Homeschool

Homeschool Planning Edit

3 weeks ago, we officially started a Kindergarten curriculum, knowing that we would be editing some things up and some things down based on my son’s skill level. Like every other kid on the planet, he has strengths in some areas (letter identification, number identification into the hundreds and being able to count to 100) and some weaknesses that we need to work on (fine motor skills, letter sounds).

The first two weeks were an intro unit based on the creation story and it was a good start for us. There wasn’t anything too challenging in it that made my son not look forward to “school” enough that it was a fight, it helped us establish a new rhythm in our day of getting work done before we could look at screens, and gave him confidence in his ability to do this whole “school” thing.

This past week was our first letter unit. The My Father’s World Kindergarten Curriculum used to study each unit for 6 school days. Now, they have shortened it to 5 with the newest edition of the teacher manual and student sheets. Since I have an old manual, I was going to just stick with the 6-day units so as not to change too much right at the beginning. But based upon my son’s weaknesses mentioned above, and just wanting to add in some more “fun” activities based on what we’re learning about, I’ve decided to stretch the units out 4 days and make each unit 2 school weeks long.

This past weekend, I went through and organizing his portfolio, keeping it together by units in a 3 ringed binder with dividers. We don’t have to do any kind of record keeping our great state of Texas as far as homeschooling goes, but I would like to have a record of what we did, how it went, and examples of his work for a couple of reasons. One is for encouragement for me. On those days when I feel like I’m not making a difference and that maybe we shouldn’t be doing this because I’m a terrible teacher, I can look back and remind myself of what we have done. The second encouragement is for both me and my son on days either of us is discouraged at slow progress or feeling like we’re not getting anywhere. We can look back and see what he has learned and it can inspire us to keep going.

I found this year-at-a-glance calendar and printed it out at the end of March and made a rough plan that I knew would change for our Kindergarten year. Now that trips have been planned and I’ve decided we needed some extra time on the units, I printed it off again, and edited our timeline.

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Book Notes, Digital World, Fitness, Food Stuff, Homeschool

This Past Week : April 10th to 16th

Reading

I finished my non-fiction book for the month, Wild and Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan. You can read my first thoughts and highlights from the book here. I’m going to finish reading James and the Giant Peach this week and I thinks start the Benedict Option by Rod Dreher on recommendation from my husband. The next fiction I pick up will be Jane and Prudence. I’ve got 6 books on my Kindle right now via Overdrive that I need to read before I can reconnect to Wifi (because they loans are all over, but I’m not done reading!) so I’ll have to see about actual paper-book availability from the library for my next children’s book.

Digital Life

I head a couple of great podcasts this week on life with screens. The first one is from Sally Clarkson and her daughter Sarah about living a story-formed life and the second was from the Homeschool Sisters podcast and an interview with Mary that I found to be extremely realistic and helpful.

Homeschool

We finished up our second week in the My Father’s World Kindergarten curriculum. My
son finished his number line of the Creation events and also made a book that I laminated and put rings on. On Friday, we took pictures on the way to the store and talked about how things are God-created versus things that are man-made. That came at a super timely point because my son has been saying things like “Why did God make them live in that apartment?” We were able to, in a 5 year old’s understanding, talk about how God did make everything and is complete control, but that He inspires man to make things and decisions.IMG_6315

This week, we’re starting our first letter unit “S” and learning about the sun and that Jesus is the light of the world.

Meal Plan

Two big hits around our house that I made this past week and that I can link to is this Thai Pork Stir Fry from Hello Fresh and these Mini-Meatball Sandies form Giada. The other yummy dish I made was Lemon Garlic roasted chicken breasts with roasted potatoes.

I hope you and your family had a Happy Easter weekend!

Book Notes, Fitness, Food Stuff, Homeschool

This Past Week : April 3rd to 9th

Reading

I finished a book called Luck, Love and Lemon Pie. It gets 3.5 stars on Goodreads, and I’d say I agree with that. I really liked the author’s previous book, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, so I was excited to read this one, but I find if I had to pick one it would be a definite vote for the The Coincidence of Coconut Cake. This book is about a woman named MJ who has been married for 20 years and has two kids, one about to graduate high school. Her marriage isn’t “on the rocks” per se, but she finds that she’s missing the fire that was once there. The book is about how she goes about trying to re-kindle the fire she once had with her husband. I do wish there was more to the characters and some of their stories (like Tammie and what was going on with Tammie and Chris, MJ’s husband). Her first book was so centered around food, and I expected the same from this one with the title as such, but it ended up not really having that much play in the story. Overall, I’d recommend it for an easy read, maybe on the beach or plane or if you’re really wanting something easy and quick.

I’m currently reading Wild and Free and James and the Giant Peach.

