, my joy. I can’t imagine going through this life thinking that what we see is all there is. How hopeless, depressing and bleak life without a future inheritance would be! But I live with joy because I know my future…and it’s not just what you see right now.

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Philippians 3:20-21

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…” 1 Peter 1:3-4

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

These little tiny chicks we bought are adorable. And I can’t wait to see what color they’ll be and how big they’ll get, and whether we ended up with a few roosters in the bunch or not. And I wonder if the two little ducks will stick with the flock of hens or maybe branch out on their own to start their own little flock. It will be neat to see their future unfold.

And as for my sweet little children, I can’t wait to see what they choose to do with their lives on earth. There is so much potential with their whole earthly lives still before them. But even when they’re grown, and I’m old and gray God willing, we can all continue to have an eager anticipation for the future, knowing that this life on earth is not all there is. We can know and trust that there is something much grander, much more beautiful than this current life.

And because of that hope, we remain joyful, eager, fruitful, happy.

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The RC cola

So, we all know we should eat healthy. We should drink  a lot of water. We should cut down on sugar. This isn’t rocket science, and we all know it to be true. Then why don’t we do it? Why do so many people know the steps for healthy living, and yet can’t just put it in practice? There are many answers as to why for different people, but the one I want to write about today is about cleaning up our environment.

I typically eat very healthy, which for me means no processed foods, no fast food, no artificial anything. But the ONLY way I keep to this is by keeping my environment (my home) free of these things. I have to keep it out of my house because I have very weak willpower. IF there is candy in the house, it will be in my tummy by evening. I just can’t seem to say no. Even though I know it’s bad for me and that I will regret it later, if it’s here, I’ll eat it. But if its not here, then I can’t eat it. Common sense, right?

This is very fresh on my mind today because on Sunday (our church meets in our house) someone left this after the meal.

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Now, I don’t even know what RC cola tastes like – my soda of choice was always Cherry Coke or Dr. Pepper. But, I bet it is yummy, sugary, and fizzy. Just what I think I’d like to have right now. If it hadn’t been in the house, I wouldn’t have even given a thought to soda. Or at the most I would think, “man, I wish I had a cherry coke right now” but the thought would quickly vanish because too-bad, so-sad, we don’t keep that junk here. But with this in the fridge, staring me in the face every time I open it, its taking a lot of will power (that I don’t really have) to drink water instead of this.

This is setting me up for failure. I need to do myself a favor and just dump it in the sink. Stop looking at it. Stop considering it.

Maybe your issue isn’t soda, but some other unhealthy food or drink that you need to give up. The first step is set up your environment for success. If you know it’s not good for you, don’t keep it in your house. Don’t rely on your willpower when you can first keep your environment clean.

So now, that RC is going in the trash. And I’m drinking my 64 ounces of water today!

Be healthy, happy, and fruitful!

Communication help, pt. 5

So far in my communication for the home series, I’ve covered why we need good communication skills in the family, the importance of being intentional and setting appointments, active listening, and filtering our thoughts before we speak them.

Today for my last post in this series, I’m going to delve into the silent part of communication for the home, aka nonverbal communication. I have touched on it briefly already, but I’ll share a little more today.

The first nonverbal to keep in mind is eye contact. There’s a common saying that “eyes are the window to the soul”. There is a lot of truth in that. When we can look into another person’s eyes, we can often understand much more than simply what their mouth is saying. In the eyes, you can often see underlying sadness or joy, or perhaps you can see uneasiness or deception. Also, the lack of eye contact conveys a lack of investment in the conversation. Nothing says “I don’t want to talk to you right now” like shifting eyes or no eye contact does. If you are speaking to someone, please look at them in the eyes. If you are listening to someone, please look at them in the eyes.

Along the same lines as eye contact is matching the eye level between speaker and hearer. What this means is that if you are having a discussion, it is important for the eyes of both parties to be approximately the same level. If one person is standing and one is sitting, the one sitting is naturally going to be looking up at the one standing. This works well to convey authority or command attention for a teaching or preaching situation, as seen below – 🙂

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You see when one is standing and the other is sitting, it sets up an imbalance of power, which is the goal in some types of communication. But for a two-sided conversation or discussion to take place, you don’t want this imbalance of perceived power. It can tend to make the one sitting to feel small, insignificant, or powerless, and is not conducive to a healthy two-sided discussion. This is especially important when talking to children. Get down on their level, stoop down, bend down or sit down with them, so you can look them in the eyes face to face.

The next thing to be aware of in a discussion is what you’re doing with your arms. Crossed arms say “I’m not changing my mind.” or “I don’t want to be here right now”.  This is very subtle, and you may be rolling your eyes right about now thinking this is unimportant, but these subtle changes in your body language can make a big difference in how others perceive you. So try to keep your arms open and relaxed, which makes you appear open and relaxed.

