Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How 5:30 AM Changed My Life

I've always seemed to struggle with contradictions in my life.  That's probably why balance has become my mantra, of sorts.  One of the biggest issues for me has always been time management.  I have very high expectations (hopes) of accomplishing many things, but I just run out of time.  Adding one thing into my day can just upset the apple cart all together.  Since I'm always rushing, all I really long for is to just be still - Do nothing, think about whatever I want and just rest.  But when I do that, it usually makes me late (or later).

And I hate that.  I love to think of myself as this totally together person who is ready to help when the call comes as well as managing my household beautifully.   But exercising, showering and feeding everyone barely gets done before a deadline hits.  Intending to complete a project weeks before but actually finishing at the last minute - I just haven't got the real hang of things yet.  Until lately.



I have discovered (actually reminded myself of) what fixes everything like flipping a switch.  This morning I woke up about 30 minutes before Mr. Butler and an hour before J.  I walked into my office, wrote in my journal, prayed and wrote.  Then I go back into the bedroom where Mr. B is already up and in the shower.  I spend the next 20 minutes exercising.  When I'm finished I head to the kitchen just in time to share a few moments with Mr. B before he leaves for work.  As he leaves, J wakes up and the day continues.

I know you don't really care about all the details of my morning, but I'm just here to tell you that this general layout has changed my day completely.  Not only praying about my day, but taking some time to write down what I'm praying for helps me focus.  Plus, exercising first lifts a huge load for me and frees up some space in my brain that usually stresses a bit until its completed.  I know there will be/are some days when getting up early doesn't happen or can't happen, but I never want to go back!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Balance Check: Togetherness & Alone Time

If balance is the key (and I truly believe it is), then we need to dip our toes into both sides of the pool, so to speak.  And that is sometimes hard.  One aspect that is really important for me is time spent with others and alone time.

Alone Time






Whether you're introverted or extroverted, everyone needs time by themselves.  Prayer and Meditation happen best when you are alone.  Sometimes being alone is the only way you ever face your life as it is.  Being alone, for me anyway, helps me purge all of the mental garbage and focus energy on what's important.   I almost always get more done during the week when I'm alone.  Mr. Butler's days off are celebrated around here, but his presence usually puts a wrench into my productivity.  Most importantly in my life, alone time gives me a better attitude and a better perspective.  Even just time out from a fight - separating myself from the conflict calms and lowers the emotional fire.

Togetherness






Spending time with others is so good for so many reasons.  Do you struggle in your marriage?  Try spending some time with other couples.  Finding out that others struggle makes the load lighter.  Do you get lonely or depressed?  Just being around others enjoying themselves can rub off on you.  Sometimes we get to thinking that our -insert relationship or current condition- is the worst and have a big old pity party.  Sharing a meal with others can often show you that perhaps you aren't so bad off or your problem is common.  Being with others isn't just about what you can get from them either.  There's always someone who needs what you can offer.  It's just about looking for the opportunity.  And you'll find out that supporting and helping others feels so good.

Balance


If you spend all of your time at home, away from the world, away from other people, you miss out on perspective, encouragement and usually fun!   Being with others can help us not take ourselves so seriously and lean on one another.  But if we never take a day off, never spend some time with just your family and really just yourself, you're probably going to grow out of control.  You'll lose track of yourself, your goals and priorities.  And someday you'll wake up and say "How did I get hear?" and not have a clue.   Think of this week, this month as a seesaw.  Spend time alone, spend time with friends, spend some time with just your household, spend some time with those you can encourage. Repeat. :)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rebellion

Rebellion.  I'm not a parent of a teenager and I haven't pulled somebody out of their rebellious fit, so I don't have answers when it comes to a rebellious spirit.  What I do have is some observations of what doesn't work and then my own heart that is tempted with rebellion from time to time.

Rebellion defined: The action or process of resisting authority, control, or convention. 






Personal rebellion isn't usually organized or reasonable.  It's emotional.  Pride and self-preservation are fierce competitors of being told you're wrong, for any reason, in any situation.  Humbling a rebellious spirit isn't something that just happens or someone can be pushed into.  It takes a relationship, kindness and a whole lot of prayer.  And even then it can be a gamble.

So, here are a few things that I've never seen work (on myself or anyone else).

Nagging: It's good to make your position known and clear.  But once that is done a constant chatter of how wrong they are usually just swells up the rebellion for rebellion sake.  If boundaries should be involved, enforce, but don't be a broken record.

