Write today’s story with an open and grateful heart!

My focus word for 2015 has been gratitude. At the moment, I am grateful for those of you who remain subscribers on my blog even though I am really bad about posting on a regular basis. I’ve got a book review I’ve been wanting to post, but I felt like I needed to write a personal post before adding another “book break,” as there hasn’t been much real content on my blog to break from lately. The good news is — I have been too busy to write. Well, I guess that’s also the bad news. I know it is important to slow down to allow ourselves time for the things that we enjoy and that make our lives meaningful. I also recognize that I need to be more purposeful about how I spend the hours in my days. Perhaps you are noticing the same thing in your life?

Here are some words from others that I found inspiring:

“If you itemize your activities and their time consumption over the course of a week, you might be surprised at the dominating events. Each moment is a gift, so set aside a few minutes each evening to plan. Then revisit the way you spent the last 24 hours. This will help you to live purposefully.”  (In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley)

*******

“When we slow down, we give ourselves time and space to really think about things, to be present, to embrace what’s happening right in front of us, as opposed to flitting from task to task, never quite spending time in the now. …

If we waited until the house was immaculately tidy and work was quiet and the kids were perfectly settled and we had no stresses, then we would still be waiting for permission from life to slow down.

It doesn’t happen like that. Life is messy and layered and there are always things going on. It requires constant tilting.

… It’s amazing what comes to the surface when we slow down and stop cramming stuff in to life. …

We think clearly. We pay attention to the moment. We learn things. We come away feeling rested and rejuvenated and at peace, because we’ve spent time living in the now.” Brooke McAlary (Slow Your Home: The Simpler Life You Want)

Be GratefulThinking about the now, here are a few things I am grateful for today:

I am grateful for my husband, who still works hard and plows ahead, despite some setbacks he experienced in his career this past year. I am proud of him and his determination to find and forge his next path with the company he has worked at/with for over seven years.

I am also grateful that I can continue to work from home, and that he supports that choice, even if the alternative (9 to 5 in an office) might put us in a better position financially.

I am grateful for my sister Gabrielle, whose company finds and provides the source of my current work. [And I’m quite certain she is equally grateful to have one of the best editors around working with/for her. 😉 ]

Although, it is perfectly normal to worry a little bit about the days ahead, since I can’t see what the upcoming months will bring in terms of projects, income, health issues, etc., I also recognize that worrying about the future only takes away today’s joy.

20150612_LizCurtisHiggs_PeaceandContentment

However, as I reminded one of my other sisters recently, it is okay to feel what we feel and to acknowledge it even when we are aware that some people have things harder or worse than we do. It’s good to have perspective, but we don’t have to pretend that we aren’t hurting or frustrated or worried or confused. We should acknowledge it, maybe even give ourselves a moment to wallow in it, “then take a breath, push the bad thoughts away, and move on.”

As Lysa Terkeurst shares: “Be joyful: Intentionally look around for measures of joy each day. There is joy in simply being alive and in being redeemed by God. Remember, joy is a choice we make, not a feeling we hope to get from our circumstances. It’s good to look for the good, to celebrate it even in small ways. Doing so is a moment of victory!”

Look for something positive

So, grab hold of today. Slow down, and pay attention to the moment. Recognize any negative thoughts and/or feelings that might be stealing your joy. Then tuck them away, and reach for the things that give meaning and purpose to your life. Write today’s story with an open and grateful heart!

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Day 7: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

“Sometimes solitude is the only place you can
go to feel safe enough to fall apart.”
Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest,
by Bonnie Gray

There is a big difference between being lonely and enjoying solitude. I work from home, so I spend a lot of time by myself. And I’m okay with that (most of the time). But I do recall many times in my past when I felt all aloneeven when surrounded by other people. I think this often occurs when we are suffering silently with an issue that we don’t feel we can share with others. Maybe it’s too painful or perhaps when we compare our problems to those of others, they seem so unworthy or insignificant. Especially for those of us who are nurturers, we tend to push our own problems aside or shove them down so deep that we “erase” them. Sometimes they stay down or hidden, and we never actually deal with past emotional traumas. Other times, they force their way to the surface when we least expect it.

That’s what happened to Bonnie Gray, the FaithBarista.com blogger and newly published author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace. In Bonnie’s Day 7 blog tour post (part of her book launch) she writes a letter to her lonely seven-year-old self (whom she “re-encountered” with the help of a therapist while experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). I love these words from her letter:

There is someone who collects every drop of your
tears who sits by you at bedside every night. He
knows you find it hard to sleep and it breaks his
heart you cannot feel the touch of his hand on yours.

That someone is Jesus.

And He isn’t going to let these hard years, these
hard moments pass by unnoticed. Unspoken.
Unacknowledged.

It will be painful when you finally realize just how
loved you are, because in order to be found, you
will have to realize you have been lost.

It’s okay. Because this is how you will know that
you are known.
This someone named Jesus will take all your broken pieces.

And He will make something new and beautiful.

Solitude

Sometimes we need a special kind of solitude or spiritual whitespace to walk with God and have a real soul conversation with Jesus.

