Unfocusing

I’ve been up for three hours already and have had the word “focus” in my mind since last night, when Kate sent out the prompt. And yet… I can’t focus on a word or a theme.

There’s always a reason these days to lose focus – I wanted to get to bed early because the night before was filled with interruptions. This morning, Elle woke up bright eyed and ready to go before six; I needed a cup of coffee; Bea woke up and wanted to do puzzles. There’s always a pull from my attention.

I enrolled in a blogger’s workshop and one of the questions was to think of the why for blogging – what’s your focus. My mind drew a blank. I’m not really a mommy-blogger or a faith-blogger or anything. I just write about life and try to piece things together. It feels very unfocused.

IMG_9955.jpgMaybe I’m putting too much emphasis on having a focus these days. I could say my kids are my focus but that’s not completely true (or healthy…) My own passions certainly aren’t my focus, though I’m learning to make space for them. Frank and I are trying to carve out focused date nights in this highly-dependent season.

Perhaps what I really need to do is embrace the unfocusedness of this season. To recognized that I simply can’t one hundred percent focus on anything – and that’s ok.

I’m not saying I need to spread myself thin or do things in a half-hearted manner. But, if I shift my expectations and change my thinking, perhaps the truly important aspects of this season will come into focus. They may change from day to day or hour to hour and I’m learning to go with the flow.

Are you in a stage where you can be focused on goals or are you in a season of bits and pieces?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is focus.

Review: Jesus Today by Sarah Young

One of the most surprising parts of Advent was Bea’s love of a daily devotion. We faithfully read through our Advent readings each day after nap time. She loved coloring along as I read aloud and I was always surprised at all she retained – themes would come up again during playtime or in conversation later.

After Christmas, we felt the absence of that ritual. There was something so great about setting the tone for our afternoon by doing a reading together.

_140_245_Book.1798.cover.jpgWhen I saw Jesus Today: Devotions for Kids by Sarah Young, the author of Jesus Calling, I thought I found our answer. Frank and I read through Jesus Calling a couple years ago and really enjoyed it. Young’s first-person style (as told through the voice of Jesus) helped me read Bible passages and themes with a new perspective.

Jesus Today is very similar. Again, told through the voice of Jesus, the daily readings are applicable and universal. Each reading is two pages long and ends with three Bible verses. The length is perfect for us. It’s just long enough to do either during our routine post-nap time or is easy to fit in during breakfast.

Bea loves it so much that she requests to do several readings per day. (I’ll often reread the day’s and she rarely notices.) I appreciate that it does not work by the calendar but is labeled Day 1, Day 2, through Day 150. This takes the pressure off of missing a day – which happens at least once a week for us.

My only suggestion would be to have a suggested activity or question at the end that would aide in our application of the reading. Otherwise, this is exactly what we needed to keep our routine of devotions going through the year.

What is your favorite daily devotional? Do you have one you do with your kids?
I review for BookLook Bloggers
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

What is Saving Your Life?

Last year, Anne Bogel posed the question, What is saving your life right now? Taken from Barbara Brown Taylor’s Leaving Church, the question is used to reframe our winter doldrums mentality to one of something more positive – more life-giving.

Five ThingsLast year’s reflection stayed with me. As the seasons changed, I wondered what new things were saving my life in that moment? I started practicing the idea of marking a moment, an event, even a possession that helped me through a season.

Anne is asking the question again, a year later. It’s a good time of year to reflect and take inventory. The holidays are over; the lights are finally off the house; it’s a season of slowing down, snuggling in, and reflection.

So, here are five (new) things that are saving my life. (I think the old ones are still applicable, but I liked the idea of adding to the list.)

1) Learning Something New
I usually depend on nonfiction books to fill my need for learning. But, the 6 month-18 month stage of life is pretty nonstop. From sitting up to standing to walking to discovering, we are entering a very active year that needs a lot of supervision. (Because of that, I’ve set no reading goals for myself.)

While books may be a bit tough at the moment, I can do self-paced lessons and videos while Elle is playing next to me. Earlier this year, I signed up for Micah Murray’s Clumsy Bloggers’ Workshop. Each week, a new lesson is delivered to my inbox and I can complete it at my own pace. It’s been great for tweaking the look of my blog to learning about social media to becoming part of an encouraging Facebook group. While I’m happy with the low-key-ness of this space, I always like learning new things and this has helped.

