this is for her, and maybe you too

Here is a letter I wrote to a mom. She wrote: I am struggling severely with over-researching and planning as an excuse to not engage and just “do”. I have been beating myself up over it, feeling really stuck and burned out… It’s discouraging. Any advice how to stop the over planning madness? 

Dear Discouraged Mom,

First, let me just put my hand on your shoulder and say “thank you” for being honest and raw. It’s so hard to be vulnerable when things are cluttered in the brain. I know, I’ve been discouraged far too many times, and I consequently feel the urge to “hide” any evidence of failure so that I (and everyone I value) continue to believe that we have something “perfect” going on at our house. So, thank you for peeling a little of that false perfect off. It’s a good exercise for us all.

Second, to answer your request for advice on “how to stop the over planning madness”, Here are some suggestions:

  1.  I would take a screen fast. Sign out, log off, power down, and get some distance. For me, that looks like an hour of complete silence in the morning, or 10 minutes in my bedroom alone in the afternoon. Silence will work wonders for your brain! If you make this a habit, I would bet that over time you’ll see that clutter slowly clear up. Not all at once, heaven knows that all those good ideas can’t just disappear in a day. But giving your mind some consistent space and time to evaluate your own thoughts, ideas, dreams, etc. will empower you to make the excellent choice for your home, your children, and for YOU. Excellence is the goal – not perfection. Excellence is doing the best given the situation and resources; it allows grace. Perfection is bossy and says there’s only one right way to do it. No grace allowed.
  2. I would work on anchors. The things you have to do each day just to survive: eat, sleep, and hygiene. Knit reading, singing, and problem-solving into the fabric of your routine. And while you are doing this knitting, stop doing all the other “good things.” Put down the Instructors Guides and walk away. We sing in the morning when we have certain activities that call for us getting ready quickly like: “chomp, chomp; chore, chore; get out the door, get out the door.” That’s one of my kids’ favorite chants – our family’s anthem cry for early morning commitments that work against the grain of lazing around in pajamas all morning. It reminds us all that we are on the same team. Another one is we work through read alouds at lunch. We eat everyday, and we want to read everyday. But if we don’t knit the reading to something essential, sometimes it doesn’t happen.
  3. I would remove any and all thoughts of competition. This may not be something you wrestle with, but I have found it in myself that when I am looking for inspiration or ideas, I unwittingly start to compare and compete in order to feel competent. Hear me when I say, that is not where your competency comes from! No one can hand you their competency nor can they take yours from you. If you start to feel discouraged before you even begin, stop and regroup before seeking inspiration again. You may be surprised to find the inspiration is already inside of you – and just by giving yourself that silence I talked about 1st – the next right choice becomes clear.

You have my hand, friend. Let’s walk another mile together.

Love,

Cara

{This was my reply to a comment on the article I wrote for Simple Homeschool. See the original post here.}

sally clarkson God designed

 

Monday Mindset :: Vol. 3

{I know it’s Sunday, and therefore this post shouldn’t technically be published today. But I hope you find it encouraging and maybe it will be just the preparation needed to take into Monday.}

So I was changing a diaper. But I wasn’t feeling right. And I’m not talking about the diaper. I was knee deep in personal need. So fundamental that I still can’t articulate the source. Whatever makes me “me” wasn’t right. And it hadn’t been right for days. The task at hand was, well, dirty and it didn’t look like the day was getting much brighter. My last Monday Mindset was on embracing the joy in pain, and here I was in a different type of pain that left me in the dark.

Do you know that feeling? Of being lost in the dark?

It’s full on spring now in Michigan, and the beauty and brightness of it all truly takes my breath away. I was driving a week or so ago with my children in the van, and I’ll never forget the shock of suddenly looking up and noticing that all the trees were green again! Something happened over the course of this long winter that led me to teach myself to be content with the grey. To embrace the dark and cold as gifts from the Creator who knows better than I. And that moment, that singular point in time was like an electrical current to my spirit that sparked everything to life.

4285350171_f9951b740c_z

I’ve noticed that others must be feeling that same spark because I see life all around me in their smiling faces. People everywhere walking, running, and working in their yards. Happy to put their whole self to work in the brightness of the spring sun. “Spring cleaning” I’m observing is not a date on the calendar but rather a reaction to the sun. The light sets us in motion to work and clear out the dirty that the dark collects.

The darkness outside flees with nowhere to hide when the sun comes full circle and lights up the world around me. But the darkness inside, the clouds of pain and frustration that accumulate in my soul sometimes seem to have a force that can withstand the Light. The Truth seems dim and distant, and I’m turned around by my feelings and suddenly I revert to a childish condition of fear and panic relying on my fight or flight, my own strength, to force my way back to a place of safety.

My own strength can only produce false safeties. If I turn to fight, I exert myself in anger to regain a sense of “control” that has been lost in the dark. Or if I turn to flight, I surrender to what seems to be the wave of discouragement, the heavy blanket of despair which takes way too much effort to unburden myself.

