Tuesday, December 27, 2011

You've Gone Too Far

Have you ever gone too far? Stepped over a line?  I struggle with that a lot.  Sometimes I say too much, presume to much or just set up camp somewhere in the heat of the moment.  They say never make major life decisions when you're tired, under pressure or emotional (and certainly not all three).

I'm sorry to say that's when I make a lot of decisions that turn out to be really off base.  But then what's worse is that I stay there because of pride.  There was probably a huge ordeal or a big fit, words were said, feelings were hurt and to go back and say I was wrong or not completely right feels absolutely impossible! But why? It feels impossible because I can't bear the feeling of eating crow, admitting the huge ordeal was for nothing, and just humbling myself.

But the good news is that you can always go back.  You can always say you were wrong, ask for forgiveness and at least try to make amends.  How often do we sit in misery, head down a road we know is wrong or isn't where we really want to be, only because we care more about what others think than what is really good for ourselves, our family, our future?  I do it much more than I'd like to admit.

My task today is to pay more attention to what is right by my family and my God than to my ego or self-esteem.  May our pride dissolve into humility quickly.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lessons From the Sewing Machine

Probably my most said phrase over the course of my life so far (if I had an internal counter) would be "I can't!" or "It's too hard!"  Not really because I actually can't or things really are too hard, but because I have very messed up expectations for things.  What I expect I'm capable of is way below the truth.  How difficult or doable things are is usually way off.  If I'm motivated I think HUGE tasks will be no problem and if I'm fearful I think simple things are just "too much" for me to handle.

I was really motivated this year to hand-make as many of my holiday gifts as I could.  Probably about 60% of them will be, a number that I'm pretty proud of.  I'm proud because when I say hand-made I'm talking sewing - something I've never been good at or had much experience at.  And I was pretty well on track until I got sick last weekend and hadn't recovered until yesterday.  So, now I really should be sewing, but instead I thought I'd share some things I've learned.

God, if I ask and will let him, can teach me lessons in ANY situation.  I behaved poorly last night, letting impatience with my husband just go crazy.  Not good.  And so what happens today? A task that I underestimated is taking a long time.  All day it has been staring me in the face with "YOU NEED TO BE MORE PATIENT!!!!  So, I've relaxed and accepting my punishment/penance of a tedious job.

I hope everyone is finding joy in their week, no matter the circumstances.  You can always make a situation better by being joyful! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Great Music, Great People

Looking for some new music?  I've got a couple of suggestions and I just happen to know them both personally, so I can vouch that they're both super cool and have even bigger hearts.

Mrs. Hannah Rogers (Scott) married my brother this summer, but the year before put out a great set of songs.  You can find heart on iTunes and was featured yesterday on thesixtyone.com.  You can listen to her here and her to support her!

Sephra (Osburn), whom I have known basically since she was born, is a recent grad in Audio Engineering release her Transparent EP a while back and is soon to release more.  She's been featured on thesixtyone.com a while back too.  You can listen to her and heart her here to support her as well.  

And actually, I have one more suggestion, Matt Scheuber of Matt Scheuber's Music just happens to be Sephra's fiance and is a fabulous musician/engineer as well! Check his two albums out on iTunes!

Support good local music; Support young couples just starting out; Support friends and family of mine!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Making Up Your Mind Long Before

There are several decisions I've made about my life and Jude's that aren't mainstream and lots of people have said they could never do.  Sometimes I get the impression that they think certain things are easy for me and wouldn't be for them.  Generally, hard is hard.

With Jude, in pregnancy and delivery, I went as natural as possible.  I took herbs and vitamins for all my needs and was blessed to be able to have him at home without any drugs.  Of course I think it's a great way to go if you can, but I'm not here to preach about how to have your babies.  My point is how big of an impact making up your mind beforehand makes on decisions, especially hard ones.

After about 2 hours of real labor with Jude (if not before) I was ready to get it over with.  If I had been in a hospital and had access to drugs, I expect you could have talked me into drugs pretty easily.  It hurt bad and all I could think of was making it stop.  If I hadn't made the decision long before we reached that stage, I'm not sure what the outcome would have been.

Think of any hard decision - and especially hard in the follow through.  Dieting, sexual purity, parenting, anything to do with patience or self-control! This is the kind of stuff we as a society battle over, don't we? In the heat of the moment - the dating scene, a child's tantrum, food temptation - making the right choice is soooo hard.  If the choice, however, has already been made days/weeks before, then it's not much of a problem.  If I don't buy or keep sugary foods in my house, then I don't even have to ask the question, "Will I eat this today?"  It's easier on me as a parent if Randy and I have decided before hand what sort of behavior is acceptable and what is not with Jude (what's off limits, what's the goal lesson, etc.).  If a couple agrees on certain boundaries BEFORE they become an issue, it makes purity a lot easier.

I'm very blessed with the opportunity to stay home with Jude and have a large say in how his life goes.  I realize that that isn't always the case.  I had a very low-risk healthy pregnancy and not everyone has that.  My husband was out of school and working full-time before we even got married.  Not everyone has that.  Life is never under our complete control, try as we might.  I am reminded daily how much I owe to God's grace and mercy on me.  But, working my tail off to prepare for what kind of outcome I want pays off too.  I never get everything just the way I want it, but I get so much closer than if I didn't try at all.

2012 is a great opportunity to try this idea out.  Think of one outcome you'd really like to see come to pass next year.  What things can you do/decide right now (beforehand) to ensure that result?  A few things I'm thinking about is losing 30 pounds by spring-ish time, growing closer with the women of my congregation, and preparing to be a homeschooling mom.  What are you thinking about?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Perfect Problem: Complaining

When perfectionism plagues you, you most certainly have a strong opinion on most everything.  As a perfectionist you are looking for everything to be just the way you want it (perfect) and can tell in a heart beat when it's not.  In my experience (with myself) that results in complaining.

Sometimes perfectionist conjures up the image of a neat freak adjusting every picture frame.  And, sure, that person is quite possibly a perfectionist, but that's not the only form perfectionism comes in.  The guy who is desperate for a girlfriend, but finds something wrong with every girl he meets.  The friend who has to tell you constantly what's wrong with what you just said.  The person who requires perfection, but gets so overwhelmed at the thought of what it would take achieve such that they don't try at all.  I affectionately call that the 'discouraged perfectionist'.

