Welcome to my latest "mini blog series" on surviving the holidays! In these weeks leading up to the holidays I'm going to offer my experiences, insights, and observations on getting through the holidays without losing your sanity. I'd like to open this series with a list of do's and don'ts - basically, simple tips that will help you get through this season with less stress and more time and resources to enjoy what the holidays are all about.
DO keep a schedule with you at all times, as this is a season filled with cordial invitations to events of all sorts - and those invitations can come at any place, at any time. It's never safe to be without a calendar this time of year. If you don't have a mobile device, get a small calendar that you can carry in a purse, briefcase, or pocket.
DON'T be afraid to decline an invitation. It simply isn't possible to do everything - there's too much going on. There is a polite way to decline an invitation. Simply say "I appreciate you thinking of me and offering this invitation, but I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to attend." You don't owe anybody a doctoral dissertation on your calendar. It's perfectly ok to say "no" just because you need time to do other things, or for yourself.
DO go ahead and make travel plans and arrangements now. Waiting until the last minute is stressful to you and rude to the hosts. It takes a lot of "doing" to hosts guests in your home, so be considerate and let them know arrival and departure dates and relative times now so they can plan for your visit accordingly.
DO make shopping lists. In this season of buy, buy, buy, it's easy to lose track of how much you've bought. Do like Santa - make a list and check it twice.
DO check your resources to avoid needless spending or duplicating resources. I was fixing to buy more wrapping paper this past weekend - until I checked my supplies and discovered 10 rolls of paper from last year. People won't remember what wrapping paper, gift tags, bows, boxes or gift bags you used last year and truth be told, you probably didn't remember until you pulled it out of storage.
DON'T be afraid to ask someone on your gift list what they want if you're completely stumped on what to give them. We usually buy gifts for the same people year after year, so after a while it's hard to be original. Don't try. Just ask.
DO ask the people on your gift list if they're ok with receiving gift cards for presents. People seem to have strong opinions on this. I love them, as do most of my family members, but I've had some friends that believe giving gift cards is wildly offensive and insensitive. I actually plan to do an entry just on this topic soon.
DO regift if you got something in the past that hasn't been opened or used, but be careful and DON'T regift it to the person that gave it to you. In fact, if you get something that winds out in the "strorage" drawer or closet, it would be wise to put a note on it indicating who gave it to you to prevent such an embarassing error.
DO observe important traditions, but DON'T feel obligated to hand on to ones that don't mean much to you - or others. Things tend to pass in time. People get married, people have babies, people die. Some things stay and some things go, and that's ok. Keep what means the most and let go of what doesn't.
DO take care of yourself and mind your health - mentally and physically. Be sure to take time out for yourself, excercise, eat right, and get enough sleep. It's easy to skimp on self care during this busy season.
DON'T go off your medications now. I'm not being a smart alec. Money is typically tight this time of year, and often people decide to skip the medication refills to save a few bucks. Don't do it. Your doctor put you on your medication for a reason, and you feel better because of it. If you go off now, you will suffer. This is no area to skimp on ever. It's for your better health. You have enough on you without having to battle your body as well - and you will if you go off your medication. So don't do it. And if, by chance, you do feel it's ok to do so, I urge you to do two things: Do it under doctor's supervision, and strongly consider waiting until January and making this a New Year's Resolution instead.
DO realize that there's no such thing as a perfect holiday. As much as we'd all like our holiday to look like a Norman Rockwell painting, realize that's art, not reality. We live in an imperfect world and it shows that every day, in every way. It's extremely rare for things to go as we planned, and they never go perfectly, People get sick, cars break down, things get sold out, casseroles burn, wrapping paper tears, turkeys don't cook right, gift bags bust, the milk goes sour, people fight, shipments get delayed, bad weather hits, somebody moves and the Christmas card is returned on December 26 leading to misunderstanding and hurt feelings - the list can go on and on.
So there you have it - a few simple, common sense list of suggestions to get through the holidays. I believe that's a good place to end this entry, as well as a perfect lead in for the next entry in this series.
Next Time: Can't We All Just Get Along - It's The Holidays! (or, Reality 101)
Hi all, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend. We did, but don't be fooled - it can still be exhausting even if you don't hit the road! We're lucky our family is centered here where we live, but that means seeing 2 families, which makes for a full day. Then some friends were in town that wanted to see us and between that and squeezing in some Christmas shopping and errands it's been a very full weekend!
