How to Kick Self-Criticism to the Curb

How to Kick Self-Criticism to the Curb

Of all the things that make parenting challenging, the perpetual self-criticism is the worst. We lose sight of the fact that the most important thing our kids need from us is to feel loved.

We spend a lot of time beating ourselves up for not being “perfect” parents. Take the time my 17 year old son texted me a picture of himself being embraced by another mom after winning the championship wrestling match at the regional tournament. Through a miscommunication, my husband and I both left the match early. I awarded myself “Worst Mother Ever” for that one.

We unknowingly teach self-criticism – because this is how we talk to ourselves.

I’m replacing self-criticism with self-compassion, and making sure my kids hear the message.

You may think, “Sounds lovely. I can’t be trusted though. If I’m not tough on myself, I won’t change (get it done, do my best, etc.).” We fear that if we weren’t constantly berating ourselves, we’d be complete slackers. (Cue your favorite fantasy of irresponsible motherhood here).

Self-Criticism Hurts
I think of self-criticism like the bigger of two siblings, pummeling the other on the living room floor. Self-criticism regularly tries to take me down, landing a few good punches by the time I realize what’s going on and shut it down.

Why Do We Do This To Ourselves?!

This meaner version of ourselves has good intentions:

  • Keep us safe
  • Protect us from making mistakes
  • Make sure we retain our status and get enough love
  • Avoid disapproval from others

Unfortunately, the toxic methods of self-criticism – shame, name-calling, constant comparison, devaluing our needs and accomplishments – bring out the worst in us.

Research by Drs. Kristin Neff, Ricks Warren and Elke Smeets found self-critical people are more prone to avoidance, fearfulness, feelings of inferiority, depression, procrastination, and body dissatisfaction.

The Truth About Self-Compassion
We fear we’ll become self-indulgent sloths if we practice self-compassion. The opposite is true. Self-compassionate people are:

  • More successful in pursuing goals
  • More resilient when goals aren’t met
  • More motivated to change, try harder and avoid repeating mistakes

Change requires desire, awareness, and a plan. Self-compassion takes practice. Ask a trusted friend to point out when you use self-criticism.

4 Ways to Foster Self-Compassion
1. Notice when you slip into self-criticism
2. Stop!
3. Speak to yourself the way you would to a dear friend
4. Make a plan to deal with your concerns

When we think of people who make us feel loved and give us courage, compassion is what we’re most drawn to. Think of Jesus responding to the woman caught in adultery.

Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”
“No one, Master.”
“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” – John 8: 10, 11 (The Message)


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Warren, R., Smeets, E. & Neff, K. D. (2016). Self-criticism and self-compassion: Risk
and resilience for psychopathology. Current Psychiatry, 15(12), 18-32.

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Kimberly Gonsalves is a life and leadership coach, speaker and co-creator of Solving The Mystery of Parenting Teens. She encourages and equips women to thrive by letting go of what doesn’t work and instead build healthier habits and more respectful relationships, so they can bring their best to their most important leadership roles, and have more fun doing it. Read her in-depth series on self compassion, or connect with her on Facebook.

The Mom Project Chapter 13: Shower Your Kids With Grace

The Mom Project Chapter 13: Shower Your Kids With Grace

Welcome to The Mom Project. For the next few weeks, we’ll be launching my book The Mom Project by hosting several mom friends who have tried it out for themselves. They read the book, completed a project from the book with their kids, and wrote all about it. And these are real moms. Busy moms. Unsure-of-themselves moms. Single moms. Special needs moms. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. They do the hard working of mommyhood every day, and have found fun ways to connect with their kids in the simple activities found in The Mom Project. Read on to hear their experience:

My daughter Anya has crossed that mysterious threshold, called middle school. I refer to it as the tween twilight zone. I had taken for granted the innocence of elementary school, the fairy forts being built in the backyard and listening to the endless stories of her class fishing with bamboo sticks in the creek. I was completely unprepared for sixth grade and the change it would bring to our home! Anya on the other hand is living her best tween life with one small exception…missing homework. I am certain my daughter completes her homework, because I have the unfortunate experience of wracking my brain trying to help her figure out what the slope of xy is if y is -4! Did I mention my strong disdain for algebra? Oh, and we haven’t even reached algebra this is pre-algebra! Since, she excelled in math in fifth grade she was placed in pre-algebra two levels higher than the average sixth grade math course, which has caused somewhat of a rift in our relationship!

Some of our discord is my fault. I have a new- found obsession with the online grading system that allows me to check the status of homework and grades at any time of the day…which I do…multiple times. I don’t check because I’m in training to be a tiger mom. I check because first, I’m perplexed that work is missing and second, I’m concerned. I never had issues with her handing in homework. I’m fully aware that Anya is responsible for her grades, but my momma heart can’t help to be a bit worried.

I decided to lower my blood pressure and put a stop to my new found unhealthy habit of visiting RemWeb. It was working, until one evening when she asked me to check if her math test was recorded. I eagerly agreed, after all my resistance was wearing weak! I put in the password, pulled up pre-algebra and there it was…a D, and to make matters worse, the overall grade was a D-. If she didn’t understand the material that’s one thing, but just not handing work in, well that’s another.