Smug Looks and Condescending Words: Maybe you are 100% right and they are sooo wrong.  But an "I told you so" or a "You'll see" is not going to soften a rebellious spirit.  Ugliness on your part can only strengthen their feelings against you, no matter how right you might be.

Beating a Dead Horse: Whether it's a 16 year old with an attitude or a grown man with a vendetta, saying or doing the same thing over and over isn't the solution you're looking for.  With reckless and unwise behavior, lines sometimes have to be drawn and subjects have to be revisited.  But if you catch yourself taking the same approach, the same song and dance with no results, no apparent effect, then take the hint and do something different.

It seems pretty common that when someone disappoints you, you assume that if they just understood why you're upset with them then they would fix it.  And even more often when they don't seem interested in fixing it, we assume they must not have understood us the first time.  Maybe, but probably not.  Right or wrong, rebellion is emotional, rash and not easily controlled from without.  It's a heart problem.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book Review: I Love You, Ronnie

I Love You, Ronnie: The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan

Summary: No matter what else was going on in his life or where he was—traveling to make movies, at the White House, or sometimes just across the room—Ronald Reagan wrote letters to Nancy Reagan, to express his love, thoughts, and feelings, and to stay in touch. Through these extraordinary letters and reflections, the private character and life of an American president and his first lady are revealed. Nancy Reagan reflects with love and insight on the letters, on her husband, and on the many phases of their life together. A love story spanning half a century and the private life of this classic American couple come vividly alive in this rare and inspiring book.






Why You Should Read It: Some days I need to be reminded how much a sweet smile and soft words can melt the ice between two people (especially when you leave out sarcasm and a snarky expression).  No matter your opinion of the Reagan's or their politics, these notes and reflections demonstrate active love, unabashed devotion and the joy two people can share.  


In the preface, Nancy shares how much her husbands letters have done and meant to her since his illness (this was written before his death).  Not only was it full of his words and feelings towards her, but it documented many memories and occasions that they shared - sort of like a timeline.  Besides the catch in my throat that it creates every time I even flip through it, it inspires me to cultivate a similar environment in my own marriage.  As Valentine's Day approaches, instead of having that day be a motivation to love those in my life, I'm going to work today on creating joyful appreciation in my relationships.  I'm learning that a sentiment on a card or a red and pink gift mean so much more when the days and weeks before are spent in appreciation.


Write a fun note to someone today.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday, Facebook and Feedback!

Happy Friday! I don't know about you, but I've had a long week - sickness, emergencies, etc. - and I'm ready for the weekend!  



Are you following the blog on facebook?  I'm always coming across articles and various things I find helpful in my balancing act and Finding the WRITE Balance's facebook page is where I share them.  So, if you'd like to keep up with it all, like Finding the WRITE Balance on facebook!

And finally, would you be interested in helping me with a little bit of amateur research?  I'm starting to work on a series about writing and would love to know a few things about your writing life.  Do you keep a journal, write letters (not texts or pms) or keep a written record of anything in your life?  Have you ever found it beneficial to do that at any point in your life?  If not (or not right now), what is the biggest hinderance to any kind of writing or journaling?  Feel free to email me with your response if you're not comfortable leaving a comment.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Easy Meatball Recipe

I'm generally not a fan of meatballs, but Mr. Butler certainly is so I've made them more times than I'd like.  The recipe below is something I ran on to that is not only easier than any other meatball recipe I've tried, but it tastes better (to me at least)!  I've tried it with beef or ground turkey and it does equally well.  For bread crumbs I like the panko style the best.  And finally, to make it healthier I usually use ketchup that doesn't have high fructose corn syrup (like Hunts) and Sugar In the Raw, instead of brown sugar.

1 lb beef or gr. turkey
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup onion
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
3/4 tsp salt

Combine and scoop out balls into a 9 x 13 in. glass dish.

Topping:
2/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup water
6 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Combine and drizzle over meat.  Bake at 350 for an hour or so, depending on how crispy you want it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Blessing of a Child

The other night I finally got the chance to watch the movie 'The Help' and it has certainly put children on my brain lately.  For as long as I can remember, I've loved children.  Kid hugs and kisses are priceless, big smiles and giggles can soften any cold heart, but my favorite thing to do is to just talk to kids.  Their voices are so fun to listen to and trying out new words always makes for a good laugh.  But more importantly, children are still new, fresh from God and so precious.  The kind of life they will live is still being built.

As a society I'm afraid we've lost touch with something really special when we can't see a child for the miracle that they are.  I know how easy it is to get frustrated with kids especially when things get hectic, someone's sick, messes everywhere and nothing is getting done.  But I just can't help saying to myself (and it certainly helps when my own child is driving me nuts), these children didn't choose this life.  They didn't choose to be born to this parent or to that situation.  It's not their fault and we as adults who are in control of the majority of their life, should not take it out on them, intentionally or not.

