Monday, July 07, 2014
Friends, if this is true, I am BLESSED.
As it turns out, 6 children under the age of 11 is hard. When 3 of those children are a sibling group recently removed from their birth family, it's even harder. Having a 2, 3, and 4 year old is utter chaos. I know, SHOCKING.
It's not that I don't know these things before I jump into them, its just that I'm a bit... well... optimistic? Hopeful? Unrealistic? Overconfident? Who knows. I guess when I feel God calling me to something, I assume it will be accompanied by His provisions (emotionally, relationally, mentally, spiritually, financially, logistically, etc.), and I jump in full force.
So here we are. Life is hard right now. I'm not really sure how to do this well, but I am trying. Some days are amazing and progress is palpable. Some days, like today, glorious events like nap time turn into horrific episodes of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I sat down at our kitchen table during this afternoon's meltdown and decided to pay bills to distract myself (with something equally frustrating, but seemingly more manageable). Towards the end, I found myself appreciating the breeze (it is 81 degrees INSIDE MY HOUSE- which may be contributing to my less than stellar attitude). The breeze drew my eyes to the window and I was struck by the calm that is found in nature on a summer afternoon. Birds, wind, trees, sunshine, clouds... so much lazy perfection, and here I was all in knots, stressed to my core, 2 feet away from it all. Friends, how do we get to this point? How do we find ourselves so removed from the simplicity of it all? I don't have an answer to that, but I decided to do something that fills my spirit for the remainder of "nap time." Since I don't have a hammock and I needed to be indoors to listen to children avoiding their naps like the plague, I decided to blog. Talking here helps, and I truly enjoy writing.
Here's what I know: God is providing. Not how I hope, or on my timeline, but He is in our midst and any forward progress is because of Him. I'm adjusting my expectations. Hot days suck. I like time alone with my husband, and extra money would be nice. My anal, over-organized nature is an asset in a big family. I have no clue how to balance all this with my job, and the month of August is a big giant bully terrorizing my dreams. I don't like cooking in the summer, and I believe pizza made by someone else should be cheaper and socially acceptable for dinner 5 nights a week, but...
I am where I am meant to be, with who I'm meant to be with, at the end of my rope, and blessed. If you are at the end of your rope too, take comfort, with less of you, there is more of God, and that's gotta be a good thing.
Saturday, June 30, 2012
In the past few days I have read the following statements (or something VERY similar) more times than I care to count, "You are not entitled to what I have earned." Or worse yet, "I worked hard and went to college apparently so you wouldn't have to." These are favorites on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, with people "sharing" them over and over again.
I take an EXTREME amount of offense to this, and I know I am not the only one. For the past 3 and a half years we have been without health insurance. Never once during that time were we "milking" the system or "wasting" all the hard work and effort of people who "earned" what they have. Cody held 2 full-time jobs for over a year in order to make ends meet and chase the dream God had given him. Currently we are both working. We both earned college degrees (not that it should matter) and we are both working in the fields we trained for in school. He is a church planter, I am a teacher, and we are both foster parents... and we have no health insurance. We believe God has called us to be doing what we're doing, but we take responsibility for having made that choice. Cody and I go without health insurance, but we do not believe our children should go without, so we apply for MI Child/medicaid. So here's the kicker... we may not make as much money as some people, and our jobs may not offer health insurance like many do, but it DOES NOT mean we haven't paid taxes towards the services we receive, it DOES NOT mean we are slackers or leeches, and it DOES NOT mean we don't work VERY hard to make a good life for our family and to make a meaningful contribution to society.
You may say, "so buy your own insurance then." I would say, go price out personal insurance and let me know how easily your budget could take that hit.
You may say, "so get a different job or move." I would say, I am right where God is asking me to be.
You may say, "you are the exception not the norm." I would say, think again. The average household income in my county is $28,599 (in 2009). For the rest of the state in 2009 it was $45,255. People here work hard, they just don't earn what people earn elsewhere. When a job pays that little, it rarely comes with benefits, unless it's a big corporation (ie. Walmart, Home Depot, etc.), and they don't set up shop in tiny northern Michigan towns.