My eyes scanned the grades and it was apparent that she was in real trouble and partly because of missing work! I was ready to lay down the hammer, then I saw her eyes filling up with tears. I knew that anything I said in the heat of frustration would only result in a big blow out. Instead I gave her a goodnight kiss decided it was time to dive into the, “Mom Project.” I needed help!

The project, “Shower Your Kids with Grace,” immediately caught my attention. It was time to try a different angle, one that was completely opposite of what I felt like doing, which was dropping the gauntlet. After reading the project, I knew the best lesson wasn’t going to be a lecture, but a good dose of grace.

The next morning, I let Anya sleep in for a bit and woke her up with her favorite homemade waffle breakfast with whip cream and blackberries. She looked at me quizzically and cautiously. I told her we were taking the day off and having a mother daughter day in Washington, DC. She loves photography, so I planned a relaxing day of visiting her favorite spots to let her take photos. It would be a day free of grades, judgment or blame. We hopped on the metro and began the day in our Nation’s Capital. Watching Anya so care free, doing cart wheels on the National Mall, practicing her photography skills at the Botanical Gardens, and grabbing a sweet treat at Georgetown Cupcakes was a perfect way to shower her with the grace she needed.

While hanging out at the National Gallery’s Sculpture Garden, Anya said, “Thanks, mom. This has been the best day,” and she opened up about some feelings and even fears that I had no idea about. After our excursion, without my prompting Anya asked me to drop her at school at 7:30 am to get tutoring in pre-algebra. She handed in the missing work and pulled her grade up to a C. I have no doubt that day of grace made a difference for the both of us.

I learned that a little bit of grace goes a long way. This project made me think of my too many to count colossal screw ups and the grace upon grace Jesus so graciously gave me. Jesus has loved me unconditionally through every stage and I had to make sure that I was showing that same grace and love to Anya as she goes through her many stages, even the twilight teen years.

If you want to try this project, find ways to incorporate simple and spontaneous grace in your family’s life to create a home that emphasizes your love for them in all circumstances. Maybe show up at school to take them out to an impromptu lunch, give them a free pass on chores for an evening, or simply don’t dole out a much-deserved consequence as a way of showing grace. Sewing grace into the fabric of our homes create kids that know how to accept grace, but also freely give it to others as well. Who couldn’t stand a little more grace in their day?

Ready for your chance to win a copy of The Mom Project? To be entered into the drawing, just comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. *Only US readers are eligible to receive the free book.

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This is written by Chere Williams, a passionate single mother who encourages women to make God their partner in their single parenting journey through her blog, “A Single Christian Mom’s Advice on Making Life Easier” Read an excerpt of her upcoming e-book,  “15 Tips on Avoiding Single Mom Burnout.” Click here for a free download.

Chapter 11: Go Outside

Chapter 11: Go Outside

Welcome to The Mom Project. For the next few weeks, we’ll be launching my book The Mom Project by hosting several mom friends who have tried it out for themselves. They read the book, completed a project from the book with their kids, and wrote all about it. And these are real moms. Busy moms. Unsure-of-themselves moms. Single moms. Special needs moms. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. They do the hard working of mommyhood every day, and have found fun ways to connect with their kids in the simple activities found in The Mom Project. Read on to hear their experience:

The Project

Go outside. That’s the depth, height, and difficulty level of my activity for The Mom Project. And those two simple words are precisely why I love The Mom Project so much. Why? Because the simple task of spending intentional time with my children – of being present with them – works. It actually works! No extra time, fancy equipment, or expensive outings required. And that really appeals to a busy, budget-aware mom like me.

The Plan

The plan was to go to the local park and do a scavenger hunt. As I drew scavenger hunt maps and started grabbing an extra this and a bonus that to make the experience extra-completely-perfect, I felt my shoulders tightening up. The kids were getting antsy for their lunch and dangerously close to naptime, so I knew I was about to miss my one-and-only window. And as a work-from-home mom, naptime is essential.

I suddenly remembered that the instructions for spending time with my kids were simply: “Go outside.” Go outside. So simple, and yet, as usual, I was trying to over complicate things to the point of discouragement. So we grabbed our less-than-perfect stuff and headed out the door.

Results

We arrived at the small local park armed with our scavenger hunt maps. Once there, we met another family who was eager to join in on the fun. Together, the kids raced around, buckets in hand, searching for various nature items on the list: something purple, something soft, something lovely, etc. After all the items were collected, we huddled in a circle to examine our finds. As I held up each of the spring-fresh discoveries, ranging from flowers to sticks to pinecones, I interjected a few statements about God’s beautiful creation: “Did you know that we can see evidence of God everywhere we look? When we find something LOVELY, it points to its Maker, God.”

It was a fun time. We finished things off by making nature bracelets. I wrapped a strand of packing tape (sticky side out) around each little wrist, and set them off to attach bits of nature to their bracelets. After the excitement of the scavenger hunt, the kids were eager to set back off on the trail in search of more loot. The results were beautiful.

What I Learned

So what did I learn? Turns out, I’m the holdup. I get in my own way. Remember earlier in the day, when I was racing back and forth, packing the perfect items, trying to make the perfect day? Did you catch it? That problem word? Yep, that’s the word… “perfect.” By doing this simple project, I learned that my perfectionistic tendencies trip me up, discourage me, overwhelm me. Friends, I almost canceled the whole trip to the park! I was stressing myself to the max, when all I needed to do was “Go outside.”