My point is that it takes all kinds.  And one clear sign that perfectionism is taking up too much room in your life is the amount of time you spend complaining.  From the first bite of breakfast you take to the temperature of the room before bed to expecting the world to ask you for your opinion because you have the answers.  How many times do you complain about something in one day?  Another way to think about is this: How often are you satisfied and (at bare minimum) express contentment to those around you? The trouble with being a perfectionist is that you will never be really happy for more than a moment, if that.  That's pretty miserable to live with.

Mr. Butler and I have pretty high standards for ourselves and in my opinion there is nothing wrong with that.  The trick with me is making sure that those standards are reachable eventually AND that I don't make it a habit of griping about others who don't share or meet those standards.  It's really easy for me to demand things out of others as if they shared my views, my goals and my expectations and then complain about them when they don't.  But my first and primary job is to hold myself accountable and give mercy like it's going out of style!

Instead of complaining today, shift your focus onto something you can be thankful for.

Instead of expressing disappointment at imperfection today, choose to be content in it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Who Doesn't Love Letters?

One of the most treasured things in a person's life is usually words from a loved one who has died.  A letter from a parent or grandparent is just more special than I can express.  Everyone loves letters written specifically for them, no matter the age.

As a teenager I was always fascinated with finding a journal in a secret wall or buried in an attic that would be full of some persons writings, maybe even written to me, the finder.  Because of that, I LOVED keeping journals, still do.

When we decided to get pregnant I found the perfect little notebook with trees and owls on the front and different wooded scenes on every page.  Ever since we confirmed that I was pregnant I've been writing to J every so often - usually a couple of times a month if I'm doing well.  Now that I've been at it for over a year an a half, I'm so glad that I did.  It has captured parts of me that fade so quickly and are forgotten.  The excitement and fear about being a mom.  The lessons I want him to learn.  My reactions to the different stages and new discoveries of his personality.  And Randy has written a handful of times as well - which I think is super special.  He wrote right after J was born and I was a bit incapacitated.  What I am trying to get at is that doing this has been a super blessing even to me.  And I trust that when J is 12 or 15 or even having his own children that this can be a neat perspective he'll have about his own past that might positively influence his future.

Now that J's older I don't write quite as often as I did, but it really doesn't take much time at all to put a glimpse of our life down on paper every month or two.  This idea, I think, is something you could do for anyone that you love or really want to communicate with but find it difficult.  The written word can last longer and brings with it time to think about what is being said, instead of thinking about how you're going to respond.  Maybe you have an anniversary coming up or you want to do something special for a mother or father's day gift.  Or even just a special birthday.  Who doesn't love getting letters and notes?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Let's talk about 2012..

I know, I know.  Christmas isn't even here yet!  How can we even think about 2012?  If you're like me, waiting until December 31st  probably means nothing is going to happen!  So, to help my family and I enter 2012 with vision, passion and follow through, we need a plan.  Here are a few questions I'm going to try to answer for myself to narrow down what's really important and what I need to do to accomplish that.

-What big events are happening for me/us in 2012?

-How was I disappointed in 2011? What things could I have done to change that?

-Does the amount of time I spend every week proportionate to my/our priorities?  In other words, are we spending the most time on the most important things?  If not, how can we change that?

-Who do I want to be closer to this next year?

-Who/what needs more attention this year?

-What areas of my life am I ashamed of?  What can I do to improve them?

-If I (or a close family member) were to die tomorrow, would that change any of my answers or shift my priorities?

-Have I considered the eternal consequences to all of these things?

What kind of a year do you hope to have? Prosperous, healthy, peaceful, contented, generous?  Let's begin envisioning that year today! 

Monday, December 12, 2011

What You Have Left

Life can turn on a dime.  I understand that more the more I have to lose.  We lose loved ones.  We lose positions.  We lose friends.  We lose the familiar.  But for every loss, there's always something left behind.   Don't forget about what you have left.  I catch myself obsessing over things that I've lost, the stuff that has changed. And if I'm looking back at what's gone, then it's pretty hard to focus on what I still have.

In death, we suffer emotional loss here on earth, but there are always the living left behind that can still be cherished.  In financial hardships, there are so many opportunities for growth that will far outweigh the pain.  In friendships that shift, move and sometimes leave, there are others that you need and need you.

The change is coming and always will be.  What we learn from it and how we keep going is what matters.  They added covered parking to J's pediatrician's office and I had to turn around a couple of times to figure out where I was supposed to be.  When I returned home I was locked out of my house and had to climb over our back fence - twice!  Change is bugging me today! But J is in perfect health and the pediatrician didn't have one bad thing to say about him! So, there is always a silver lining and joy in a gloomy day.

Embrace the inevitable and find jewel it's bringing you!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holidays Shmolidays

Today is December 9th and your holiday activities will probably begin it's warp speed this weekend if it hasn't already.  So much to do, parties, preparation, etc.  Whatever you choose to do this weekend, try to take out any obligation or compulsion from it and replace it with enthusiasm and joy.  Your children can see the strain and misery on your face, but your excitement and pleasure in the kitchen or watching another school program will be equally (and probably more) contagious!

If you are too busy and doing too much, cut something out.  Your family and your blood pressure will thank you.  Then maybe you'll spend this holiday full of gratitude and peace instead of anxiety and irritability.

If you are in the habit of buying buying buying and yet cringe at your children's materialism, cut down on the gifts and instead, do something good for someone else as a family.  Take some of your gifts to those without.  Throwing together some Blessing Bags would be a great opportunity to fill someone's need and talk to your kids about giving and serving.

If you generally loathe the holidays for any number of reasons, find one good thing.  Find a person - maybe your son or daughter, a cause - promoting what God has done for you this year, or just a personal goal - more patience, being more honest, etc., and just focus on that.  American society can always use more optimism and joy.  Have you contributed yours today?