I honestly don't care whether you support the new health care laws or not. I have NO desire to argue the politics or morality of it all. I'm just BEGGING you to choose your words carefully as you debate this with others. We "slacker/leeches" types are tired of all the mud slinging.
As an FYI- we will have insurance through my job starting in September, and although I am extremely happy to know it's coming, it does not change my feelings about this whole issue.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
So... what to write when life's current journey is off limits? I have no idea. Its difficult for me to feel as though anything in my life is blog worthy knowing I cannot incorporate that piece of the puzzle into it. I guess I'm a little too holistic that way.
Here's what I am learning (and I apologize for the vagueness):
Everyone walks a difficult path. Everyone.
SO many of our friends and family members have made the comment recently, "I just can't imagine being a foster parent. There would be nothing harder than saying goodbye to a child you love." I don't really know how to respond to that, except to acknowledge that this is the path God has asked us to be on for this time in our life. The reality is, I can't imagine having a spouse who goes off to war for months/years at a time. I don't ever want to know the pain of a marriage that is disintegrating despite my best efforts to save it. I can't imagine raising my children alone. I can't fathom watching a loved one die of cancer, or losing a child, or suffering a life altering injury. Yet... I have watched friends and loved ones walk all of these paths with dignity and strength and faith in a God who sustains.
We don't always choose our paths...sometimes they choose us... and when they do, we have a choice: we can run away, or we can face our fears as best we know how, and hope and pray we come out more like God on the other side.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Over the last few months, people have asked how I am doing since leaving my CEO post at Thomas Nelson. For the most part, great. I am really enjoying this new phase of my life.
But last week, I was feeling overwhelmed. It seemed that I was spending all day, every day mired in administrative detail—responding to emails, making travel plans, and filling out expense reports. Ugh.
This the first time in more than a decade that I have been without an executive assistant. I had clearly taken this role for granted, not realizing how much it had freed me up to do what I do best.
So what to do?
At first, I decided to power through it. But that didn’t work. The tennis balls have been coming over the net faster than I can hit them. My volume of email alone has doubled in the last 90 days.
Next, I tried to enlist my wife, Gail, to help. Bad idea. She already has a full-time job as a homemaker, mom, and counselor to countless women. (After watching her in action for the last few months, I have a whole new appreciation for her!)
Finally, I decided that I had had enough. Something had to give. I needed to take a different approach if I was going to get my head above water.
I took the following seven steps:
- I decided I had to make a change. This sounds almost trivial, but it is essential. Evidently, some people like being overwhelmed. They wouldn’t admit this, of course. But they thrive on stress in a perverse way. Perhaps it makes them feel important or indispensable. They may complain about their workload, but they are unwilling to do things differently. Are you ready for a change?
- I identified my three high payoff activities. I asked myself, What is it that only I can do? Where do I add the most value? What is really important as opposed to merely urgent? For me, that is writing, speaking, and networking—in that order. Anything else is a waste of what I have been given. What are your high payoff activities?
- I identified my three biggest productivity sinkholes. This was easy. For me, it is responding to email, booking my own travel, and meeting with acquaintances who want my advice. (As much as I’d like to do this, I am drowning in requests.) I decided I had to eliminate—or at least dramatically reduce—these activities in my life. What are your productivity sinkholes?
- I spent time reviewing the productivity basics. In his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss, says that the key to productivity is elimination, automation, and delegation. Some stuff is just no longer worth doing. Other stuff can be put on auto-pilot. Most of the rest can be delegated. Have you made a list of which activities fall into which category?
- I decided to do the math. Unfortunately, I had fallen into a common paradigm: I was thinking that if I could do something I should do it—myself. Balderdash! If you can make $50.00 an hour, is it a good investment for you to do tasks that you can hire done for $12.00 an hour? I don’t think so. This is not only bad math, it is bad stewardship. What do you make an hour? Could you be more financially productive if you delegated?
- I hired a virtual executive assistant. I realized that I wasn’t ready for a full-time one. I wanted to take this one step at a time. Thankfully, there are scores of companies (offshore and domestic) that specialize in providing virtual assistants for as many hours as you need. I did this several years ago, and it was a positive experience. I decided to go with Miles Advisory Group. I am very impressed with their responsiveness. Have you ever considered a VA?