My kids just want to spend time with me. The scavenger hunt didn’t need to be sketched in multi-colored markers with 3D relishes. I wasn’t required to do a scavenger hunt AND a treasure hunt AND a nature bracelet AND make a scrapbook of the experience the same day. Through this project, I learned to let less-than-perfect be enough.

This applies to all of life, too. Sometimes it seems as if I live my life waiting for the perfect moment…when all along, the moments are happening right in front of me. I just have to engage.

Extra Tips

If you’re doing this activity with littles, think simple. It doesn’t have to be a Pinterest production. It really can just be a blanket on the ground outside for lunch instead of at the table. After all, who would’ve thought my kids could have fun in the same environment, with the same things they see on a daily basis? (They did.)

Apparently, The Mom Project is all about tweaking my everyday routine, just a tad. It’s about incorporating this purpose, this focus, this worshipful moment into what we’re already doing anyway. It’s about making the everyday mundane special. It really doesn’t take a major schedule overhaul – just focused effort on what’s already going on.

In my perfectionist tendencies, I’d always thought I needed to wait until I could “Martha Stewart” a project with my kids. Turns out, they don’t care what it is or how pretty it is. They just want me to show up. To be there. And to love them well.

It calls to mind our mandate for telling our children about God: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:6-9, NIV) When should I be speaking about the saving, transforming power of Christ’s love in my life? When I have time? Nope. I never really will have that “perfect” time. It happens as we go: in the van, when I lay them down for nap, in the drive-thru, in the carline. Not when I finally have time to do it perfectly.

Ready for your chance to win a copy of The Mom Project? To be entered into the drawing, just comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. *Only US readers are eligible to receive the free book.

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Kelli Pavlovec draws from her experience as a work from home mom to help smart moms get unstuck and find their best self at www.TwoHourMom.com. For a free worksheet on 7 Ways to Pursue Your Life Dreams, Even While You’re a Mom, click here.

 

10 Costco Secrets (that Work in Baja, Too)

10 Costco Secrets (that Work in Baja, Too)

10 Costco Secrets (that Work in Baja, Too)

If you’re a lover of the food court, impressed by ridiculously clean, smooth floors, and slightly addicted to samples… welcome to the Costco club.

It’s pretty much the only place where your shopping cart can contain a $45,000 diamond ring resting on top of a five-gallon jug of cooking oil.

It’s also the only place I’d like to be stuck/trapped/held captive in the event of an alien parking lot invasion. Think about it… grab a mattress, sheets, down comforter, scooch yourself to the middle aisles, bust open a pillow two-pack, choose some cozy jammies, slippers and a good book, plug in a heater and wait for the sample servers to come around with hors-d’oeuvres at five. Rotisserie chicken, bagged salad and artisan bread for dinner? I’ll grab the paper plates, napkins, and plastic silverware. Brownies or pumpkin pie for dessert? Yes.

Before we accidentally start planning this event, let’s get to the Costco secrets.

Disclaimer:

  • I am not an employee of Costco.
  • I am not a secret shopper with the ability to write Costco up for not letting me drive the floor squeegee/rider/thingy.
  • I do not own Costco stock.
  • I have only put one question in the suggestion box. (Why is cornbread seasonal?)
  • I do not follow Costco on Twitter.
  • I have never spent the night in Costco, though I’m not entirely opposed to the idea.
  • I am not member FDIC, mostly because I do not know what that means.

The Secrets

1. Open, Open, Open

Most Costcos in the States open at 10:00 a.m., but if you live in Mexico… 9:00 a.m., baby! Once I arrived early to our Ensenada store thinking I had 15 minutes to wait. When what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a dude with a key and a smile just for me. In I went at 8:45, feeling like I had been given an extra chunk of time in my day. This happens in Temecula, CA, too!

2. Turnover Nights

Ever wonder why the display of rad, crazy-soft blankets moved from the front to the middle and then to the right? Marketing. Costco moves things around to make you take a different route and possibly see new products.

New products are stocked on Saturday during the night shift, so if you want to see the latest and greatest, shop Sunday. But first, go to church and pray for patience because there tends to be a bit of gridlock around the TVs and Nearly Naked Popcorn.

3. Some Prices Will Never Change

Behold, the all-American hotdog, and soda combo, alive and well in Baja, too. Same price since the day Costco opened… just a mere $1.50. Friendly reminder: just because something is super cheap and makes your mouth dance does not mean it’s healthy for your insides.

Did I just ruin it?

Sorry—I ruined it.

4. Costco Membership = Discounts on Cars, Vacations, and Coffins

Not much to explain here. If you plan on buying a car, going on a vacation or kicking the can soon, shop costco.com first. 

5. For Real Bargains, Shop the Perimeter and Middle

According to Lifehacker, the middle area of the store is referred to as “action alley” because of the high traffic. “Makers and distributors often pay for the privilege of being there, and the prices are aggressive,” the site says. The flashy displays at the end of aisles, where lucrative samples are given, tend to be the worst bargains in Costco.

