New Year, New Thoughts

Oh Christmas food, Oh Christmas food, my waistline will not miss you…
The holiday season is such a special time to treasure family and the precious gift of God incarnate but after 3 weeks of heavy food and excessive social activities I am ready to thank God for His many gifts in other ways. Taking time to have new thoughts about old times and the new year is something I especially treasure after all the holiday chaos. Resolutions aren’t something that make the list of New Year’s thoughts however, because they tend to fizzle so quickly. Planning to improve things is different than resolutions because you make time to examine your heart and mind about problems and strengths present, and then specifically work to accomplish spiritual and mental growth in those areas as opposed to just listing things you want to be better at. Resolutions are merely good intentions whereas planning is specific and tangible. Give it a whirl and see how it works for you!

A Bible and journal are my truest friends and greatest allies in life’s journey

Here are a few of my favorite avenues for thinking through the old year:

  1. Remembering God’s faithfulness in the hard times
  2. Seeing God’s goodness in the easy times
  3. Evaluating weaknesses of the past year, spiritually, physically, and in relationships with others
  4. Evaluating strengths of the past year in those same areas
  5. Thinking through how life has changed and processing a year of events
True wisdom is something God has put on my heart to pursue this upcoming year

And favorite ways for looking into the new year:

  1. Planning how to improve spiritual growth and fellowship with the body of Christ and in our home – like going through a Spiritual Health Check
  2. Looking for more ways to be grateful for the abundance of blessings
  3. Planning ways to be better steward of resources (like health and time)
  4. Anticipating challenges the new year will present and preparing accordingly ( board exam anyone?)
  5. Setting the precedent for a year that focuses on glorifying God and triumphing by grace over things in my control instead of the burned-out and frustrated attitude I usually have going in to Christmas break.

A journal, piece of scratch paper, or word doc is an easy way to track your thoughts too. Choosing to take some of the topics for Family discussion is an easy way to encourage your loved ones to evaluate their own lives too. I hope you and your family have many things to celebrate from this last year and have many more blessings in the upcoming one.

2019 is coming in with a bang!

Everyone always has different ways they like to celebrate another year on this crazy planet and to anticipate a new year. What are your’s? 🙂

Christmas Decorating Party – You Need One Too!

Warm chocolate chip cookies, milk in a frosty glass, classic holiday music, and a tub of Christmas decorations. Sounds like a party!
Since being married 3 years ago, we have had an annual Christmas decorating party where we dig out the red tub, string up lights, and write out our Christmas cards.  We dance in the kitchen to the Christmas music I’ve dug out for the first time in the season while wishing we hadn’t eaten so many cookies and there are candles everywhere. Today I thought I would share a few traditions we have made together for our Christmas decorating party to make the holidays more meaningful and mindful. Enjoy!

Red glitter cards to share the love of God this season are a staple

The Food
This year we made chocolate chip cookies, most years there is at least hot cocoa involved too. I was smart and only baked half of the dough that was made up, but we still managed to polish off the entire plate that was made (Hey, don’t judge I’m headed to work out today). Taking time to make the cookie dough from scratch and smelling them while they turn golden brown are my favorite parts of holiday baking.

The Cards
We take time every year to write cards to family and friends. We love getting to put holiday wishes, a note that we’re praying for them, or letting them know how much we have appreciated having them in our lives this past year. Having a specific time set aside to get these done is helpful, and knocking the list out together makes it a cinch. It’s the thoughts in the cards that count and not what you paid for them, so I’ll share my little secret that I also always buy my cards on after-Christmas sales and store them in the red tub for next year.

Candlelight makes everything more festive!

The Music
We listen to the Pandora station for Trans Siberian Orchestra with all of their classical renditions of carols and songs. We both like the older classic songs and instrumental versions for our wild party. A little Lindsey Stirling in the mix makes for a pretty dreamy atmosphere. Check out the station shown in the picture  by clicking here.

Trans Siberian Orchestra and Lindsey Stirling are our favorite Christmas artists

Limiting the decorations
This one sounds a little weird for having a party. Trust me though, it’s much more fun. The house rule is it all has to fit back into the 20 gallon red tub at the end of the December. (We don’t presently have a Christmas tree – if we get one in the future it would be an exception.) No one wants to have to make numerous trips to the storage room and lug endless boxes from the attic. If you have ever been to a garage sale or thrift store you know the people I am talking about who have an extreme excess of Christmas decor. Tyler and I both said we never wanted that for our family. Being beautiful doesn’t have to mean being extravagant. Try it out! How can you streamline your decor? You might even find you are happier with less clutter during this holiday season.

Taking a moment in the middle of the busy season to spend an evening with family and decorate our home has grown to be a tradition we both look forward to immensely each year.

