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Six Days of No Reading

It’s true. This girl took a break from reading.

This book loving girl who would trace the lines of words before she could even read them.

This girl who was ashamed to stand and read the first word in her Reading class while everyone looked on. She would always have that one bold three letter word which was centered in the middle of the white page blazed into her memory.

God.

And when she scooted her chair back, stood by her desk, and read that one word, she cringed a bit inside. How was it considered reading to stand up and repeat one word with all seven of the other students in her class? How was it considered a milestone to utter one syllable and that meant you were reading?

She wanted to devour whole books. Sniff their freshly printed pages and bask in the black print, clear and clean.

Reading became her life line. Her escape from reality. Her search of one more thing. She read in bed and while she worked and in the bathroom. Shampoo bottles and cereal boxes and chip bags. Children’s books and flyers and encyclopedias.

She was 8 years old when she got her first journal and it was the best birthday gift ever. She wrote about rollerskating and the strange man they saw beside the road and about who was dating and who was engaged and who was pregnant in her church. She wrote poetry in magnolia trees and dreamed of rescuing abandoned babies and working in an orphanage.

And she read.

I’m this girl and I’m doing a course by Julia Cameron on recovering your creative self. Last Sunday when I read the assignment, I nearly quit breathing.

“No reading for a week.”

Now back when the course was written, there was no social media, and no blogs. My reading challenge just got harder.

I never count the pages I read a day. In fact, some days, I don’t pick up an actual book, I dare say. But you can be sure that if I read shampoo bottles in the bathroom as a kid, I read Pinterest quotes now.

The only way I could see this working was to totally go off my regular online sites for the week. Plus leave my pile of current reading books untouched.

No one was forcing me to do this. I had made no commitment to anyone that I would do EXACTLY what the course suggested but something in the challenge stirred me. Often when you feel extreme opposition that borders on anger about something like this, it’s hit a tender spot and you may need the challenge more then you think.

I decided to jump in and try giving up this good thing of reading to see what would shake out of my life or my mind or subconscious. I wasn’t expecting much. I hated the thought. I couldn’t believe I was doing this. But I had to try.

The first two days weren’t too bad. I found myself connecting with friends I hadn’t connected with for awhile (granted it was through messaging, but that’s a bit like writing a letter in my mind). I drew doodles and made a few cards for friends while I waited in the car. I attended a conference with my husband and was more attentive then I would have been if I had been scrolling through my phone to fill in time.

And I did peak at Pinterest. But I tried to limit myself to inspiring pictures instead of wordy quotes.

Day three I woke up feeling angry. It felt like I had been wrestling my toddler all night. He was having a very hard time sleeping and I was exhausted when I woke in the morning. I felt off center, grouchy, and touchy.

This whole ‘not reading’ thing was really getting to me. I felt like I needed a brain reset. I felt like I needed to get outside my head. Think of something else. Find encouragement for my soul. I felt trapped in a corner with no escape.

I knew enough about detox or any kind of change to know that often Day Three is horrid and you think you are truly crazy. It’s also usually just before the break through that you feel the worst. So I stuck it out – this horrible ‘not reading’ thing.

Day four I woke, having slept better, but still feeling frustrated and irritated. I selfishly directed it toward my husband. We had a big discussion to put it mildly. I sat at one end of the table and he at the other and we volleyed words and feelings back and forth and at the end, we sat beside each other and agreed to a plan that worked for both of us. As the old saying goes, ‘we kissed and made up’.

Turned out we were both feeling misunderstood. Turned out we both needed to move toward each other instead of away. Turned out at 1:30 PM he went to work when he had planned to go at 8:30AM.

Day five, I woke refreshed. It wasn’t just that my toddler had slept most of the night; it was also that we were starting a new chapter and that felt good. Would we get stuck on repeat? Most likely, but that was all part of growing and learning.

I drove to our fixer upper that morning and didn’t want to stop driving. After doing a quick coat of sealer on the countertops, I jumped in my car again, notified my husband, and set off on a little road trip. Just to clarify here…I go on drives to relax but never miles and miles out of town. This time, I felt like it was something I really needed to do for myself.

I drove over 160 miles and enjoyed the scenery and listened to music and a podcast, drank coffee and saw gorgeous mountains and wildlife. My toddler rode along and actually did amazing. I stocked up on groceries, found a mirror at a thrift shop for our fixer upper, and got back by 3 PM. It was exactly what my heart needed to recharge and relax.