A friend and I also signed up for Skillshare, a website that has thousands of 1-2 hour long lessons on a variety of topics. I watched one on how to market yourself as a freelancer (not very applicable but so interesting) and just started one on calligraphy. I’ve saved lessons on how to code and build my own website to a knife skills class. I love the idea of learning something completely different and out of my natural focus, and Skillshare has opened up that opportunity. (If you use the links to sign up, I think we both get a free month.)

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Bonus: Warm weather in January

2) Our Neighborhood
Right after I posted my blog about planning for tax season, our neighbor texted, We’re all in to help during tax time! That night, we had dinner over at their place while the girls played. I could not have imagined more amazing neighbors if I had tried. Moving to this area may not be the trendiest place in town, but I don’t think we could beat it for the community we’re forming. Even in the middle of January, our kids bundled up and rode bikes around the cul-de-sac before dinner. It makes me look forward to summer months and these guys growing up together.

3) Mamaroo Bouncer
This has been saving our lives for the past six months. Friends lent it to us and Elle spends quite a bit of time snoozing in this space-age “swing.” If I had one, I’d probably sleep as much as she does… (Future parents: Definitely register for this or check it out used. It’s amazing!)

4) Saying “no”
This has been the toughest one but the most important and, perhaps the one that is most life-saving. After years of being in multiple book clubs, I’ve pared down to one in town and one online. (If you’re looking for great books and discussion from the comfort of your home, checkout the Red Couch, hosted by SheLoves.) I’ve had to say “no” to other things, but these book clubs were part of my identity and it feels a bit weird to step back.

5) Weekly Walks
I’ve written about my walking buddy, Robyn before. We have been meeting weekly for years and I can’t imagine getting through life without these moments. Now that it’s tax season, my parents take the girls and we do a three-mile loop from their house. That hour of adult time, without a baby strapped to me or a preschooler interrupting, is what I need to make it through the week.

What about you? What is saving your life right now?

Linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Sing! Shout! Praise the Lord!

This morning, I woke to the whiiirrrrrr!! of the blender as Frank made breakfast smoothies. Above the noise of the motor, Bea was singing at top volume: I’M GONNA SING! SING! SING! I’M GONNA SHOUT! SHOUT! SHOUT! PRAISE THE LORD!!!!

When the blender stopped, Frank said, Bea, sing pianissimo!

WHY?!?! I’M GONNA SIT BY JESUS SIDE!

Quiet is a word that is not present much these days. We’re going and playing and singing and doing life and, with a part-Italian three-year-old, quiet just isn’t in the cards for this season.

I was reading the famous passage about Jesus inviting the little children to him.

13 Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

Matthew 19:13-15

Growing up, I heard this passage to describe unquestioning faith and wonder at God’s kingdom. As an adult, more and more, I’m hearing it as an invitation to embrace the why of our faith.

IMG_9719But, as a parent, I wonder… Does Jesus really mean that we should shout and dance and be loud as we discover his kingdom? That we should be so excited and so filled with wonder that we have to proclaim it?

Not in a “win people over for Christ” sort of way but in a way that exudes from our actions and decisions. If I am embracing my childlike wonder, if I am so thrilled about what I am learning because of Jesus, shouldn’t it affect all my choices in a loud way? In a way that isn’t passive or comfortable or convenient but in a way that pushes me toward the joyfully loud living of loving my neighbor.

How do you celebrate your faith in childlike joy and wonder?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is Quiet.

Planning for Surprises

Last weekend, we headed up to Grand Lake, just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park for a long weekend. Each year we try to take three days before tax season begins. It’s a time to connect as a family and get outdoors before Frank starts working late nights and 6 days a week.

IMG_9779.jpgThis year, we met friends who had moved to the western side of the state. We reconnected, our girls played together, and we were reminded why we love loving in Colorado.

When we got home, Frank and I decided to plan out what our schedule over the next three months would look like. Because our time will be at a premium and because we will become like ships passing in the night, we’ve found (through years of trial and error) that planning ahead helps alleviate stress. Of course, life happens and things don’t always go as planned, but this helps. We plan when Frank will be home; which nights will be family dinner nights; how to manage the home office and children; and our one two-day weekend that we’ll take at the end of March.

For as much as I love planning and having a map of expectations, I also love surprises and spontaneity. When it was just the two of us, tax season was rough, but there was more allowance for a bit of unknown. Now, Bea wants to know if she’ll see dad before bed – and I want to know what I can tell her. Even phone calls and texts are pared way down during this crazy season.