Hopefully, we'll be able to take it easy today. We need it. And belive it or not, today is the first time I got my laptop out since Wednesday. I took a break from writing and such. My time this weekend has been filled with family and friends and frankly, I needed the break. It's been a hell of a month with the dental problems, freezer problems, getting sick, and then it was Thanksgiving. I've been going, going, going and today I need to crash - or at least slow down the frentic pace. It can't continue like this through Christmas. I've got to find a way to throw a lasso around life and reign it in.
So, the "From Sidekicks to Superheros" blog series wrapped up Wednesday, and I hope you enjoyed it. I'm pondering other blog series right now, but I don't have anything firm in mind yet. I thought about doing a mini-series on managing the holidays, or maybe New Year's Resolutions. I even kicked around the idea of bouncing around some short story or flash fiction tidbits here. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do yet, so stay tuned!
That's all for this time. I hope that everybody had a great Thanksgiving and safe travels this weekend. See you later.
It’s been nearly a year since my “graveyard epiphany” that spurred me to search within myself and bring my authenticity into my “new life.” The journey hasn’t been easy, but I believe it’s been well worth it. I feel more confident today than I ever have in my life. I now trust that I am where the Lord wants me to be, and that I can do whatever He sets before me because He Himself will work in and through me.
God works in each and every one of us. He uses our personalities, gifts and abilities to do His work in the world. If we want to be vessels for the Holy Spirit, then it’s important to know ourselves because that’s how the Spirit will work in and through us. If you don’t know yourself, well, the Spirit can’t work in you because you don’t know what’s going on!
That’s why it’s so important to be authentic. We are each divine creations and everything that God makes is good. Don’t let Satan corrupt your goodness with lies. Don’t let him hold you back with despair, discouragement, and fear. You become your best when you fight these attacks and stand up for your faith and yourself to be the very best creation you can be!
When I went through my life transitions last year the #1 piece of advice I got for coping was to stay rooted in my faith and true to myself. Believe in Christ and don’t pretend to be someone I’m not. Of course the devil attacked through naysayers and I got admonished to “grow up” and“quit being difficult” in my attempts to work things out for a better life. I refused to suppress my independence and insisted on being myself and working things out the right way, and not the quick and easy way. Do you know what’s happened? The naysayers don’t have much to say now that it’s working out! I had to work hard – harder than I ever knew or imagined was possible, but things did improve, and it was because I refused to take a backseat to life. I wouldn’t be a sidekick. I insisted on being a superhero and I’m rising to it, a step at a time. If “growing up” means settling for mediocrity then I’ll never grow up – period.
I hope this blog series has been helpful and inspirational to you. If you have enjoyed it, I encourage you to check out my first book titled Battleground Earth – Living by Faith in a Pagan World
. It’s available for sale through Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Battleground-Earth-Living-Faith-Pagan/dp/1413733468/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1
and through PublishAmerica at http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping/shopdisplayproducts.asp?catalogid=5696
I’ve read many books on finding yourself, but I won’t bore you with an entire chapter of suggested reading. Instead, I’ll limit my suggestions to the two most powerful books I’ve read on finding yourself:
The first is How to Succeed at Being Yourself – Finding the Confidence to Fulfill Your Destiny
, by Joyce Meyer. This is actually the book that gave me the confidence to start writing and pursuing publication after years of falling away from the craft because I allowed myself to become distracted with things that I didn’t intend to have in my life permanantly. I learned that I needed to be true to myself and my calling if I ever wanted to find happiness. This is what I call a “get up and conquer the world!” read. It motivates you to do something positive. This book is available through Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/How-Succeed-Being-Yourself-Confidence/dp/0446532045/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322012510&sr=1-1
The second is Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy
, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. This is a daily devotional book that has the single purpose of helping you find your authentic self. Each day has helpful entries to guide you into delving deeper within yourself to find the truth of spirit. It’s not specifically Christian and is meant to appeal to a wide audience, but it’s powerful and motivation. This book is available through Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Simple-Abundance-Daybook-Comfort-Joy/dp/0446563595/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322012631&sr=1-1
Thanks for joining me in my reflections on this journey, and I hope you will embark on your own path to authenticity. It’s a journey well worth taking and revisiting from time to time as you continue to grow and learn in faith.