I love lucrative samples.

6. Price Adjustments

Besides having an amazing return policy, Costco also offers a 30-day price adjustment guarantee. If an item gets marked down within 30 days of when you bought it, take your receipt to customer service and get the difference reimbursed. Badda-bing, badda-boom.

7. Cheapest Prescription Drugs

A recent Consumer Reports survey found that, when it comes to generic prescription drugs, Costco’s pharmacy is the most affordable on the market.

Extra Bonus: Did you know Costco membership is not required for Costco Pharmacy purchases online or in the warehouses? Annnd… they offer home delivery. Ding-dong!

8. Ninety-Seven-Cent Tags are Your Friends

Most regular priced items end in .99¢, and sometimes .49¢, .79¢, and .89¢. But the real bargains end in .97¢. They’re the items that have been marked down to the lowest sales you’ll find. They’re throughout the whole store, even on food items. Score, score, score some more.

9. Asterisks Mean “Bye Bye”

If you see this symbol (*) in the top right corner of the price tag then you know the item will not be restocked. What you see is all they have, and it won’t be returning, so if it’s something you need, stock up. Exception: popular seasonal merchandise might be returning, but not for a year. Don’t panic though: Christmas decor now arrives in August. #sweatysanta

10. Think Outside the (Costco) Box

The clear, plastic container that holds a 12-pack or 14-pack of apples perfectly fits Christmas ornaments. Fa-la-la-la-la!

What’s your favorite Costco bargain?

Besides maybe pita and hummus, what do you think Jesus would buy at Costco?


Carrie Talbott

Originally from the redwood forest of Mount Hermon, CA, Carrie lived in Baja, Mexico for the past 12 years. She and her husband, and two very white, bilingual boys just moved back to the States and are gradually adjusting to traffic and taco prices.

In the middle of a non-profit ministry and surrounded by dust and mud, she wrote a children’s book about bullying. She is now collaborating on a nonfiction book about loss, guilt and grace.

Carrie is dedicated to Jesus and avocados, and blogs regularly at carrietalbottink.com. She can also be found on Twitter @carrie_talbott and on Facebook at Carrie Talbott Ink.

 

 

4 Ways to Express LOVE to Your Not-So-Organized Spouse, Plus Free Printable

4 Ways to Express LOVE to Your Not-So-Organized Spouse, Plus Free Printable

4 Ways to Express Love

Socks scattered across the bedroom floor. Again.

Love is patient.

Paper piles covering every flat surface, even though I created a file system for them.

Love is not easily angered.

How many times do I have to remind him there is a container for the chips?

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

These are the thoughts and frustrations that run through my mind every time my husband’s messy tendencies conflict with my organized ways. You would think that after 25 years of marriage I’d be used to it.

I’m not.

When I married Clint I knew what I was getting into. I didn’t marry him for his organizational skills, but rather for his sense of humor, good looks, and kind ways. Plus, I was certain being married to me would cure him of his disorganization.

I was wrong.

Our polar opposite personalities and different ways of keeping things in order clashed from the get-go. We struggled and fought. In the end, I had to learn how to balance my orderly style with his not-so-organized ways.

Love Paves the Way

It wasn’t easy, but hope and LOVE made all the difference.

LOVE paves the way

Since our marriage was a relationship grounded in God, it seemed like the best place for me to search for answers in dealing with my disorganized spouse would be God’s Word. I was certain that I would find the evidence I needed to change Clint to my tidy way of living.

Once again, I was wrong.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes, “ Love is patient, love is kind … it keeps no record of wrong.” I wonder if Paul knew how desperately some “Odd Couples” would need to hear those words in order to live as one.

Rather than give me the weapons I was looking for, God’s Word showed me how to express LOVE to Clint in ways that would honor him, our marriage, and our home.

Express Love to Your Spouse 

Learn your spouse’s organizing style. Organizing isn’t one-size-fits all. In fact, each of us has our own way of keeping order. As much as I wanted Clint to be organized like me, he had his own style.

Once I recognized his style – no lidded containers, simple in function, and everything in view – it made it easier for me to create order for both of us. By honoring who he was, and how God created him, I was able to find a balance both of us could work with.

A marriage is made up of two unique individuals. I needed to stop trying to make him just like me and appreciate the man he was.

Offer to compromise. In a perfect world, everyone would be organized. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and often times those we love are not as organized as we’d like them to be.

While we could insist they do things our way, God reminded me that love is not self-seeking (1 Cor 13:5). That’s where compromise comes in.

Compromises

Rather than demand that every inch of the house be in perfect order, here are a few compromises I suggested:

• Offering one or two “messy zones” that he is free to keep as he pleases.
• Determining together which spaces in the house should be clutter-free and which everyone has to make an effort to keep orderly.
• Setting terms for dealing with unwanted stuff – agreeing to declutter twice a year with a goal of getting rid of at least 50 items.

Compromise is never easy, but it’s a necessary component of marriage and the organizing journey.

Verbalize your feelings, but don’t nag. While it can be frustrating to see the piles and chaos that disorganized spouses can leave in their wake, constantly pointing out those tendencies will not bring order to your home.