Homeschool

We completed our first week of My Father’s World Kindergarten this week. We learned about the first 5 days of Creation and are going over identifying letters. It’s been a great way to ease into a more rigid schedule than we have been. Instead of setting up a schedule for our day, I’ve set up a framework to work through, with only meals happening at certain times. I got the idea of using a ladder as a picture of our day from Ann Voskamp.

The first rung is the beginning of our day and I wanted it to be some habit forming routines for us. (I need to find a way to get up BEFORE my son does because that’s going to be  the easiest time to get my quiet time and workout in.) When my son gets up, he gets 30 minutes of screen time while he eats breakfast. I eat my breakfast and hopefully finish up my morning time reading. Ideally, we would both get dressed, brush our teeth, and make our beds before we take the dogs out, but so far that hasn’t happened. I also wanted to make a point to unload the dishwasher so that throughout the day, it would be easier to maintain a level of cleanliness in the kitchen instead of cooking dinner in the evening and then having a giant mess to clean up from a whole day of dishes when all I want to do is sit down. It all has happened eventually, but it’s usually been after taking the dogs out.

The second rung is to take the dogs out for their morning walk and also what I like to call my “Morning Bootycall” thanks to Tone It Up. They say it is important for your metabolism to get up and get moving, so I kill two birds with one stone and smash dog walking and bootycall together. Like I said, my son, so far has been going in his pajamas and bringing his breakfast with him to finish up. I’m fine with that- it’s not about doing the thing and checking it off, and right now, there are lots of battles so I’m choosing to let this go for now. Once we get back and finish up everything from rung one, we sit down to read our Bible passages for school that day and go over our memory verse and song we’re memorizing.

The third rung is to get outside. I have this scheduled right here because in Texas, the summer is HOT and about the only thing you can do outside later on has to involve some  kind of body of water, so we’re going to take advantage of the cooler-ish temperatures in the morning and get outside for something, ANYTHING. A bike ride, park visit, etc. This is where, if I had a schedule, things would fall apart. One day, we just went for a little bike ride to a park about a quarter mile away and was only gone maybe 45 minutes. The next day, we were gone until 1 pm! It makes it much easier to handle that without the schedule hanging over my head- why would I want to throw away adventure time that’s going well (and keeping us off a screen) just to stick to a schedule? Old Sarah would have done that. New Sarah, who is learning a lot as she goes, says we’ll keep on doing what’s going well.

The fourth rung is the first one that has a general time attached to it (but we’re not being sticklers about it!) and that’s because it’s lunch time. My son gets a break to watch a screen while we each eat lunch. I would love to eventually have more read-aloud time here, but we’re keeping things simple as we start out. It’s also a time for me to sneak in getting some of my stuff done. That’s one thing I’ve already noticed about this new schedule- I get a lot less done throughout the day (like chores or random to do’s). That’s good though because I don’t want my son on a screen for a long time and so that means we’re doing more positive, good things.

The fifth rung is for math, but in our intro unit for the first two weeks, we don’t have any math except to learn numbers 1-10 and my son is pretty in control of that. I’ll have a better  handle on this rung in a couple of weeks, but for now, we just kind of skip over it. I’m not convinced we won’t have to move all school work to the morning at some point, but this is what we’re going with right now. I still think, even once we start math, that it will be pretty simple for us because it looks like for a while it just involves counting days until we get to 100 school days using straws and a chart. We’ll talk about place value a little bit as this gets started as once we get 10 straws in our jar, we’ll bundle them together to make a 10. My son can already count to 100 by 1s and 10s so I’m not going to be super focused on this.

The sixth rung is our second school activity rung. This is when we’ll get our language art  lessons done as well as our Bible lessons. Right now, we’re just learning about the creation story, so it means we talk about a specific day in creation (what did God make that day?) and make two projects to help us remember them. We are also reviewing identifying letters. This is where another homeschool perk comes in because my son already knows some of his letters and we can blow through that pretty quickly. Homeschooling is awesome because it lets us move on to what we need to work on without being stuck. It also reminds me to not focus so much on what we’re struggling with (writing and recalling information) and see that my son is ahead in some areas and behind in others just like every kid on the planet.

The seventh rung is to finish up our school work subjects that aren’t math or language arts. So science or extra activities our curriculum assigns will be finished up. I think there are some composer studies for music as well as art and science activities throughout. This is also where I will add in fun things for us to do that aren’t apart of our curriculum but that I think will be fun or cool to do based on the unit we’re studying. Once we hit 2:30-3:00 pm, we’ll take our dogs on their afternoon walk and also have a snack. Ideally, my son doesn’t get to look at a screen until this evening, but addictions are hard to break and the days are long with Jim working at the end of session, so we have been throwing a 30 minute break in here for that.

The eighth rung is to get out of the house. This will usually involve swimming because Texas heat, but the afternoons get too long if we’re just sitting here. We could also get errands run. Whatever it is, we just need out of the house because it’s easier to say “no” to a screen that way. The funny thing is that all of this might change when we move back to Wichita Falls. That’s why we’re not getting too stuck on this and also saying this is a great time to try some things out because there will come a natural time to break and change things when we move again.