Day Six, I felt satisfied. Like my experiment had been successful and like I was ready to break the NO Reading spell.

So what did I learn by taking a break from reading?

I learned that not reading makes me feel angry.

I read for inspiration.

I read to get out of my head.

I read to learn and I read to grow.

I read to distract myself or when I don’t want to talk.

I read to fill in moments.

I read to heal and to feel.

What did I do instead of reading?

I made more contact with friends.

Drew small sketches.

Took a drive.

Organized the kitchen cupboards.

Went to a seminar for one reason and came home with a different reason.

Slept more.

Watched my child exclaim over Christmas decorations in a store.

Had a long conversation with my husband.

Made goals with my husband and with myself.

Was it worth it?

Yes.

Hard and uncomfortable.

But worth it.

I may devote a day a week to No Reading so I’m forced to get other things done. Then again, maybe I’ll just try to be more intentional with my time.

A brain that reads can grow and become. That’s what I am reaching for. That’s what I am grateful for.

Nature Awakens You

The Nighthawk and Freedom

Every evening, just at the the witching hour, the Night Hawk flew on strong wings over the field of wheat and shrilled her cry into the air and dove wild and free. Jabbing the air for morsels of food.

She flew so high, I could scarcely see her but her piercing keening call echoed downward and she would dart into view in a blink.

She came. Every evening and sometimes late into the night that whole summer and no one asked her to leave .

The space was hers. The wind her companion. The air her buoyant cushion and the mosquitos her meal ticket.

Wide open spaces spoke to her heart and only when she was free, diving above the golden wheat fields, did she really feel alive.

GLORIOUSLY ALIVE. 

Sometimes coming alive means risking appearing totally mundane. Totally foolish. Totally erratic. Totally raspy.

TOTALLY SHOWING UP IN THE PLACE YOUR HEART FEELS MOST ALIVE. 

We fly.

We dive.

We follow the currants of our heart. And we embrace the space that opens for us. The provision. The strength. And the wonderful, wonderful freedom.

TRUE FREEDOM IS NOT A WORD. IT’S A FEELING. 

“If the Son has set you free.

You are unquestionably FREE.”

Nature Awakens You

Finding Your 30 Something Self

It’s been a life long journey. This finding who I am and who I was meant to be. I thought I would arrive one day and have this great future spread out in front of me with clear paths and years of security.

Turns out I’m in my thirty’s and still discovering the path. I’m realizing that security is something you carry inside yourself, not something you surround yourself with. That it’s not so much about the arrival as about what I learn each day. That I may as well forget the illusion that I will ever arrive until the glorious day I arrive in eternity.

Nearly as far back as I remember, I wanted to do something great. To rescue an abandoned child, be instrumental in a handsome guy proposing to my sister, or like Jo in Little Men, have 12 boys in a rambling old house and be the most fun, energetic mom ever. Romantic anyone? That was me. I was always the hero in my story. Perhaps because I felt like I failed horribly at the hero thing in everyday life.

I was an average girl who struggled with math, felt too large for her frame, had a quick temper and a tender heart. I would change faces depending which crowd I was with. In fact, I became so accustomed to reading people and situations and trying to keep everyone happy and all the plates spinning, that I lost track of who I actually was. I could talk myself into and out of the exact same situation and this made me an empathetic listener who felt like a fraud.

I would do tests and read books and write long journal entries, pouring out my heart in an attempt to find myself. The most frustrating quote that others said to me was,”Just be yourself.”

As if I was a powerhouse of my own who could switch on the Anita Setting. I literally had not the Slightest Clue who “myself” was. And around and around and around I went.

There came the day after I got married and we had moved 8 times and my daughter had died and my whole world was shaken, that I sat in the car outside the church house and cried. Great sobbing tears.

I realized without a shadow of a doubt that I could no longer be who I had been trying to be all these years. That the only way to live with myself and find the freedom and purpose God had for me was to make a massive life changing decision. It hurt so badly I thought I would puke but it also came with the deep knowledge that I was opening myself to the journey that The Divine had been preparing me for all along.

It had begun the day my cry entered the world. The cry of a Warrior Woman finding her identity.