Until that day with the diaper. One piercing ray of Truth broke through the clouds of dark, and I heard: there’s enough grace for this moment. Enough grace to stay steady, calm. Enough grace to take one step and stay in the Light. Enough grace to keep believing that the darkness has no real power over me. Enough grace to stay active with my mind, to resist temptation, to refuse the pull of fight or flight. Enough grace to truly feel thankful.

So for the past 7 weeks or so, and now going forward I’ve had this mindset: there is enough grace for this. And I’ve been granted enough faith to believe it and live in the Light.

 

how organizing held me back from my calling

{Today I’m writing over at Simple Homeschool, and I wanted to offer you a little peek into more of the story. Thank you Kara and Jamie!}

As a little girl, I liked going to a brick and mortar school. When I think about the things that I liked best it wasn’t the teachers or the subjects, it was not the hallways or the friends – it was the desks. The stuff that was mine that made it feel right. My desk and my personal items inside. I liked having a different pen for every occasion. These things made me feel ready to learn. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my whole mindset for learning was interrupted by wanting these little things to be just so. I can remember whole lessons going by without even looking up at the instructor simply because I couldn’t find the pen I wanted, or I had a new set of colored pencils that had to have just the right spot.

To be transparent: I’m still this way. My favorite grocery list is color coded and organized by aisle, and when I try to shop without my nice and neat list I fall apart.

Grocery Day

Don’t write me off as obsessive just yet though, there’s a story behind my little quirks. And sadly, this gathering mode was a coping mechanism I developed early on to make me feel protected. Safe. All the gathering and organizing made me feel like I had a piece of home with me at all times. My stuff. Nice and neat. That’s what makes me feel secure, nice and neat.

Fast forward to when I began the process of getting my ducks in a row to start educating my own children, and I reverted back to the same gathering mode I was stuck in back when I was a professional student. I thought I was doing what was best for my children, until I realized that I was actually creating self serving space. I was setting up my home unconsciously prioritizing nice and neat over growth and discovery. My internal security was being dismantled every time we used our craft supplies and things weren’t put away just right. And that’s when I realized that things had to change. I had to change.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Monday Mindset and Links :: Vol. 2

I found a new friend. Many new friends actually. And I’ve needed them. Each one has been an answer to specific prayer.

I’ve been gathering answered prayers around myself like pillows on a soft cozy bed.

One of these such friends {Holley Gerth}, doesn’t know me very well yet, but I’ve been joining her for her Coffee for the Heart writing prompts. Two weeks ago, I was too sick to even contemplate writing. But her prompt was “What Brings You Joy?

My first response to that prompt? Pain.

Yes, pain. Hear me :: I am not a masochist. And I do not by any means seek out pain, but I’ve learned {and am continuing to learn} to be patient with pain. To lean into the Spirit who dwells within me while in pain. And what I’ve experienced for a while now is the reality that when “bad things” happen, I’m drawn closer to the Spirit of the living God than when I coast through life without a catch.

So for my Monday Mindset this week, I’m going to be tying these two thoughts together. When pain presents itself in my life {emotional, physical, relational, etc.} I can breathe in joy and exhale fear because I know that just like physical exercise strengthens the muscles, so too spiritual exercise strengthens the faith.

james 1 2 3

Goal: Perseverance and mature faith. Process: trials of many kinds. Mindset: Pure joy knowing that this process is directed by a Sovereign, Good God {who is a gentle, compassionate Teacher} and will work it all out for my good.

And that’s how I know that pain is what brings me joy because it draws me closer to Him.

Now for Links:

I would love to hear from you in the comments! If any of these thoughts or resources met you right where you are today, please let me know, or Follow me for more Monday Mindsets. Thanks for reading!

Monday Mindset and Links :: Vol. 1

Romans 12 12

Tribulation: trib·u·la·tion \ˌtri-byə-ˈlā-shən\ Anyway you look at it, life’s pain and trouble aren’t pretty. There’s almost never a road map for the season when sickness, suffering, or sadness present themselves. It isn’t easy to face hardship with joy. And that’s why this week’s Monday Mindset is to take Romans 12:12 and set my mind on each word. What am I to rejoice in? It’s easy to be confused by the current main stream and think that to be growing in godliness I must will myself to see joy in all of life’s pains. Does anyone else ever feel a bit morbid trying to feel joyful because of suffering? I think of the life of Christ as he was often moved with compassion, even to weeping, over death and suffering. So it isn’t the hardship that I find joy in, but rather, my ultimate Hope is where the joy and source of rejoicing is found. And my Hope is in Jesus, the Gospel, faith birthed by the Spirit.

That first part was a bonus for this week, but where I really need to rest is in the middle of that verse. Patience. Patient in tribulation. Isn’t it interesting that Paul says patient, because my flesh says push through tribulation, distract yourself in tribulation, wish yourself out of tribulation, or even ignore tribulation. So as I struggle through being sick again (in RL) I am breathing this verse in and settling my spirit with the truth and hope of Be Patient.

