Friday, December 26, 2014

Lessons Learned in 2014

I tell Jude whenever he complains that something is too hard, "We are Butlers.  Butlers do hard things!"  He has inherited my impatient, give up before you've tried much at all approach to new and challenging things so it has become an ongoing theme for the family.  2014 has been full of hard things and I've learned (the hard way too often) some lessons.

-Communicating is one of the hardest things for me to do effectively.  Still, communicating awkwardly or poorly is better than shutting down completely for too long.

-The sensitive makeup of my body requires me to respect my physical boundaries better than I have.  If I'm to stay healthy, stay emotionally SANE and fulfill the roles I'm given, I have to sleep better, exercise a lot, eat well, and keep stressful situations at a minimum.

-A peaceful, abundant spirit does NOT come from being busy, doing what everyone else is/seems to be doing, or griping about my problems.

-In every relationship, but especially my marriage, it is necessary to balance the fact that I can learn a lot from you and you can learn a lot from me.  It is easy to demand it be one-sided.  We all have things we bring to the table and we all have space to learn from others.

I feel convicted to make a difference in the lives of others around me, but often I feel so limited by who I am and the season of life I'm in. It's also become clear that I cannot continue a hectic pace of life, at least I can't and remain healthy.  As a result, the idea of simple abundance has become my focus. So, 2015, I have a goal or I guess you could call it a theme I plan to use throughout the year.

Make a Difference with Simple Abundance

What are you hoping to do in 2015?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Reacting to Reactions is Usually Reactive

There is a lot of life that is just someone reacting to someone else.  So many of my decisions or conclusions have been made reacting to something else.  For me, reacting is like breathing sometimes.  And yet just as I say that, I see entire institutions change directions or entire generations poisoned by over-reactive responses.

When someone else goes too far or even so little as to just make a mistake, it is so tempting and self-assuring to run in the other direction.  But usually, we go too far also.  Folks, that's how wars are started and sustained.  Certainly there are good reasons to run in an opposite direction, but unless those reasons are harmonized through facts AND emotions, the risk of doing more harm than good goes up exponentially.

Take weight gain for an example.  Let's say I start a work out regimen and counting calories.  After 2 weeks, the scale says I have gained 5 pounds.  A typical response might be to grow discouraged and, in order to lift my droopy spirits, eat a carton of ice cream.  Experiencing negative results to hard work is a good reason to be discouraged.  It's reasonable.  But eating an entire carton? Really?  To my emotions it felt not only justified, but exonerating even.  If, however, you ran through some facts first, you'll understand that it wasn't necessary or even a good idea.  New weight-loss efforts often cause a temporary build up of weight-gain before a large weight-loss.  The 5 extra pounds are likely exactly what I want to happen.  Furthermore, eating a carton of ice cream in no way makes my weight-loss efforts easier, but worse.

Unless we take the time to harmonize our emotions with rational facts, we're probably going to miss something major.  Even our physical body mimics this at times.  Eating poorly can affect our brain power and mood.  State of mind can impact the effectiveness of an exercise routine or even sleep.  There's often much more to a problem than we initially see.  A kids temper tantrum is rarely just about not getting one specific thing.  It's vital to take the extra time to give the entire issue balanced attention.  Like I may have mentioned before, if you're an overly emotional person, you NEED a highly rational friend that you consult with often.  If you are very logical and straightforward, it is healthy (especially for your other relationships) to spend quality time with a passionate person.

The perfection or completeness in Christ that we're supposed to strive for is a balance of many things.  The more we surround ourselves with balancing people, the easier that balance becomes.  Let's work on pausing before we react.  Pause long enough to consider what might be missing (some heart or some facts) in our reaction.  Whether you are 3 or 93, this can go a long way in ensuring a good life.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Struggling to Submit

Last week, I had a really rough piano lesson.  Today, things went better.  An issue, though, is still at play that I must keep a handle on.  Nerves are the main problem, but the cause of that main problem was revealed later in the week.  And it makes sense, but it really surprised me.  The reason I struggle with nerves and performing under pressure is submission.
Selfie in Georgetown, CO.  He's a catch!

Submission is typically what you hear in the pulpit about wives and their husbands.  This submission issue is much broader than me respecting Mr. Butler.  This is submission to anyone and anything.  Even walking in a crowd at the fair, I practically refuse to be lead by someone else. Either I don't trust them to be right and/or I couldn't possibly face being wrong.  In a piano lesson (or every other role in my life), I don't want to be wrong.  Not only do I not want to be wrong, but I don't want to be thought of as wrong, unenlightened or criticized in any way.  Unless, of course, it was my idea.  Then it's fine.  But ultimately I'm still right.  See that?