While I made radical life style changes and was physically sick to my stomach when I thought of how this would affect my maiden family and other friendships, I realized a paradox. This was all about me. This had nothing to do with me but was about what The Divine had set in place when I was created. I was in for some of the hardest, most authentic years of my life.

I am learning that knowledge and self awareness is power. That finding my voice and speaking my heart is freeing and that the bravest thing I can do is ask questions and embrace change and growth. I’m finding the balance in when to speak and when to be silent. I’m understanding my personality, my strengths and my struggles, and it makes me a more kind compassionate, useful human. I’m embracing the beauty around me and accepting my limitations and facing my fears. It has helped me relax into a better mom and wife. Discovering that every situation is a chance for new understanding and growth instead of shaming myself and fearing the consequences of a less then perfect decision is freeing.

I don’t have to know exactly who I am in entirety right this minute. I will change. I will shift. I will find new paths for the rest of my life. That does not discredit my journey, delete my story, or diminish who I am today.

Who we are and who we were and who we are meant to be may all seem like different people. Thats OK. We give ourselves the best gift of all when we embrace our currant situation. When we shift if our flow is off or our spirit feels the need for movement.

We are powerful. Our story matters. Our voice is unique.

Don’t let anyone else steal who you were meant to be. And don’t bother self sabotaging yourself by hiding in fear and frustration. You don’t have to figure it all out.

Start by accepting yourself just the way you are. Knowing that you are loved right this moment exactly as you are. That nothing you do or say can change that fact. There is no marathon you must run, no weight you must lose, no title you must earn, no goal you must reach to be accepted here. You are simply loved.

Then find something about yourself that is useful or beautiful or brave and work from that strength . Learn to love yourself because if you cannot show love to yourself, you will have an incredibly hard time showing love to anyone else. Open yourself to The Divine. Follow the Leader of the beginning of your existence. Ask for clear direction. Then trust that you will get it and live with your eyes excitedly, widely open.

The Real you will start showing up and you will be amazed.

Nature Awakens You

Falling Green

Frozen has stolen over our portion of Earth again. Our breathe curls into patterns on the air and we blow on fingers and wear slippers. 

Fall came with such intensity and such determination and such dynamic force this year. It was 50 degrees with blue skies and then the cold front crashed in and we were buried under 19 inches of heavy wet snow and grey skies. A winter snow storm in September and then October dawned. 

The very emotion of the storm seemed to silently scream, “Die. Die. Die.” As it lay it’s weight on green trees and summer flowers.

Nature was left gasping for breathe and realizing the only way to live was to stop struggling and release into the flow. To accept that green leaves were falling on snow and the golden glory of fall was stolen before it had danced. 

The words from St. Matthew play through my head, “if you chose self sacrifice and lose your lives for my glory, you will continually discover True life. If you try to keep your lives for yourselves you will forfeit what you try to keep.”

I look at Jesus who shook the cages of earthly expectations. Freed the myths and traditions of earthly humans. He was not afraid to lose it all to gain the best. 

Perhaps we need to lose what we THINK our lives should look like. Neat tidy edges. Upright straight lines. Children who obey without question. Emotions in check. Uncomplicated relationships and feelings. 

Perhaps it’s in living open to change that we find this TRUE life. Being entwined with the Divine. Accepting what doesn’t make sense. Vulnerable to emotions. Shaking up the mundane. Getting unstuck from the perfect housekeeping or the large pay check. Choosing to risk our hearts at kindness and love. 

Keeping your life close and safe and contained by rules and fears and your own ideas can cause you to forfeit the life you were meant to live. 

LIVE WIDE. LIVE OPEN. LIVE FREE. LET GO OF YOUR VISION OF PERFECT. EMBRACE THE BEAUTY OF WHOLENESS. EVEN IF IT MEANS FALLING WHEN YOU ARE STILL GREEN. 

There is still glory and there is still beauty and there is still grace.

DIY Projects

Simple Watercolor Art For Fall

Fall brings the cozy feels. Hot apple cider. Pumpkin lattes. With it, an urgency to rake up the leaves, mulch the roses, and harvest the apples and plums

Sometimes when you are low on time and space and your creativity is going dormant it helps to have a super simple project to satisfy the artsy part of the heart. 

This is one of my favorite ways to give myself the gift of creating and also bless someone else.

What you will need:

*Watercolor paint and water. *Heavy paper or water color paper. *Paint brush. *Fine Sharpie Maker. *Lead pencil. *Eraser. 