Along the same lines is body position – are you leaning slightly towards the person you’re talking to or slightly away? To show interest and care, its best to lean slightly forward. See this little guy? He’s leaning in, making good eye contact, open arms, inviting you to engage with him. 🙂

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By leaning in, I don’t mean being so close that they can feel your breath on their face. Please don’t invade personal space! Keep a proper distance – if others tend to back away from you when you’re speaking to them, then you are too close, and they are feeling uncomfortable.

Lastly, be aware of the power of physical touch. A light touch on the hand or arm can go a long way in saying “I care”, “I’m listening”, or “please tell me more”.  Always be respectful of other’s personal space, and if they shrink back when you touch them then of course remove your hand. But using touch can powerfully show love in your family relationships for most situations.

These all may seem insignificant or even bordering on silly, but when combined with the other skills I’ve already written about, they can go a long way in making your family members feel cared for, loved, and heard.

That’s all for now friends. Be fruitful, happy, and healthy!

 

Communication help, pt. 4

Did you miss parts 1-3? See here: part 1part 2part 3.

Today we’re going to cover how to choose our words wisely. My mom has a term she likes to use called “diarrhea of the mouth”. As you can imagine, this is not a pleasing ailment to have for yourself or those around you. It refers to people who just talk and talk, not filtering their words in any form or fashion, and generally saying every word that comes to mind. People with this ailment are not very fun to be around to say the least. So how do we avoid this diarrhea of the mouth? How do we keep our words healthy? By filtering them, avoiding character attacks and doing away with blanket statments.

“In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Proverbs 10:19

First, we’ll discuss filtering. Something I’ve been teaching my children lately is that our words should fall into one of the following categories, and if they do not fit into this acronym, then we keep our lips closed. I think this has been around for decades, but it’s still important to keep in mind. Here it is:BeforeYouSpeak

So, before we start speaking, we take a second to put the words through the filter in our brain to be sure they will fit into these categories. By using the filter, it can turn the “diarrhea of the mouth” into life giving words of encouragement.  For many of us, this may mean we will be doing half the speaking that we used to do. And it certainly takes practice to use the filter instead of just saying everything that comes to mind. But it is a worthwhile endeavor to choose our words more carefully.

It’s important to note that there are times that our words may hurt someone, not because we are mean-spirited as the speaker, but because the truth hurts. Sometimes we must confront the sins of others to rebuke and teach, and this is not always pleasant to the hearer. Especially in these types of potentially hurtful situations, we should use the THINK filter. Then, knowing that we have filtered our words through this acronym so that we are aiming to be helpful and kind, and that the words are necessary, then we can still say them with confidence even though the person receiving the words may be initially hurt by them. Sometimes hurtful, hard words must be said (but always done in love).

“The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.” Psalm 37:30

 

Now, onto character attacks. No one likes to be called hurtful names or have our character attacked. Our words as the speaker should always be used to build up others, not tear them down. Again, you may need to confront sin in order to build up, but your motivation is in helping the person, not tearing them down. So when confronting sinful behavior, we should never use character attacks such as “you’re so lazy!”, but instead say “When you don’t put your clothes in the hamper, the floor is messy and then I have to come pick them up”. This second example is much more helpful in teaching the person to pick up their clothes. Or instead of saying “You’re such a loudmouth!”, we say “You may want to try filtering your words so that people are more receptive to what you say”. The second statement is much more helpful in teaching good communication. Focus on the behavior, and don’t attack the character of the person you are talking to.

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29

Another thing to be aware of and avoid is using blanket statements such as “you never pick up your clothes!” The hearer will probably think, yes, I do sometimes – I did it last week! Avoid “You are always so rude!”, because the hearer will think , well, I wasn’t rude yesterday to the cashier at Walmart. So be careful of words like “always” and “never”. (They’re usually not true, and remember the “T” of our acronym above).

So, in our communication, remember the acronym THINK (truthful, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind), and also beware of character attacks and blanket statements (always and never).

Grow your healthy, happy, and fruitful home by carefully selecting your words.

Communication help, pt. 3

Today, I’m going to focus on the role of the hearer. The one that the speaker is trying to talk to. Sometimes the breakdown in our communication is not because of the wrong time and place, or because the speaker is not being intentional, but rather the breakdown is on the part of the one who is listening.

In my first post on communication, I introduced the topic of how important effective communication is in our homes. Many of the issues that families are having, stem from poor communication. If you missed part 1, Click here.

In my second post, I focused on the role of the speaker, and I wrote about how important it is to choose the proper time and place for our discussions and being intentional about it. If you missed part 2, Click here.