Even when the entire purpose of an encounter (a piano lesson, for example) is to critique my performance, it still kills me if I don't execute well.  And with the amount of practice I haven't done in recent years and how difficult it is to find quiet time for focused practice, it's absolutely reasonable that I should struggle for a while.  Due to a series of events over the week, my refusal to be honest and humble with myself became painfully obvious to me.  All of the lessons about Jesus' humbling himself for my sake, when he of all beings had a right to be indignant and self-righteous never really fully made it into my heart.  I found my humility stretched as far as everyone else treating me fairly went.  Whenever that stopped, then my submission quit.  So yeah, I know.  It never really was there to begin with.

Facing mountains can force you to face your own struggles with more honesty.

I come from several lines of strong-willed, prideful, sensitive people and knowing something about myself doesn't make it disappear over night.  I do know this, though: I had a better lesson today.  I practiced more, so that definitely helped.  But I went in admitting and accepting to myself that I had a lot of work to do.  I was there to learn to be better, not prove I'm the best (which I'm never going to be anyway).  I'm not sure what this is going to look like or mean in the future, but I have a feeling that understanding submission throughout my whole existence is a key to pleasing God, no matter what.
And pleasing God has never been so real to me as with having a daughter.  While she may have some personality traits like her daddy, Lord willing, she will walk the road of a woman.  If and how she strives to please the Lord and demonstrate grace and humble beauty to those around her lies largely on what she sees.  And she's going to see a lot of me.  I pray that my heart will learn submission and grace quickly.

My girl

Thursday, September 18, 2014

8 years ago this week, Mr. Butler and I were in the middle of our honeymoon in Flagstaff, AZ.  There's a lot I wish I'd known back then, but there's probably even more I did know and didn't pay attention to.  Growing is hard and life can become sticky before you realize it.  But that week we started something really beautiful and I'm so happy we did!

This picture is a really great representation of what it was like for me 'searching' for my future husband.  Whether intentionally or not, I had this outlined picture of him - his characteristics, his way - and so I had the idea, but never could exactly make out his face for sure.  When I finally did, it was such a surprise - a fantastic, perfect surprise.

8 years isn't a big milestone and (though I can't speak for Randy) we're not exactly swooning every other heartbeat for one another, the quietness of this year speaks volumes enough though.  Neither of us are finished growing and unless the Lord comes back quickly we'll have plenty more transitions to go through.  We can fight like little kids (and we do sometimes), but we're also still here dreaming about the days ahead.  Something in my fb newsfeed today said 20% of marriages end within 5 years and 32% within 10 years.  Marriage is a delicate animal that is easily swayed in one direction or another.  But when both are swaying it in the same general direction over time, it grows stronger than ever thought possible.

This guy is the goofiest, most intelligent person I know.  I desperately need him, but I think most days he'd agree  I can fill in all those gaps in his nature too, just like peanut butter! 

God knew that I would put up such a fight with anything that I didn't agree with right away.  I'm so thankful that He also knew the strength Randy possessed that would set me right a gazillion times over and protect our family from my foolishness so many times.  One thing we certainly got right was finding someone who could provide what we needed rather than just what we liked.  

With busy schedules, frantic hearts and a mile long prayer list, tender moments can get drowned out.  I'm so thankful God designed marriage for us to refocus on the tenderness of life, especially when the world gets loud.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

In the Face of Fear

As a child, I took piano lessons.  I always enjoyed playing the piano, but I usually hated my lessons.  I had a couple of different teachers over the years, but none of the issues I had were their fault.  I didn't like the pressure of practicing and performing everything just right.  I knew when it wasn't right, but the more I seemed to know, the more pressure I felt to perform.  All of which added to the whirlpool of destruction in my mind.

As you know, I teach piano part-time and have played for my own entertainment off and on for the past few years.  By design I don't perform much.  Unless I'm 100% prepared, which doesn't happen often, I. get. nervous.  And not just a pit in my stomach beforehand, but do better than I expect-nervous.  I get - make mistakes you never make at home because hands are shaking and everything you try to NOT be nervous only brings more attention to the fact and results in more nerves-nervous.

So, for a few clerical reasons, a free grant paying the bill and Mr. Butler saying, "Do it.  I'll be good for you.", I am taking piano lessons myself for the first time in 12 years.  And, yes, I still get nervous.  Frustratingly nervous.  I mean it's a little (okay, a LOT) humiliating to know what you're doing wrong but appear to be clueless as I stumble around on the piano as though I only looked at the piece once over the past week. It's something that I have to seriously work on.  The main answer is that I need to practice as much as possible.  The complicated answer is that I have to structure my time differently and insist on my own discipline and for others to respect that boundary.   