- I am scheduling the important tasks. I know, I know, I teach this stuff. You’d think I would already have this nailed. Well, I did. More or less. But it was a completely different context, namely, CorporateWorld. Now I am having to implement the same thing in a different context. I am now scheduling my important tasks first and forcing my productivity sinkholes into small blocks of time. How much of your calendar this week is dedicated to high payoff activities?
Just going through this process has had a huge, positive impact on my attitude. Nothing has really changed yet, but I am already feeling less overwhelmed and more in control. I am ready for a change. Are you?
Saturday, July 16, 2011
I like things to have a place, I like those places to make sense, and I want it all to look nice when it's finished. Lately I've been spending way too much time time on Pinterest. One of the things that keeps me so interested is all the different things people do for organization (I recently pinned a picture of plastic magazine boxes in a freezer holding all of someone's bagged freezer goods upright and orderly... how cool is that idea?!?). I've also been watching the first season of "Hoarders" on Netflix. It's an unhealthy combo folks. Today I cleaned out 3 cupboards in my kitchen, 2 drawers and a closet. It felt SO GOOD. So good that I very easily could have ignored my family and kept right on going into the wee hours of the morning. I didn't... thankfully. So here I sit, still wound up, but trying to resist the urge to purge some more and I keep rolling around something that one of the Hoarders on the TV show said, "I just don't seem to be capable of distinguishing what matters and what doesn't. I have no clue where to begin."
I doubt any of you are hoarders, but if you can resonate with that sentiment, this post is for you.
#1. Start small. Commit to cleaning out one area each day for a month (or until its finished). This could be as big as a room, or as small as one cupboard (or even one storage box or shelf). Understand your limits and make a reasonable goal for yourself. This should be a small time commitment of 10 minutes-30 minutes. Set a time and do it each day at that time (ie. baby's nap time).
#2. Have a plan for this process before you begin. Will you be selling items at a garage sale? Donating to local charities? Trashing everything unwanted? Knowing this in advance will help you sort and make decisions.
#3. Have "zones" ready. When doing a small area, I always have a trash can and a box or two on the floor next to me. If it's trash, it's immediately thrown away. If I plan to sell it, it goes in the box. If I plan to donate it, it goes in the other box. If it belongs somewhere else in my home, I call one of the kids and have them take it there immediately. ;) If that doesn't work, I start a "relocate" pile. I reuse the boxes each day until they are full, and then I immediately take all donate items to their drop off location, and seal up garage sale boxes (marked, "garage sale") and put them in our storage room.
#4. With food: If it's expired, throw it out. If no one in your home will eat it, throw it out. If there's not enough cereal in the box for a bowl and it's been sitting there almost empty for weeks... THROW IT OUT.
#5. With clothing: If you haven't worn it in a year, you should not keep it. If it doesn't look good on you, you should not keep it. If it's holey... you should not keep it (I'm talking to myself on that one...). Ladies, here's the biggie- if it's not your size, you should NOT KEEP IT. Let's be real with ourselves. We do not need "skinny clothes" reminding us of what we're not, fooling us into believing we'll wear it again someday. If someday comes, that outfit probably won't be in style anymore anyway, and buying new clothes in a tinier size will be fun. You also do not need "fat clothes" lying around daring you to gain weight again. With the exception of maternity clothing for those planning to be pregnant again, if it doesn't flatter and fit get rid of it.
#6. With "treasures": If you didn't use that holiday decoration last year, chances are you probably won't use it this year. If that nick-knack from your grandma is as important as you say it is, it should be displayed somewhere in your home, not sitting in a box in the basement. If you've been married more than 2 years and still haven't used some gift from the wedding, chances are it will still be in the box in another 2 years.
#7. With children's projects and artwork: Somethings MUST be saved (pottery, handmade books, etc.). In our home, everything else is negotiable. Very quickly I learned how much stuff a child can generate in a preschool classroom. Adorable, precious, awkwardly large stuff. We display it on the fridge for a time, then I take a really great photo of it and throw it in the trash. Yup, I trash it. Then I take all these adorable photos, upload them to a site like Snapfish and turn the collection into a book of my child's artwork. Much smaller, much more manageable, and easier to cherish and enjoy.
