Sunday, January 22, 2012

Growing Pains

My baby brother is growing so fast. He went from diapers to size 13 shoes in what seems like an instant. Last year, he had such a massive growth spurt that he was in physical pain, causing him to don crutches for awhile.

Talk about growing pains.

My dear friend Emily posted an encouraging comment on a recent blog post of mine about how she's loved seeing me grow. I couldn't help but think, This is growth? Because it feels more like I'm bumbling along blindly. It takes all my courage to post my least embarrassing efforts on my blog. However, the next line of her comment struck me the most:
While I know it seems like there's always, always room for improvement - and that's true - we have to remember at all times that our Lord (mysteriously) takes DELIGHT in our efforts.
I'm always asking God to bring things to light that I may improve on, no matter how difficult, so that I can continually move closer to becoming who he created me to be. This prayer is so important to me that I named my blog after it. God has been faithful, gently bringing to light my struggles and flaws and giving me the grace to understand and alter them so that I constantly grow. In my silliness, I forgot to check in with Him for a progress report. I brought this to prayer and reflection. Do You really delight in my efforts? Is this possible?

I received a resounding YES. I allowed my own perfectionism and mental self-flogging to make me blind to the most basic understand of God - love. Although growth, especially of the spiritual nature, can be painful, it is fruitful. The only unfruitful pain I was experiencing was that which I was inflicting upon myself.

Refiners don't hone and shape with fluffy white clouds. They use fire to make something beautiful. God is the Great Refiner.
And yet, He is also our Father.
I've watched my husband in just his first year of being a daddy. He's swaddled, soothed, shushed and paced until his arms ached and his voice was hoarse. When all efforts failed to remedy her pain, he just cried along with her. As she is learning how to walk, he sets firm but tender boundaries. He's rejoiced at her growth, no matter how small, and encouraged her efforts.
How could I ever doubt that our perfect heavenly Father would do at least this?

I think I have subconsciously thought that my goal was to be more independent, only needing to turn to Christ when I was failing, but I was mistakenly viewing Heaven with earthly eyes. The pain of our growth comes not from learning how to be self sufficient, but learning how to hand over our will and become completely dependent on God.

Growing pains are inevitable. His grace is sufficient.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Don't kill the Time Sucker...repurpose it.

First Time Sucker: Television:
In the beginning of college, I didn't watch a lot of TV. I would occasionally indulge in a movie on a rainy day, but I spent most of the time hanging out with friends and exploring. Oh, and studying, of course. (my dad reads this blog, you know.)

But then I got married and had trouble finding a job and was home a lot. And then I got a newborn little baby who had a fondness for eating around the clock and a complete disregard for normal human waking hours.

And then my TV watching got plain dumb. You know what dumb TV is. Don't make me say it. It included reruns, infomercials and just plain silliness.

And it was not feeding my soul.

Second Time Sucker: The Internet

I don't spend longs periods of time online- which is bad.

It's five minutes here, 3 minutes there. I can fool myself into thinking I don't give a lot of my time to the computer. In reality, I am more comfortable being oblivious than tallying up my cumulative computer time. Although I'm almost always reading good stuff and not just facebook stalking, I find this time is out of balance with how much time I need to spend doing things that are higher on my priority list.

I've tried to limit my time doing these things. But I keep getting sucked in. I think our couch is too comfortable. I tried berating myself. You're lazy. Stop sitting there. SELF, WHY ARE YOU WASTING YOUR LIFE??

None of these things worked.

My husband recently had some training at his job that he brought home and shared with me. It's changing the way we talk to and understand each other and anyone we encounter whose behavior may be hard to understand. I'm using it to understand myself and try to change my own behaviors.

The concept is easy: Every person has needs. Our actions are motivated by these needs. 

When we consciously think of people's actions as need-meeting, we find ourselves more understanding of other people.

I decided to try this on myself. What need is being met by watching television during the day? What need is being met by checking my email constantly or always reading blogs and news articles?

The need for Connection. Bingo.

My other methods for changing my behavior always failed because after removing the television and internet from my life, the need for connection still remained. This explained why after I stopped watching TV during the day, I had trouble turning it off. It gave me a shadow of a feeling of connection. I didn't want to close the laptop on the kitchen counter because I might miss an email - an opportunity for connection. I'm not attached to my phone at all, but I see why some people are. Constant connection.

The first question What need is being met? helped me identify my motivation. But the second question is the one that helped me make the actual change in behavior: Is my current way the best possible way to meet this need?

I took a good hard look at myself. I still felt lonely and more depressed after too much screen time.  My chores weren't getting done. The answer was painfully and honestly No.  It was also freeing to realize this because it gave me permission to change my behavior.

Turning the television off was one of the easiest things to change. It wasn't feeding me or really making me feel more connected, something I remind myself of every time I find myself reaching for the remote. After the first few days, I broke the habit of automatically sitting down to watch TV. If I need background, I listen to music and dance with my daughter in the kitchen.

The television isn't evil. It's didn't need to be thrown away - it needed to be re-purposed. I try and reserve it for true sick days or date nights with the hubby with a program we truly look forward to watching.

The computer wasn't quite so cut and dry. The needs were more complicated here. More than just connection, I needed of mental stimulation after changing diapers and endless games of peekaboo. I was getting a lot of encouragement from the blogs I was reading. There are so many good reads for stay at home mamas who are prone to feeling like they are in it all by themselves. So many words of wisdom, recipes, organization ideas- there is such a wealth of really good information out there. Except I had no time to put them into action because I spent all of my extra time reading about them.

1) I unsubscribed from just about every email subscription in my inbox that wasn't worth my time. Especially if it advertised "deals" and planted a seed in my mind that said "Buy more stuff", I said Buh-bye. That cuts in my email checking time in half.

2) I replaced A LOT of my online reading with podcasts. What a revelation! I can get all of my chores done while listening to some really thought provoking, soul-nurturing conversations. It fills my cup on days I don't have time for phone conversations or coffee dates with friends. Podcasts are like listening to someone else's coffee date. My favorites are Focus on the Family's 30 minute podcasts and the slightly longer and more casual The Simple Mom podcasts.

Most of all, I want set a precedent to my kids. If my daughter grows up in a home where the TV is always on, odds are she'll fall into the same habit. As parents, we can actively choose if we want to give our kids a blueprint for bad habits or good ones.

I want my daughter to automatically know that playing outside and planting things and spending time face to face and laughing are the best choices for her. It's time to make those the best choices for me.

How have you re-purposed your Time Suckers? Also, if you have any inspiring podcasts to share, please do!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's Revolution

Yes, revolution. It's not a typo.


rev·o·lu·tionA forcible overthrow of a government or social order for a new system.

Not a resolution, which is supposed to be a commitment to betterment but really ends up being a lame "I wish I was better" with no plan to do so. 

A revolution is exactly what my household (and my life) need.

Every night when I reevaluate my day, I have this feeling I didn't make the best use of my time. I feel stressed and gross and disorganized and generally blah. I've been this way for years. My disorganization is my not-so-secret little secret. Every year I vow things will be different (make a "wish" really, because I have no plan) and every year I fall on my face.

The worst part: Since I've always failed, I have started to think that it's impossible to get my act together. Failure is my new norm.

But now it's different. I've got this great husband and this incredibly cool kid. In short, I'm no longer the center of my own universe. 

General Goal: To make the best of each day, especially my time.
...and the cute guy hiding behind her.