Whatever you do, have a jolly weekend!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Give the Sing-Off a Try

Mr. Butler and I don't watch a lot of television live anymore, but usually watch online when we have time.  For that reason, I didn't watch the Sing-Off in real time and not even in its entirety.  But, I did catch a few episodes and most of the finale.  For those of you who've not given it a listen, here's why I think you should.

1. This show is a lot more about hard work and perfecting a craft than it is a popularity contest, like some shows often end up.  

2. Singing a capella (without instruments) well is hard and the level of musicianship is going up every season it seems.

3.  It's a lot of fun to watch and the judges, for the most part, aren't lame.  Shaun sometimes bugs me, but overall they are good at what they do.

4. Lastly, many of the performances they have produced are awesome.  I think this tops the chart in my book.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Perfect Problem

In the dictionary, perfection is defined as "a personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less."  So, to call me a perfectionist doesn't sound accurate because I seem to rarely do things perfectly and always seem to be falling short.  But reading this list I found changed my mind:

Ten Top Signs Your a Perfectionist
  1. You can't stop thinking about a mistake you made.
  2. You are intensely competitive and can't stand doing worse than others.
  3. You either want to do something "just right" or not at all.
  4. You demand perfection from other people.
  5. You won't ask for help if asking can be perceived as a flaw or weakness.
  6. You will persist at a task long after other people have quit.
  7. You are a fault-finder who must correct other people when they are wrong.
  8. You are highly aware of other people's demands and expectations.
  9. You are very self-conscious about making mistakes in front of other people.
  10. You noticed the error in the title of this list.

Over the years, I've always heard perfectionism referred to as a close cousin to OCD, but I either thought that I wasn't a perfectionist or that it wasn't that big of a problem anyway.  I'm guilty of all the signs on this list at least some of the time and guilty of some of them ALL of the time.  With Jude walking everywhere now and really on the verge of actual talking, I'm growing more aware of how miserable I can become when things aren't perfect (the way I see perfect).  I really don't want him (and any other children I may have) growing up in an environment where I can rarely be pleased, always complaining, and unable to handle changes in plans.   I would appreciate your prayers about this.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Are You Having a Rough Day?

Some days are just like that, aren't they?  All you can do is just go with it.  Here's to flexibility!

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Evolution of Exercise

When Mr. Butler and I started dating, he went to the gym regularly before class and he started dragging me along with him.  I hated it.  

When we got married, he would get up about 5:30 every morning to go to the gym before work and I went with him.  I still hated it.  

About 2 months before I got pregnant I committed to exercising more than I ever had before.  And I started to enjoy it.  

While I was pregnant I exercised as much as I could.  I regretted not pushing myself more before when I was able to.

Now, I can't go more than a day (I try to do something 6 days a week) without really missing it.  

Last month the NY Times posted an article about the mental benefits of exercise.  For the longest time I associated exercise with a path to lose weight and just a boring prescription for better health that you couldn't really feel.  It just seemed like punishment.  Now, even just today, exercise helps me think.  I'm sure part of it is having a kid and the toll it takes on your brain, but exercising decreases my stress, increases my mental and physical energy, boosts my mood and optimism, improves my body image (even when the image of my body hasn't improved any), and all of those things in part and in whole makes me a better person - wife - mother - friend.

I've often heard arguments against taking the time to exercise, saying our focus as Christians shouldn't be on our physical body, but our spiritual body.  It's true that our spirits are eternal and ultimately what matter most.  But the physical is either going to be a tool or a hinderance. If you have trouble focusing, remembering, staying calm, being positive or staying well, then I'd say your physical body is hindering your spiritual life and exercising could help improve and extend it.

I know as well as anyone how hard it is to MAKE yourself do something that you don't enjoy, that is hard and even hurts to do.  Just know that if you wait to start, it'll only get harder and the sooner you start the more you'll improve and benefit from it.

A year from now you'll wish you'd started today - Karen Lamb

Friday, December 2, 2011

Chick-Fil-A Could Change the World!

The other day I splurged on lunch and went to Chick-Fil-A.  I was starving, running late, running very low on groceries and my son was in great need of attention.  So I braced myself for a long wait or something negative to happen because fast food drive thrus are usually bothersome one way or another.

The first thing I noticed was the lady at the window.  She had been there the last two times I'd been there - which has spanned several months (we don't eat out a lot and Chick-fil-a is usually closed when we do - Sundays).   Come to think of it, the last time we had the dogs with us and she gave us some chicken bites for the dogs!  Anyway, she was super happy, chatting with a co-worker passing by with the trash can and proceeded to greet me.  I got my food very quickly, she thanked me for coming multiple times and wished me a very blessed day as I was leaving.  Left me feeling so good.

When I got home and had a chance to sit down with my food - a chicken strip salad - I was blessed again.  Not sure when the last time I've had one of their salads but I didn't remember them being so good.  It contained romaine lettuce, really fresh looking veggies (carrots, red cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes), cheese, and of course chicken.  In the bag was a packet of sunflower seeds and one of small croutons.  Maybe I'm easily impressed, but this made my day!

What if you were joyful about everything you did today?  What if you put good ingredients (materials, honorable actions, etc.) into what you produce?  There is so much ugliness in the world that it makes the really good stuff stand out even further.  This simple trip to Chick-Fil-A not only improved my day and mood, but I'm definitely going to be a repeat customer to the establishment and I'm going to prefer this specific location.  For those who own businesses, do you treat your customers this way?   It definitely makes a difference!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Not Doing EVERYTHING This Year

Last week, with it being Thanksgiving and all, I had several different gatherings I could go to.  All of them would have been a good and enjoyable use of my time.  But I knew that it was going to be stressful to try to do them all.  In years past I would have ultimately given in to guilty feelings that tell me I'm bad if I don't do EVERYTHING.  But something I'm learning is that #1 sometimes that guilt isn't justified and #2 the side effects of doing EVERYTHING can make me just as 'bad' and often worse than doing only what is doable.

So, this is what happened this year.  My husband was out of town this week for work so I knew that we'd be apart for at least 4 days (not something we are accustomed to).  So, in an attempt to keep both of us from going nuts, I made a choice to visit family out of town (without him) the weekend before Thanksgiving and stay home from another family thanksgiving the day before he left town (Saturday after Thxgiving).  All that really means is that I chose not to do everything this year.  And it was a good choice.  I missed getting to see some people this year, but my marriage was significantly blessed with the time and I've been in a better place this week because of it.