That's all I can think of right now, but I hope to add to this list in the coming weeks. I will also try to share some of my favorite organization tricks we use in our home. Happy organizing!
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
It seems as though I haven't had much margin lately so I am trying to use it the best way I know how. Right now, Ezra and Ki are at school, and Cody's gone in a meeting. I should be showering... I REALLY should... but my spirit needs to write so here I sit. I am trying, the best way I know how, to choose the "best use of my time" over the "most pressing use of my time." It's not always possible, but when it is, that's my goal.
Some people are people-oriented and some people are task-oriented. I am the latter. It's difficult for me to sit here writing when I'm stinky (I'm telling ya, I really NEED a shower), there's unfolded laundry in baskets at my feet, my bed's not made, and there are dishes in the sink. It's completely counter-intuitive for me to choose to write at this moment, but I believe that when we make the "best use of our time" priority over the "most pressing use of our time" the first gives us fuel to accomplish the second with more efficiency and energy.
I recently started an devotional called, "Parenting By Design" through YouVersion. It's short (which is helpful these days) and always refocuses my thoughts about parenting that day. I could just as easily spend that 3 minutes reading facebook updates, but I'm finding this tiny change in the use of my margin to pay big dividends. I even have the app on my phone so it's always available to me when I have a moment. I'm also trying to intentionally spend 10-20 minutes a day holding my boys. I do this most of the time anyway, but when I make it intentional, I'm more apt to put down what I'm working on when they're talking, pull them up on my lap and listen fully to what they are sharing. It's not that I care more, but it definitely communicates that I'm invested in them, that they are of vital importance, and that I love to hear what they have to say. It's a small change, but it feels like something huge in our relationship.
I was thinking there were more examples, but now I'm at a loss. Maybe looking at the laundry or smelling myself has finally gotten the best of me... ;) I'd love to gather more ideas from you- maybe there are things I could do that I've never considered!
What do you do with your margin? How do you take advantage of those little pockets of time when life is flexible and you have choice about how you will use it?
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I have none at this point in time. I'm a firm believer in the fact that there are seasons where life isn't what we want it to be, but you do your best and plow through, comforted by the fact that it is only a season. Lately, I've used this as an excuse to not push for more in my life, to be lazy, or to ease the nagging I feel when I analyze my "less than" living. At this rate, I am building habits that turn a "season" into a lifestyle.
I miss my husband. Weekly date nights disappeared when we brought home 3 foster children in November of 2009. We were one month shy of having been married 10 years and we had managed to have a weekly date night almost every week for that entire time. All our "free" babysitters kind of bailed once they met our new kids, and we couldn't really afford to pay anyone else. When we could afford to pay, we used these sitters to help us attend meetings and small groups, etc. When they left, no one really offered to step up again to watch Ezra and Ki, and we didn't really want to ask. At this point in time, once a month seems ambitious. Our last date was the day after Christmas, oh wait... we did run errands together in Gaylord for Valentine's Day. I. MISS. MY. HUSBAND.
I miss my alone time. It's been 2 years since we've had "nap time" in our home, and that was my guaranteed time alone with my thoughts each day. At first it was inconvenient but doable, over the long haul it's wearing on me in ways I didn't anticipate. Creativity is non-existent, motivation is lacking, patience is extremely low, etc. Cody has tried to help in so many ways over the past 6 months. He's taken on more household responsibilities, watched the kids so I could run errands by myself, encouraged me to do things that fill me up emotionally, but in the end, I just need regular/daily time alone, and it's not happening.
I miss God. I. MISS. GOD. This is really the crux of it all. Everything else kind of spins off of this I'm sure. Nap time was also my God time. In all honesty I have yet to find a suitable replacement time since that fell by the wayside, TWO YEARS AGO. My time with God is just as hit or miss as the time with my husband and myself. "Life" or lack thereof seems to always get in the way.
I don't want to tell you about all this... I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, but I need to be accountable to change this. I need to be honest about the fact that in my interactions with people lately I'm giving advice based on what I've always believed to be true and not out of the overflow of God's spirit in me. I'm physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually exhausted and out of balance.
Have you ever been here?