Statements such as, “Why can’t you put the chips back where they belong?” or “You always leave your socks on the floor” don’t exactly convey loving sentiments. Rather, statements like these that can put your spouse on the defensive and make you sound like a quarrelsome wife (Prov. 19:13, 21:9, 25:24).

Instead of bringing up his organizational shortcomings, why not try statements such as:

• “Honey, did you know that there is a basket specifically for the chips in the pantry?” or
• “It really bothers me when you leave your socks on the floor all the time. Could you pick them up more often and place them in the hamper?”

Words Have Power

Our words have the power of life and death and a gentle answer can turn away wrath (Prov. 15:1). They might just lead to order too.

Exemplify. It’s unlikely that your nagging or anger will be what brings your spouse to the light of organized living. I’ve learned from personal experience that setting the example first has more influence and impact than words or fights could ever have.

Truly, actions speak louder than words (1 Peter 3:1). Over time my consistent organized ways and habits eventually began to rub off on my husband. In the past few years I’ve seen Clint become more orderly – he makes to-do lists on a regular basis, he purges his clothes before we go shopping, and I’ve even caught him using my label maker!

I can’t say that he’s organized with everything, but he’s definitely not the same man I married all those years ago. Sometimes the best thing a wife can do is be the example for her spouse, even in the little things.

[Don’t forget to show LOVE to your spouse! Download the FREE printable – 4 Ways to Express LOVE to Your Not-So-Organized Spouse.]

Lesson Learned

Early in our marriage, I questioned whether two people on different ends of the organizing spectrum could make it work under one roof. I was certain that he was the one who needed to change. Eventually, I realized that the only person I can change is myself.

While our home isn’t perfectly organized, the truth of God’s Word, the hope that things could change, and a lot of LOVE have allowed us to have a home that’s as clutter-free as can be.

How could LOVE make a difference with your not-so-organized spouse?


Liana George is an organizer, writer, and speaker. Her mission is to inspire others in transforming their chaos into an organized lifestyle. Liana is married to Clint and together they have two adult daughters. When Liana isn’t organizing something you can find her curled up with a good book, watching/playing tennis, or planning her next dive adventure. You can visit her website at bygeorgeorganizing.com.


to-do list

Surprising Clutter: You Will Never Guess What I Found Under My Couch

Surprising Clutter: You Will Never Guess What I Found Under My Couch

I started wading through the clutter in January. One week later I was disheartened. There was still a lot to do. I shared my dismay with my brave friend who had come over and worked alongside me for a bit, she said, “It will take a year.” She reminded me this was a process and that it would take more than a weekend to declutter. And here I am today, still working on organizing, decluttering, de-junking my house. I have made some progress and have discovered some surprising clutter.

The piles of toy parts, the box of notes from high school, and the bags of stained baby clothes, I expected. However, I was surprised to discover hidden pockets of clutter of a different variety. These were things I thought I would never misplace or lose track of. I unearthed encouraging words left unsaid, found compliments piled in the corners like stacks of magazines, and discovered a hoard of fun under the couch.

Surprising clutter 

I found a box full of family time that still had the packing tape on it from our last move. Nothing really prepared me for the waves of regret that quickly eroded my pride in the progress I had made. The cost of clutter had not really hit me until that moment; clutter steals and hoards what we are capable of giving to others.

I had not realized that my disheveled closet was hoarding confidence or that the chaotic art room had my children’s creative tendencies squirreled away in half empty crayon boxes and dried up paint bottles. I started to think that maybe we just weren’t as creative, fun or as kind as we used to be, but it was just that the clutter had taken over and obscured these attributes from our hearts and minds. My creative, kind and fun-loving family was there all along.

It was just that we could only see the mess.

It didn’t take me long to realize I could not hold on to the the regret that came along with this discovery. I certainly could not afford to stockpile regret, so out it went and in came a new way of living and loving.

How to clear out the surprising clutter

As we clear the clutter, we discover that our hearts expand to give more generously to those we love most, and isn’t that what we all want? I don’t need the old train table the kids played with years ago or the 20 reusable grocery bags that have taken over my side entryway, I do need every bit of my capacity to encourage my children and to love my husband well.

My words of affirmation and kindness must be said, otherwise they are just as useless as the boxes of VHS tapes in the basement. The fun hoard, along with the dust bunnies and dog toys, needs to come out from under the couch, so that our home can be a place of joy.

Clearing the clutter allows our hearts to be tuned into what is most important — the people we do life with. As I continue to declutter my home I am now more excited about what I will gain. An expanded heart ready to jump into joy, fun and love versus what I will lose.

 


You can read more from Bethany Howard at bethanyhoward.com. She writes about finding fuel for joy and growth in the details of the daily. Her greatest leadership exercise has been her roles as wife and mom to three. She is a graduate of Leverage: The Speaker Conference.

 

 

Sleep Like a Baby: How to Have a Clutter-Free Mind

Sleep Like a Baby: How to Have a Clutter-Free Mind

clutter-free mind

Have you ever had a time when you secretly crowned yourself the Clutter-Free Queen of your house, and then you remembered the storage space under your basement stairs? You know, the storage space that was supposed to be only for Christmas decorations, but now houses every holiday decoration your child ever made from preschool through high school?

