4 Activities You Didn’t Know You Needed

One of my favorite activities is introducing people to powerful and wonderful tools. Here are my top four tools that I think everyone should try.

Labyrinth

The labyrinth is a one way maze. You walk in to the middle, rest, then walk out. It’s so simple, and yet there are labyrinths on all continents and in all cultures. This was once part of the Christian tradition, and is now being rediscovered. If you live in the RTP area, I recommend you check out the Millbrook Baptist Church labyrinth.

People walking labyrinth

 

Faith Communitycommunity1

I’ve heard so many people say that they are spiritual, or Christian, but don’t need to be in church. We’ve fallen for the falsehood that we can live spiritual lives outside of a community, and that’s just not true. Now, I’m not saying you have to run join a traditional faith community. But I do believe that all of us need to belong to a community that shares our basic worldview. Maybe that means a church, or a mosque, or a temple. Or perhaps you’ll participate in a tightly knit meditation circle, or even a volunteer group dedicated to a certain cause. Whatever it is, find your people and hold on tight!

 

Meditation PracticeMeditation-hands-260x172

Meditation comes in many forms. Maybe you are already practicing without realizing it. Using silence and awareness are the key traits of meditation. If you never take time to be quiet and still, whether in formal meditation, contemplative prayer, yoga meditation, or any other mindfulness technique, you are missing out on the incredible value of this practice.

Life Coach

Yes, you need a life coach. We all struggle with day to day life, and that’s why we need families, grandparents, and mentors. A life coach is just one kind of mentor. When I was struggling with post partum depression, I saw a therapist weekly, and then every other week. But even though I’ve recovered from my depression, I still see my therapist a few times a year. I consider it just as important as my 6 month dental cleanings. We all need someone we can trust, someone who can listen, and someone who can gently point out our blind spots. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to find that relationship within our community or family, but sometimes we need a more formal arrangement. Do you have a mentor? Or are you looking for someone? Schedule a meeting with me today!

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How Boundaries Improved My Parenting

Recently this link was shared with me in two different places.

It’s a very sweet video, and I think the message is great. Cherish your time with your children, because that time goes by more quickly than you can imagine.

However, this video also caused me a moment or two of indignation. It’s very easy to misinterpret the video into a message of enjoying every single moment with your kids. As Glennon Melton pointed out in her viral post, Don’t Carpe Diem, trying to celebrate and love every moment of parenthood is just not possible.

When I first had my child, I was bombarded with the advice to enjoy every minute. Even the minutes when she was crying, or pooping on me, or spitting up, or chewing my nipples. When she screamed, people told me to be happy that she had great lungs. When I complained, I was told to be glad that she was healthy. It seemed like a conspiracy to deny any negative feelings or emotions related to motherhood. And I agree with Glennon: that’s insane.

Here’s how I’ve chosen to deal with this pressure. Instead of trying to enjoy every minute, I choose to be fully present for just some of the minutes. When I am with my daughter, I am fully present to her. If we are outside and she wants to spend five minutes looking at a flower, we look at that flower. When she wants to read a book 15 times in a row, I read it 15 times. But when I am cooking dinner, I put her in front of Sesame Street so I don’t have to divide my attention. One morning a week her dad is responsible for getting her up, dressed, and fed. On that morning, I will sit quietly and enjoy my own morning ritual, being fully present to my self, my prayers, or whatever activity I have chosen.

Instead of frantically trying to do everything and be fully present to my child 100% of the time, I created boundaries and made a deliberate choice to only be fully present to her part of the time. In part I did this because I had post partum depression, and setting those boundaries was an important piece of my recovery. My way is not the only way, or even the best way, but it is the best and only way for me.

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Identifying Priorities

So my darling daughter started preschool at the beginning of March. After three weeks, I’m settling into the joys of actually working FROM home. Yesterday while I filed I listened to some music and yodeled the lyrics at the top of my lungs. I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I had been alone in my own home. It was refreshing!

Today I’ve settled in for a day completely at home: all my appointments are via the phone and I have no meetings to attend. At first it was a challenge. After a couple of calls, I wanted nothing more than to kick back on the sofa and watch a couple of episodes of Parks and Rec. But this is my work time, not my relaxation time. So instead I treated myself to a cookie and a few minutes in the sunshine on my back porch.