I think we all understand that life is a journey. We are continually striving to become better than we are, and as such there will always be bigger goals to reach for and bigger dreams to attain. Every milestone we reach, every dream we achieve, every new discovery we make, will change us. Although the core of who we are remains constant, we should continue to grow and learn with each experience. Our roles and functions many change, but who we are deep in our soul won’t. This is why it’s so important to strive for authenticity and to find your true purpose. The only way to make the journey successfully is to know who you are deep inside, and to know where you’re going.
We’ve often heard it said that Christ should be the foundation of your life, and this is true. Remember, though, what a foundation is for – we’re supposed to build on it! Each of us were created to live in this world for a reason, and our job is to build ourselves up to be the best we can be based on this solid foundation. We’re supposed to construct rising layers and to build up ourselves and our presence in the world. If Christ is the foundation, then I believe it stands to reason that being authentic and honestly knowing ourselves is the ground floor. Everything else builds up from here and depends on the support of the layers beneath it. Christ gives us our spiritual roots, and knowing ourselves helps us to serve the world in the best way possible.
I truly believe that we can’t relate to other people and perform to the best of our ability if we don’t know ourselves. How can we? How can you get along with others if you don’t know yourself? How can you do your best when you don’t know where your talents and abilities lie? How can you form solid relationships with other people if you can’t be honest with yourself? How can you succeed when you can’t accept reality? You may be rooted in Christ, but you can still get stuck in horrible ruts if you don’t take the next step to knowing yourself and to find contentment in what God made you to be.
So what is contentment? It’s accepting the reality of where you are and working to strive for better. Life certainly isn’t perfect, and sometimes it can take you to dark places. This is the ugly underside of reality in an imperfect world. Life is going to hurt from time to time, and we may be completely dissatisfied with where we are. I certainly understand. I mentioned that I went through major changes in my personal and work life in 2010 and believe me, that was a special kind of hell. For many months I literally had no peace no matter where I went because battles raged all around me. Change is tough. It was hard enough to face two major transitions, but add to that the fact that change makes people very nervous and irritable and you understand what I mean by facing battles on every front.
How did I make it through? First, I believed in the promises that the Lord knows His plans for me and they are for good (Jeremiah 29:11) and that all things work together for good for those who love Christ and are called to His purpose (Romans 8:28). These promises, from the foundation of my faith, gave me the courage to stand up and take charge of my life. I claimed my life as my own and acknowledged that, although I couldn’t help the changes or control them, I certainly had a right to work them for the best. I sought advice from others I trusted, took advantage of every opportunity, and kept my eyes on the goal of coming through these transitions to building a life that was better than the one I had before. I wasn’t happy with my life, but I found contentment in knowing that the Lord was leading me through a transition that was taking me to a better life. I can honestly say that my life is better today than it was two years ago, and I’m grateful for that. It wasn’t easy – it fact, it was brutally painful in spirit– but I feel I’ve come out wiser and with knowledge and experience that will guide me through whatever comes next.
I believe this story shows that contentment doesn’t mean that things are perfect. As I said, we live in an imperfect world, and if you reserve your happiness for that magic day when it all comes together then you won’t be happy a day in your life. Contentment means accepting reality. It means resting in the Lord. It means being true to yourself. It means doing the very best you can in everything you do. And I do believe that is the secret to joy. It’s not an elated happiness or a dopamine high, but rather a sense of peace in doing the best you can with what the Lord has given you.
I think we owe it to everybody: God, ourselves and the world, to be authentic. After all, we are all part of the Body of Christ. We do His work in the world now. Isn’t that a job worth offering your absolute best for?