I, too, had one of those moments when I recently discovered a forgotten storage space in my life where I kept outdated and unwanted items. My storage space is smaller than the closet under the stairs, but it has enormous storage capacity. You guessed right, it’s in my mind!

Don’t Panic!

If you haven’t de-cluttered your brain yet, you don’t need to throw away your prized tiara. The mind can be conquered just like every other closet and drawer we face. When we successfully delete all the unnecessary information in our minds, we create room for new and peaceful thoughts during the day, and for restful sleep at night.

When we are at rest, particularly at night, our entire being, the mind, body, soul and spirit reaps the benefits. As I discovered while researching my book, Winning the Battle for the Night, unresolved issues in our mind often disturb our sleep at night.

As a Christian, I know from scripture that God gives us sleep. And the night should be a time for rejuvenation, rest and even revelation from God. Our Father did not intend for human beings to lie awake, tossing and turning on their beds all night.

Is a clutter-free mind possible?

Actually, have you ever heard the phrase, “I slept like a baby”? Well, God’s intention for us is to sleep like a healthy baby, in perfect peace. I believe this is the picture God had in mind when He designed our body for sleep. And yet, our mind robs us of the rest we were designed to receive at night.

The astonishing fact is that this small area of our body, weighing just three pounds, holds more than all our books, files, pictures and memorabilia combined. You may have a garage full of filing cabinets you purged. Maybe thousands of files shredded, but the brain can hold so much more information than anything you’ve ever shredded, trashed, or given over for consignment.

The brain holds about 25 million books worth of information. In computer storage terms that would be as much as 1000 terabytes of information. In comparison, the National Archives of Britain holds 900 years of history, which are contained in 70 terabytes.

Don’t worry!

Not everything in our brain has to be deleted before you can have a restful night of sleep. Deleting unnecessary files in your mind is not like the reformatting process for a computer in which all the files are deleted. A lobotomy isn’t necessary. We do have valuable information stored in our mind. Just as on a computer hard drive, there are many good files.

However, as I began an inventory in the filing cabinets stored in my brain, I was both shocked and embarrassed by what I found. I kind of felt the same way when I opened my closet in front of my neighbor and my belongings started tumbling out the door.

With the desire to sleep like a baby as my motivator, I decided it was time to look at my inventory and de-clutter my brain. Some of the contents of my filing cabinets were files that were decades old. I hadn’t looked at them for years, but they were still there, taking up space. Talk about cobwebs!

So here’s my list of seven storage cabinets that I’ve readied for removal.

1. Failures
2. Betrayals
3. Regrets
4. Disappointments
5. Conflicts
6. Accusations
7. Shame

Now What?

This storage space is not as easy to deal with as the closet under the stairs. I can’t put the contents in the dumpster or take them to Goodwill. So I devised a two-step method. It is called Give and Receive. Here’s how it works:

GIVE: Rather than calling a shredding service to shred all the files out of my seven cabinets, I took each file and gave it to God. Some files were harder to part with than others, but my desire for better sleep provided the power to pry the file loose from my grip. The surprising thing about giving the filing cabinets to Him was that He gave me something good to replace each file I gave Him. The shredding company never gave me anything for my files except a bill!

In order to benefit from God’s generosity, I need to anticipate and be willing to participate in an exchange with Him. This is the second step—receive.

RECEIVE: God is the ultimate Giver. He is resourceful, imaginative, and knows exactly what I need to receive. Here is a list of the seven exchanges I received from Him.

1. Courage to try again in place of failures.
2. Comfort for the pain of betrayals.
3. Hope for the future in place of regrets.
4. Joy in the place of disappointments.
5. Love to cover the conflicts.
6. Blessing to replace the accusations.
7. Forgiveness for all my shame.

clutter-free mind

Your brain may not have as many cabinets tucked as mine did. Regardless of how many you have, think about focusing on one cabinet a week. Give God the contents of your cabinets. Once you’ve taken this first step, the next step is easy, just receive what God gives you in exchange for what you released to Him.

You will be amazed at what He has already planned to give you! He has been waiting for this opportunity to fill your mind with good things. As you enjoy the fruit of your hard work—a clutter free mind, you’ll find sleeping like a baby comes more easily.

clutter-free mind


clutter-free mindFaith Blatchford, Author of Winning the Battle For the Night: God’s Plan for Sleep, Dreams and Revelation is also a conference speaker and composer. She has a B.A. in Religion from Vassar College. She is a pastoral counselor, as well as a creativity coach and sleep/dream consultant. Her goal whether in writing, speaking or personal ministry is to help people experience freedom in every area of life through deep connection with God, the giver of hope.

Are You Always in a Hurry? Count the Cost of Yes

Are You Always in a Hurry? Count the Cost of Yes

“I’m overwhelmed. I just need a break!” I said to my counselor. Minutes later, I left her second story office and hurried the length of the deserted hallway. I glanced at my phone while descending the stairs. My phone was dead, but I knew it was close to 4:00. I had just enough time to get to school and pick up my kids before their practices ended at 4:30. As I took the next step, I missed the stair and tumbled forward. When I came to a stop, I heard a loud “pop.” The pain was unbearable.

Tears came fast and furious and I cried out for help.

No one heard me.

I tried to push myself up to stand, but my left foot refused to bear any weight.