The last rung of the day is to finish up the day well. We’ll cook and eat dinner, take baths, and  my son will get one last screen time (usually he’s counting down the minutes until Dad gets home so they can play video games) and then head to bed. I’ll finish loading up the dishwasher and start it so it’s ready to go for tomorrow. I also hope to tidy up the house each night so that it doesn’t get so overwhelming during the day or on the weekends. I tend to leave my son’s toys out because he’s more likely to play with them, but keeping our bedroom and bathroom clean, the kitchen clean, and the floors free of as much as possible goes a long way for this recovering neat freak.

Meals

I’m use Plan To Eat for meal planning. I really like it because I can add in our different menus to accommodate all of our various eating styles. When I’m doing a Tone It Up challenge, I’m eating all clean. My son is still very picky in what he likes and Jim is gone for most of the week, so I can add in things where I need them and it works for us. Last week we had a couple of fails. Plan To Eat is doing a “one pot” round up of recipes you can cook in one pot or in a crock pot. I made this Tex Mex Quinoa in the crock pot and it was “meh.” I also tried a one pot spaghetti that didn’t turn out great (the noodles weren’t cooked by the time the water boiled off so things started burning).

My Fitness

The last big thing that happened last week was that Tone It Up announced their Bikini Series for this summer. It starts April 24th and they’ll be announcing the bundles and prices this coming week and I’m super excited. They do have a “free” option so if you’re reading this, and we’re friends and you want to be accountable to each other, let’s do it! You can sign up at toneitup.com and they’ll send you a starter pack! Join me! Let me know if you’re joining in!

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Book Notes

“Wild & Free” Notes

I’ve followed the Influence Network for a few years now, and Jess Connolly (one of the authors of this book) pretty regularly on Instagram. All that means is that Wild and Free has been on my “to read” list for a while (Jess has a second book coming out this fall) so I was excited when I got the email from my library that it was available from overdrive!

It’s super hard thing to hear God’s voice in this world we live in. You have got to be so intentional. And I say “you” because I really me “I.” I have got to be super intentional in taking in information as “necessary” for my life. There are so many good blogs, podcasts, instagram accounts, etc. out there- but none of those, in and of themselves, are God’s message to me about how I should live life. Because friends, I can’t do it all, and I’ve so far not found anyone who can. Jess says in the book “The confusion lies in the deception that began with Eve’s partaking of the shiny, beautiful fruit because someone told her that was best for her.” It’s super important to take stock of who we’re letting speak truth and wisdom into our lives; if it’s only the podcasters and bloggers and instagrammers, then we’re probably off track or carrying a lot of weight and obligations God never intended us to hold. “They exhaust themselves as they serve out of obligation, not worship.” This is piercing to me because I’m a striver by nature, and my work can easily step in front of my worship and become the “thing.”

There was also a couple of points talking about what we look to for worth or value. One of those is other people, who we are quick to process things out through without talking them through with our Father. The other was how we gather and curate things to add “spice” to our life; “His love and presence are no longer what spices our life and makes our world sweet.” I’m not exactly sure what to do with the second one yet, but I thought it was an interesting thought.

The book’s point is that we are to walk wild and free because that’s how God created us to. They’re also after redefining “wild and free” because it seems to be opposite of what many of us think, consciously or not, about what our lives should look like. The freedom we desire is only found in Christ. “We are bound up by our own fears and self-imposed limitations rather than walking freely in God’s purpose for our lives. … Sometimes that means we need to let go of our tightly organized systems and plans.” This freedom is scary to me, and something I’ve been wrestling with lately because not having a set out list of how to get from point A to point B is scary to me because I’m super fearful of messing up. I found this to be convicting and encouraging and something I’ve written in my journal as I continue to wrestle with this: “We never need to be afraid of failure- not when God’s grace will always be there to break our fall. It makes me not fear accidentally wandering off the right path. I know we have a Shepherd who will come and look for us. His worry isn’t for the many in the flock who needn’t repent, but for the one who has gone astray. We can follow Him with abandon, never worrying that in following Him we’ll go the wrong way.” I keep being brought back to this point that it’s already done, the plan has been made and God will accomplish His plan; I can’t get in the way, because I’m just a humble one person in this grandiose scheme of His glory. There’s no getting it right enough that I wouldn’t mess up. This thinking is so faulty because it implies such pride in myself that A) I could be amazing enough to “get it right” with my plans and organizing or B) that I could be powerful enough to mess up the plan of Almighty God. When I finally got to the place of speaking that truth over my fears, it was humiliating to realize that I had believed such lies and merciful that God didn’t leave me there to continue on in that thinking. “We can’t go anywhere where He is not already. We cannot outpace Him, because He is already there.” (Psalm 139:7-10) “The good news is just as good for you today as it was the day you first believed. God didn’t suddenly expect you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get it done yourself. You don’t hold the power to save yourself or to make yourself good, and God didn’t start expecting that of you just because you met Jesus.” Hayley went on to talk about her story and I completely identified with it as an oldest daughter, Type A, people pleaser. She continued on in this vein of thought of what freedom looks like- not letting circumstances shake me, loving people but not living to please them, content and not striving. She said exactly what I was thinking: “Freedom feels uncomfortable sometimes, because the rules are stripped away and we have to rely on relationship over a set of manufactured to do lists.” But these lists were helping me measure my goodness, and God has already said “Christ’s righteousness is yours. Remember? It’s finished and it’s enough.” “Operating in freedom can feel chaotic. We are stripped of our measuring stick, our goal posts, and the world’s promises. We are left simply with the knowledge that when we are in Christ, we are His and we are free. We are pushed to intimacy with the Spirit instead of a set of to-dos or measurements. We are left to do business with a God who is invisible but omnipresent.”