While in my kitchen, I noticed the general mess and thought that perhaps someone should clean that up. Not me, of course, because I am WORKING right now. Then, on my way back into the office, I casually folded some clean sheets, put wet clothes in the dryer, and started a fresh load in the washer.

Hypocritical? Nope! Just living DSCN1093out my priorities. I’ve been all over the Triangle the last couple of months talking about priorities, and how when we tie our priorities to our passions, we live life according to what is important rather than what is urgent. And my actions this morning are an example of what I’m talking about. Cleaning the kitchen is not one of my passions. Neither am I particularly good at it. But laundry is something I enjoy doing. That’s why cleaning the kitchen during a break from work is not something I am going to do, even though it does need to get done. But spending a few minutes on laundry doesn’t stress me out or interrupt my mental flow, because I enjoy it and I’m good at it.

How is your day demonstrating your priorities?

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5 Things You Need to Hear About Yourself

This week’s post is brought to us by blogger and teacher, Beth Parent McMillian. Beth and I traveled to Wilkesboro, NC, to hear Zach Galifiniakis read at the library and sign autographs. I did a guest post on her blog earlier this year, and now she’s returning the favor. I originally asked her for some thoughts on being a newlywed (congrats!), but when she mentioned this idea to me for her post I was hooked. It certainly contained things I needed to hear about myself!

Beth is a teacher, writer, chocolate lover, mix-tape master, and newlywed who wants to be a Broadway star when she grows up (should she choose to grow up). She would love to meet you, tell you you’re awesome, and dedicate a song to you on the radio. Check out her blog at Onward Hoe!

1. You are enough.

Why do we as women always think we should be more? More organized, more punctual, more ahead of the game, more in shape, more fashionable, more carefree, more settled down, more trusting, more discerning, and just generally better. No really, why do we do this?

There are goals, and there is shame. If you want to set a goal to become more organized so that you can take better care of the people and things that have been entrusted to you in life, then you should make a plan and do it. But you should know the whole time that there is nothing wrong with you as a human being because your house is cluttered. If you think you should be more organized because your house doesn’t look like Pinterest, I have a secret for you: (whispering behind my hand) Those people are hiding all their mess in another room when they take those pictures.

2. You are not too much.

For every woman who says she’s not organized enough, there’s another woman who says she’s too structured. For every woman who says she’s not trusting enough, there’s another woman who says she is too gullible. For every woman who thinks she’s not enough, there’s another woman who thinks she’s too much.

Here are some legitimate (non-rhetorical) questions I’d like to invite you to consider: Is it possible for us to let ourselves just be who we are, and let other women be who they are? Is it possible for us to believe that we’re all OK? Is it possible for us to use our strengths and depend on others to use their strengths in areas where we are weak? Is it possible that weakness in one person is good because it allows another person to use their strength? Is it possible that the area where you think you are too much is precisely the area where someone else needs a little extra help, and maybe you are perfect for the job?

You may be tempted at this point to push back saying, “You don’t understand. I really am too __________.” If you behave in a way that hurts people (including yourself) or makes them feel that who they are is not good, that might be an “area of growth potential” for you, but I still believe your “too much” is a strength that can be used for good if wielded in love.

My guess, though, is that you aren’t hurtful. My guess is that somewhere along the line, someone  – someone you trusted, someone who had some authority in your life, someone you believed had your best interest at heart, someone you hoped would accept you – told, advised or asked you to stop doing something. Maybe your mom got annoyed with you for making a mess, maybe a teacher or Bible study leader told you to give other people a chance to talk, maybe a boy you had a crush on said you were one of the guys (ouch), maybe society at large told you girls don’t act that way. And the suggestion to stop doing was translated in your brain as stop being. “Stop leaving a mess” became “You’re too disorganized.” “Give others a chance to talk” became “You’re too assertive.” “You’re one of the guys” became “You’re too masculine.”

I have good news for you, love. People can be wrong, and those people were wrong about you. I spent years believing I was too much because one teacher tried to reign in my creativity, because one leader told me I talked too much, because one boy told me I was intimidating, because the faith community I grew up in told me women are supposed to be quiet and not have jobs. I spent years wishing I were different. And then I realized that I was exhausted, and that I was so deeply loved that I broke down in tears every time I thought about it. Then I apologized for my tears, and it took months of good friends telling me that my vulnerability was beautiful before I believed them and started accepting the fact that I was loved.

You are not too much. Your strength is good and powerful when you use it to love.