I’ve often said that when you first tell people that you want to be a writer, expect a lot of blank stares at best, and a reaction akin to announcing that you plan to become a serial killer at worst. That is, until you get published. Then everybody will know you and proudly proclaim that they knew you “back when.” They’ll completely forget all the times they said “why do you want to do that?” or “didn’t you graduate? Why not go back to school instead if that’s what you want to do?” Or any other number of “helpful suggestions” that included doing anything but that.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have support. Of course, those closest to me wanted me to succeed at making my dreams come true, but let’s face it – your inner circle is usually pretty small. Most of the people you know won’t be in it, and they certainly won’t understand the things that are most important to you. In fact, even those in your “inner circle” will eventually lose their enthusiasm for your personal pursuits if they don’t see results face, and often. It’s unfortunate, but peoples’ attention spans are usually much shorter than God’s timing. Most people don’t have patience to stay the course, especially in a culture where everything is instantaneous and available with the click of the mouse or the press of a button. That’s why I believe that internal motivation is perhaps the most important element in pursuing your authenticity and purpose in life.
What is internal motivation? Basically, it’s the determination and inner drive to see things through to the end, no matter what it takes. I’ve said before that God will only reveal purpose to you, and for that reason you simply can’t rely on others to hold you up and carry you through the finish line. They have their hands full with their own lives and frankly, they are probably overwhelmed with keeping up with the day to day grind of reality. You must have strength within you to stay the course and be determined to see things through all the way to the end, no matter how many battles or struggles you must endure. There path to purpose isn’t a straight line, but rather a winding highway. There will be progress and setbacks, trials and errors, success and failure, as you wind through the journey. Some people will be with you for all of it, some for part, but remember that they are also taking their own journey’s. We all only have so much emotional energy and must dedicate it to those things that matter most. And let’s be honest, what are you more concerned with: Your own life or somebody elses’? That’s not being selfish – it’s just the way it is. We must attend to our own obligations and priorities first and foremost.
Likewise, there are also people that don’t want to see you succeed. This usually isn’t personal, even though it feels like a very real attack on who we are. It’s really smoke and mirrors for their own insecurity. I believe we all have these “emotional vampires” in our lives that can find the dark cloud in any silver lining and discourage us from doing anything that causes us to rise above where we’re at. Their security is in making sure that you (and often, everybody they know) stay inside the convenient box they’ve put you in for their own comfort. You must realize that this box isn’t your problem. Do yourself a favor by dealing with these toxic relationships quickly and efficiently, and moving on. In fact, that might be the very thing that makes them realize the right thing to do so they can get on with their own lives. Doing the right thing and refusing to accept other peoples’ problems is often the best living testimony we can provide to the world.
Yes, the journey to purpose can be a lonely one at times. There are journey’s we must take alone and things we must discover on our own. The good news is that we are never really alone. The Lord is always right there with us, to ensure that we stay on the right path. He will always do His part as long as we do our part by following the prompting of the Spirit, but sometimes what is right isn’t what looks or seems right. That’s why it’s so important to be internally motivated. These promptings are usually very personal, and we have to be able to stand up to scrutiny, discouragement, and sometimes even attack to see the victory. But as I’ve said so many times before, the reward is well worth it. There’s nothing better than realizing you are uniquely and wonderfully made, and being content with who you are.
Next Time: Contentment – The Secret to Joy.
I entered a counted cross stitch in the State Fair in October 2009. It was my largest stitching project and, I thought, a masterpiece of creativity. Unfortunately, the judges didn't agree. I didn't win a ribbon.
I was heartbroken. This piece took nearly three and a half years to complete, and I felt it was my best work. But under the scrutnizing eye of others, it didn't measure up.
Family and friends consoled me and urged me to keep at it. Don't give up, they said, because eventually you'll win. As I considered the situation, though, I started to realize some things. That project had been very time consuming and difficult for me to complete; to the point that it became frustrating in the end. In fact, part of the reason why it took me so long to finish the project was because I put it on hiatus for a period of 7 months while I wrote Blurry. I realized that looking over that period of time, the hobby that brought me the most contentment wasn't the cross stitch, but writing the novel. It made me ask myself what I really wanted to see bear fruit in my life, and the answer, without a hitch, was my writing. So the next time a friend encouraged me to start a new stitching project, I finally admitted a truth that I should have faced sooner. "You know," I said, "I realize now that stitching is an arena for others. Writing is mine, and I need to return to it."