In her book and on her blog post, Bonnie suggests that we write a letter to our younger selves as part of a self-discovery and healing processWhat would we say to her, knowing what we know now? Another one of Bonnie’s readers, Laura, posted a very beautiful and touching letter to her six-year-old self that serves as a strong reminder of the power that parents, or other loved ones, can have over building up or tearing down children. If you know the childhood rhyme: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” I’m sure you recognize it as a falsehood. Because words are powerful things. And they can hurt. So remember to speak them with care over your children … or to anyone, really.

If you are still carrying around old wounds and battle scars from your past, take time to acknowledge that inner child—who she was, what she experienced, and how she felt. You’ll find Bonnie’s book to be a very helpful resource during this process. Even though her own story unfolds throughout the book, each chapter provides journaling prompts, so you can figure out what may be keeping you from spiritual rest and work on exploring, embracing, and enhancing your own story.

Letting Go

“When we think about spending time with God, we often beat ourselves up for not spending enough time. The guilt kills intimacy of the heart. Whitespace doesn’t keep track of the amount of time. Time doesn’t exist in whitespace. Spiritual whitespace takes place in the eternity of our hearts.”

Remember, God’s presence in our lives and in our hearts is what’s important.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart;
yet no one can fathom what God has done
from beginning to end.”
(Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV)

Bonnie reading from her book in California at a book launch party (photo by Janine Crum)

 

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

Change Your Heart

Do you ever think you might be happier, more fulfilled, less stressed “if only…” you had a better job, you had married someone else, your house was bigger, you made more money, your kids were more respectful? If only things were different? Are you tired of dealing with so many issues? Do you sometimes wish you could take off, fly away, start over? What if the “problem” isn’t everyone or everything else, but you? The way you perceive yourself, your surroundings, and your life in general. Well, there are two things I want to share with you today. 1) Often, when you feel like you are in over your head, you are exactly where God wants you to be. 2) Only you have the power to change your view and find your joy.

Change Your View

Change Your View

I recently started a Priscilla Shirer Bible study on Gideon (Judges 6-8). That woman is an amazing speaker! Today she shared with us that no matter what crisis you are in or where you find yourself in your life, you are not beyond the reach of God. Wherever you are – God can find you. And if you find yourself in a challenging situation or you feel like you are in over your head, hold on and don’t give up hope, you are exactly where God wants you. He will find a way to use your circumstances for your good. Because God is more interested in changing your heart than your circumstances. Check out this short video clip from Priscilla: Your Weakness God’s Strength

Hold On and Don't Give Up Hope

Hold On and Don’t Give Up Hope

No matter how you feel today about your problems or issues, your negative feelings will often lead you down the wrong path. Don’t follow them. Follow the Word instead. And consider this – your crisis often positions you for your calling. But discovering God’s purpose requires that you first recognize His presence. Personally, I connect most with God as Creator. I am more aware of His presence when I am surrounded by (or looking out at) the wonders of His creation. That is why you will find a lot of nature photos in my blog and on my Facebook page if you are a family member or friend. How do you connect with God?

Here is an excerpt from the Gideon study guide that spoke to me: “If we’ll look around, we might also find Him preparing us as He works through our daily lives. Today’s tasks–even the most mundane of them–are often preparation for tomorrow’s calling. They can carry clues to what He is leading us to learn and accomplish as we faithfully serve Him. While it might seem comical to find spiritual principles in washing dishes or answering phones at your desk job, God is teaching you faithfulness, diligence, and integrity through every task.”  (p. 47) What I got from this – stay faithful to the task(s) you’ve been given even if it becomes unpleasant or inconvenient; keep trudging on even if you are in a season of your life that you are not happy about – God will find you there. Better yet, he will meet you there.

God Will Meet You Where You Are

God Will Meet You Where You Are

Speaking of being unhappy in your season or circumstances brings me to my #2 point above: only you can change your view – or viewpoint to be more accurate. I follow a blog called Speak Happiness. I think today’s post fits very well with this conversation: Unhappy? Change Your View. You can look at the same place or the same situation and see it in two different ways. You have to want to be happy to see happy. I also like these words from the author Valerie Alexander’s book Happiness as a Second Language: “One of the most important steps in being happy is ridding yourself of the things that make you unhappy. Whether it’s beating yourself up over an incident that didn’t turn out as you would have liked, or holding a grudge against someone who wronged you, or blaming the universe when things don’t turn out your way, the negative weight of past unhappiness can really inhibit your ability to be truly happy now.” (p. 66)  You must take an active role in releasing the negative and embracing the positive. You may not be able to change your situation, but you can change how you view it, what you hold onto, and what you feel in your heart. You can focus on the good and the joyful things in your life.

