Balanced Challenge: Refresh

Well! We’re at the end of the Balanced Challenge, and it’s time to reflect and figure out where to go from here.

My favorite quote from today’s chapter of Balanced is this:

“A quest for balance leads to frustration and exhaustion. I never have a day when I achieve the perfect balance of work, family, God, and friends. It’s impossible. There are always interruptions. If we are working with real-life people, we cannot schedule or time as if we were simply sitting at a computer all day.”

How true that is! In the middle of writing this post, I had to leave the computer to clean up a toddler who had gotten into his older sibling’s paint. Things are always going to happen! So what am I going to do from this point on?

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I’m going to just keep at it. I’ll never get it perfect, but I don’t have to. That’s what grace is for, right?

There are three things in particular that I’m taking away from this challenge though.

Just do the next thing.

When life is crazy and I’ve got way too much to do, I’ll get more accomplished if I focus on doing the next thing. And if I use all of those extra minutes here and there, I’ll get a lot of the “next things” accomplished!

Love God and show His love to others.

Coming up with this mantra is going to help a lot. As much as I love lists, I don’t always have time to read my lists! This is simple and easy to remember. If I keep in mind that this is what I most want my life to be about, then my attitude and priorities can’t help but be affected in a positive way.

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The God of hope is writing my story.

Writing down my list of eight life themes and realizing just how much of my life has been about learning to hope in God was exactly what I needed to hear at this point. Seeing that list, and seeing what God has already done… it took my breath away. I wish I could say something incredibly profound about it, but this is one time that I can’t find the words.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Balanced challenge as much as I have! Leave a comment and let me know what your favorite post from the challenge was!

Balanced Challenge: Eight

Today’s chapter of Balanced led to some pretty deep soul searching. Tricia shared her own list of eight life themes, and challenged us to write our own.

“When you discover your life themes, you aren’t limiting yourself. Instead you’re understanding who God made you to be – and the purpose He designed for you.”

Looking back at my life and considering all the highs and lows wasn’t an easy thing to do. I struggled tremendously to come up with eight themes that I saw recurring throughout my life. I’m not completely sure who I am to begin with. How could I possibly sum up my life in eight themes? But once I got started, I was surprised by what I saw.

  1. God comforts us in grief

    I’ve been facing the heartache of losing people I loved for as long as I can remember. It always hurts. It still hurts. The thing about that hurt, is that it keeps me running back to God for comfort. And He always does.

  2. Broken people can have beautiful relationships

    There was a time when I avoided letting anyone get too close to me. I was scared, and so very broken. God has been at work on my heart for a lot of years, and He has put people in my life who love me anyway. It doesn’t matter how broken we are, God can still help us to have beautiful relationships.

  3. Letting go of one dream, because God has something better

    I was quite sure that I was headed for a career in aviation. Most likely as a missionary pilot. It was my dream, my passion. And then in a plot twist that surprised even me, I married Aaron instead. Today, I don’t fly small airplanes to remote jungle airstrips. I spend my days raising a family with Aaron (and writing too). I have never once regretted it. I had big dreams, but God had better ones!

  4. You can never be good enough… that’s where grace comes in

    I’ve always felt like I had to measure up, to be “good enough”. I never will be. And that’s the truly amazing thing about grace. Grace covers all of my “not good enough”. Grace makes it possible for me to stand before a holy God.

  5. No matter how bad it seems, there is always hope

    Depression can make everything appear pretty bleak. Anxiety can convince you that things are only going to get worse. When things seem particularly bad, I go outside and look at the stars. Because the stars are still there, exactly where they should be. God is still there. He’s still in control of the entire universe that He created. He’s not surprised by anything going on in my life. If He can keep track of all those stars, then He’s got this handled too.

  6. Past hurts and failures shape you, but they do not define you

    There are hard things in my past that certainly played a part in making me who I am today, but the bad things do not define me. Understanding that is what allows me to learn from them, and then let go of them.

  7. Some risks are worth taking

    Stepping out and taking a chance is never easy for me. Many times I do end up falling flat on my face. But there are other times… So many amazing things in my life would never have happened if I hadn’t taken that leap of faith.