There are times when we must sacrifice time at home with our family for the greater good.  But just the same, there are times to sacrifice things outside of your home for the good of your family.  I've heard many people say and even more people live it out that relationships at home will work themselves out if we're doing good for somebody else.  For there sake, I pray that is true.  Honestly, though, I've yet to see that be the case very often.  Neglecting and sometimes abusing our family relationships has a price.  And the reward for nurturing and cherishing those relationships is farther reaching down the family tree than we can even see.

Be good to those in your house tonight. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Lesson in Disagreeing

Mr. Butler and I disagree a lot.  As I've said before, we're very different and that gets complicated.  But we like each other a lot too.  Sometimes I get very frustrated, demanding he agree with me or I feel utterly rejected.  And, just as a reminder, he's the safest place in the world for me.

Now think of a group of people - friends, your local congregation, colleagues at work, a class at school - and think about times anyone has disagreed with anyone else.  At their worst, things can get so ugly that there is separation, ridicule and some form of exile.  And I'm not talking at all about discipline situations. Do you dislike people because they disagree with you?  Do they dislike you because you disagree with them? 

I think a lot of people make an assumption, myself included, that is really wrong.  Disagreement doesn't have to mean or equal dislike.  I can say from first hand experience that sometimes it feels like you disagreeing with me is you disliking me, but that's not usually true.  At least not at first.  Most dislike comes when harsh words or flippant attitudes are thrown around and then concern for others flies out the window.

If you're like me and you've seen a lot of ugliness from people (myself included), it's hard to imagine what it's like for disagreements to be calm and productive.  But, I tell you they do exist and can be taught.  Mr. Butler is slowly teaching me, emphasis on slowly.  Let's just say it's very challenging to pull your emotions out of the game of disagreeing.  However, the foundation I'm trying to build on is that disagreement doesn't have to mean dislike.  I'll keep you posted! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Peaceful & Tranquil Heart

Bear shame and glory with an equal peace and an ever tranquil heart.

I do NOT do this. at. all.  If there is equality in shame and glory in my life, it is in the level of intense drama that surrounds my exaggerated emotions.  But a peaceful and tranquil heart is something I've yet to maintain for an extended period of time.  I adore the peace that comes after the panic or pain has been subdued and all is well when I had previously feared otherwise.  But that peace isn't ever tranquil.  It's temporary, momentary until distraction sets in and normalcy is again king, complete with a dissatisfied appetite for change.

A peace and tranquil heart in shame and glory is something I need.  Let's be honest - it's something I can't even begin to understand in deed.  But I've decided to start thinking about it and approaching ALL things with the same tranquil attitude.  What do you do to maintain peace in your heart?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Some Wins & Some Fails

In looking for balance in my life, it seems to be really important for me to celebrate failure the same way I celebrate success.  It brings the extremes closer to together and works to keep my reactions from going overboard in one direction or the other.  So, here are some recent wins and some recent fails.

WIN: I made a Peanut Butter Cheeseball for J's birthday party that looks like this:

I love when trying new things is so easy and tastes so good!  It was a big hit and for those who asked about it, you can get the recipe here.

FAIL: With all of the leftovers from J's party and two thanksgiving dinners, I have not be exercising self-control in my eating habits.  It's just shameful. And for that, I'm glad thanksgiving is over.

WIN: Over the weekend we sent our final payment on my student loans.  This means we will be debt-free, except for our house.  It was a very large mountain, but it didn't take us all that long once we really committed to it. This is a very big victory in the Butler household.  Thanks, Dave Ramsey, for prodding.

FAIL: Though my son can say "more" in sign language like a pro, that's it.  Why? Because he can't be taught or is a little slow? Nope. Because his mother keeps saying she's going to learn and teach him more, but just hasn't gotten around to it.  This is something I REALLY want to do and soon.

How do you turn a fail into a win?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

These two guys have loved me in spite of myself and I couldn't be more grateful for them.  I'm so glad that God gives 57 chances to start over.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

So, a funny thing happened...

Sometimes things in life just get away from you.  I think that's why balance is so important to me.  There's no telling where I'd end up if balancing wasn't an option.  After my last post, my son turned one, we had a party, I was exhausted, J and I visited my brother and sister-in-law in Kansas City and now we're home resetting.

With all of that going on, I didn't post about thankfulness, but I did think about it.  A lot.  So much that I busted out the christmas music because it felt like November should be over by now.  Here's the conclusion I came to: I say things really easily, but doing, living, being those things is such a different story.  I struggle with being thankful.  My appetite for more, better, different is rarely satisfied for long.  I will take all you are giving to me, say thank you, and then start searching for more, something better or all things different.  The contentment that gratitude should grow gets shuffled around until there's nothing left of it.

My giving of thanks this year is a mixture of limited criticism and complaining, double portions of positive thinking and encouragement, and topped with continual acknowledgement of who God is and how much that has changed me and my life.  What's yours?

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Opposite of Thanksgiving

Did you get yesterday's post?  The opposite for thankfulness is dishing out criticism.  Ouch.  I am very thankful for my life, but I'm pretty critical of things as well.  So, then, just how thankful am I?  Could what I think is thankfulness be a flimsy excuse?  Sometimes we say we're thankful, but in the very same breath take so much for granted.  Think about every person or situation you criticize today.  Is your criticism truly constructive?  Try being full of gratitude and then try to criticize.  I'm finding that the two do not co-exist very easily.   Maybe all our families need to be more grateful is just to decrease the amount of criticism.  I bet it's a really great place to start!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What Not To Do

Thanks (thankfulness) - defined as appreciation.

Synonyms: admiration, aesthetic sense, affectionappraisal,assessmentattractionawarenesscognizance,commendationcomprehensionenjoyment,esteem, estimation, grasp, gratefulness,gratitude, high regard, knowledgelikinglove,perceptionrealizationrecognitionregard,relishrespect, responsivenesss, sensibility,sensitiveness, sensitivitysympathythanks,understanding, valuation

Antonym: Criticism

Be Thankful First!