I start by painting pretty designs on my paper. There is no wrong or right way to do this so just have fun. My favorite shapes are inspired by nature but you do you. 

Take your pencil and start drawing fun designs. Leaves, plants, cactus, feather, pumpkins, acorns, or whimsical woodland creatures. Pinterest has great ideas for this! 

Go over your lines with your sharpie and then erase any pencil marks that are still showing. 

You can enjoy these yourself or cut them down into cards for other people. Add words or doodles to make it authentic to you or encouraging to a friend. 

I love how quick and stress free this is! I actually worked on these in the truck while my two year old took a nap in his car seat. 

It’s a great way to relax and refresh your spirt as well. I hope you take time to enjoy a bit of creativity today in the way that suits you best! You are worth some extra love and attention! 

I’d love to see your artwork. Feel free to leave a picture in the comments! Happy weekend!

Finding Yourself

What Makes You Feel Like A Person

I’m sitting outside of Starbucks right now in my Jeep with a Dragon fruit refresher, my hair tied back (because writing is serious business and I always feel more productive with my hair secured) and rain and hail alternating on pounding my roof. My toddler is asleep in the back seat and I’m curled up front, camping dust tracing my bare feet. My shirt says Wild Love and I put a layer of fresh deodorant on before I left the house. There are 10 more things I could have done to make myself feel more presentable. . Well, actually, probably more like 20 since I’ve pretty much lived outside the past three weeks .

Here’s the point though. I feel like a person again. Not so much like a 24/7 caregiver. I mean, yesterday I removed toilet emergency item number 2 from my toddler’s hands. So yeah, at this moment I feel not so much like a burned out momma. Like there may be some spark under the plain old Anita after all.

We all have busy lives. Sometimes in the busyness, we lose track of who we are and what our feelings really are and how to connect with our inner child- the part of us that God created extra special and extra unique and full of His specific plan for the world and for us in particular.

In the past months of craziness, I’ve felt like I lost touch with who I was.

Moving is hard and takes every ounce of energy. Settling into a new routine is hard and coaching children ( and myself) through the emotions and upheaval that comes along is hard. Waking up at early hours with a ‘rearing to go’ (as my mom I used to say) toddler is hard. Losing someone you love is doubly, triply, quadruply hard. Healing is hard.

No matter what you are facing, I can almost guarantee you that if you are breathing, you are doing Hard.

Its just part of life. There’s not even any need to count points on a scale of 1-10 to see where your Hard lands.

It’s truly so easy to lose ourselves in the hard and busy. To forget that while we are serving and being productive and caring for others and bringing home a paycheck, there is that vital source of connection that, without given attention, will simply dwarf its way into oblivion.

It’s got a pretty quiet voice. But it’s persistent and misunderstood and often ‘shushed’

And honestly? Sometimes its just plain hard to hear. Other voices seem so much more demanding and persistent and authoritative.

Losing yourself is costly though.

Losing the person your Creator made you to be is downright sad.

It’s a paradox- this losing and this finding. Jesus said, “if you lose you’re life for My sake, you will find it.”

I think losing the life that Jesus mentioned was losing the part of us that is full of self and pride. Like our ego.

Only by losing the ego can the core of us come alive and that is the part deep within us that is sheltered in the safety of grace. That’s the part that our Creator calls beautiful. It’s where the gifts He has given to us are birthed and nurtured and grown.

I think part of that true identity is revealed by simply discovering what makes you feel alive. What makes you feel like a person and a human. When we connect with those basic life giving emotions, we connect with the core of our being.

Everything is connected in life.

Maybe its doing simple things like taking a hot shower after a hard day of work, watching the sun set, or drinking a steaming cup of coffee in the morning.

I think it needs to go deeper then that. We need to be still long enough to discover it. To hear new truths. To uncover the beauty. To find something life giving and follow through with it. To not give up on ourselves or our passions.

Often our natural passions are actually staring us right in the face, saying ‘use me’ while we are here tearing around complicating everything with the ‘ what if’ and ‘should be’ and ‘maybe’ and ‘can I?’

Just silence the noise. Find yourself. Know that while you will never fully arrive, until you are in Eternity with your Creator, you will come closer and closer to that fullness. You will be making the biggest difference possible in this world. Living the full calling of your Creator on your Life.

