Sunday, October 6

Less of Me...

Less Self-Centeredness, More Service

SELF-CENTERED.  I hate people who are all abut themselves.  The fact is though, we are all self centered.  I am self-centered. We need to do more for others.  I need to do more for others.  I want to take myself to the next level though.  I want to change my heart when it comes to these things.  I read an article a few weeks ago.  Sadly I don't remember where I found this article, or any other information other than the fact that I did read it.  And you know, I don't even know if I remember the whole of the article.  I read one line or paragraph, and it has stuck with me and I can't shake it out of my head, and it fits perfectly with today's challenge.  On the blog series, 31 Days of Less & More, the challenge is to do something, anything to serve others. If you are like me, that part is kind of easy.  Yes, I say easy and yet I still don't do it.  But if I do it, it's not hard.  But I need to go deeper.  I need to change my HEART to serve others.  Going back to this mystery article, it talked about having people over for dinner.  I LOVE to have people over for dinner.  What a great way to serve them.  That is what I thought I was doing.  I was serving others by taking the time to clean my house, and serve them a meal.  It sounds good, doesn't it?  Ok, but here's where my confession time comes in, and what the article made me think about.  While I was serving my guests, I was hoping they were thinking, "Wow, She is an AMAZING cook, I wish I could cook like her", or I was hoping they were thinking, "Wow, I don't take the time to set the table AND She does and She has a kid, she is pretty darn amazing".  I'm sure there were many other things I was hoping they were thinking.  WOW!  That is HARD to admit!  Even in my serving, I am hoping that people will take time to PRAISE ME!!!  Where is my heart of service with that?  It's not.  It's me outwardly serving so that people will notice ME!  Yep, I am self-centered.  WORSE than anyone I know!  Also, in my serving others, I expect things to be perfect while my guests are here.  So much so that while they are here, I'm in another world worried about this or that, and not truly enjoying my company or serving them with my love and friendship.

This then leads me to question, 'how do I change that?'  Just SERVING others isn't going to take those thoughts away.  I have been doing things to serve others for a long time.  No, what I need to change is the root of my service.  Do I serve people and purposely fail?  No, that is not serving them.  What I think I need to do is serve people when THEY need to be served, not when I want to serve them.  So, when my house is a disaster and I don't have a 5 course meal planned, I need to call up a friend and invite them to come over to have frozen pizza with us and I'll poor them a big glass of wine, and myself some water, and we will sit and enjoy each others company.  I know they won't be able to think about how awesome of a mom I am, because my child will probably be naked, my house will not be clean, my dishes will still be in a pile on the counter, laundry still in the baskets and my floor not swept, and they are eating frozen pizza, the easiest thing in the world to make!  And no, this will not be how I serve people forever.  I still would like to make a special meal to show someone how special they are to our family, and take the time to show them I care for them by cleaning my house first.  But before I can get back to that state, I need to humble myself and serve people in my my lowliest state.  Serve them, EVEN when I feel like I am not up to standards.  And yes, there will always probably be a tinge of self-centeredness in my serving, but I hope that soon I won't be able to see this flaw as the bullet point to my service!

I will share a small snippet of me attempting to change my heart this morning.  I view singing as a way to serve God and others.  Sadly, I admit, that when I sing I often think about what other people are thinking about my voice.  Usually I'm hoping they will think, 'Wow, she has an amazing voice'.  (Wow, that is REALLY hard to put out into the open as I am quite ashamed of this...) Today as I was worshipping through song, I decided to sing praise to God without caring what people thought of my voice.  And you know what, I sang loud and with meaning.  And I squeaked when I hit high notes, and I had trouble hitting the low notes... but I didn't care if the people around me thought I was the worst singer they had ever heard or the best.  I was lost in praising God with my voice, and didn't even think about the others around me!  (except my son who was so cute dancing next to me, that I knew in his 20 month old self he was praising God the least selfishly of us all!)  So, here is to a change of my heart.  I hope that because of this I will be a better friend, daughter, sister, wife, mom, cousin, niece, god-daughter, granddaughter, stranger and acquaintance to all of you.  And watch out, I may start calling you to LISTEN to how your day went and never even tell you about mine!!  

I Am Who I Am...