Now, we’ll focus today on the one who is listening to the speaker. The term, active listening is a very common one in the field of counseling, and differs from merely hearing. You could maybe say  that hearing is what happens in your ears, but listening happens in your mind and heart. Active listening requires the hearer to fully concentrate, understand, respond and remember what is being said.

First I’ll give an example of what not to do as the hearer. I’ll use the illustration from the previous post of Betty and Fred. Remember that Betty had a really hard day and she told Fred that she needed to talk and asked him if he had a few minutes to listen. Fred says, sure, I’m listening. She starts talking, and he keeps his eyes on the computer. She finishes telling him how bad her day was, and he dryly says (still looking at the computer) “Well it sounds like you should probably do a better job of managing your time.”

Mistakes here: First, he said he had time to listen right now, but then didn’t stop with the computer work. If he didn’t have time right now, then he should ask if she can wait just a couple minutes until he’s done with his work. (remember the last post on appointments – if you missed it – please read it here). Second mistake -instead of acknowledging how she is feeling, he just offers a quick solution. This is probably going to make her think he doesn’t care about her and wasn’t even really listening. This scenario happens countless times among spouses and parents and children. Distracted hearing but not truly listening. And quick simplified responses rather than caring thoughtful ones.

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Proverbs 18:2

So what’s the right way to listen? Again, Betty comes over, says she needs to talk. Fred says, sure, now is fine. He shuts the computer, looks her in the eye, maybe even places a hand over hers to show he is interested, present, and listening. (physical touch is powerful in conveying love and attention)  She pours out her frustrations, which maybe hard for Fred to follow at times because it’s coming out a little tangled and rambling, but he concentrates on her words, and uses his mind to process those words and try to interpret her feelings. He’s not thinking of a response right now. He’s listening closely to her words. When she’s done, he says something along the lines of, “What I hear you saying is that you’ve had a lot of difficult things going on today, and you feel overwhelmed.” He is basically summarizing what she said. This shows her that he was truly listening. Now sometimes, the hearer will give an incorrect summary, and then the speaker can say “no, that’s not what I mean.” and then restate. (Speaker, remember to give grace to your hearer – don’t get angry that they didn’t understand you clearly – just restate, help them understand you).

You can do this technique “What I hear you saying is…..” with anyone – children, coworkers, friends, etc., and it will help your speaker feel validated and cared for.

This works great with children and teens as well. Imagine that Molly, a 4 year old, stomps in crying and yelling “No one ever plays with me! They are all so mean!”  The common response from mom may be a distracted or annoyed, “That’s not true. Your sister plays with you all the time.” Does Molly feel like her mom really listens or understands? Probably not. This may teach Molly that she shouldn’t bother going to her mother with her feelings. Now a better response from mom could be, “What I hear you saying is that your feelings are hurt. Can you tell me more about what happened?” Mom here used active listening, trying to truly hear and understand not only the words her daughter said, but also the underlying feeling behind them. She summarized by saying “What I hear you saying is….” and then invited Molly to share more.

Now, for the heated harder topics. This is a time when active listening is extremely important. Oftentimes in an argument, as soon as the speaker starts talking, the hearer is thinking of their own response and rebuttal.  For an argument to be productive, both parties need to truly listen and ideally use the summary technique that I’ve already illustrated. (What I hear you saying is….) By summarizing, it ensures that the hearer truly did “hear” what the speaker was saying. This is so important. Oftentimes what is “said” and what is “heard” are two totally different things. Going back to Betty and Fred, imagine that after Betty shared about her hard day, Fred got defensive and said “What I hear you saying is that I don’t help out enough around the house!” His summary is incorrect – it is not what Betty was intending him to hear. Betty then can clear it up and say, “no, that’s not what I’m saying at all.” and then she can restate her feelings.

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13

Most of our communication is on a much lighter level, like “what do you think about the weather this week?” or “I can’t believe that our team won the game last night”. Obviously the summary technique is not called for in these situations, but it is still important to offer eye contact when possible, and truly listen when someone is speaking. I know I tend to “half-listen” because frankly I’m busy and I too often try to multi-task, and there are times I realize that one of my children has been telling me about something and I’ve missed most of what they said. Honesty is the best policy here – say something like, “I’m sorry I wasn’t listening. Can you please repeat that?” My dear husband is so good at doing this! (Speaker, please again, give grace to your hearers if they admit they weren’t listening and ask you to repeat!)

Key words to remember: “What I hear you saying is…..”  Just go ahead and say it over and over again until it’s stuck in your mind and ready to slip off your tongue during your next heart-felt discussion. It can change the whole outcome of your communication if put into practice.

Learning to listen is a key component to a healthy, happy family.

Be fruitful, friends.