3. Who you are is good.

A friend of mine has a counseling practice, and she says one of the most common things she hears from women is that they feel they aren’t good enough. I’ve heard this as well from friends, and it just breaks my heart. I know these women, and I know that they are amazing, and it makes me very sad to know that they think they aren’t.

In listening to dozens of women tell me their stories, I’ve seen some patterns come out of almost all of them, so I think no matter who you are, they are likely true for you. I know you don’t know me, and you have no reason to trust me. But if your spirit stirs when you read these words, I would invite you to ask God what he has to say about you. Then don’t take my word for it; take his. You are amazing. You are courageous. You are strong. You are tender. You are passionate. You are loving. You are lovely. You are loved. You are lovable. You are faithful. You are fruitful. You are exactly who you are supposed to be. You are good.

4. You bear the image of God.

It blows my mind that there are people in the world today who have the ability to authenticate works of art, relics, fossils, and every other old thing in the world whose creator is no longer alive. How? How do they know the difference between a vase from the Ming Dynasty and one from the Qing Dynasty? How can they distinguish between a real Monet painting and a copycat? It’s because every creator leaves his/her mark. Every creation bears signs that it was created by a specific person in a specific time and place.

You bear the image of the God who created you. You carry some aspect of him in your personality, and you offer to the people in your life a unique combination of his character traits. No one else is quite the same mixture of love, compassion, wisdom, kindness, gentleness, strength, justice, mercy, grace, humor, anger, and creativity as you are.

5. The world needs you.

Because you uniquely bear the image of God in a way that only you can, you play a specific role in the world. Scripture describes this as being part of the body of Christ. Imagine that your left pinky toe decided it was too insignificant to function anymore – it went numb and limp and just gave up. It’s just one toe, right? But wouldn’t it feel weird? Wouldn’t it feel like something was missing, like something was just not quite right? Sure, you could function, but it would bother you.

Without you being exactly who you are, who you were created to be, the world can function, but something is just not quite right. We don’t need you to be someone else (that’s what other people are for). We need you to be YOU. No one else can do that.

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Daffodils

My garden is waking up! I have three crocus blooms, and my daffodils have sent up leaves and buds. I think they will bloom in the next week.

I love daffodils. Each spring they come forth, tall beautiful sentinels of warmer weather. They aren’t harmed by cold temperatures: in fact a daffodil needs a very cold period in order to know when to bloom. They are a great reminder that hard work pays off.

In the fall several years ago, I planted my daffodil bulbs. I had to dig holes 6 inches below the surface, which was incredibly difficult because my flower bed is the former home of some very large holly bushes. This means that you can’t turn over a single spadeful of dirt without hitting a root. I ended up cheating a little by digging only 4-5 inches deep, and then buying a lot of mulch to put on top. I did all this in late October, as the days were getting shorter and pumpkin everything was hitting the stores. And for years now, I’ve been rewarded for my hard work with a row of daffodils each spring.DSCN3182

We live in a society of instant gratification and it can be tempting to overlook long term planning and investing. But daffodils serve as a reminder that our actions do have long term effects, whether we intend them to or not.

 

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Practicing What I Preach

If you live on the East Coast, you’ve had a rough couple of weeks. My Facebook feed is filled with moms bemoaning snow days on top of snow days. And I’m one of them!

I mean, let’s be honest, we adore our children. But being cooped up with them for 4-7 days straight, unable to drive, with varying amounts of snow, is trying on the best of parents. I loved teaching my toddler how to build a snowman. But the ritual of putting on coat, mittens, hat and boots and then removing them got old about the 3rd time on the first snow day, never mind the third!

Continue reading

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I’m a Doctor, not a …

Did you grow up watching Star Trek, the Original? I did. It was in reruns during my childhood, but I saw enough to make me a huge fan when they started the Next Generation and all the rest of the series. Whether you loved it or hated it, you’re probably familiar with this catchphrase from the ship’s doctor, Bones. “I’m a doctor, not a _____!” If not, check out this sweet YouTube clip:

Sure, it’s funny, but wouldn’t it be nice to be so sure of your own identity and role? Who are you? If you were going to tailor this phrase to your life, what would replace the word “doctor”? And yes, I know we all wear many hats: I’m a wife, mama, writer, small business owner, pastor, and life coach. But ultimately I’m a Guide. That is the form I’m most comfortable in, no matter what hat I’m wearing. I guide my daughter, I guide my husband (get my ebook on the topic, right side of main page!), I guide my clients, etc.