Less Comparison, More Self-Confidence

I would venture to say that if you are human, especially if you are of the female variety, this is a struggle.  DAILY!!  We are bombarded with ways to compare ourself in tv, radio, fashion, education and my list could continue.  Even with something so positive as education, we are given a class ranking.  You are student 56 out of 309.  (no those are just made up, luckily this was one area that I didn't put too much weight in, so I don't really know where I stood.  I will tell you I was not valedictorian or salutatorian...).  But there you have it.  We are forced to compare ourselves to others. Luckily I never grew up in a house where my parents compared me to my siblings, but I have heard the statement way too often, "why can't you be just like your brother", or something along those lines.  Even well meaning, loving parents get caught up in the world of comparison.  So how do you expect teenage girls (and boys, I know it is an issue for males too) to move from a society where we are always being compared, to the point we are able to look at magazines and NOT compare our bodies, or hair styles, or personalities (thanks personality tests...).  Then you become a mom.  You already have NO idea what you're doing (even if you lie and say you do) and expect to be thrown into this role where NO ONE knows what they're doing when they start and be GOOD at it.  How many times do you start a new job and on day 2 of work are already getting a promotion because of how good you are? NEVER!  (Well, maybe never, but then that person would be a person that I would have to compare myself to... So I like to think such a person doesn't even exist!)  Yet, as a new mother that is the expectation thrown at us.  But like a new job, where once you learn the ropes things get easier, being a parent has a new job description thrown at you every few days.  Once you think you have it "figured out" it changes.  If parenting wasn't hard enough, let's bring in the Internet and Pinterest and Facebook.  I LOVE all of these things and the helpful ideas they elicit, but they are harmful to a society that has had comparison engrained into our beings from way too young an age.  No my house is not only not clean, not organized, but not magazine beautiful with the right paint colors, fantastic furnishings, and matching decor.  Am I failure of a mom because my house isn't perfect?!  We went out to eat AGAIN tonight because I didn't feel like cooking AND cleaning up afterwards.  Does it make me a failure of a mom because I don't have a full organic, homegrown, 5 course meal on the table for my child and The M?.  I haven't worn my hair in anything but a ponytail that hasn't been brushed since I last washed my hair 4 days ago, does that make me a failure of a mom.  NO.  None of these things do.  They make me human.  But when you only see the good sides of peoples lives, it's hard not to feel like a failure.  Feeling like a failure is a sad and lonely place.  And it makes you loose your self confidence. The line that most struck a nerve for me when reading Life in Grace: Day 4 was this:
Our tendency to compare ourselves to others makes us more self-centered than we ought to be.  And once we settle into our own skin- comfortable with who we were made to be- we can finally stop focusing on ourselves and start spending that valuable energy on how we can best serve and love those around us.

I have spent a lot of time praying for me.  Playing the world's tiniest record player set on repeat to the song "My heart bleeds for thee".  Woah is me, I'm not good enough.  But that is just stealing my energy away from truly being able to serve and love those around me.  If could just stop comparing myself to other Super Moms, I would be the best mom to Hagen, the child that God entrusted me to care for. God did not entrust Super Mom to be Hagen's mom, he entrusted ME.  Maybe Super Mom wouldn't offer Hagen was HE needs.  I know Super Mom is the best mom for her children, but not MY child.  God gave me my body to do the things that he has called ME to do with it.  And that is not the same thing that he has called other women to do with their bodies.  I am learning this is the way I want to live my life.  I want to be happy, and having more self-confidence is how I am going to get there.  And being happy and having self confidence I am going to be able to use my gifts to serve more, and that will only continue to add to my state of happiness.  I know that I can do this.  I have experience this.  Today I was reading through my old blog posts and came across this gem.  A "Perfect" Rainy Sunday. For one day, I let go.  I just WAS.  I was happy.

I hope that you have already become comfortable in your own skin.  That whatever issue you once compared yourself to others, you have learned to only compare yourself to you.  If you haven't, I hope that my insights into this deep canyon of comparisons will challenge you along side me to remind ourselves that we were given everything WE need to live OUR lives.  It won't be easy.  It will creep back in.  But let's stand up and fight against it!  I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR!  (Haha, ok... beyond cheesy, but I had to empower myself, and surprisingly that did it!!)

Friday, October 4

Cows, Colleges and Contentment...

Less Bitterness, More forgiveness...