  8. God chooses messy people too

    If I had to pick just one theme for my life, this would be it. Honestly, I’m a complete mess. The thing that blows my mind, is that God can take my mess and turn it into something amazing. Jesus didn’t defeat sin and death to save perfect people. He did it to save the messed-up people. “When Jesus heard this, He told them, ‘Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.'” – Mark 2:17 HCSB

When I thought about it, I realized that these are themes that pop up frequently in my writing. What astounded me though was this: There is so much hope in this list. Looking back over my life, God’s written hope all over the story. Right now, I needed to be reminded of that. Reminded that He is the “God of hope”. (Romans 15:13)

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

This turned into a much more personal challenge than I’d anticipated, but it turned out to be exactly what I needed.

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

Balanced Challenge: Inspiration and Relaxation

One of the things that struck me the most about today’s chapter of Balanced, was being open to change. Quite simply, I do not like change. Not. One. Bit. That’s why I loved this quote from Tricia:

“Is change happening in your life right now? Yup, that’s to be expected. Are you eager yet scared, hopeful yet anxious? That’s understandable. Just remember that even though you’d rather everything stayed the same, God is waiting for you – often just beyond your comfort zone. He’s there with open arms, prepared to walk with you every step of the ever-changing way.”

As much as I abhor change, it does usually bring with it inspiration. And inspiration is what today’s challenge is all about! I’ve written down a list of things I can do for inspiration. Here’s what I came up with:

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In case you can’t quite make out my handwriting, I’ll type the list out here too.

  • Put your playlist on shuffle.

    I can’t tell you how many ideas for my writing have come from a song. Sometimes it’s instrumental music, and sometime it’s the lyrics of a song that spark something.

  • Make time for tea.

    I don’t mean just brewing a big mug of tea. I mean sitting down with a teapot and teacup for a proper cup of tea!

  • Start a pinterest board of inspiring quotes.
  • Write with a fountain pen.

    I’m rather partial to my fountain pens, and there’s just something about sitting down and writing with one that makes me smile.

  • Try a writing prompt.
  • Take a walk.
  • Take a drive.
  • Read something fanciful.

    I’ve started reading the Tom Corbett: Space Cadet series to my kids. It’s complete fluff and there isn’t much real science in this science fiction. Still, it’s a fun adventure that I thoroughly enjoy. Fanciful reading never fails to capture my imagination!

  • Read something deep.

    I really enjoy reading a book that makes me think. I want to write things that make people think. Reading books like this remind me of why I want to write and encourage me to keep at it.

So now I’m curious. What do you do when you need a good dose of inspiration?

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

Balanced Challenge: Make Today Amazing

Today’s chapter of Balanced included a list of things to do to make today amazing. The challenge is for me to pick one and try it out.

The one I picked was, “Relax in your favorite part of your house for ten minutes today and thank God for what He’s provided.”

I always said that I wanted a view of the water from my house. Of course, when I said that, I was envisioning a view of the ocean! When we first moved into our current home, I realized something…

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This is the view from my kitchen window. God gave me my view of the water!

Right now, that little pond is covered with snow and ice, but I took the time to look out the window anyway. So many things about my life today are not what I had imagined, but I can see God’s fingerprints on everything. He’s taken care of the big things, and still seen fit to grant me countless small things as well. That thought is at once encouraging and convicting! Encouraging because it reminds me that I’m not alone, and I don’t have to try and figure everything out on my own. Convicting because I’m still so reluctant to let go and just trust God.

It reminds me of a particular quote from this chapter:

“How foolish for me to think that I, with my limited knowledge and no concept of what’s coming in the future, could do a better job and figuring out where to spend my time and energy, compared to a holy God. God is wisdom and truth, and He knows not only the past but the future.”

Tricia’s list from this chapter is fabulous! Putting just one of her suggestions into practice today gave me a more thankful attitude, and reminded me that I need to trust God and not rely on myself. I actually like the list so much that I printed it out and taped it on the cabinet I keep my teapots in so that I’ll see it every morning.

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

Balanced Challenge: Teamwork

I’m a bit of a control freak. I’ve taken the phrase, “If you want something done right, do it yourself” to heart. I definitely needed today’s chapter from Balanced!

The challenge for today was to get help from my family to make my load a bit lighter. I started out by giving the job of feeding the dog back to Munchkin. I’d taken it over temporarily when we adopted our big black Shepherd/Lab because I wanted to get an idea of how much he tended to eat in a day. Well past time now to hand it back off to her!