Regardless, the reason I'm sharing this with you, besides therapeutic purposes, is to say that everyone has areas in their life where they should perform better than what they are.  Their experience and training should put them higher up.  They should know better than to stumble at such a little thing.  They should have gotten their act together by now.  We all have the proverbial 20 lbs of weight we should never have gained or the debt that shouldn't have spun out of control.  We all have something.  And maybe today you should face it, instead of avoiding it.  

I hate feeling like an idiot when I play poorly.  But not playing or running away like the little girl I feel like inside is the worst way to handle it.  It might be a really long road to truly face the skeleton you're avoiding, but I think it's time, don't you?  It won't be easier next year.  That's what you said the past several times and it hasn't exactly panned out.  I'm going to go practice.  What are you going to do? :)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Judge You, Judge Me

I hope you're not like me.  I really, really do.  Unfortunately, even if you're not like me, you certainly know someone like me.  What am I like? Well, I judge.  I judge you and I judge me.  Mostly I judge you because I think you're judging me.  And then I start judging me the way I think you are judging me.  Before you know it, you and I have had such a judging debate that we may no longer speak after today.  You attacked me with your judgey ways and it really hurt my feelings.  Then I had to explain all of the reasons that I'm not as good as you expect me to be and even some of the reasons I think your expectations are unreasonable and silly.  I'm sure you didn't like that, but we had to keep going round and round until my brain got interrupted by a real live person.

How much of your day is filled with things that you do because you don't want someone to think less of you?  I'm not referring to things that you would do whether anyone saw or not - like hygiene matters or an OCD methodology.  I'm talking about responses in a conversation that have nothing to do with what's ACTUALLY been said.  I'm talking about weeds in a garden that you don't have time to tend to - but feel compelled because someone might think...might think... might think what?  That you're busy and prioritized your children, your spiritual life and things INSIDE your house first over your flower beds?  Well, yeah I guess.  But that's exactly what I am doing.  I know that people are more important than things.  I know that life is fluid and you must be flexible to ultimately succeed and flourish.  But I get tripped up so badly in trying to please the proverbial committee or at least to keep the you in my head to not judge me.

So, I've made a resolution of sorts today.  You are going to judge me from time to time.  Actually, I'll even give you a heads start.  I hate housework and think our obsession with it is unhealthy.  Yes, every family deserves order and cleanliness, but it's not going to happen every day, in every way, or even the same way.  So, pay more attention to people.  I hate deadlines and pressure.  More specifically my body freezes up and panics. (Don't ask me how taking piano lessons again is going, ha!)  I like slow paces and get resentful when I'm rushed.  And I don't like being told what to do, especially when you've not taken the time to get to know me or even begun to understand what is best for me.  Yes, I have a submission problem, but I'm working on it.  I've got lots of things to be judged about.

My resolution is this: It is not my job, my position or even in my power to control or heavily influence how/where/when/if you judge me or anyone else.  The most I should be doing is consulting what God thinks about things instead.  I will let go of what I THINK others are thinking and instead make as wise a choice I can unless a real life person comes along to question me.

Whew! See, you don't want to be like me - it's exhausting.  But you can know this much, I'm too busy arguing with you in my head to actually be judging the real life you so rest at ease my friends! ha! :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Calling Card of the American Family: Options

Going to school, starting school, finishing school, all things school has been circling around our family like confetti thrown in the air the past couple of weeks.  Some of J's friends are starting school for the first time, Mr. Butler (as of last weekend) is FINISHED with his MBA, I am taking a class at the community college after a several year break, and I'm constantly working on homeschool plans for the kids.  And in the throws of all this, I am struck with gratitude.  Gratitude, for sure, that I don't have to send my kids to school if we decide it's not best for our family.   But the gratitude quickly grows with awareness.

Goofy fun at my brother's graduation last year.

Our age, specifically here in America, but not limited to it, will be known for our seemingly unlimited options.  Yes, homeschool, private or public, but I can work a number of different jobs.  I can learn a new trade.  I can save up money and share with others.  Health care options are ever expanding.  The abilities of my cell phone are insanely expanding.  Travel options are many.  What's for dinner? Instead of whatever survived the drought or didn't get eaten by the wolves, I can drive a few minutes to a story (one of 10 options) and pick out what I want.  Perhaps the health content suffers sometimes with that option, but still - talk about OPTIONS!  Whatever type of life I want to live, I can find an area that is suitable and can support it.  Sporty, agriculture, fast-paced, quiet, artsy, etc.  Housekeeping methods, forms of exercise, modes of communication, reading material - the options seem limitless! I can find a group of like-minded people somewhere, if I look hard enough.