Live in your strengths. Learn from your failures.

Know that even mistakes and problems are chances to learn and become more fully alive and aware of yourself. Let’s just not even call them failures. Just growth spurts.

Don’t give up on YOU! Don’t stand yourself up on your own date with yourself. Go all in. Find your passions and follow through with them.

That’s where the magical, life giving stories happen.

I’d love hear the one thing you choose to do today that is life-giving for your inner core.

Rainbows in the East at 9 PM. Now that was soul food!

Mom Life

Parenting Through Change

Sometimes this Mom gig is just so HARD.

Tonight I am weary. Not so much from physical activity as from mental and emotional activity and from biting my strong emotions and retorts back when my kiddos push my buttons.

I don’t even particularly like that quote ‘push my buttons’. It always reminds me of the little toy cash registers where you push a button and a drawer pops open and you involuntary jump every time no matter what. Then there’s the confusion of making change from dollars when numbers are not your strong suit and the whole phrase leaves me feeling anxious and depleted and defeated.

So let’s just say I felt like totally yelling today and totally crying and totally sulking.

One of the hardest things about selling our house and living in a camper is most definitely the stress it has placed on the boys. They love it here at the RV park and we have lots of fun, but the change is always hard.

Always always hard. No matter if it’s joyful change, planned change, or sudden change, it takes bodies time to adapt and become accustomed to new normal. This move is no exception.

Big life changes always come with a price and deciding if it’s what your willing to pay is just part of it.

But back to this whole mothering through change. It’s just not my favorite part of life but learning to embrace it and being OK with not being OK is high on my mindset shift.

As Brene Brown says

Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater then our level of self acceptance.

Drop back a few years to when we realized our style of parenting was not bringing the results we wanted. It just wasn’t working the way we thought it automatically should.

I wish I knew who to credit this t-shirt art to, but since I don’t, I will simply say ‘it’s awesome and true!’ Connection is vital to parenting.

We decided to take a connected parenting approach to raising our boys, we had no idea of the personal growth that would happen.

It is incredibly hard to allow my child to express emotions that I was never permitted to express.

(And here I will clarify this whole thing to say that I was raised in a Christian home and I absolutely have a high regard for my parents! I am so very grateful for their good influence and care in my life. I LOVe them! )

Ex: I was taught that being angry is sin.

And we were never permitted to become angry. In other words, we got angry, but absolutely NO angry outlet was tolerated.

It’s been a learning curve for me. To feel anger. and to see anger in my kids. To acknowledge it. And then to find a healthy way to release it.

Emotions are not sin just as anger is not sin.

What we do with our emotions, ourselves, and others in the heat of them surging through us is where the kicker lies.

Since I’m being honest here, I still struggle with panic when my boys get angry.

I want to control the situation immediately. Make the so called ‘bad emotions’ leave. Suffocate the feelings.

I want to push a button and create calm.

My blood pressure rises. I look around to see if anyone else is watching my kid have a traumatic big outburst of feelings. I think of how I was immediately silenced and think they have no right to have this big feeling if I wasn’t permitted to . I feel the fight in me rising, because I have feelings and emotions too and this is not comfortable for me.

Sometime I need to simply stop and write the words of how I feel in the moment to find what’s really happening inside of my own self.

It takes an incredibly larger amount of patience to sit with them in their big emotions and let them feel safe then it does to hand out quick, swift consequences and make the noise stop.

It takes much more self control to help them calm down and wait until their brains are thinking clearly before talking about better ways to handle the situation then it does to throw out threats at them and scare them into obedience and silence.

Did you know that when a child is in total unregulated meltdown mode they can hear about 1 word you are saying? So save your breathe! Wait to share your practical problem solving advice until they (and most likely you) are calmer!

Tonight, I sit beside my two sleeping boys. A storm is rolling in and the wind is picking up all kinds of gustiness. I want it to blow right through my heart and take away all the weary and all the times I made less then good choices as a mom this week.

I honesty feel like a total failure on some levels and then I remind myself that I am doing my best.

That we have grace and forgiveness and second chances in our family.

That the point is not about getting it all right. It’s about learning and growing and becoming stronger. Healthier. Braver.

That at the end of the day, we can lay down to rest, knowing we are loved. Loved in our weakness. Our pain. Our joy. Loved for our wild glory and our unique low lands. Loved for being ourselves.