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.