Technically, with the time change, it's still Saturday so I'm going to count this!

In our little neck of the woods, we had a 5.6 (I think) earthquake tonight!  Scared me so much that I ran to J's room before I even knew what was happening.  When big stuff happens that sort of just shocks you and leaves you trembling, does that make you stop and say a prayer of thanksgiving?  Or, like me, does it shake your whole (emotional) world and stun you into fear?

Today's lesson I'm struggling with is taking the good, bad, ugly, uncomfortable, easy, hard, and downright terrifying and being thankful.  And not just thankful eventually, but thankful first!   What a great example to leave our children. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thanks for Nothing

It's easy to be content and thankful when we have plenty - warm beds on a cold night, healthy children, etc.  But what about when the heat is out or there is sickness in our family.  Can we be thankful then?

I really struggle with this because I want so desperately for everything to be 'right' or the way (I think) it 'should' be.  Today I'm going to try to look at the things I don't like, the frustrations and disappointments, and see if I can be thankful for them.  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

In God We Trust - Do We Really?

Day 3: Why aren't we more thankful?  As a society we have more gadgets, more abundance, more opportunities - even in a recession - than just about any other period of time.  And yet our favorite pastime is complaining and demanding what we 'deserve'.

For my little family, understanding why we aren't thankful is key to growing gratitude because the why points directly to the problem.  Last night I was in a funk and being very hard on Mr. Butler, demanding and griping.  There was no gratitude or respect in my heart.  Why?  Really it was because I was tired and I wanted his attention.  Without thankfulness, we often are filled with ourselves, our worries, our needs and not trusting anyone, least of all God to take care of anything.  In this state, we lose sight of the really good things we could be doing in someone else's life.

Remember that we have a God to fill all our earthly needs.  Instead of holding tight to your little world, be thankful you have one and open it up to others.

What are some of the reasons you aren't thankful sometimes?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why Bother?

A good place to start in our quest for gratitude is to first ask why.  Why should we bother learning to be a thankful people?  What do you tell a child who asks "Why?" when you tell them to be thankful?  "Because I said so" is lame and you know it.  Here are a few things I found about the benefits of being thankful:

-In a few experiments in 2009 it was found that participants in a daily/weekly gratitude exercise experienced greater levels of optimism, positive mood, and feelings of belongingness.

- In 2008, Jeffrey Froh, Asst. Prof. of Psycholoy at Hofstra was quoted saying "...grateful people who counted blessings were more likely to exercise, more likely to report better sleep; less likely to report these physical complaints. There's even some research done, we're looking at, when you have a sense of appreciation your heart rhythms are more coherent and smooth, which of course is healthy." 

Beyond the physical health benefits, I think being thankful has the power to change your relationships and interactions with each other.  In teaching piano I am much more effective if I enumerate the good things a student does before and (especially) more than the mistakes they make.  How does being thankful change your relationships?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Challenge: A Better November

There is a lot that I can get worked up about.  People disappoint me, comparison eats at me, perfection haunts me and yet here I am to live in this world despite it all.  Like I said the other day, trying to change everybody else is just going to drain your energy and accomplish very little.

It is really important to Mr. Butler and I that our kids be thankful, giving and others-focused people, but ensuring that, I expect, will take extra effort.  And I bet the best place to start is with me, the example and role model they will follow whether I like it or not!  November is an easy place to start because Thanksgiving is on the brain, but it's also easy to get caught up by busy-ness.

So, here's your challenge, if you choose to accept:  Every day this month there will be a short post on some aspect of gratitude/giving and it will all be in search of ways to express it in my family's life.  As you find things you are thankful for, tricks for cultivating gratitude or acts of service for others, please share them in the comments section or on facebook.  I think most of us genuinely desire to be a more giving and thankful people, but often we just let time get away.  By sharing what you find in your own life will automatically be an act of service to others, reminding and encouraging them of ways to grow gratitude in their family.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How To Change Everybody Else

Think about all the times in a week you try to change someone else.  How many times are you successful? What if we took just half the amount of time spent on changing others and spent it on changing ourselves or at least insuring that we 'practice what we preach'?

I could be the poster child for trying to will others to be like me, see like me or at least think I'm right.  There isn't a better picture of that than in my marriage.  Mr. Butler and I are so vastly different and I know it.  But that doesn't seem to compute a good part of the time because I demand he be like me, see like me or at least admit that I'm right!  The first part of this week I spent more time than I'd like to admit trying to change him.  What I have realized is that I was pouring myself, not into being a wife of patience, grace and unconditional love, but into demanding he be different.

What makes you want to change anything the most? Is it when someone nags you about how wrong you are? Or maybe it's when ultimatums are thrown around like candy? Maybe I'm weird, but what makes me want to change is to see someone else being successful (think weight-loss, relationships, attitudes) and the comparison bug brings about hope.  I want what they have and then I'm all ears as to how they do it.

Are you frustrated with someone right now for the choices they are making, the attitudes they have or the things they believe?  There is a time for confrontation and hashing things out, most definitely.  But sometimes what they need in order to change is to see you following through, being successful and content in your own situation instead of being pre-occupied with them. Let's give them room to face themselves instead of always giving them an excuse to fight about it.

If any of you think you are something when you are nothing, you deceive yourselves.  Each of you should test your own actions.  Then you can take pride in yourself, without comparing yourself to somebody else, for each of you should carry your own load.  - Galatians 6:3-5

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Word of the Day: Effective

Effective adjective
successful in producing a desired or intended result.
Sometimes Mr. Butler hurts my feelings.  Maybe he wasn't listening to me or made light of something really important to me.  Often, in response to my hurt feelings, I get very disgruntled with him, build with resentment, ignore him and usually that results in an explosion of feelings at some point.  Why would I do that?  Well, to be honest, because I am MAD and it feels appropriate.  Never mind that it is disrespectful, unChristlike and not effective towards what I am really wanting - understanding, love and resolution.  It's those pesky feelings that are dictating (yet again) the state of my relationship.  