As the authors looked to re-identify “wild” they talked about how wild women are secure in their roots in God and have no need to hide our humanity because the gospel we love and preach is what we need everyday. A wild woman works from approval, not for it, and doesn’t see life from a place of lack. “She knows that this life is not a sprint but a grace filled marathon. She also knows it’s not her strength, by the Lord’s that pushes her forward.” These are all things that I struggle with.

I also read in the book an interesting definition of “tolerance” which is a hot-button topic in our world today. “Tolerance is seeing people fairly, objectively, permissively. Taking interest in and showing concern for what they believe, even when their beliefs are different from mine. Yes. I can do that. And even more so- the idea that tolerating is the capacity to endure. I know I can do that because it’s exactly how I see my Jesus live and love in the Bible.” And I would add, thanks to my church’s current sermon series on 1 Peter that we are called to endure as exiles in this world by the power of Jesus name.

They also talked about calling each other “up” versus “out.” I love this because if we are walking securely in the freedom we have in Christ, we know the playing field is level because we are all in a mess, messing up, falling short. Often times, we’re not in a place to call each other out, but we can speak truth and speak life and cheer each other on upward.

So there are my crazy, not very organized thoughts about the book Wild and Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan. It’s a recommended read for sure!

Living Simply

Simple Living & Intentional Monthly Planning

Part of keeping things simple for me is keeping routines and rhythms in place so that I can keep my mind clutter free of all those repeating tasks that I like to do periodically. Today, I’m sharing what my current monthly planning session looks like.

One thing I like to do is get our family calendar ready to go. It’s mostly for my son to have IMG_6046a visual of our month and also to practice understanding days, weeks, months, seasons, etc. We have a desk calendar from Target (I’m pretty sure it was $10) and it hangs below our bulletin board right outside my son’s room and right next to our kitchen. Theres’ something super awesome about a blank calendar. Each month, we get a brand new start, moving on from what could have been a hard month (March was for us!) or using it to move forward with the momentum of a good month. So rip off that old month page like a band-aid, and breath in the peace that comes with wide open blank space! To make this calendar, I IMG_6047used the Rhonna Designs App to make some graphics that were square in size (I just used the “instagram” setting and then air dropped them to my computer.  (If you don’t have a mac, you can just email the pictures to yourself, too!) I opened a new Pages word document and added the pictures in. I made them all 2 inches by 2 inches and then added a small lined border around each picture. After I cut them out, I put them through my Xyron sticker maker and and then added them to our family calendar!

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I also go through the Powersheets each month at the beginning to plan out the next IMG_6066month and at the end to wrap up the month well. If you want more information on what Power Sheets are, check out Lara Casey’s site Cultivate What Matters. Basically, what I have is the dated, year long set of power sheets. At the beginning of the year, the book took me through a whole process of setting goals and breaking them down into doable chunks. Each season, you refresh your goals (which I love, because who can actually plan out life a year ahead of time?) and each month you get a tending list that breaks your goals down into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks. This is a picture of my April tending list. Just like anything else, people get super creative and cute with these- I was inspired by one Lara’s co-workers to just use highlighters (some people use water colors and hand lettering- it’s awesome, but I can’t do that free hand-stuff!)

As far as actual planning for the month, for the most part that kind of happens organically as stuff comes up. I keep a pretty simple planner that has a monthly layout in it followed by each week on 2 pages with just big rectangles for each day. I do go back over the last month and see if there’s anything I need to schedule for this month (for instance, giving my dogs their monthly heart-worm medicine). I also then look at my husband’s calendar (he shares it with me on google) and add anything that pertains to me. The big thing is that if it doesn’t get written down on my monthly calendar, it doesn’t happen. I’ve also had to let go of it being pretty; I can’t do pretty and functional at the same time in my planner. It just doesn’t work for my brain.