Without grocery stores and ample transportation, what wouldn't even be an option on most days?
Vacations on a cruise ship that don't end in scurvy! 

As a culture, we are not that far removed from time where life was very limited.  What you were born into, you would stay.  Technology limited everything from healthcare to housekeeping to individual freedoms.  There was a time when learning at home was the only option and a schoolhouse was desired to expand learning.  Today, the internet and widespread educational options makes just about anything possible and valuable!

Oklahomans can visit the ocean!

I'm very guilty of acting defensively about something, because I feel like I have no options other than the one I'm failing at.  Mr. Butler is always good to remind me that I can always work smarter.  If there is something you want bad enough and is important enough, there are too many options to say it can't be done! Negativity, complaining,  bickering, comparing and general ugliness is constant it seems, but it doesn't have to be in your house.  Unhappy with your situation? Do something about it.  I'm certain you have a few options at your disposal.  Even when we start out at the bottom of something, as long as we have life, we have the options to go up!

The manner of life I am looking for!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Design Flaw or User Error?: Giving Up Too Easy

I woke up late, already behind on the needs of the day.  Then a chain reaction occurs where the priorities pile up, children demanding attention, deadlines come and go, and all I want to do is hide and cry.  The temptation is to instead invest too much time into a better plan or routine.  Perhaps I just haven't found the right approach or mindset.  So, google and pinterest become my best friend.  Or I decide that I need a new planner or labeler.  Suddenly, I HAVE to go to Target or Hobby Lobby.  Time has gotten away from me, but at least I have a new plan, right?

This scenario or some version of it has been part of my response for years, probably a couple of decades now.  I love January first because it's the ultimate do-over.  Start fresh with a new approach or at least new colors!  And there is nothing wrong with giving yourself a boost with new office supplies.  Seriously, it's fun and motivating so please don't mistake me as saying revamping your approach is a bad idea.  What I'm afraid of is the purpose it plays in my life.  Not as much of a helper as much as a distraction.

When there's too much to do and not enough time to do it, I want to say the system is broken.  Sitting down and doing as much as you can despite the sand running out feels icky and wrong.  In reality, it is called perfectionism.  I passionately desire things to go and work beautifully, as they were designed to do.  When they don't, it must be a design flaw, not a user error.  Getting a new 'design' might help a few things or perk up my mood, but it doesn't truly address the problem.  The problem of getting my hands dirty and working hard anyway, even when it doesn't suit my preference.

This is a real, daily struggle for me sometimes, just in balancing housework, children and showering!  But I think it may be a problem for us in bigger proportions.  When working with other people, in families, in congregations, in projects of just about any kind, how often do we get distracted and convicted that the only way to continue is to change the design, get new people or get everyone new office supplies, so to speak?  Working together with certain people who are so different than us is hard.  It takes patience, a lot of self-control, and more humility than we're typically willing to give.  So much more that we don't usually stick around long enough to try.  Get a new planner! Label things differently! Maybe that will make this easier, we think.  The truth for me is that I don't like it when things don't work perfectly.  I don't like having to adjust, accommodate or give up anything.  So, I blame the system or circumstances and try to make a different one.  That might not be so bad if it worked.  But here I am 20 years later and it still doesn't always get things done or prevent imperfect events.

We give up too easy.  It's really that simple.  If you find yourself frustrated with someone (a friend, a leader, a group of people, etc.) or a circumstance (health/weight, sin, debt, etc.), it is probably terribly tempting to blame the system or people out of your area of control or influence.  But they probably are not the problem.  We can argue about it, but in most situations, the problem is you.  I want it to be easy more than I want it to be.   After J was born, I struggled to lose my baby weight.  I struggled a lot.  And I blamed a lot of things for too long as the cause.  The truth was that I didn't want to work as hard as it took.

Whenever you decide to make a change toward something easier, consider that as a warning sign.  It might not mean the easier thing is bad, but you can count on it meaning you're trying to distract yourself from a deeper problem.  Even if you make a change, and it is a great change, it's foolish to ignore what brought you to make a change in the first place.  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What You Do Matters

The life you are living today is so powerful and may have effects so lasting and far reaching that the direction of families will be changed for years and years to come.  In some ways, that might be a little daunting or overwhelming, but it's not meant to be.  There are a couple of families on my heart right now, one awesome kid in particular that is facing a big mountain to climb.  The struggle and anguish this world often gives us is heartbreaking and ugly some days, no way around it.  Personally, I hate it so much not to be able to heal a child or bind a marriage back together.  With God all things are possible, but His will sees farther than we can.