That wasn't well received. A lot of people assumed I was quitting and saw it as a bad sign and completely out of character for me. What they didn't know was that an idea for another novel was developing. Soon after, I began work on Anywhere But Here, a novel about a young woman battling depression in the face of major life transitions. I made it my mission after that failed contest to grow and develop as a writer, and it paid off. Blurry was published by Wings ePress in August 2011; Anywhere But Here will be published by Whiskey Creek Press in April 2012, and I recently completed Splinter, a sci-fi apocolyptic novel that I successfully completed a rough draft of during 2010 National Novel Writing Month.
I could have given you a monologue about mining your talents and finding your passions, but I felt that relating this experience would be a better demonstration of the process of using your interests and experiences to find authenticity and purpose. All of us have a number of talents, skills and abilities with potential for development, but our time and energy are limited. There simply isn't enough time in a day, week, month, year, season or lifetime to do it all. You have to set priorities by making active decisions on what you want to see bear fruit in your life and investing in those purposes. Prayer, of course, is the best way to do this, because it helps us to look within and be absolutely honest with God and ourselves about what's best for life.
Another point I hope you take from this is that finding authenticity and purpose is a journey. I didn't wake up one day and say "I'm putting stitching on a back burner while I focus on writing more material and learning how to get published and promoted." It was trying and failing, assessing myself and learning from mistakes, making realizations and trying again. It's a process of trial and error, and you will certainly make mistakes. Don't look on it as wasted time, though. The missteps and mistakes can be mined for wisdom that leads to success in future endeavors. I knew that hard work was the key to progress, but this experience also taught me the importance of focus. I saw the true meaning of "a jack of all trades is a master at none" and realized that I needed to pick what meant the most and zoom in on that as my primary goal.
Above and beyond all else, I hope you see the importance of being true to yourself. Others can mean the best and still be wrong. You are the only one that has to live with yourself and your life 100% of the time. The path will only be revealed to you, and there are many steps in that path that won't make a bit of sense to others. That's ok. The ones that are meant to share the journey will learn to accept you for what you were created to be. The others will fall away. Simple as that.
As a final note, I'd like to mention that I haven't completely given up cross stitching, but I'm limiting my projects to very small scale items. That's more practical for my current lifestyle. Maybe one day I'll tackle another large project, but for now my focus is on becoming a better writer. And to me, that's what really matters.
Next time: Standing Alone - Staying Strong Under Attack.
Hi everybody, I hope you're doing well. My name is Chloe, and I'm Sherri's female sun conure. Sherri (I call her mommy bird) is a bit tired tonight. She got over her cold to discover that the house was dirty, so she spent a few nights cleaning it. Then today she took off work to go to the Holiday Craftsman's Classic with her Mom. They do that every year. She came back this afternoon loaded down with bags and said she started some Christmas shopping. Snazzy stuff, too. Very unique, which is right up her ally. Anyway, she's a bit worn out, so I said I'd help by pecking out a blog entry for her tonight. Halloween was uneventful. Zack was happy. He said that when they lived in a neighborhood the children would come to the door and expect mommy and daddy to give them candy - for free! It really ticked him off. He's content to cackle at horror movies with daddy now on Halloween. I find the entire holiday completely silly. Goblins and ghouls and ghosts and bogeymen - completely ridiculous.
Daddy accepted an offer to help design a website for someone this week, and the gentleman is supposed to come by tomorrow to see some preliminary work and give daddy some better ideas of how to design it. Daddy did such a good job with the church website at www.mttaborlutheran.org and he's excited about this new opportunity. Mommy is happy about it too. Daddy likes designing websites and she said she's very glad he's developing this.
What a windy day it was today! And it seemed to get worse as the day went on! I was definitely glad I got adopted by a family that lets me live in the house with them. Life in an aviary is ok as long as the weather is nice. But weather, wind and rain - terrible for the feathers. Mine have gotten so much softer since they adopted me. I'm softer than cotton now! And I don't have to fight to get to the food dish any more either - I have my own food bowl! I love it. I love my toys. I love mommy, daddy, Zack and Ollie. I love my life. It's a happy life. Sometimes I'm so happy that I dance. But I'm a bit sleepy now and tired of typing, so I'm going to go now. If you want to know a bit more about me, Zack and Ollie, please feel free to check out our website at http://conurecorner.weebly.com .
Mommy said to tell you Happy Friday. I hope you have a good weekend as well.