Once the month actually begins, I would like to be better prepared for celebrations and holidays. Usually, I procrastinate these things and then am throwing something together last minutes. While I’m looking at the month as a whole, I note who’s birthdays are coming up and make a list of gifts/cards, and then look at holidays and celebrations we have coming up and decide if and how we’ll celebrate.

At the end of the month, I have a few things I like to do: I like to clear off my desktop of all those pesky icons that build up, and clean out my “downloads” folder. I also move my Project Life files from Dropbox to Shutterfly and move my pictures from my iPhoto to dropbox for safe keeping. This also keeps me from getting that annoying “you’ve got no more room on your phone” message. I make adjustments to our budget for the next month, wrap up and finalize spending from the last month, and plan out the next month of school.

Living Simply

Living Simply

simple livingBack in 2010, I wrote a post on my old blog all about this new quote I had found that I wanted to make more of a motto for the stuff we keep in our home.

“Do not keep anything in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” -William Morris

I still use this quote as a measuring stick for what we’ll keep and what we won’t. Now that we’ve moved 6 times since that post, it’s more true in some ways and not in others. When I first started simplifying my life, I was pretty rigid about it. We either used it or it left. We’ve also added a child into the mix, and that made things a little more complicated because we tried to save things for the possibility of baby #2 coming along at some point.

I love exactly what Sarah Bessey said here are The Art of Simple blog:

Over the years, I’ve embraced a simpler way of life. We have done our share of purging, particularly a few years ago when we lived in a small urban space. I love a tidy and clean home, clutter drives me bonkers (with four tinies, this is a losing battle). I devoured The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up along with the rest of the world and I liked it (well, I didn’t quite get into thanking my t-shirts every time I hung them up, but you know what I mean).

As a Christian, I’ve been led to pursue a simpler life because I believe that consumerism is stealing our money, our time, our resources, and even our identities. I practice simple living, and I do my level best to be intentional and thoughtful about justice issues, even in everyday purchases like clothing and food and furniture. I believe in living within our means and in being unreasonably generous. I believe there is room in our homes – and in our lives – for more than just the useful or functional; there is room for the lovely, the memory-filled, the beautiful, the sacred, the just-because-I-love-it-still stuff.

Simple and minimal living looks different for everyone, and can even change for a person as seasons and life change. We never had baby #2 and have moved six times and will definitely be moving at least one more time. Our priorities and activities have changed a lot and so our life fits that, and I’m always going back through things and evaluating something’s function or beauty in my home. I’m also more careful about what actually makes the “cut” to come into our home because at best, it will be awesome, but usually I end up trying to find some way to dispose or sell it.

Book Notes

Reading

In 2017, my goal is to read 36 books, 3 each month, 1 from each category of non-fiction, fiction and children’s literature. As we make it a point to have more read-aloud time in our home, I wanted to get a “head start” on some children’s books before we read them to our son. I didn’t read a lot growing up, but my husband did and I read more now. We want to make it a priority for our son. Even though we can’t make him love reading, we can introduce him to good books and make our environment more bent toward reading over choosing a screen.
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Children’s Literature I’ve Read in 2017

(1) Little House in the Big Woods (Little House #1)

(2) A Bear Called Paddington

(3) The Mouse and the Motorcycle

(4) James and the Giant Peach

Non-Fiction I’ve Read in 2017

(1) Teaching from Rest – I highly recommend this book to all moms, even if you aren’t a homeschooler, because there is some good truth in here. You can find my notes here.

(2) Girl Meets Change  – This was a good read, especially if you struggle with transitions or deal with lots of change in your life. You can find my notes here.

(3) Big Magic – This book was on my “to read” list for a while, and I’m glad I read it. However, there was nothing life-changing in it for me because I am doing well in life right now making time to feed my creative side through this website and other craft hobbies.

(4) Hillbilly Elegy – My husband read and loved this book so I picked it up when I had a lull in waiting for library holds to come in. There is some language and hard stuff in it, but it’s super interesting and informative.

(5) Restless – This book was totally up my alley in that it had some journaling prompts throughout to help you come to a place where you’re not so restless in what you’re supposed to be doing with your life (if you find you’re in that spot).

(6) Wild and Free– I really liked this book- you can read the notes I took here. It made me really think about the places I’m putting God in a box of my expectations, and living life inside some expectations that were never put on me, or that were not put on me by God.