But no matter what the future days hold, we can change the world today.  Whether it is being diligent to get that trash out to the curb on time, staying away from a drink just one more week, or showing others why the life and death of Jesus matters, you can change the world for good.  And that's what it's all about.  It's easy and tempting to get caught in the lie that we are islands to ourselves or that carving out a picture perfect life is what's important.

The beauty of our world is that in so many ways, it is open-ended.  We have choices, opportunities and at least a little bit of time today.  Use today up for so much good.  Got mountains of paperwork?  Do it with a smiling attitude.  Kids driving you crazy (this is directed at me)?  Cherish the time you have with them.  Absolutely unhappy with your life and circumstances?  Make a plan to change your attitude or direction.  Here's the most important one: Do you see someone hurting and a way to help? Do something.

The life you live today will influence somebody.  They inturn will be more inclined to act or not.  They might conquer because they saw you do it.  Or they might never attempt that mountain because of something you said or never did.  We can't control the choices of others certainly not any more than we can control everything in our own life.  But we know this is true, in giving or receiving: What you do matters.  For good or bad, it's going to make a difference.

Lately I've been more easily consumed with other people's pain and struggles, especially where I could do nothing but pray.  I needed the reminder to live life and spread the good of Jesus in all circumstances I'm in, not just suffer away over the things I can't change.  Whether it is your own personal tragedy/struggle or the pain of others, let's glorify God in all things.  Without that option, what else is there?

Mark 12:29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Supporting My Herb Habit

I doubt it's news to you that herbs are a regular part of our lifestyle.  They're so versatile and nourishing that my kids have used them almost since birth.  I'm a true believer in their effectiveness when handled appropriately and am so grateful that herbs have always been an option for me.

That being said, it is not cheap to get quality supplements that you can trust.  And some argue that it doesn't really matter where you get your herbs and all that.  This is why I think it matters to some extent and why Nature's Sunshine Products are your best bet.

As my family grows, the quantity of herb consumption has a tendency to go up!  My poor herb budget has been in fits and it's time I did something about it.  So, in order to support my herb habit, I'd like to share with you my win-win solution!

For every amount of product I buy from NSP, I get a % of it back.  Similar to other direct-selling companies, if I sponsor you to become a member, whatever you order, I get a percentage of it as well.  Everyone has that same opportunity as a member.  No requirements on your membership, just specifications if you want to increase your rebate.  If you have any interest or curiosity about herbs or NSP, just ask.  If you'd like to explore on your own and decide to become a member, my member # is 1924968 (this would be your sponsor number).  If you would like to try some products (they sell over 500 products, including pure essential oils) but don't want to pay shipping for just a few things, I order twice a month and would be happy to order something for you (as long as you're local).

My little herb baby
My big herb baby!

I completely understand (and respect) that not everyone goes this route, but for me, I am so grateful for the wealth of options it provides, especially for my kids!  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at any time.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Creative Outlet

I feel the need to greet you, reader, as though we've not talked in quite some time.  It's been about a year since my life started to slow way down and speed way up all at the same time.  It's been a great and, more importantly, significant year that has taught me how much I need to grow further.  And for that, I'm very grateful.

So, now that life has shifted around a lot and I've gotten (sort of) used to the movement, it's really important for me to write more.  As I've said before, this writing is little about you the reader or some number of page views, but about my health and as such, the health of my family.

By nature, I'm very sensitive (quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences) AND I process through words (talking or writing, expression somehow).  What that combination means in everyday life is my brain is constantly on, I have the tendency to vomit words in the name of processing and that part of my personality is a drain or stumbling block in relationships.  Either I never want to stop talking or I say everything on my mind and probably criticize too much.  THEREFORE, when I say I need to write, it is a certifiable NEED.  I need a verbal and creative outlet to use up all of the thoughts and observations that flood my heart every day. 

And while we're talking about it, having an outlet of expression in your life is important.  Maybe you consider yourself a professional or 'not like that', but I bet you're wrong.  As humans, we're designed to express and create.  The beauty of it is that no one has to be/is the same.  Mr. Butler's creative outlet of choice is woodworking.  My mother prefers singing.  The point isn't about what outlet, but making sure you have your own.  You know that person who never stops talking? Or the one who flies off the handle and you're always terrified of what inappropriate thing they are going to say?  They need a creative outlet.  When we don't have one, things build up and start to turn sour really fast. 