This is just one situation that was relevant to my weekend, but how many other things are we doing and saying that are not, at all, getting the desired result.  Think of a parenting issue - is how you're handling something being effective?  If not, why are you continuing?  In business, finances, school studies, any relationship - you name it - it is so important to question everything to ensure it is effective.  A lot of things seem right, but when put in practice they don't change a thing.  This can be especially difficult when what seems right has been done for years, but just because something has been done for years a certain way still doesn't make it effective.
In most things, if we're not being effective we're wasting our time and energy.  Take some time this week to take inventory of the things that are working really well and then those that aren't.  How can we be more effective?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tough Decisions

As a teenager and young adult, claustrophobia is a common ailment.  To just get out from under the thumb of parents and teachers, come and go as you please and just LIVE - that is the cry of all-too-soon-to-be adults.  And then, before you know it, you've found yourself on the brink of things larger than you and you hold the power switch.  You can stay or go, say yes or no, buy or save - the decisions are piling up.  And then it hits you.  THIS is the reason everyone says don't grow up too fast and enjoy the freedom while it lasts.

I have several people on my mind this morning that are in the throws of making tough decisions.  Financial choices, relationship choices, faith choices - they are all there.  And in the end, loving and trusting them as I do, I expect they will make good - dare I say right? - decisions.  But that doesn't make them any less tough.    Do I take a job in another state?  Do I risk rejection by applying for a new job? Should I sell my house? Should I buy a house?  Is God really worth sacrificing anything for? What about all the dreams and plans I had? We all start things with expectations, hopes, big plans.  And then the doing of it takes over, which brings choices and compromises and ultimately disappointments.  It's just tough that we can't have it all.  I'm not saying choosing one over the other isn't worth it, but I know as much as anybody how it feels to want it all - so badly.

About the time Randy and I got engaged, he was looking for a job.  He was going to be graduating soon and then getting married in the fall, so we were having to make some serious life decisions with very little practical experience under our belt.  He was offered jobs in San Antonio, TX, Kansas City, MO, Tulsa, OK and OKC.  In retrospect, we both feel like he should've taken the one in San Antonio or KC but we (I) was afraid to move out of Oklahoma.  But, he learned a lot about what he wanted in a job by staying too long at one he hated and then learned how unfulfilling the oil field was for him.  And then, after getting laid off, we learned a host of other things.  All in all, it brought us here - a great job, a great situation for having Jude and lots of lessons learned.

I think it is really easy to criticize others for the choices they make.  "If it were me, I would..." But it's not me and if it really were, I'd be less quick to open my mouth so wide.  I guess my point today is to encourage myself and everyone else to honor others because of the tough choices we make every day.  Adulthood isn't easy and everybody deserves a pat on the back sometimes for making the tough decisions.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Sculpture by: Zenos Frudakis "Freedom" 

This picture was floating around facebook a while back and it caught my eye.  As most works of art can, this can be interpreted many ways, depending on your perspective.  Freedom, to me, has always been complicated.  Freedom requires taking away some restraint, but absolute freedom leads to destruction eventually.  There's nothing like the liberating feeling of freedom, as the sculpture suggests, but there's nothing so painful as the regret of squandered opportunity in the name of freedom.  How do you balance freedom with order and control?

Friday, October 7, 2011

If You're Miserable, Then You're Doing It Wrong!

I was waiting just off stage, listening for my cue to enter.  In between lines and entrances, the two of us were sharing comments and mutterings.  What I didn't realize was that mine were communicating a lot about my state of mind and conflicts in my heart.  Perhaps I had criticized those in charge or complained about the show we were doing, I don't quite remember that much.  What I do remember is what she said next.  "If you hate it so much, why do you still do it?"  The truth was, I didn't really hate it, but I certainly wasn't enjoying it either.  Her question left me speechless but deeply reprimanded.

This was many years ago, but I remembered it the other day because I was arguing with myself on whether or not I was happy.  As a believer in God and the saving power of Jesus' death, if I'm miserable, then I'm doing it wrong.  With everything that comes with it (prayer, joy, hope, peace, salvation), I have every reason to be content and if I'm not, the fault is with me!  Complaining and commiserating is a huge part of our culture today.  So much so, that often we don't even realize how negative and miserable we sound to others.  

This beautiful fall weekend is a great opportunity to live a great life!  There's always something to complain about and get angry about.  Join me in reminding myself and others around us why God is so good!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Works for Me Wednesday: Planning

I have this habit of doing things a lot differently than most people I know.  As we all know, not everything works for everyone.  So, this weekly post is about what works for me.  Take it or leave it. :)

Grocery Shopping:  I shop for groceries and most household items twice a month - 1st and 15th.  I have written out a calendar through December with dinner for at least all week nights.  I also try to account for parties, pot lucks, etc.  A day or two before, I write out a large list after consulting the calendar and thinking about the following two weeks.  Then on the day of I make a long trek to Sam's (only the first of the month), Natural Grocer's, Wal-Mart and Braums.

The reason I even started this was because of Mr. Butler wanting a budget and everything planned.  I hated it at first, but after the 2nd or 3rd time, it was pretty easy. And we didn't have to run to the store every other day.  We buy the same stuff anyway.  The down side only came after J was born.  But then again, everything is harder with a little one. :)

Laundry - Before J was born I only did laundry once a week.  Thankfully, Mr. Butler and I have enough clothes and what not to last at least that long so there was no down side.  With J's addition of clothes and complicating schedule, I don't always get it done in one day. But it sure does simplify things when I do.

This is another one I developed at the request of Mr. Butler. Are you detecting a pattern?  The Butlers don't love laundry (even the little one!)...
but I love not having to think about it most of the week! And that works for me!  Do you have any planning tips that work for you?  I'd love to hear them!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Why Would You Swim Upstream?

Do you ever feel like you're a little fish trying to swim upstream?  Some days it's as though every choice you make is contrary to everyone around you.  It's no wonder we get caught following ridiculous ideas or leaders before we even realize it.  It's hard to think and act from careful thought and reason.  And it's easy to assume that whoever yells the loudest is right.  I could cite evil (german) dictators, a pre-civil war america or the fast food coma we're slowing waking up from to prove it.