Fiction I’ve Read in 2017

(1) North by Northanger

(2) My Name is Lucy Barton

Book Notes

“Girl Meets Change” Notes

  • reading“Complaint doesn’t see the goodness of the character of God. Lament is authentic about the feelings but knows the goodness and benevolence of God.” -Ann Voskamp p. 47
  • “I must be continually ready to give up the parts of my life that God wants to replace with trust in Him, even if what I need to give up are my own expectations and continual need to be in the driver’s seat of my life.” p. 49
  • “When we are confronted with difficult change, time doesn’t heal all wounds – time with the Healer does. Time with him spent giving up but I think I want for what God knows I need.” p. 72
  • “War against stagnation. We are called to be pilgrims, not campers.” Dominic Done p. 89
  • “We can thrive through change because of the limitations themselves, not just in spite of them.” Limitations unfold His intention to travel a narrower path of possibilities.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10) p. 95
  • “Gratitude is the way we hope, especially during seasons of difficult change.” p. 110
  • How to build community: Open Up your home, show up at places where people are like church and other activities, and lift up every single friendship concern to the Father. p. 168-169
  • Change your definitions: thrive is to grow and develop well. (p. 176) and adapt is to make fit for, or change to suit a new purpose. (p.177) Asking the right questions through change is important: What is God’s purpose for us in this? How is trying to grow, adapt or teach me? (p. 174)
  • “Change brings our expectations to light while simultaneously wiping them away.” p. 172
  • “When we realize our highest purpose through change is to glorify God, he gives us the brave encouragement we need to make it through.” p. 186
  • “We have the same purpose through change that we have in seasons of calm familiarity: to praise the One who generously loves us first and does everything for us out of that place of love.” pg. 187
2017 WOTY Persevere

2017 Word of the Year

What is “Word of the Year”?

2017 is the first time I’ve picked a word of the year. It can kind of be whatever you want it to be, but I think most people who pick a WOTY (word of the year) do it as a way to be intentional with their days without cornering themselves into resolutions that they may or may not stick to. It can be spiritual or religious, or just an idea you’d like to keep at the front of your thoughts throughout the year. I’m sure a quick search on Pinterest or Google will lead you down all kinds of paths.

While I definitely still set goals for myself this year (using the Cultivate What Matters Powersheets), my word of the year was what I wanted the overarching theme in 2017 to be. I started thinking about it in November of last year and threw some ideas around. I ultimately settled on the word persevere.

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Passionate Patience

The reasoning behind this was that I wasn’t going to be implementing a whole lot of “new” goals into my life, but just wanting to continue on with some foundational habits that I’ve been working on changing in my heart and life the last year or so. While overall I had made progress on those goals, I too easily, let myself make up excuses for seasons here and there in the various areas I had set goals in. I wanted to do better. I wanted to persevere, do the hard thing, and reap the results of that.

Perseverance also has some spiritual implications for me. As a believer that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died for my sins to put me in righteous standing before God, something no amount of perseverance could get me, the word is important in the life of a Christian. The first place I think about it in the Bible is in Romans 5, which is kind of the foundation for my picking of this word.

This first few verses of this chapter are talking about how we can rejoice in God because of our justification by faith. I can rejoice because I am at peace with God because of the work Jesus did on the cross. Not only can we rejoice in those things that seem like obvious reasons for one to rejoice in, but the next set of verses talk about why we can actually rejoice in our suffering.

We can rejoice in our suffering because it’s producing perseverance and character and hope in our lives. That character and hope is something I want for me personally and to live out in front of my son. I love that the Message calls it “passionate patience” because that’s exactly the tension I feel, the tension of wanting to do, do, do but knowing that it’s already been done for me, and so I have to wait, patiently, while the work grows in my heart and life. James 1:25 also talks about perseverance, and enduring in obedience because it will be a blessing for us.

Perseverance isn’t a Checklist

A lesson I’ve learned and am hanging onto is that sometimes, God doesn’t give you specific tasks to do. Joshua was called to do some great things (like lead an entire nation into a promised land) and God’s commands to him in the beginning weren’t a list of how that would be done.

God’s commands to Joshua were to be strong, to be courageous, to obey carefully, and to meditate day and night on the truth. There was no command to “figure out how to get all these people into the promised land and then make it happen.”

I’ve been praying for over a year for the “how” to homeschool and stay home with Jacob. After thinking about this in light of Joshua’s story, maybe I’m praying the wrong thing? In fact, I think the book With Christ in the School of Prayer would say so. I think what I need to be praying for is courage to trust God even though I can’t see Him, strength to be obedient and grace for when I fall short.

Moses was also just invited to “come.” I love looking at my goals as ways I say “I’m coming to what God has called me to do.” And in these goals, I’m not called to curate a perfect plan or a detailed to-do list; God has already completed the work and is faithful.

This all kind of goes back to the “passionate patience” I found in Romans in The Message version of the Bible earlier this month. There is activity, to be passionate in following God and obeying what He has called me to do, like Joshua and Moses. There’s also patience, a stillness and peace to be found in the fact that I’m not in control and don’t have to strive.

Word of the Year Meets New Year Goals

First, it’s probably important at this point to share some of my goals. I mentioned in that post about who I use Powersheets from Cultivate What Matters. You can visit the link to find out more about what those are.