As a parent, I can see it in my kids even clearer.  Their play is their creative outlet.  That tells me just how important play is to life itself.  The phrase let them play is relevant to the needs of our children, but we also need to join them!  Expectations and responsibilities change as adults, but base needs do not disappear. Just as our children are required to perform certain skills (go to the bathroom, feed the dog, eat with utensils) but still need ample play time, we are the same.  Do your job as unto the Lord, but also allow yourself to enjoy His creative world!

"I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him."

Ecclesiastes 3:10-14 ESV

Monday, June 16, 2014

Judge Dread: A Dreamer's Stumbling Block

Dreading things.  Dreading a conversation, a deadline, an ending, a big job, a rejection, a separation.  We all bump into dread, just like a dog underfoot sometimes.  Ever since my days in elementary school, I remember searching for the next thing to dread.  When it was far off, my body issued a sigh of relief!  Deadlines or in the heat of the moment pressure panics me quite a bit.  I just don't think well on my feet.

I do dream well though.  I've always gotten flashes of beautiful places, sometimes out of my hoped for future and sometimes from an Anne of Green Gables scene.  My heart lives to dream! So, what happens when the two parts try to co-exist?  Well, I dream up things to dread! :) Everything from fantastic scenarios where people ridicule me to all the possible events surrounding mine or a family members' death.  Ri-diculous.

Tension, judgement, assumptions and loads of dread can often billow up like smoke into notions that never really were there to begin with.  I'm slowly learning (sometimes it seems verse by verse) that the Bible says things for a reason.  Because they are true.  Because they work.  The things we allow ourselves to dwell on will change so much of our world.  How many fights or worries have you had that were based on wrong information - or worse, information that you imagined?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 

-Ephesians 4:8

And besides all of that, dread is presumptuous and divisive, even if just to our own selves.  Today, and most days, I need to be reminded that everything I need to carry out what is in front of me is at my disposal if I only seek and ask for it.

Friday, March 28, 2014

4 Reasons to Spend Time Outside

Now that it's officially spring here in Oklahoma, it is time to talk about the great outdoors for a bit.  With winter and all the snow the US got hit with this year, it might be tempting to give up going outside for good!  But fear not, the outdoors can give as much or more than it usually takes away.

For your health...Staying indoors stifles clean, free breathing.  Allergens and bacteria can build up, weakening your immune system.  And don't forget the vitamin D!  For a few circumstances, what's outside (pollen, pollution, etc.) can be worse than what's inside, but by-in-large, stepping outside for a bit will do everyone some good.

For your sanity...Looking at the same floors and walls all day, every day can really do something to your head.  And when my head is messed up, I get cranky, stressed and not a great version of myself.  Stepping outside makes me smile, reminds me there is more to life than whatever I was just fixated on and relaxes everything just a bit.  God's creation - the trees, the sky, the air - is such a stark reminder of beauty, power and divine presence!  

For your creativity...It's proven that creativity is key to success in so many areas of our life.  Especially, children's development.  Just taking a walk around your backyard or office building at lunch has the power to spark thoughts and inspirations that will propel you to a better place.  Furthermore, as a mother of a boy, boys need to spend a lot of time outdoors to express and cultivate their creativity.  NEED, I tell you.  They were designed for it.  Girls benefit greatly too, but boys become menaces without enough of it.  NEED it, they do.

For your independence...For children and adults alike, going outside nudges us to explore, take risks and ultimately stretch our independence a little bit.  We live in very toxic times where individual boundaries and expectations can get really blurry. Spending time outside cultivates a deeper connection with nature, more attention to our beliefs and the ability to go our own way.  Something we all struggle with from time to time.

We are all busier than we'd like to be and worrying more than we know we should, but yet we do it anyway.  This is one area of your life that you can change and make a difference.  Go outside more.  Do it for your family - better yet, do it WITH your family!  It will change you for the better, I promise.

Psalm 104:1-5 

Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire. He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Why 'Screen Time' Matters in Our House

The screen time debate has been building for a while and recently a few have been extra vocal for their support (or lack thereof) for limits.  I even shared an article on facebook that spoke of several reasons why handheld devices should be banned for all kids 12 and under.  That article especially ruffled some feathers and it's rebuttals like this and this made some good points.

Here's what I think...