I’m trying to get into the habit of asking the kids to help me. Honestly, they are more than willing to! They always help me carry in groceries when I come home from shopping. This time they asked if they could help me put things away. I hesitated because none of them are tall enough to reach the cupboards in our kitchen, but agreed that they could try to help. You know what? The groceries were put away in record time because I had help!

It’s all a matter of me letting go a bit and doing some delegation. It really does surprise me how much is accomplished in a short amount of time when all of the kids pitch in and help. The older three got all of the dusting, vacuuming and picking up done in the living room while I loaded the dishwasher. And as my daughter pointed out today, “I’ll have to know how to vacuum when I have a house of my own.”

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The one thing that I really need to keep in mind though, is what Tricia said:

“If I want my husband and kids to help me succeed, I need to affirm their efforts, even if those efforts are not what I consider perfect. How discouraging it is when your child attempts to help only to be told they didn’t do it well enough?”

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My kids are eager to help me. It’s important that I recognize their help and tell them how much I appreciate it. And I do appreciate it! My load (and my heart) feel a lot lighter when we’re working together as a family.

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

Balanced Challenge: Do What You Can

Today’s chapter of Balanced is good advice for everyone, not just work-at-home moms. It’s got great tips for managing a busy schedule (instead of letting it manage you). My favorite advice from it is this:

“‘Just do what you can’ is being creative in the moment with the time I’ve been given, and it’s amazing how much really gets done in the end!”

I tend to think that things will take much longer than they actually do. That means that I waste a lot of minutes through the day because I just don’t think I can get anything done in a short block of time. Oh how wrong I am!

When I take Little Guy upstairs for his afternoon nap, I can start a load of laundry while I’m upstairs. Later, when I’m trying to think through something for my writing, I can fold the laundry. (If I’m gonna stare at the computer screen lost in thought, I might as well be folding clothes while I do!)

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When the kids are busy with their math assignments, I can take a minute to check my e-mail and read a chapter of a book I’m reviewing.

When I let the dog outside, instead of just waiting around for him to be ready to come back in, I can wash the empty mug sitting by the kitchen sink, and the pan from lunch that’s still on the stove.

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The checklists I’ve been tweaking and working on during this challenge are helpful with this too. It’s easy to glance at my list and say, “Hey, I can do that right now.” I can’t believe how much I was able to fit in by taking advantage of the extra minutes! It really does add up after all…

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

Balanced Challenge: Rank Those Priorities

I’m someone who needs a lot of “margin” in my life. Other people refer to that as white space in the schedule. However you put it, I just can’t handle an overcrowded schedule. Today’s chapter of Balanced made me really consider the things that I do have on my checklists. (Have I mentioned how much I love lists?)

The items on our homeschooling planner are top priorities. I already started including writing in our daily list too. I wrote in the writing projects that are due this week so that I remember what I need to be writing about and do that first when I sit down at the keyboard.

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I’ve tried out some interesting cleaning schedules/programs/apps in the past. I start out pretty good, but some of them are pretty lengthy lists. I sat down and made my own basic list. Slip it in a page protector and now I can use a dry-erase marker to check things off! With this posted on my fridge I have a quick, visual reminder of what needs to be done.

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I didn’t wind up actually cutting anything out of my lists since I keep them as simple as possible anyway. However, I did tweak things a bit so that top priorities are clearly listed. (Helpful for those days when my brain can’t seem to remember anything!)

One of my favorite things from this chapter was when Tricia talked about having a mantra:

I want to live the type of life I want to write about. I want to serve others with the love of Jesus pouring through me. It’s a simple goal, but the meaning behind it carries my steps throughout the day.”

When pondering what I wanted my mantra to be, I thought about Mom. I want to leave the kind of legacy that she did, so I thought about what made her such a wonderful woman. That’s how I came up with this:

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That’s the principle I want to base my days on. That’s the kind of life I want to live.

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

 

Balanced Challenge: Believing God

Today’s chapter in Tricia Goyer’s book, Balanced, gave me a lot to ponder. What has God called me to do? Is writing part of it? I’m really convinced that it is.

I’ve been writing since I was a kid. Writing was how I thought something through, processed what had happened, and worked through how I was feeling. We all have stories to tell, and God can use our stories in the most amazing ways.