But we don't remember those kinds of things when we wake up in the morning and dive into the necessary but unexciting chores of the day.  All the voices of the media, culture and cynics rise like yeast into every corner of our mind, doing their best to convince us that love is a noun to be discovered instead of a verb to be perfected, fame and fortune is a destination instead of just another means to glorify God, and anything easy must be the solution.

You are never going to get everyone to agree with you, certainly not all the time.  So, if you (I) are waiting for the applause track to start every time a decision has been made, well don't hold your breath.  My feeling, for what it's worth, is that no matter how hard going against the grain is, there are some things that just matter more than what anyone thinks.  And sure, those 'things' are going to be different for different people (hence the not everyone agreeing).  I think the important thing is to make sure you aren't giving more power and value to ideas that you just went along with than to the priorities and people in your own life.  I'm the only mom and wife (Lord willing, ha) J and Mr. Butler will ever have.  This is the only life I have to live for God and, as far as I know, there aren't any do-overs. So, it's up to me to intentionally live my life, making decisions based on what I find and know to be valuable and not get discouraged if I'm not everybody's hero today.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Works for Me: Exercise

I'm not a poster girl for weight-loss yet, but I have found a couple of things that really work well for me.

The Firm Express
This is a set of DVDs, 13 in all, that each contain a 20 minute workout.  The set is designed to last you 30 days, exercising 3 days a week, a different workout each time.
Why I like it: It is a vigorous workout in just 20 minutes, but it's completely doable.  It is constantly changing or adding different patterns so you're not doing 100 push-ups or 50 squats in a row.  And you're not doing the same workout day in and day out.  I get bored super easy so this is a perfect thing for me!
Why you might not like it: If you're new to workout or get flustered (meaning you're likely to quit) when you can't do it perfectly the first time, you probably ought to work up to this.  It's very fast paced.  And it's a little expensive - $104 with shipping included.

Another note about this workout is that I didn't start feeling the greatest impact until I started working out 6 or 7 days a week, shuffling some of the cardio workouts into the off days.  I still only worked out 20 minutes a day, but the daily as opposed to 3 days a week seemed to really give me the boost I needed.

This might sound archaic, but one of the biggest factors in my weight-loss is drinking enough water.  If I go a couple of days on less than a gallon of water a day, everything starts complaining and my body just stalls out.  If you've never been a big water drinker, I would say try drinking a set amount (a little more than normal) for a week and see if it doesn't make a difference.

Just like water, without enough sleep my body resists everything and doesn't utilize the workouts as well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Works For Me Wednesday: Food Success

I have this habit of doing things a lot differently than most people I know.  As we all know, not everything works for everyone.  So, this weekly post is about what works for me.  Take it or leave it. :)

Easy way to get greens - I put a cup or more of baby spinach (you can buy it in containers at Walmart) in the blender with milk, fruit, and protein powder.  It's a great lower calorie meal and high in nutrition.

Baby food containers - When you make your own baby food, it's difficult to know how/what to store the food in.  At first I bought some (expensive) handy 2 oz containers at Target and while they work really well, I needed more and didn't want to pay $10 for 4.  Instead, I found plastic 6 oz jars (w/ purple lids) at Walmart, 5 for $3.  They hold more and are cheaper. Score!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In It To Lose It

Back in July we started a weight-loss competition and as off tomorrow there will be exactly a week and a half left. Thanks to the mercy of God, I have lost about 20 pounds so far.  To see it in print makes it feel pretty good, but then I remember I have 30 more to go to be at my pre-pregnancy weight.  It's a weird feeling to be excited and discouraged all at the same time.

I'm so thankful that I have been able to stick with it and seen some success.  But I'm even more thankful to be around others who are struggling with the same things.  Whether I gain or lose, succeed or fail this week, it's just comforting to know that it's hard for everybody and not just me.  And it'll probably be a gain/fail day because we're going to the state fair tonight.  Yummmmm...

So, anybody have any tips for sticking with it when you're not even halfway there?  I hear a lot of advice on getting started and setting new habits, but it seems to be a different ball game when it's not about the small changes anymore.  Making even bigger or more consistent choices, especially when you've been working hard already, is a pretty big mountain.  For me anyway.  I get super excited because some of my clothes are looser, but then I remember that those are clothes I had to buy BECAUSE I'd gained weight.  And I still can't fit into all of my pre-prego stuff.  Yeah, so then I get pretty aggravated that I've worked and worked and I still have to work some more! Call me impatient! :)  So, any inspiring words, tips or tricks?

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Gift, 5 Years in the Making

When it comes to internalizing a new concept (by that I mean effectively applying it to myself and living it out), I am a slow learner.  It is easier for me to discuss a concept and even apply to someone's situation than to actually allow it to impact how I think and feel.  Over the many years of being single, I had all kinds of fantastical expectations regarding marriage and living happily ever after.  Sure, it would be naive to believe that once you get married or 'find the right person' all the ducks just start lining up.  But what I did just might be worse.  I expected (sometimes consciously, sometimes not) that if I would do a set of 'right' things then Mr. Butler would HAVE to comply.  I knew it took work, but what I didn't expect was him not responding when I did everything 'right' (which we all know is up for debate anyway).  Suffice it to say, those pesky expectations can still poison a fine evening.

Look at that skinny couple!

When some people talk about marriage you get the impression they have a disease that has no cure or lost a bet somewhere down the line.  Today I have been married to Mr. Butler for 5 years and while that's very little in the grand scheme of things, it does give me license to say what works and what doesn't for us.  Like I already said, expectations kill everything usually (because rarely do you expect the same thing). And you know what has saved us time and time again?  Sticking with it and helping each other grow.  That's really the beautiful thing about marriage.  You go into it thinking, "This is going to be soo fun!" but in reality you are entering a growth chamber.  Kinda weird, huh?   "Hey, I thought this was going to be a party." "Yeah, no.  We're here to help each other grow." Awkward.  Just this week Mr. Butler has helped me understand a few things about myself and perfectionism that have already positively affected me and our relationship.

One of my favorite shots of him, waiting for me.
Right after the pictures, most of our fabulous wedding party.