In my children's lineage there is a history of addiction and abuse in several areas.  Mr. Butler and I both have addictive personalities - meaning if we allow ourselves, we can grow addicted to things really quickly.  And when I say addicted I'm encompassing the entire spectrum from the mild to severe.  Because of our family's history, our knowledge about our ownselves and the tendencies we are already seeing in J, moderation is very very important.  Screen time, like eating habits, exercise, what we fill our minds with, is a big deal in our house.  The more time we spend on computers, kindles, phones, ipads, etc., the less responsive we are to each other and to our responsibilities.  In a similar way, the more junk food we eat, the less active we are, the more junk tv we watch, the worse our emotional, physical and spiritual health becomes.  Maybe your house isn't that way - and if so, I'm so glad for you!

I'm sure there are those who aren't as sensitive to some of these things, like screen time, as we are.  Banning media time is unrealistic and not exactly healthy, I absolutely agree.  We all find benefits and necessary uses for our electronic devices.  But in my experiences with my family, having unlimited availability is just suicide.  And I know we are not the only ones.  There is anecdotal evidence in all directions that too much of anything can be destructive.  Self-regulation and limits do not come naturally or at least not easily with us.  So we're training ourselves and each other with small amounts of media and lots of alternatives (outside, creative play, etc.).  For us, it's all about having a plan.

Ultimately, I see another case of imbalance and a one-size-fits-all assumption.  For some people, talk of banning media and screen time for children is necessary and good to get them considering setting limits at all.  For other people self-regulation and limits come so naturally in their world-view that the thought of banning anything seems dumb.  I think it is really great and really important to have this conversation.  Whatever the evil of the decade, we all have to find the line where it grows from helpful and positive to destructive and a big problem.  One of the larger problems we face is taking responsibility and proactively investigating what is best for our household, not just what the average American  requires. Sometimes it seems like a silly battle of the media and the government, but most issues like this should just prompt us to look into it ourselves and make a wise decision for the needs of your family.  Because in case you haven't noticed yet, every last one of us are different!  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

4 Things to Do Before You Give Up

We live in quite a complicated time, don't we?  Lots of corruption, violence, and circumstances we never dreamed of.  This week I had a hard time with motivation and productivity.  That mountain (be it laundry or a painful conversation) just seemed insurmountable.  

Good news, though.  It wasn't.  Insurmountable, I mean.  With my head, sometimes it's just a matter of figuring out what I'm lacking and my whole perspective will change.  Balance is everything, I tell you.  What I really needed was a couple of hours to clean, on a Saturday morning when the air feels different, just because it is Saturday.  I needed a little play time with my sweet girl and then to pass by her room a few times, knowing she's sleeping.  It all was beautiful therapy for me today.

Angry or bitter thoughts, bleak outlooks on the world can seep into our hearts and convince us that everything is futile and pointless.  To continue in the midst of controversy or struggle is foolish, you think.  If you find yourself here, as I have lately, here are a couple of things to consider first:

1) Check the Weather.  The weather affects us in so many ways.  How many days has it been since the sun was shining?   Maybe part of your foul mood is due to all the rain/snow/ice/heat you've had lately! Is a full moon coming around soon?  Ask any teacher, police officer or ER professional.  The full moon can do crazy things to people - myself included!

2) Check your Intro/Extroverted Status.  How long has it been since you recharged? Neglected our natural temperament's needs can do more damage than you'd think.  Just a couple of hours with no one to talk to or think about frees and feeds me in a way nothing else can!

3) Check your Fat.  Are you getting plenty of good fats and omegas (fish oil)? Adding this one element to your diet and supplements can make a huge difference in your brain activity and mood.

4) See the Good.  We easily latch on the bad, the worrisome and the ugly.  No matter what is going on in the world, there is still beautiful, wonderful things.  Take some time to soak them in before you give you to quickly!


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Balance and Be Balanced

Balance.  It's just a word, but in our lives it can mean a complete shift in experience.  

Feelings of inadequacy.  Jealousy.  Being overwhelmed.  Anger.  Bitter resentment.  All are very real feelings, but severely lacking something that would bring back balance.

Here lately, I have found some really great planes to set up shop in - a lot of joy.  And then in a moments notice, all of my ugliness can rise to the surface and I'm the fire-breathing dragon ready to devour all in my path.  One of the things that tells me is this:  Even in the midst of great triumphs and celebrations, balance is needed.  Balance is something to be maintained and regulated.

Are you like me and catch yourself shaking your head in disbelief at someone's foolish choices or destructive reactions?  Take a closer look and I expect you'll see where they are lacking some balance.  Do you ever shy away from strong personalities or those that differ greatly from you?  I do.  I don't want a fight or to make things worse than they already are.  Still, I underestimate how much any strong personality or opinion needs my or someone else's balance that they can bring.  A differing perspective, or even a simply lived life that avoids the well-beaten path, while might feel lonely some days, can be so useful and productive for the lives it touches.