Goals for 2017

My first goal is to cultivate faith in my own life. This is foundational to me because without it, I have no value or calling. Having good goals and a word of the year are not about being an awesome task-master, they’re about doing what matters. Faith matters to me for my own life and the life of my husband and son, and many others. Without faith, it is impossible to please God.

My second goal is to cultivate health. I believe that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. I believe that we are called to be good stewards of this one body that we have. While doing all the right things doesn’t guarantee perfect health, it’s a matter of obedience and doing all that I can to make sure I steward well the resources I’ve been given. My body is not my own.

My third goal is to stay on track financially and be debt free by the end of next year. I want our family to be able to give more, to not be ruled by our money, and to be in a place where we’re not too focused on material things.

My fourth goal is homeschool Jacob for his Kindergarten year. We believe this is the best choice for our family for this year. He will turn 5 next month, so we won’t technically start Kindergarten until the Fall of 2017.

My fifth goal is to be a better friend. We were made to live in community and we believe this is a giant hole in our life right now.

My sixth goals is to continue to cultivate love and commitment in my marriage. This is the essential building block of my family and society; Jim will be here with me long after Jacob has gone on.

My seventh goal is to make time for self-care through doing things I enjoy. These things bring my life. I have to make time to do them, or I won’t.

My eighth goal is to make a plan for our future (like retirement and wills, etc.) This stuff isn’t fun, but it’s super necessary.

Perseverance in January

This month, I took part in the Look for Love challenge from Tone It Up. It doesn’t technically end until mid-February, but it looked like doing the hard thing of working out and eating as clean as I could even when it wasn’t convenient and even though the scale isn’t tipping a single pound lost. I have invested a lot of time and money into this and I was hoping for some pretty serious results on the scale and in measurements. I’m super discouraged about it, but I will finish.

It also looked like doing homeschool activities every day even though I won’t see the fruit of it for a while. It also looked like being consistent in parenting choices we’ve made, even though it meant I was going to have to then be consistent with our discipline and follow through of that choice. It’s usually not as bad as I think it will be, sometimes it’s worse, but it doesn’t matter.

Perseverance also looks like trusting God for the long-term. I am a seeker of validation- I want to know on a regular basis that I’m doing well, that I’m on the right track, that I’m being pleasing. This means I have to trust God to guide me and resist the temptation to look around and compare my life to others, not to see who’s always doing the best, but sometimes, I just don’t know what to do, and so I start looking around. That’s why some of this is super hard for me and why I chose for this word to by my theme for the year.

So perseverance for January was about continuing to do the things I’ve picked to do each day because they line up with my overall goals even though fruit won’t bear from the perseverance for weeks, even months.

Perseverance in February & March

First, I wanted to note that in February, I did complete the Look for Love challenge I mentioned in January and more than met my weight loss goal. I had written about being discouraged, but continuing on paid off. Pushing ahead despite difficulties or delays in achieving success is one of the definitions of perseverance so it totally fits here.

February was a hard month of sickness for us and also getting the news that my son would need surgery for some dental problems he’d been having. March found us in the middle of then Lenten season and I know I’ll have some better, more complete thoughts about it in a few weeks as I finish processing through.

So perseverance for me in those months looked exactly how I think it should- just doing the things, even when the “why” or “how” isn’t clear. That’s why I love having rhythms and routines that keep me going when I don’t want to. Simple things each day, each week, keep me on track and at least moving forward, even if it is ever so slowly.

 

Digital World

A Social Media Fast

digital lifeI took a week off social media recently, which means that I didn’t look at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat for seven days. I had made a rule for myself this year to stay off social media until my priorities were completed. What I found was that there doesn’t come a point for me in the day that everything is done, so having that end point be the “green light” to do something else was crazy because it didn’t exist. My day isn’t just a list of things to be done. In actuality, that meant that in the transitions of the day, big ones like finishing a meal or running an errand, or small ones like my son going off to play by himself or after taking my dogs out, it was a habit to check one of the apps I mentioned above. To get back to wanting to use social media well (as I set out to do with my rule for not checking it until my priorities were checked off), I decided to completely abstain from it for one week.

Before I go into my thoughts about my social media free week, I think it’s important to discuss the “why” of this. Screen time has been something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, especially as it pertains to my 5 year old son. Right now, I don’t like the place that we’re in when it comes to his relationship with the various devices we’ve let into our home. Honestly, as a task-oriented introvert whose husband is working long hours right now, the easy thing is to let my son watch a show or play a game while I get something done or just get a few minutes in of alone time. Recently, however, I’ve noticed that his default response to dead time is to ask for a screen. Ouch! That’s not something I’m proud of; and if I’m going to be telling him “no” to screen time, I need to be ready to do the same for myself. I also need to model on a daily basis the healthy way to use screens for all the benefits they can bring without them ruling my life by demanding my constant check in and attention. My son doesn’t have social media accounts, but that day is coming at some point, so I need to be modeling it along the way. At the end of the day, I might say that I don’t value what I get from a screen, but the time I spend on them would tell a different story.