I have the luxury of spending a lot of my time with children, my own and other people's.  Children are like anything else in your life, they reflect what you put into them.  When I start my day whiny, Jude picks up on it fast.  When I am frustrated before I've even started teaching a piano lesson, the kid can pick up on it.  But do you want to know the biggest, coolest blessing there is? Those little sponges of children can multiply joy, creativity and love in a heart beat a hundred-fold.  Making a silly joke, stopping the vacuum to read a book, just listening to what they have to say (whether you can make it all out or not) will change both of your lives!  Surely you can remember being a child and just soaring inside when someone took time to pay attention to you, make you feel important.

As parents especially things have to get done and we don't want self-absorbed children.  So, sometimes they just won't get what they want.  But every child is fearfully and wonderfully made and they all deserve to know that.  Take time today to talk to a child.

"You is kind. You is smart. You is important." -The Help

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Review: Writing Down the Bones

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg





In one of the first classes I took in grad school, we learned about creative writing and the use of painting (or art) to enhance the writing process.  It was a super cool class and one of the most useful things I received was an introduction to this book.

Writing is many things to many people, but good writing is rare and even harder to maintain.  This book is  the best 'New Year' workout your writing skills can find.  With 65 chapters, none longer than 3 pages I think, you have something to write about for two months straight.  Mix them, pull them out of order or travel front to back.  She shares of herself, but points you in a good direction to discover your writing possibilities.

Why you should give this book a try:  You've probably already decided not to think of this book again for the rest of your life and I don't blame you.  But I think you should reconsider.  Writing has been proven to make you better at everything you do.  Self-reflection - even just a little bit a week - helps you grow.  Who wants to be wasting away (physically or otherwise) never growing, never expanding your breadth of knowledge or experience?  I'm convinced that being better than yesterday is the only way to live.  You don't have to write for anyone else.  Just write a bit for you - just to say you did.  Or don't even commit to writing.  Just browse through the book and read a couple of chapters.   I think it's worth the time.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Balance Check: Inward & Outward

The trouble with trying to stay balanced is that we usually over-correct and end up in a ditch.  True balance needs some of this AND some of that.  The question today is about your self, inwardly and outwardly.  Have I considered both this week?  Am I focusing a lot on just one?

Inward
What are my motives for the things I'm involved with this week?  Am I worried all the time?  How's my heart and is it willing to bend to God's will?  Who am I becoming and does that line up with what's important to me?

It's really important to spend a little bit of time with yourself every week and see if who you are is who you're intending to be.  When I get busy I find that I'm usually not who I wanted to be at all.  The inward man is vital to any positive growth or change we want to see in ourselves.




Outward
When was the last time you invested some time in your health - through exercise, eating better, getting enough sleep, etc.?  Am I making time to tend to hygiene things like flossing or skincare?  Do I consider how I dress and the effect or influence it might have on other people?

Our physical or outward man can limit us or propel us.  If we don't care for our bodies, they break down quicker, cause us to spend more time and money to fix or prolong.  Depending on where you live, your line of work, how you dress and groom yourself can endear you to others or repel others.  What you look like - at least to a certain extent - matters, whether we like that fact or not.

Balance
Too much of one, at the neglect of the other is not good.  Our inner man is of more importance, eternally speaking, but the outward man enhances our eternal purpose, when utilized properly.  No matter how genuine and peaceful you may find yourself, if you haven't showered in a few days people will find it hard to be around you.

But again, if you spend more time primping and sculpting than anything else, there isn't balance in your life.  With no attention paid to it, that self will run free learning ugly habits.  I struggle with wanting an all or nothing approach.  Either I care nothing about how I look or I'm determined to look perfect!  I find myself in the ditch every time!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

The reason I write is because it keeps me sane and provides an outlet for me to work on myself.  The reason I write about balance a lot is because without it I fail, miserably.  If you read something and identify with it or even if you don't, but might consider it somewhere in the future, that's bonus for me.  In 2012, one of my goals is to work on my writing skills, making it more usable for readers.  If you have any  constructive criticism, I'd love to hear it.

Thank you to everyone who reads what I say from time to time.  I pray this year will be full of intentional, yet passionate living, authentic, yet clothed with grace and mercy.  There is truth and spirit that must BOTH be satisfied in our lives and I hope to do just that this year.

God is so good.  May we all be reminded of that more this year than ever before.