Even though it seems like we over-plan these three months, in reality, the planning helps us enjoy the surprises more. If there’s a slow day (rare but it happens!) it’s so much nicer to have Frank unexpectedly come home for dinner rather than always hoping.

This will be our seventh tax season together and I know it will still be hard. There will still be miscommunication due to lack of actual face-to-face conversations. I’ll still be stressed and hate the world of accounting. I’ll be furious that April 15 is not our end date this year – that, due to a city holiday in Washington, DC, one more weekend will be taken away from our family.

And yet. Our community comes around and helps us through. Friends understand when we can’t get together. Other friends come over to keep me company and help with the kids. My parents feed us and are here a lot more. When we skip church to go on a hike, we are rejuvenated and refreshed and reconnected even more than on a regular hike.

And, each year I am reminded that I can do this. That the blessings of community building throughout the rest of the year come into play even more this time of year. And that, somehow, we make it through.

I know we’re not alone – from families in the military to those who have a spouse who travels for work – any suggestions? Each year looks a bit different and I’m always looking for advice and ideas!

Toasting the Everyday

This week, I celebrated my birthday – I am now in my mid-thirties. (I guess. When is that “cutoff”?) It’s funny how birthdays can take on a theme. For Bea’s first birthday, somehow she ended up with almost all giraffe-themed gifts from growth charts to tricycles.

Rim-1762.jpgThis year, my theme was champagne. I got some new flutes and a half a case of “everyday” champagne. Years ago, I had read something about celebrating the everyday moments by toasting with champagne. I loved that idea and we’ve been on the lookout for a good but less expensive champagne to keep in our house for those everyday moments.

While I love Veuve Clicquot and Dom Perignon, I love the idea of celebrating even more. So, we found a tasty sparkling wine and have stocked up.

Frank asked me my goals for this year and – in the midst of babyhood and preschoolhood and early motherhood – I find them to be a bit less specific and more nebulous. My goals are so intertwined with my family’s goals and at this stage, it’s hard to create a SMART goal around a 3-year-old.

So, a goal this year is to be present. To celebrate more. To recognize the amazing milestones and achievements that happen so often and yet so often go unnoticed.

Do you have a favorite Champagne? How do you take time to celebrate the everyday moments?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is Present.

Raising Awareness Step by Step

One of the coolest things about living in the Internet age is access to amazing projects across the globe. From helping to build a well in Kenya to following the adventures of an old high school friend, we are able to follow the stories of friends and strangers. Recently, the trend in giving small amounts for a big project has become more and more common. We’ve been longtime supporters of micro loans, giving $25 loans to help small businesses. Other groups have a cap of $25 donations with the idea that we can all give.

It’s such an amazing feeling to be part of a larger good. In this phase of life when travel is tough and I feel like I can’t make a difference, I love supporting others who can. Knowing that I don’t need to be a millionaire to aide these projects is even better!

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I had heard of One Million Thumbprints (1MT) via a blogging friend and then, a couple weeks ago in a Facebook group we’re both part of, Leia Johnson asked for help getting the word out. The more I looked around at what this organization is doing, the more I loved their story.

1MT started when its founder, Belinda Bauman sat in the Democratic Republic of Congo and listen to the stories of women who were the victims of sexual violence. One story in particular led Belinda to act:

Esperance, a woman from a small village in the Congo, watched her husband die at the hand of rebels. She was violently raped and would have died if her sisters hadn’t rescued her. Across a blank sheet of paper, Esperance, who cannot read or write, had her pastor write the words: “Tell the world.” Then she stamped her thumbprint underneath. Esperance’s thumbprint became Belinda’s mandate: violence against women in war is violence against me.

unspecifiedSo, in about 6 weeks, 16 people from all backgrounds are meeting at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania’s “mountain of light.” They will embark on a 5-day journey through 4 climate zones, over 38,000 steps, to summit at just over 19,000 ft on March 8, International Women’s Day.

Why?

 

This inaugural event, the Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb for Peace, is an effort to raise awareness and funding for programs on the ground in Syria and Iraq, the DRC, and South Sudan through their implementing partner, World Relief.

If you’re interested, join! You can donate your thumbprint (your voice) online, give a gift of any size – from $1 to $10 to whatever you feel to the campaign. Even raising awareness by sharing about this important event and cause on your own social media outlets helps!

Let’s stand together, and do what Esperance asked: Tell the world that violence against women in war zones must end.