The first thing that came to mind when thinking about this social media fast was that after the first day, I didn’t really find myself super tempted to check anything. This shows me that I have made progress on the journey of being who I am, of not needing approval from anyone else besides those whose opinions I really value, and using social media as a tool and not being marked by “always being on her phone.” I’ve been thinking through what my “online life” looks like and why it looks the way it does over the past year. I decided to close an old blog because I felt like I was doing more bragging than just sharing life, that I was wanting approval more than I was wanting to encourage, and that I was living life to share online instead of just living life. In reality, the various social media channels are just mini-blogs so I’ve been trying to personally find my place in all of this. One the one hand, I know there is value to sharing life online and keeping up with friends and family who we don’t live near. On the other hand, I don’t want to go back to that place of just throwing a picture or thought up just because it seems good for that moment, thus adding to the noise I’m specifically combatting. [Please note that this is a personal preference and that I don’t view all blogs or social media usage habits as bad; in fact, there are many that I get value from. This experiment was just about putting them in their place in my life. I believe each person must do this for themselves and that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to this.]

Secondly, as expected, my mind was a lot quieter. There are studies upon studies of all the “bad stuff” that’s happening to our brains because we’re so connected and inundated with information all the time. Loss of focus, dwindling attention spans, inability to be still and mindful, and various other health risks are not something I want to be putting myself or my son at risk of.

The most obvious thing was that it was much easier to tell my son that he couldn’t look at a screen when I wasn’t checking mine constantly. The old saying about “do as I say, not as I do” is not great parenting advice. One of the quickest ways to change something in your kids is to change it in yourself.

I got a lot more reading done and got a cross stitch project almost done. I found that I was able to focus on what I needed and wanted to do and got more done because I wasn’t constantly wasting time transitioning from one thing to the next by wasting 5-10 minutes each time. Notice that I said I got to do something I wanted to do. It isn’t unusual for me to have a “busy” day, not complete many of the tasks on my list, but be fully up to speed on social media. This should not be. Because it wasn’t even an option, it was either be productive or be restful. My heart (much like my mind) was in a much better place because of this. I didn’t feel like I was on the hamster wheel of life; I was able to take time to do things that fill me up so that I was then able to serve.

I think the biggest takeaway was the removal of unnecessary noise. Sometimes, I find myself adding on expectations to myself because I see other people doing something online. I think this was my big draw toward doing this fast. There is a LOT of good information out there for just about anything I came up against: what book should I read? What activities should we do for homeschool? How can I help my son learn how to hold his writing utensil correctly? What should I make for dinner? How can I be a better friend? What does this verse in my Bible mean and how does it apply to me? Where’s the best dentist around here? What clothes are in style? How can I organize this? As a recovering information junkie, I can waste a lot of time forming perfect plans and making lots of organized notes about something, owning it without once considering the actual implications of that decision. When that happens, I inevitably feel guilty because I’m not measuring up and then move to a place of doing more to prove to myself (and others) that I can do _______ (cook, homeschool, manage my home, etc.) well. I didn’t have any of that this past week. All I had were my own convictions and thoughts, the input of my husband, time to journal and process out things, and space to be creative with how to do the things I need and want to do.

The big question is “what now?” What will happen going forward? I think this part is pretty personal and specific; what works for me might be to little or too much for someone else. No one is right or wrong, as we’re all on this journey together to use devices well. The important questions to ask are: how does this add value to my life? and how can I place parameters around using it to add value and not unnecessary noise? Let the rest go.

For me, in general, this means:

  1. All social media notifications are turned off. That constant “ding” for my attention compels me to check what it was. This requires me to multi-task and takes my focus off of whatever it is I was doing. Studies show valuable time is wasted when this happens, and if you add up all the notifications one could get in a day, we spend a lot of time switching tasks and not accomplishing anything.
  2. I only have the Facebook Groups app on my phone because I do find value in the specific curated groups I’m apart of and follow, but find little value in scrolling through my news feed. I will check my “notifications” on Facebook on my desktop computer a few times a week to keep up with my friends and family that prefer to use it as their primary social media presence. You can curate your notifications to just show what’s important to you.
  3. What to share and how to share it are something I’ve not quite figured out for myself. I love chronicling our day via snapchat video or insta-stories that I can then download and share with family or keep for ourselves as memories. I do want to be smart about being safe when it comes to “over-sharing” on social media, and I don’t want to always being capturing the moment and not really taking it all in. I have a DSLR camera that I want to use more, and I like having random pictures I take with my phone to use in our Project Life albums (that I make all from my iPhone).