So make your own catchphrase. You’re a ____, not a maid, not a victim, not a doormat.

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Making Time

I was honored to write a guest blog for Alice Osborn this week. It’s about the 5 ways you can make time to write, but the principles apply for any priority that you may be neglecting. Here‘s the original post, and here comes the cliff’s notes version!

5. Schedule it: whatever it is, spend some time at the beginning of each week making an appointment to do it.

4. Use commercial breaks: If you can DVR, then at your show’s start time, spend 15 minutes doing your task, then start your show and watch it commercial free!

3. Outsource something else: Yes, just outsource that hated task already! If you have to spend money, do! Then use your reclaimed time for the important tasks in your life.

2. Set a deadline: There’s nothing like a good old fashioned deadline to bring urgency to these important life tasks.

1. Lose your inhibitions: Don’t let perfection get in the way of good enough. Sometimes you have to just dive in and do something badly for a while. Don’t worry, you’ll improve!

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5 FREE Bathroom Treats

You know by now (I hope) that I am ALL about treats: little sense indulgences that bring a smile to your face. So I’d like to give you some suggestions for ways to treat yourself for FREE, all in your very own bathroom.

  1. Apply your favorite hand lotion (preferably scented). Sit wherever you can and breathe in the fragrance as you rub the lotion into your hands. Enjoy the sensation of the lotion soaking into your skin.
  2. Take a long hot bath using bath salts, or bubble bath, or even plain old baking soda (baking soda can soothe your skin). Dim the lights if you have to so you don’t notice that you need to clean anything!
  3. Look at yourself in the mirror, but without a critical eye. Look for your favorite feature and concentrate on how beautiful it is. If you have trouble finding something attractive to see, ask your husband, best friend, or young child before doing this.
  4. Spend a good 5 minutes cleaning your teeth. Brush thoroughly but gently, concentrating on each tooth. When you are finished, take a minute to run your tongue over your smooth clean teeth and enjoy the sensation of a minty fresh clean mouth. Drink cold water to complete the sensation.
  5. Turn on the fan, lock the door, sit on a cushion, and meditate for 5 minutes. The white noise of the fan and the lock on the door should provide a fairly distraction free environment.

What do you think? Can you add any bathroom treats?

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6 Ways to Improve Your Sleep TODAY

I get it. I really do. I had insomnia almost as far back as I can remember. As a young girl, my mom advised me to read myself to sleep, but reading never ever worked. Not even Leviticus! (More on that another day). At slumber parties, when every other girl had finally fallen asleep, I would lay on the floor in my sleeping bag listening to the peaceful breathing of those around me and feel … wide awake.

I hate everyone who is asleep right now...

I hate everyone who is asleep right now…

And then in college, I decided that enough was enough, and I did my research. I studied sleep habits and sleep hygiene, and I learned how to manage my sleep. And my insomnia largely went away. Now, of course, I’m a mother to a 2 year old, so I fall asleep watching TV, reading books, even while reading books out loud to her! But I remember what I learned, and I’m happy to pass it on to you now, so you can start to manage your insomnia and learn how to sleep well and soundly!

  1. Rule out medical issues (sleep apnea, restless legs, seasonal affective disorder, etc.). Seriously – if you have long standing issues with sleep, you’ll want to make sure there isn’t anything medically wrong with you. So go on, stop reading and call your doctor RIGHT NOW!
  2. Create a soothing bedtime ritual: using lotion, prayer, a gratitude journal, etc.
  3. Keep your room dark: blackout curtains, dim alarm clocks (if any), and NO TV!
  4. Turn off the screens. Phones, tablets, and TVs all give off a wavelength of light that tells your brain to chemically wake up.
  5. If you have been awake and alert for more than 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something. Preferably not something involving a computer or TV screen, but whatever works.
  6. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This is an essential rule of sleep hygiene. I don’t care if you only got 4 hours of sleep due to Rule 5, still get up.

Remember, unless you have a medical problem, you will sleep. You physically cannot keep yourself from sleeping. We allow our brains to interfere with our body’s needs, but if you practice the rules above, especially rules 5 and 6, eventually your body will overcome your mind and you’ll fall asleep. Let your body do what it does best: function autonomously.

None of this working for you? Sure you don’t have a medical problem? Give me a call! I’d love to talk through your sleep issues and help you identify potential problem areas.
Image credit: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

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