Finally, I just love Paul’s heart for believers to pray. Constant in prayerPray without ceasing. In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to GodContinue steadfastly in prayer. At first, in my life of faith, I was overwhelmed by his exhortation. It seemed “super spiritual.” But then slowly the Spirit taught me to direct my self talk to Him rather than to myself. You know those internal thoughts we all have. Yes, those. Changing them from circular, where the start and end is me, to vertical where it starts with me but its hopeful end is Him.

I don’t know what this week may hold for me or you, but I’m resting in this Mindset.

Link Love:

Have you heard of the IF:Gathering? I’m okay with being behind the times. :: Christianity Today

Reading inspiration. I love this non-fiction list for kids. I needed a little boost in my reading world. :: Simple Homeschool

If you’ve ever felt this tension:  parenting is not a technique to master, but a day-by-day trek toward greater patience, deeper love, and gutsier faith :: Poem: Book Learning on TheArtofSimple.net

Do you have a link you’ve loved recently? Please share it with me in the comments!

A garden redeemed.

My inner life had potential. One could describe it as dirt, another a garden. But I wasn’t too concerned when I was younger. I thought more about the world, people, and things around me than on what to do with this plot I’d been given.

Little by little, the outside came in too far. The world has a way of getting pushy when there aren’t boundaries. And people aren’t always considerate.

So at an early age, I laid the first brick down around the edge of the dirt. Fear. There, I thought, that will show them to back off. But it wasn’t enough to keep me in, and the next thing I knew, I was the one inviting things in and setting my hopes on the next excitement to keep me satisfied. Let down. After only a few days of marriage, I realized quickly that my husband couldn’t understand the mental wave lengths I was sending him. Bitterness. While postpartum, I rode the first roller coaster of hormones and came down in a crash. Anxiety. Realizing that there are little people within my care but not under my control and knowing that I am limited by both time and strength hurts deeply. Anger.

Up and up and up. The bricks grew higher, and I wasn’t safe like I thought I would be. Each brick carried a memory, a name, a feeling. You’ve been forgotten. You’re not that big of a deal. Why can’t you just be more like…

Finally I crouched down on my knees. I dug my hands into the soil and longed for the plot to be clear again. Immediately the Gardener put His hand on my shoulder, and together we reached for the first brick. Brick by brick we faced each memory together, and He traded me a seed for every brick. This one will be joy. This one will be faithfulness. This one will be love. Trust me. Don’t give up. Wait for spring. 

This process of removing bricks and planting a garden became our daily routine. The wall wasn’t built in a day; it couldn’t come down that way either. Healing that lasts takes time.

And as I was beginning to enjoy the work and look forward to the bittersweet process, He brought me our first fruit. Then He showed me that the wall was all down. I looked around and saw for the first time new growth in places that had once been so pressed down that the soil seemed too hard to ever produce a good fruit.

I’ll never forget His smile. My gratitude. Our deep bond. This space He created for us was so beautiful. Intimate.

But He warned me, whenever pain reenters your heart, you will have to make a choice. Pick up a brick and destroy a part of what we’ve worked for or come to Me for a new seed and grow more of what is lacking. Remember, do not grow weary of doing good for in due season you will reap, if you do not give up

5minutefridaytellhisstory-badge

This post has been linked to Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday and Jennifer Dukes Lee’s Tell His Story. Thanks for visiting!

No matter what happens…

A few weeks ago, I was having coffee with a friend when the topic of conversation turned. We covered family, friends, jobs, and the like when she shared that she still felt dry spiritually. I could relate. We had talked over the course of the year about how seasons of dryness and being in the valley can be frustrating and confusing. But no matter the amount of internal positive thinking or external encouragement, the scenery of life wasn’t changing. The season of her spiritual life seemed stuck.

What do you do if the season refuses to change? When it seems like winter is going to last forever.

She said that she found herself reading Ecclesiastes and agreeing with everything the Preacher wrote. That everything is a cycle, there is a time for everything, and nothing new under the sun.

But knowing these proverbial truths and feeling at peace with them are two totally different things. Her mind seemed to be nagging at her heart for the lack of feeling. And that’s exactly what I praised God for. Right there in the front window of the cafe. The presence of the nag actually proves Ecclesiastes 3:11 to be true.

Slide1

That nagging feeling says that you were made for more than this season of dryness. You were given an imprint of your Creator that longs for more. So even while not feeling what you know to be the right spiritual feelings, it is still proof that God has a plan for you because He has put eternity within you.

And in His time He will make everything beautiful. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. So no matter what season of life you are in: dry or well watered, rejoicing or weeping, at ease or in pain, you’re going to be okay. No matter what happens, today, tomorrow, or in 30 years, you’re going to be okay because God makes all things beautiful in His time.

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150