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.