After 5 years I'm finally learning to give way to that growth instead of fighting it when it doesn't look like I think it should.  Marrying Randy has been one of the best decisions of my life, but not because of the reasons most people expect.  He challenges me on EVERYTHING.  Some days he values everything I DON'T and has no use for everything I adore.  He is meticulous and a tough sell.  His standards are high and his emotiveness is low.  All things that, if I'd been presented with 5 years ago, I would have either denied existed or worked hard to extinguish.  But today, I love every bit of it because   my relationship with him has done more for me than I ever could have on my own.  I firmly believe God uses marriage if we allow it.  The trouble is (and I speak from experience) that most of the time we are fighting it, refusing to change and, as a result, missing out on one of the most beautiful gifts of growth.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Food Will Kill Ya!

So, I have been sick this week - food poisoning sick.  I'll spare you the ugly details, but suffice it to say that I've been pretty worthless all week.  The only reason I'm trying to be productive today is because we're running out of food and that means a grocery run!

Time is what this makes me dwell on.  When sickness or emergencies happen, time lost is often what we mourn the most.  With the fast pace many of us keep, feeling guilty about the amount time spent with those we love seems to be the norm. Monday I was so sick that my husband stayed home from work part of the day and the rest my mom stayed with me and watched after J.  There were moments amid my delirium that I felt bad for J because I was not available to him and really hardly conscious of him.  That, of course, made me think of working mothers who have to be away from their children several hours a day.  Before I knew it, I was tied up in a "There's just not enough time!" cycle.

Here's a more (I think) realistic rendering of time and where it matters most.  Time cycles and sometimes there is a lot and sometimes there is not.  But you don't have to have a million hours to make a positive impact in someone's life.  Think of your favorite uncle or some of the best memories with a parent or sibling.  Did it take 12 hours to make? Probably not.  Most great memories were made in moments, a few hours at best.  A surprise lunch, a special midnight snack, a homemade gift or even 15 minutes on Skype! Life takes us places we never intended to go.  Instead of fighting it, worrying over it and wallowing in it, enjoy the beauties of where you get to be! 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bill Cosby Friday

Sometimes you just need to laugh and I can't think of anyone better for the job than Bill Cosby.  For the next few weeks I've decided to share excerpts of  "Bill Cosby, Himself" with you.  Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Maintenance Crew

As I was feeding J this afternoon, I started thinking about how much time I will have spent sitting at his high chair, mimicking a baby bird's open beak, stuffing pureed something down his throat.  And then for a split-second I wished it wasn't so.  Some days things like showering, eating and making the bed just seem redundant.  You're going to do it again tomorrow so why worry about it today? :) The more I thought about it though, I have a bad habit of wishing everything was a 'do it once and be done with it' kind of thing.  Don't you?

But let's consider this a bit more.  What aspect of our lives as beings on the earth do NOT require maintenance?  Sure, some require more than others, but everything requires a little bit.  The cactus needs water at some point.  Our spiritual disciplines don't do us any good when they are applied once and then abandoned.  Relationships will not survive without some attention and many require it daily.  And though I sincerely despise housework and the fact that toilets get dirty over and over again, I'm learning to be thankful for the maintenance crew.

When I put on my maintenance cap willingly (in my marriage, in housework, my prayer life, etc.), I always feel better afterwards.  I learn things, I strengthen things and the world is just better.  I used to spend 90% of my energy getting away from things that required lots of maintenance because I wanted to be free to 'do whatever I wanted to.' I'm slowly learning that everything I wanted to do wasn't worth all the traffic jams I caused in all the other parts of my life.

So, today, what can the maintenance crew teach me?  Nourishment and growth takes time.  Lots of time.  Good things rarely spring up over night without a lot of work behind the scenes.  Let's all be thankful for the people in our life that put so much effort into maintenance work, both physically and spiritually.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Me & Dave Ramsey

Oh, Dave Ramsey.  Some people love him.  Some people hate him.  Some people love to hate him.  And yes, others hate to love him, but yet they do.  If, by chance, you've never heard of Dave Ramsey, here's what Wikipedia says about him.  I'm happy to tell you how I feel about him, but really, it's complicated.

Long before the likes of DR came into our life, Mr. Butler was a saver and I was more likely to enjoy life (today) with my money, rather than save if I could help it.  As you can imagine, there were many clashes of the titans on money issues.  We compromised a lot for each other at first.  I started planning menus, grocery shopping twice a month only, and I paid all the bills (b/c he stressed too much when he did it).  We bought some fun things and took some trips.  And then he was laid off for six months.

Fast forward a few years to today we rarely argue much about money anymore.  He found another job that he loves and I learned how to appreciate a steady income, making it do a lot for us.  My student loans (that started out more than just a little bit) will be paid off by the end of the year (Lord willing).  We have no car payment and just the mortgage on our house.  This is, essentially, the way Mr. Butler wanted things to be when we first got married.  The difference is that I hated the thought of budgets, wanted to 'buy' more fun and honestly thought all the fuss was silly.  Some days I still do.

But (and here's my point in telling you all of this) as much as I despise the self-control it takes to refrain when the budget says no, the freedom it gives  - well there's just nothing like it.  When you have debt or the "I know I spent too much" feeling hanging over your head, it changes you more than you realize.  With some people you feel shame, embarrassment or other time its just frustration that you can't pursue things important to you.  Needless to say, it's stressful and exhausting.

It's easy to believe that money is just like that and that's the way everyone lives.  And a few years ago, I probably would have agreed with you.  But, it's just not true. People are doing it everywhere and it's a marvelous blessing!  Don't get me wrong, though.  I hate it, still.   I haven't been on a vacation vacation since before my son was born.  I'm consumed weekly by the desire to just run in any direction and not stop till I see another state and a fabulous hotel waiting for me.  But Mr. Butler and I are at peace with our decisions, not to mention on the same page, and have much hope for the future.

So, I agree with a lot of what DR teaches, but I don't do envelopes and some days I just want to spend, spend, spend!!!!  It's complicated, see? :)  Still, debt free living and sticking to a budget is easier to do than I ever thought.  Take it from this free-spirit who has expensive taste, living within your means and honoring your debts is fantastic food for the soul.