Monday, January 28, 2019

The Hard Things Are Worth It

It has been said that ending your shower with a burst of cold water can invigorate you and even prompt an endorphin rush.  I've tried it before and it's true - you end up feeling energized! But sacrificing that cozy warm shower for the almost painful ice cold one is hard.  I know it will have a good result, but that doesn't make the choice to do it an easy one.  A lot of things that are good for us in the long run are hard to get started.

The commercial culture we're bombarded with daily sends the message that we should never have to do hard things and that convenience should rule.  Reality teaches the exact opposite, if we bother to listen.  Worthwhile things like health, financial stability, solid relationships, raising kids to be an asset to society, and honing any craft there is takes work, commitment and are classified as hard things.  Being sick, broke, alone, raising jerks and having no skills is easy.  Look around you. That describes a lot of our world today.  The easy things in life usually result in junk. 

This puzzle was a doozy and I knew it was a little too hard for the kids to do it by themselves, but that didn't deter them.  It just meant they asked for help.  We all chipped in over the course of a few days and when it was finished it, they were so proud.  It struck me that they never really considered it being 'too hard' as a bad thing, just a reality that we adjusted for.  If you know my son and his burdensome view of math, you know that they aren't always so pure, but in that moment they illustrated a  beautiful perspective that we can all learn from.  Hard things are doable with a little bit of help and commitment.  Not only are they doable but they are worth it! 

I don't know what the hard things are in your life, but what if you didn't immediately think of them as hard?  What if our first response was that this is something I need some help with to accomplish and nothing more? Marriage is one of those things that is easy to give up on when you think you have an easy out.  Living with the knowledge that God didn't design marriage with divorce in mind creates a wall that says it just isn't an option.  When both parties live that way, it's amazing the things you can work through and thrive amidst.  Marriage is really hard, but completely doable!

I know there are so many with real hardships and burdens they are carrying.  As spectators we can easily get caught up in complaining about the lazy or shallow living.  Instead, let's bring light to those who do really hard jobs and do them well! Celebrate the committed and the trustworthy!

Monday, January 21, 2019

39: A Year of Preparation

I turned 39 a couple of weeks ago.  Since the new year began we have had a lot of sickness in our house, I have had some depression, and two deaths, one of which was really sudden and completely unexpected.  It's January and it's cold.  When all of these things collide, even the introvert starts to feel isolated and alone.  Now that everyone appears to be staying well, it feels like I'm starting the new year all over again, except January is almost gone!

Before life so rudely interrupted me, I had big plans for 39.  I've coined it my year of preparation.  I know 40 is just a number, but it still causes you to take stock in your life and evaluate where you have succeeded or not.  And since I have a tendency to rush ahead and borrow trouble, I've pre-evaluated myself at 40 and found myself wanting.  Since I don't particularly appreciate failure (even if it is self-inflated), I've decided to spend this year preparing for 40.

I guess failure is a strong word.  What I'm really circling around are the ways I haven't reached my potential.  The physical toll running a household, having children and homeschooling them has taken on my body and mind is far greater than I ever anticipated.  My natural inclinations to read, play/sing music, creatively explore in general have been muted at best by the very significant needs of the precious souls running around my house.  In short, I just haven't kept in mental shape the way I expected to (before kids).

My baby is almost 2 (in April), Mr. Butler and I are committed to getting in better shape physically, and there are no major hurdles preventing healthier habits.  So, here are a few areas where I'm committing to spending more time in this year:

- Reading, both the Bible and other good books.  I'm determined to reignite this love!

- Music: Singing and playing the piano are things that have come easily to me when I spend time in them.  For mental health, I need to invest more time here.

- Writing as a Practice.  With extra time being more of a luxury after kids, my writing has been by demand rather than an exercise routine.  I need to exercise my writing with the intent to cultivate quality and creativity.

- Friendship.  I'm not great at friendship without full plate.  I'm awkward and nervous and terrified of bothering people. But I'm also lonely a lot.  So, pursuing friendship is mandatory this year.

Regrets are just so ugly and I want to have as few as possible.  Setting some intentions and goals for this year is one of the best ways to diminish the number of regrets I have AND cultivate a healthier version of me!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Tips for the Frustrated Parent and Teacher

As a piano teacher, I don't usually get very frustrated with my students because they are not my children.  I can only do so much to convince them to practice or take my advice and I know that ultimately their parents will have the most influence on their daily habits.  However, it is a different thing altogether when I am teaching my 5 year old daughter on the piano.  I get so frustrated so fast and expect the moon out of her before she has a chance to sit down.  Being the parent AND the teacher, even just in a homework situation, can be far more complicated than we expect.

The next time you find yourself ready to throw up your hands or just keep getting mad with your offspring, keep these tips in mind.

Tip #1: Imagine this was any other kid in the world.  Would you have more patience or understanding with that other kid? Would your expectations be a little more reasonable? All too often we get our pride mixed up in our teaching and put unnecessary pressure on the learning process.

Tip #2: Environment matters.  Is the room or space you are working in loud or full of distractions?  Is it too hot or too cold?  Have you tried adding/taking away music or moving outside for a change of scenery?  We all have optimal circumstances for learning and it behooves you to learn your child's.

Tip #3: Reality Check.  Are you expecting mastery overnight when it should be something that comes gradually? Did you as the parent/teacher drop the ball somehow on preparation and are now feeling pressed for success?  Things at home do not always go as planned and then other things get pushed around as a result.  It's easy to take our stress out on our children, even when it has nothing to do with them.

Tip #4: Change the trigger. Teaching our kids - especially when they struggle - can become a big trigger for everyone.  Dreading helping your child or dreading getting help from a parent is not what we're going for here.  If one or both of you are so tense and stressed about this, then something has to change.  Hug more.  Be more encouraging.  Share a treat.  Find some way to change the tone of what you are doing so that you can both relax more and actually learn something!

You are your child's biggest advocate.  Don't let stress of unimportant things take away from the most important people in your life.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Snow Days!

I have trouble communicating clearly in real time anyway and praying is no different.  Sometimes I chatter away and other times I struggle to know what to say at all.  In one of my chattering moments this past fall, I prayed for snow.  It wasn't one of those down on my knees begging moments, but it was a candid conversation with the Almighty about how much we enjoyed snow.  If it was in His will and any kind of possibility, I just wanted to mention how absolutely great it would be.  So, I'm not taking credit for the snow at all, but I have thanked God for a beautifully answered prayer!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2019 - More Than Conquerors

In 2018, we set out to 'Crush It' and while we certainly did in some areas, we found others to be quite overwhelming.  The wear of maintaining 3 kids, not losing the weight fast enough, budgets needing to be tamed, loneliness and anxiety kind of mushroomed on us as the year went on.  After some soul-searching and some time focusing on each other,  Mr. Butler and I have come out on the other side ready to overcome the stuff that has been keeping us down.  

So for 2019, our family theme is taken from Romans 8.  The chapter compares our earthly and physical weakness with the depth of love God went to in order to redeem us.  I have certainly felt the weight of the devil's distractions and hurdles lately.  I'm so thankful that despite the burdens I might be carrying around, God can use it for good and in it we can be more than conquerors through Him.