I cried for help again, thinking there must be someone nearby.

Again, no one heard me.

I tried my phone a second time in vain. My husband was in New York on business. Picking up the kids wouldn’t wait. I gritted my teeth and pushed myself up from the base of the stairs. I could stand on my right foot, but my left was completely useless. With great pain, I hopped to the car, frequently banging my left foot against the pavement. I managed to get myself into the car and drive across town to the school, sobbing the entire way.

The “break” I needed

I’d love to tell you my injuries were minimal and I healed quickly, but that’s not what happened. Instead, I got the “break” I needed in the form of broken bones and multiple sprains in my foot and ankle, six months of pain, restrictions, physical therapy, and a complete overhaul of my demanding pace of life.

Before my fall, I was at a breaking-point. Maybe you’ve been there too.

I had taken on too many responsibilities – running a nonprofit, serving as team mom, leading a Bible study, making play costumes, and so much more. I spent the previous year moving at record speed. I like to keep busy, but I was over-committed, under-rested, and probably not the most pleasant person to be around.

We don’t have to live that way.

Count the cost of yes

What I learned through my ordeal was that I’m capable of only so much. I’m learning to live within my limits. That means I only commit to a certain number of activities, projects and responsibilities. When my plate is full, I must eliminate an item before adding another. I guard my time and energy or they’ll be swallowed up by my desire to say “yes” to more than I can sanely accomplish.

If I hadn’t been rushed and feeling overwhelmed, I’m sure I wouldn’t have missed that step. I likely wouldn’t have even been in counselor’s office that day. The cost of over-commitment was high.

One of the things I contemplated during my recovery was that Jesus never rushed. He moved at an intentional pace. His time of ministry on earth was very brief, only three years. If anyone had a reason to pick his pace and do more than humanly possible, it was Jesus. But, he didn’t.

I’m learning to follow his example.

Luke 14:28 reminds us to count the cost, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”

When we’re tempted to say “yes” and add one more thing to our busy schedules, pause and acknowledge that “yes” will cost us something. At the very least, it means we have to say “no” to other opportunities.

What will saying “yes” cost you? Will it cost your peace? Dilute your focus?

When we commit to pause and count the cost before taking on another thing, we are empowered to manage the opportunities that come our way. We focus on what we’re meant to do, the things most important to us. We walk in freedom, unhurried and confident.

What are you doing to follow Jesus’ example of walking out your life intentionally and unhurried? How have you learned to live within the limits of your time and energy?


cost of yesElizabeth M. Thompson is a writer and speaker. Prayer is her super-power and she loves helping women develop meaningful prayer lives. She and her husband have three children. They live, bike, kayak, and hike along the American River near Sacramento, CA. Stop by her website for a free download of “Jumpstart Your Stalled Prayer Life.”

How to Quickly Find Your Focus, Plus a FREE Download

How to Quickly Find Your Focus, Plus a FREE Download

find your focus

I’ve got to get focused on this project.

I set down my pen.

What usually works isn’t working right now.

I lean back in my chair.

And that’s okay.

I exhale.

This situation is different.

Several major projects are all due at the same time, and every single one is now or never.
I could say “no” to some of them.

Honestly, though, I don’t want to. I don’t want to miss out on any of these exciting opportunities.
I want to move forward with every single one.

But how?

When You Just Can’t Find Your Focus

Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation: You’re trying to make progress, but your brain can’t focus because it’s going in a dozen different directions at the same time.

In my situation, I had pushed myself to do the work—even though I really wanted to do anything but this type of work in the moment.

I went through all the usual techniques that typically help me focus:

  • I took a walk.
  • I turned off all distractions.
  • I set a timer.

But all of my fail-safe strategies failed.

The harder I tried, the muddier my mind became. I couldn’t make myself make progress.

Or even get started.

Which was crazy. These were projects I really wanted to accomplish, and I was grateful for the opportunities.

At the same time, they were demanding tasks for me. Each project involved writing. And not just ordinary writing, but the most challenging kind of writing where every word mattered.

I needed a new strategy.

What Made the Difference

Here’s what worked for me:

  • I used pen-and-paper, which forced me to slow down.
  • I limited my work to what would fit on one page, which narrowed my focus.
  • I quickly skipped over anything that wasn’t the best fit, which gave me momentum.
  • I saved ill-fitting ideas for later projects, which kept me from getting bogged down.

What made the difference?

My mind stayed focused on one task at a time without getting distracted by “Shiny Object Syndrome.”

This may be a challenge for you, too.

Combining strategies you don’t typically put together will help you find your focus.

How to find what helps you focus

Learning to combine old strategies in new ways is a valuable skill.

You already do this in the kitchen when you tweak a recipe — trying a little of this, a little of that, until the flavors blend together just so.

Here’s how to combine strategies to help you quickly find focus:

1)        Make a list of the typical strategies that help you focus.

(For ideas, download your free “5 Simple Ways to Quickly Find Your Focus”  checklist.)

2)        Check any strategies that usually work for you.

3)        Circle any new strategies that intrigue you.

4)        Combine several different strategies into a new “recipe.”

5)        Now, experiment with it.

How will you know that you’ve found the right combination of strategies?