Rabbit hole: There is a lot of unnecessary and destructive 'discussing' on facebook.  It is just not the place and it seems like too many have lost their minds, thinking that no one is going to read their displays of childishness except for those in the conversation.  So, when you consider getting involved in such a discussion, balance yourself with some discretion and class.  If it's important enough to be said, you probably can pick up a phone or send an email before you have to show your claws on social media.

Balance.  I'm so thankful that God asks more of me than just a devoted emotion or a singular ritual.  God's design, in all things, is a beautiful balance of standards, requirements, devotion, creativity and beautiful mercy.  It's so much more than where we are comfortable.  It's so much more than tears shed.

Instead of criticizing, complaining or giving up, ask what needs balancing.  Don't be ashamed of your life, but instead allow it to balance and be balanced by those around you.


Saturday, February 22, 2014


Let temporary be your guide.  It sounds a little goofy and altogether unwise, but hear me out.  Nothing is permanent.  Not really.  So, instead of getting good and comfy with how things are OR throwing a fit when things aren't good and comfy, just don't.  They will change, this will pass, and soon a whole different palette of circumstances will be yours to face.  

Look at all you have and know it is temporary.  Love it, accept it, face it, because it'll be gone before you know it.  Miss Z's little half crawl half roll will quickly give into crawling and walking - likely before the month is gone.  J won't always give me a kiss anytime I ask.  Even the beautiful weather outside will fade and grow dark or cold or windy.  Do you hate where your life is right now?  If you do nothing about it, it's still temporary and will change soon.  Better or worse remains to be seen, but different for sure.

Let the simple truth of everything in our lives being - to some degree - temporary keep you steady and balanced.  Let it boost your appreciation for who is still here and feed your endurance for the pain that has yet to pass.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Balance: Where Emotions and Truth Work Together

Every stage of life seems busier than before.  I just thought I was busy when I was single. married. dogs. work. one kid. graduate school. two kids.  And to the judgemental perfectionist in me, it all sounds like an excuse. But then every week as I live it, I get more and more frustrated at my inability to satisfy all of my priorities.  Granted, one of my major weaknesses is organization and time management, but still.  As I improve, the tasks grow.  As I master skills, new ones are needed.  To a girl who just wants to sit and breathe life in, with no deadlines or requirements, the hamster wheel gets discouraging.  And yet.

To whom much is given, much is required -Luke 12:48 

I'm painfully aware of the countless families without.  Without safety, without health, without opportunity, without God.  And I have so much.  It strikes fear and hesitancy in me because of this part of the verse: much is required. Since I don't have a big hospital story or tragic relationship, shouldn't my contribution to the world be that much greater?  Some moments that idea seems preposterous.  Other moments, it's convicting and debilitating in the same breath.

I have a drive (probably half first born, half strong-willed perfectionist and all passion) to do things well.  Great, important things!  To make a difference! Change the world!  And then I trip over my big daydream into the pile of laundry that hasn't been done just in time to hear scissors being used (by the 3 year old) in the next room and the UPS guy ringing the doorbell, which of course wakes up miss Z.  At that point, grand plans fade and doing a good job today becomes the best I can hope for.

Learning what it means to run a household, to be a submissive and graceful wife, being a mom, and serving God in whatever ('little') way is presented are hugely, important things.  Some would argue that these things are the solution to our society's dive into depravity.  I'm not diminishing their importance.  I'm just being honest about how I struggle to require balance in this area. Either I focus on doing BIG things or I get bogged down in the small, daily things.  I resist making them work together.

Where emotions and truth must work together.

Emotion: I want to be a catalyst for great change in those around me!
Truth: If I don't do the laundry, we will start to stink and that great change will be the number of people who can stand near us.

Truth: You have no money and are about to lose all of your possessions.
Emotion: Gratitude for safety and health.  Joy in God's peace and promises.

Working together is hard.  Melding together thoughts and actions is sometimes very foreign.  How many times have I put my foot in my mouth and someone thinks, "Didn't she think before she opened her mouth?"  Nope.  Sometimes the two just don't coincide.  Unless everything is in agreement, working together means patience, give and take, and probably some pain.  Balance is necessary, Biblical and the most effective place to be, I know.  But just because it is a right thing, doesn't mean it just happens.  It's going to be hard. Just about anything we do can be a battle of what is (truth) and what we feel (emotion).

I still want to do good in the world - and maybe these thoughts can be a start.  I'm still taking my responsibilities as a wife and mother seriously.  What I'm hoping will start to be different is where they can overlap and work together.  The balance is in there somewhere.