Today's challenge is easier for me than overcoming fear, but still something that I think we all need to look into.  Yes, I can be bitter with the way people have treated me.  But when I think about the people who I am bitter at, I have forgiven what they did to me.  But I hold in my heart bitterness for their character, and I thought I would never do this.  I love my mother to death, but sometimes I didn't like to go to her with personal problems dealing with another person.  I knew she loved her daughter so much that she would continually find fault in this person, even if the friend and I moved past our differences.  I told myself I would not do that... but yet I do.  I have forgiven their action towards me, and find a way to move past it to become friends again, but what I do is to judge their character silently.  I mean, I am so mean in my heart towards them that I will look at facebook photos, or hear stories of them, and think well it's only because they are XYZ that that happened for them (usually a negative XYZ...)  When I think about it, it's usually out of jealousy.  I want what they have, so because they have wronged me, I think negatively of them... I know it really makes NO sense, but that is how my messed up brain works.  The challenge for today is to write down the name of the person, write them a letter (you won't send) detailing the harm done to you.  It doesn't end there though!  The letter is to write down how you will let go of the bitterness and then PRAY for them every day of the week!  My generic letter is to write down how I will pray for BLESSINGS for the persons life.  I will pray that God shows me how to see them as He sees them.  I hope that this will help me to see who people really are, and not just their human, broken sides.  I know I want people to remember the good parts of me and not just my shortcomings, so I will do the same for others.

Although today talked specifically about overcoming bitterness toward people, I am also going to be working on not being bitter towards our life situation.  It's not a surprise that I was not prepared for military life.  I really had NO idea what I was getting into when I married The Mr.  I thought, he works for the military, that's his job, we all have jobs and it doesn't define us. It is a lot harder than that.  From where we live(I miss MN and fall and family and friends, and I HATE the heat), to the stress his job brings him, to the fear of not knowing the future at ALL and much more, it is tough to not get bitter about our situation.  I have to remember to be thankful for what we HAVE been given through this opportunity, and what we are able to do.  We get to see the country, we get to teach our children to experience many new things, there are great health benefits (that makes up for the kind of yucky pay), my husband gets to come home almost every night (Even if it is just to watch him eat dinner and crawl into bed, it's better than him being deployed, or being unemployed), we get to learn to really rely on each other and challenge/strengthen our marriage because of the obstacles we face.  My husband although has a controversial job (aka peace vs. war) he gives up his freedom to protect people and their opinions and that is something to be proud of.  We give up our ideal living situation to help and serve others.  And yes, I say we... maybe it is taking too much credit for myself, but I feel that we are in this military thing together.  Too bad if you think I think too highly of my job!  I also complain about not getting paid enough to cover our student loan debt, but I have to remind myself that we are two of the very fortunate people in this world to receive education and excellent education at that.  I wouldn't go back and not do college, so I need to stop complaining, stop being bitter.

See... look I REALLY do have a lot to be content with: an amazing, hard working husband, a beautiful, sweet son, a roof over our head (a new one too, literally!) and a Risen Lord who overcame death to give us life.  

Contentment, happiness and sweetness are antonyms for bitterness.  I can't wait to get back to a place where my heart is filled with contentment and happiness and people see the sweetest exude from me and use it as a defining character for me.  Do you have stories of overcoming the bitterness you feel/felt in your life and learning to live a life of forgiveness? Anything you have learned to help give me a heart of compassion and empathy towards people?  How about not being bitter about situations you have found yourself in?  I'm sure there are stories that are way worse than ours, so I will continually work on praising God for the gifts he HAS given me, and not just see the things that are turning me bitter! I want to be content and happy with this beautiful life I have been given!

PS- A side note on the title... that is SERIOUSLY the slogan of the town I grew up in.  I have a hard time thinking of the word contentment and NOT thinking about our unique town slogan.  I don't really want to add more cows into my life, just contentment! :)

Thursday, October 3

Fear, you can NOT control me!

I am following a blog post called 31 Days of Less & More, from Living Well, Spending Less and Life in Grace.  It is two separate blogs, one is 31 days of getting rid of stuff and one is 31 days of adding something into your life.  So far, day 2 has been a huge thought process for me, and I felt like writing things down for my self, and for the 2 of you who might actually read this, you should check it out!