What Pre-Christmas traditions do you have? 🙂 Would love to hear in the comments.

Oblivion is Bliss – Oklahoma Kids and Child Abuse

Oblivion is bliss. Wait I thought the saying was “ignorance is bliss”? Well it might be, but today I’m talking about the kindergartner sitting in their classroom filled with bright colors and happy faces who is totally zoned out. Little Tommy is zoned out to the point he doesn’t hear the teacher calling his name or see Little Sophia reaching over to share her markers. He doesn’t feel anything. He chose to not feel anything because it was better than feeling the welt on his head where daddy threw a beer can at him that morning and remembering the yelling fight between his parents. Being oblivious was better than feeling the gnawing pain in his stomach because he wasn’t given dinner or breakfast because mommy was “busy”.

But Little Tommy is a rare happenstance right? Only drug addicts or alcoholics abuse their kids right? Unfortunately no, abuse happens in many families. Today in lecture we talked about some of the psychiatric disorder kids suffer from after suffering abuse. I was a little taken back myself. Oklahoma ranks #8 in the nation for abused children. In 2015 there were 31 deaths due to abuse and just over 55,000 investigations of reported abuse. These numbers are huge! And they have so many far reaching implications for everyone in the family, community, and state. These kiddos don’t grow up to be better versions of their parents, in fact there were over 9,000 arrests of kids under the age of 18 in the state in 2016. If they make it to adulthood without being criminals, they are much more likely to struggle with developing meaningful relationships (teen pregnancy anyone?), depression, heart disease, and a host of other problems occurring from extreme chronic stress and trauma. It shouldn’t surprise us that Oklahoma is #2 in the nation for heart disease; many of these cases stem from people suffering immensely in their childhoods. These statistics should break our hearts and cause us to question, where did we go so wrong?

Words hurt just like objects and can destroy a mind and body

Why
Neglect was listed as the largest category of abuse in recent studies in Oklahoma with the largest category being kids 3 and under. Choosing not to feed kids, keep them appropriately dressed, not showing affection, and other forms of neglect are sooo preventable! Why is this an issue? The answer may surprise you. There is so little of the Gospel and the hope the gospel provides. No hope means more drug and alcohol abuse so kids get forgotten. No truth means we have no reason to care for others besides ourselves. No gospel means we don’t understand love and what it means to be affectionate to our kids. No accountability means we forget to develop patience with the little buggars when they are on our nerves and don’t put their needs above ours. Oklahoma needs an ocean of truth and hope that only the gospel of Christ will provide.

What You Can Do
For starts, go home and hug your kids. Tell them you love them. Teach them the gospel. Show them by example how to share the gospel with others. Then choose to step out of oblivion yourself, interact with your community, advocate for kids who are suffering, encourage parents who are struggling, be the parent you know your kids need.
If you struggle with addiction, intimate partner violence, or just with anger towards your kids, know that it is okay to not be perfect. Kids don’t need perfect, they need a parent who recognizes when to get help. Counselors aren’t just for crazy people, medications can be helpful, and being honest with those around you can inspire others to seek help too. Choose to be different and let’s make Oklahoma different. If you’re up for the challenge you can prayerfully consider adopting a kiddo who has a challenging home situation and help them join the 2400+ Oklahoma kids adopted every year. There are so many ways we can all seek improvement. Seek out how God can use you to make a difference.

Hope comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Be more than a statistic, be a parent.

Below are additional resources and statistics:

How to Report Child Abuse 

American Society for The Positive Care of Children

Oklahoma Plan for Childhood Abuse Prevention

 

Holiday Health Check. How Are You Spiritually?

Wait! Stop Winter! You’re running over fall. Be nice and wait your turn! Goodness, 4 inches of snow and a week of frigid temperatures does not look like a typical early Oklahoma November. Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday but it is being run over by Christmas with this weather. I just can’t keep a Thanksgiving mindset when I run to the store and they’re playing Christmas carols while it’s snowing outside! But I am trying to be grateful, the snow is pretty and God controls the weather too. Anyway, Thanksgiving is still coming and Christmas right behind it, providing the perfect season for a little soul searching. How is your spiritual health?

Our backyard, this view was gorgeous that morning

Priorities: How are you prioritizing God in your life? Are you investing in your daily spiritual walk? Maybe think about picking up a new podcast this week. Below are links to two, the first is a 5 minute once weekly podcast and the second is a longer podcast. I absolutely love the 5 Minutes in Church History one, it’s time efficient, thorough, and entertaining. The second one is totally worth your time with sound, deep, biblical teaching that will keep you grounded in your faith.