You’ll start to feel unstuck. You’ll get going again.

As you gain momentum, you’ll make great progress.

All because you finally found your focus.

find your focus

Question:  What’s one strategy that helps you find your focus?


find your focusMary Lou Caskey trains Christian coaches and communicators to influence hearts through the power of story. If you want to become a transformative storyteller, connect with Mary Lou and get her free quiz, “Is It the Best Time to Share a Personal Story?”

 

 

 

6 Things Positive People Do Everyday

6 Things Positive People Do Everyday

positive people

When the situations of life don’t “feel” positive, it’s often hard to think positive. But fortunately, it’s not impossible.

Being a positive thinker doesn’t mean living with a Pollyanna/rose-colored glasses mentality. It simply means choosing to intentionally look for the best in things, and find reasons to be positive, rather than intentionally, or even inadvertently, focusing on the negative aspects of people, life and situations.

We can’t control our circumstances, but we can always control our thoughts about them. And when we change the way we think, we in turn change the way feel and live. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (NKJV) Our thoughts determine who we are and how we live our life.

If you have found yourself becoming a negative or pessimistic thinker lately, even if you have lots of reasons to justify that type of attitude, or if you feel like you’ve always been a negative person and think it’s impossible to change, might you consider incorporating a few of these tips into your everyday routines?

6 things positive people do every day

When you invite God to start helping you change the way you think, you’ll notice your perspective and outlook and the way you feel inside will begin changing too. A happier life with more peace, joy and happiness – despite the adversities life – could be as close as one positive thought away.

  1. Express gratitude. Ask God to help you live with an awareness of your blessings. Notice the little things that bring a flutter of joy to your heart – a butterfly, a streak of warm sunshine, the laughter of your child, the hug from a loved one. Try to focus on the things you have, rather than the things don’t have.
  2. Look for beauty. Life can be ugly, and at times we get so caught “seeing” the ugly, we neglect to notice the beauty around us. Take time to really look out the window as you drive today. Notice the blue sky, the green trees, the bunny hopping across the field. Smell the flowers, savor the aroma of dinner on the stove, and feel the softness of your baby’s hair. Beauty is all around us in a million different forms, if only we choose to not overlook it and miss out.
  3. Don’t compare anything to anyone else because doing so not only feeds your insecurities, but because comparison is the thief of joy. You are you, and God made you unique in every way; gifted with abilities, traits and talents that nobody else has. Rather than focusing on how you don’t feel you measure up in some way, most likely against some standard you were never meant to meet, focus on your positive attributes alone.
  4. Don’t overthink problems. The more we overthink a problem – letting our imaginations run wild with worry and fear and stress – the bigger those problems become. Instead of thinking the worst, try to think the best. Instead of focusing on the negatives of a situation, try to think of some positives that might come out of it. If you’re prone to overthink be overly positive. A little too much optimism never hurt anyone.
  5. Change the way you typically think by asking God to help you begin recognizing each negative thought that pops into your mind. Reject that thought, and then think of a more positive true thought instead. Simply put, cultivate optimism in your patterns of thinking. Instead of seeing the glass half empty, intentionally tell yourself to see the glass half full. If you tend to think the worst when a problem arises, intentionally decide you are not going to do that, and try to think of the best case potential scenario instead. Making these practices a habit in your everyday life helps foster an amazing transformation in your brain and thought patterns.
  6. Invite God to be a part of your day, your life and your mind makeover transformation. When we ask for His intervention in our hearts and minds, we open the door for Him to begin an work in us that we could never accomplish on our own. Through His strength and perseverance, we overcome the pull towards negative thinking and retrain our minds to think optimistic, instead of pessimistic. After a few weeks of implementing practical thought control and intentional efforts to be positive, new habits will form are good for us and our lives!

If you want to be a more positive person and live a more positive life, consider trying to do each of these tips every single day. Think positive, be positive, live positive.  It’s a lifestyle that’s possible for everyone which always ushers in more peace, more joy, and more happiness!


To intentionally make positive living a reality in your life, and to begin experiencing a total life makeover through the transforming and renewing of your mind, consider purchasing Tracie’s newest book, Unsinkable Faith: God-Filled Strategies for Transforming the Way You Think, Feel and Live. You can also purchase a Companion Study Guide & Journal and other valuable, faith fueling resources on Tracie’s blog at www.traciemiles.com.

positive people

Sign up for Tracie’s free 5 Day Optimist Challenge. Visit her blog for more information at www.traciemiles.com.

positive peopleTracie Miles is a national Speaker and Author with the internationally known Proverbs 31 Ministries and has spent the last eleven years inspiring women to live intentionally for Christ  In addition to Unsinkable Faith, she is also the author of two best selling books,  Your Life Still Counts: How God Uses Your Past To Create A Beautiful Future(2014) and Stressed Less Living: Finding God’s Peace In Your Chaotic World (2012). She is also a contributing author to the popular Zondervan NIV Women’s Devotional Bible, and the Proverbs 31 Encouragement for Today Daily Devotional Book.

Tracie is a monthly contributing writer for the Proverbs 31 Ministries Encouragement for Today daily devotions, which reach nearly one million people per day around the world with encouragement from God’s Word. Tracie has three children and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.