A quote from Living Well, Spending Less:
 "The key to overcoming fear is not to give in, but to acknowledge it and then to do it anyway."

What am I afraid of?  What am I NOT afraid of would be a more realistic question for me right now.  I used to be braver; doing things even though they scared me.  Lately, I have let fear control me, and therefore I freeze.

I don't know if it has been the move or if I have just slowly stopped getting over the fear and doing things anyway, but all I know is this move has been a HUGE struggle for me, and I realize how much fear I have.  (yes, I realize that was the world's longest sentence...) So, I am going to write a list of things I'm afraid of.  That is the first step.  Realize what I am letting control me.

-Having a miscarriage
-Having a baby with health problems
-Not being able to handle 2 kids
-Not being a good mom/wife
-Starting a graphic design job
-Not being good enough to actually have a successful graphic design business
-Not knowing what I have to do/learn to have a successful graphic design business
-Our finances... not having money scares the CRAP out of me...
-My husbands stress level with his job
-Going new places by myself
-Starting something and having people think I'm not good enough/knowing myself I'm not good enough.
-People thinking, 'oh, here's another stupid girl thinking she can do XYZ, when she has no business doing that'
-Meeting people that aren't going to be like my friends whom I miss terribly
-Not having my family around to help me
-Continually being sad
-Not having the energy to do the things for my family like I should
-Not moving past my failures to improve myself
-If the graphic design doesn't work out, going back to teaching
-If I go back to teaching, I'm afraid of putting myself out there... resume writing, the interview process, starting a new job, with new students, with a new administration, not being good enough...
-Not ever reaching my goals
-Not living up to my expectations
-Being self centered/not doing something to help others

Ok, there are a lot of things I'm afraid of.  I could seriously probably continue my list, but for my sanity I need to stop because I'm in tears. I thought I could be a blog writer for money at some point... but I can't!  I write these things for me.  I'm sure no one else has these same or weird fears.  But today, I am being brave.  I am afraid that people will be bored by this or that it's not well enough written to help other people out.  But despite that fear I am going to post to help myself overcome at least one of my minor fears!

So although the post says to list your one fear, tell it it can't control you, then do it despite your fear;   I'm not ready to necessarily do it to all of these.  I am going to try.  I DON'T want fear to control me.  It is a very lonely place to be.  It is hurting my relationship with my son, it is hurting my relationship with my husband, it is hurting me.  I spend way too much time crying over not being adequate, not doing the things I want to do... and it's because of fear!  I want to get back to my adventurous self who did things despite my fear!  I don't know when I changed, or how long it took me to get to this point.  But I am going to start the process back.  It will not be changed over night.  I didn't get here over night. This is me thinking about what life will be if I am courageous again.  I need to be brave for The Mr. and my son, and this new baby!

I will be courageous by:
        * Reminding myself that I am human, and it IS ok to fail!
        * Trying to learn something new every day about Graphic Design so that maybe soon I can get the courage to start, which would start to bring in some money for our family, which would make me feel less scared for a lot of things.
        * Spending time in prayer so that I can learn to leave it at His feet so that I can spend less time worrying and more time loving my family.
        * Doing activities with Hagen even when all I want to do is crawl back into bed!
        * Making dinner again for my family, even though by dinnertime I am thoroughly spent and just want to sit down and put my feet up.

A quote from Life in Grace
"Do we have the courage to become who we really are?"

I hope so.  I hope that I can be courageous to overcome my fears and be the woman my husband married (or better than the woman he married!!).  I hope that I can be courageous to overcome my fears to be the mom that God created me to be and to take care of my beautiful baby boy that God entrusted me with, and to prepare to be a mom to TWO beautiful babies.

I would love someone to help me, challenge me, keep me accountable, push me... whatever words you want to use!  If you read this, please consider helping me get back to my adventurous, fear-facing, courageous woman that I know I can be!  If you have knowledge about starting up your own business, I'd love to hear how to do it!  If you have multiple children, I'd love to hear how you do it!  If you are pregnant and have the energy to still do a full day of activities for a child already, I'd love to hear how you do it!  If I can be reminded that it can be done and that I just need to overcome the fear of failure and be courageous, I can hopefully get back to a state of happiness and contentment with our current situations (as many of you military families know they aren't always ideal!).  Thank you for helping me be a better person!