5 Minutes in Church History – Stephen Nichols

Grace to You Podcast – John McArthur

How about time in Scripture? You don’t have to wait till New Years to try to pick up a new habit of daily reading or to renew your former habit. We miss out on so many blessings when we don’t have His words on our heart daily. Engaging an accountability partner is a great idea to help each other out too.

Attitude. This one is a hard one for me. Remembering to be a thankful person who trusts God for what’s next can be a challenge; but if we trust Him to redeem us by His love and grace we have to trust Him with the rest of our lives too. We can’t be complaining, gossiping, irritable, people. We are called to be joyful, encouraging, patient followers of Christ. Does your attitude reflect your newness of life?

Compassion. Holidays are easy times to think of others but right here on the edge of the holiday season and following the season to the rest of the year, we have the privilege of  being the heart and hands of Christ to a church and world filled with hurting people. Visit a home-bound member of your church. Volunteer around your community. Watch the kids of a young couple at your church free of charge because they just need a break. Send a card to a person who recently experienced crippling loss. Buy coffee for a young person (not too young lol) and ask them about life. Experience the joys of having an overflowing heart when you choose to love the people around you.

Faith. Can you defend yours? What exactly do you believe? If you came across a high school friend on the street could you share your testimony with them? These are tough questions and the answers require a lot of diligent study, thought, effort, and prayer. It’s the 21st century, Christianity is still under constant bombardment from all sides. As a soldier of Christ we have to put on the full armor of God and be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks.

Many Christians today are considered “nominal” meaning they show up on Sundays and Wednesdays (sometimes), live to check boxes that earn them points toward heaven, only live pure lives in church service, or overbook their lives so that church and the things of God are just an afterthought. Are you a nominal Christian? Or are you a passionate follower of Christ, your Savior,  who takes joy in pursuing righteousness, and live a life that beams the light of truth to those around you?  Take this spiritual health check seriously and let’s be accurate reflections of the church we are called to be. 🙂
If you have a family the infographic below has some fun ideas:

What are ways you stay accountable for your spiritual health? 🙂

Other Tips:

  • This is not an exhaustive list
  • This is not a “to-do” list
  • This can be a fun exercise, especially with a spouse, friend, or family

3 Steps to More Family Time

Howdy! Thanks for coming back. Monday came in full swing yesterday, my 1st  neuroanatomy exam is over, had my wisdom teeth out and while writing most of this yesterday I was waiting to drive over to the clinic and the student lounge smells insanely good with box after box of hot, greasy, free pizza. And my stomach was growling for it but I coudn’t eat till after surgery… Patience soul, patience. Missing out on free pizza is still good for the waistline I tell myself. But hey, God is good and I don’t have to study tonight.
Yesterday wasn’t that much crazier than any Monday for most of you (or Tuesday, let’s be real)  and we still have the ever present time management and work/family balance struggles. You may have read my post about why we should prioritize our families and as promised in the post, here are a few practical applications of that devoted time. So maybe your time management won’t be perfect, and your balance won’t be in the shape of a zen yoga master after reading this but I hope you find it practical and helpful. 🙂

Schedule it
If you don’t schedule time for the gym or your daily quiet time it isn’t going to happen. If you don’t plan your meals ahead of time you will be making 6 trips to the grocery store this week. If you forgot to schedule that wisdom tooth appointment you will forget about it (thankfully I scheduled this one!). Some people do not like routines or to do lists, efficiency eventually convinces us to use them though. Family time is much more than a to-do list so make sure that scheduling fun time doesn’t stress you out – that would defeat the purpose. My husband and I schedule a date night at least once a week just to spend time together and not worrying about life’s responsibilities.

Keep it reasonable
Calling a family member every day is not sustainable. Neither is spending 4 hours with a spouse and kids after cooking dinner and cleaning the kitchen 7 days a week. Figure out what is reasonable for you and your family is the first step. Spouses are an ultimate priority; they need time every day. Same goes for kids right after the spouse. Extended family beyond that needs to be scheduled in a way that no involved party gets burned out and your spouse and kids don’t miss out on time with you. Kids grow up and leave home, spouses age, and work never ends so make sure you don’t miss out on the best things in life while they last.

Plan to Have Fun
Making time happen is much easier if you have a go-to. New or unexplored park opening in your town? Head there after dinner to check it out this week with your family. No need to wait until the weekend. Find a new recipe on Pinterest (or here) like mushroom couscous? Have a date night at home cooking with your spouse. This is one of Tyler’s and my favorite ways to spend time together. Going to hang out with extended family? Make it a game night; my favorite game with groups is Apples to Apples. We always end up in stitches.

Comment below with your favorite way to spend time with family even with a crazy life! And feel free to share with your friends.