Last year, I had a piece about miscarriage published on the HEDUA blog. It was nearly 10 years in the making. After my first miscarriage many years ago, a couple of people told me that they thought God would someday use my story to help other women going through the same thing. I pray that someone out there read it and that God touched their heart through it.

There are many reasons why I feel compelled to write, but the one that really burns in my heart is the desire to reach out to people who are hurting and let them know that they are not alone. And even more than that, to share with them the comfort that God has given to me. If I had to pick a verse that sums up why I feel called to write, it would be this:

My favorite quote from today’s chapter of Balanced is this:

“The life we have is the one constructed for us by an all-loving God. It’s not the life, body, health, or circumstances we wish we had. It’s not the perfect life we strive to attain but it’s the life He means for us.”

Things have happened in my life that are not what I would have chosen. Yet, those are the times when God has revealed Himself to truly be the “God of all comfort”. Those are the stories that I most want to tell.

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

Balanced Challenge: Get Your Kids Involved

Today’s chapter discusses how working at home benefits your kids, and how to get them involved in your work!

My kids are already pretty involved in the review side of my work. (I do not get paid to write reviews, but since it is writing I still consider it part of my “job”.) Most of the reviews I write these days are for the Home Educating Family review site. That means I review a lot of curriculum, kids’ books, DVDs, and all sorts of neat things that my kids get to test for me. Whenever a box arrives on our doorstep, they ask if it’s something for me to review! I have to admit, it is pretty fun to watch them trying things out and getting their feedback for my reviews.

Figuring out how to involve them in the other writing that I do is trickier, but I’ve come up with an idea. My daughter has been learning how to proofread this year in Language Arts, so I’m going to have her help me edit some of my shorter pieces. We’ll sit down with red pens, a printout of my article or blog post, and go over it together. She’ll love the idea of being Mom’s editor, and we’ll get to practice some of the skills she’s learned this year.

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I’m a dreamer; always have been. I never considered that following my dreams was setting an example for my kids. I love what Tricia has to say about it in Balanced:

“My kids have seen me model what it means to follow one’s dreams. They’ve witnessed me listening to God’s call, setting goals, and putting my rear in the chair to work. My example has fostered inside them a longing to discover God’s dreams for their own lives.”

Not only do I get to show my kids the value of chasing the dream, I get to show them that the hard work that goes into it can be so very rewarding.

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

Balanced Challenge: Your Work

There are definite advantages to working from home, especially when you are a home educating mom! But the second chapter in Tricia’s book, Balanced, touches on how being a work-at-home mom benefits your work. I’d never really thought of that before!

I’m beginning to understand what she means with point 6: “Working at home helped me be more productive.” It’s true that my writing time is limited. That means that I have to make it count when I sit down to write. Admittedly, I do get Facebooked sometimes, but I’m learning just how important it is for me to be really focused when I’m at the computer. There have been times when I knew that I had to make some real progress on a project – that was motivation enough for me to get productive with my time!

The challenge for today was to get started on a change that would make working from home work for me. I decided that the most important thing I could do was put my writing on the daily schedule. Why have I never done this before? Well, I could never figure out when to schedule it! We have a list for our homeschool day that shows me everything we need to accomplish that day. We don’t have set times or class periods for each subject though. Some days, math takes 15 minutes, then there are those days… Our schedule is more of a list with a loose routine for our days. How do I schedule writing time in there? It may seem obvious, but it’s taken me this long to figure out that I just need to add it to our checklist. (I love checklists!) Right there in my Well-Planned Day along with everyone else’s assignments:

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This could work. Even if it’s just 20 minutes of writing time that I squeeze in, those minutes will add up. This could really work! Of course, when I went back to my planner later to check off “Writing” I discovered a pair of wet mittens wrinkling the pages… I’m definitely a work-at-home mom!

One of my favorite parts of this chapter though, was the conclusion:

“Vision is knowing where you want to head and having an idea of how to get there. Prayerful vision is asking God to show you what He sees since He has a much higher, better view than we do, and adjusting your heart to His desires for your work, your family, and His world.”

This post is part of the Balanced challenge with Tricia Goyer—and you can join, too!

PS – For anyone who is wondering, “Facebooked” is what my husband and I call it when one of us gets sucked into Facebook when we should be working on something else!