Change What You Hold Onto

Change What You Hold Onto

I also love these words from Holly Gerth, another author and blogger I follow, in a post about her new book You’re Going to Be Okay: “When life surprises us, smacks us on the behind, runs away with our dreams it’s our hearts that are left standing there hurting. Our heads know the truth. We understand what’s supposed to make it right in that moment. But somehow even the truth can ring hollow sometimes. So what do we do then? Is it even possible to live with joy, resilience, and strength in this broken world? After connecting with thousands of women about this topic, searching Scripture, and through my own journey I can say without reservation: YES. And it’s not just possible, it’s what God desires for you. Jesus said, ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).”

The Gideon study reminds me of this: It is through our weakness that we experience God’s strength. Do not let your circumstances define you or direct your view. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and keep your heart open to the happiness that can be yours.

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11, 13

Coffee for Your Heart

In Pursuit of Peace

Growing up in a large household of seven children, I remember how my mother used to say that all she wanted for Christmas was “peace and quiet.” We couldn’t understand why anyone would ask for something so silly. As an adult, I can now see how important peace must have been to her. At times, I have received and even sent out Christmas cards expressing a wish for “peace on earth.” And in one of my favorite movies, “Miss Congeniality,” Sandra Bullock and numerous other pageant contestants state that all they really want is “world peace.” But what exactly is peace and how do we attain it?

Webster’s defines peace as 1) a state of tranquility or quiet, 2) freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions, 3) harmony in personal relations …. The Biblical Encyclopedia (King James version) explains peace in the following manner: In the Old Testament, the word implies “welfare,” and is external. The New Testament sense is that of “heart-peace” and is more internal.

I think the pre-Thanksgiving/Christmas season is the perfect time to focus on restoring ourselves, both externally and internally—renewing both body and spirit—by finding what brings us peace and tranquility. As most of us tend to overdo it and expect way too much of ourselves (and others) during the holidays, we often lose sight of the things that truly matter and make this time of year special—family, friends, and, of course, the celebration of the coming of our Savior.

Jesus

If your holiday season is becoming one of dread and exhaustion rather than one of joy and fulfillment, decide what “must do” things you can change or cut out that will allow you to relax and enjoy the days ahead. If you’re dreading mailing out all of those Christmas cards or need to cut the cost from your budget, skip them this year; make a decision to pare down your list and send cards out next year. Or do like my mother now does and send e-cards. However, if you love making and/or sending cards, keep that on your schedule, but get rid of something else.

If just the thought of getting all those decorations out and up is wearing you out, don’t do it. Sometimes simple really can be beautiful and soothing. Also, if you are not a gourmet cook, forget about spending hours in the kitchen attempting to make an impressive presentation of fancy dishes for your guests. Serve something simple and ask everyone attending to contribute. Take a load off your own shoulders; you are probably expecting more from yourself than anyone else is.

Another holiday hint for tranquility—go easy on the gift giving. There’s no need to TOP last year. Shopping for gifts shouldn’t be a competition or a source of financial and physical stress. Yes, it is better to give than to receive, but not to a point where it shatters your budget or makes you miserable. It’s time to rethink the idea of gift giving to make it more thoughtful and joyful. In my family, there are simply too many of us to buy something for everyone, so we have a rotating list. Each year, I have a different sibling or aunt or uncle to buy for. I know ahead of time whose name I have, so I can take some time in the months before Christmas to pick out or make something special and meaningful for them. We do something similar with my husband’s family. Also, remember, gifts of your time are invaluable. In years past, when we lived in Florida, my husband and I gave my mother and grandmother gift certificates that we created on the computer, offering our services for painting or putting up shelves. By doing this, we also got the added bonus of spending more time with them.

Speaking of time, how much of it do you give God during the holidays? If you don’t already, try spending a little more time in his Word. [I have to admit, this is something I need to work on.] As a family, pick a night to Biblegather together to read Matthew 1:18—2:12 on the birth of Christ and the visit of the magi. Talk about ways you can give a gift of yourself to Jesus in honor of the real reason for the season. Everything we do, think, and experience year-round—work, prayer, joys, sorrows—can be offered up to God as an act of worship; this becomes our gift to Him. And by putting our lives in His hands, we gain a sense of assurance that our Heavenly Father is in control, which leads to a real, deep, and lasting peace.

How can we let this sense of peace permeate our everyday lives? First, let’s look at external factors. Stress! We often let ourselves become more stressed than usual at this time of year. There are some stresses, like the loss of a job, a house, or a loved one, that we have no control over, but there are others that can be prevented.

Some keys to prevention are getting enough sleep, maintaining a proper diet, avoiding excess caffeine and other stimulants, and taking time out to relax. [Sure, we all know this, but how many of us actually do all these things?] Some people find that activities like jogging, aerobic exercise, or yoga are helpful in lowering their stress levels; others find the thought of exercise itself stressful. 🙂 But it is important for our mental and physical health that we discover some form of movement to help us “get the juices flowing.” You can try walking, riding a bike, playing tennis, even gardening. Personally, I have a hard time getting myself to the gym (even when it is just down my own stairs), but I do enjoy taking a brisk walk with my dog around the neighborhood. It gets my heart rate up and allows me a chance to breathe in some fresh air. Plus, my dog reminds me that it is also important to stop and “smell the roses.” Find something fun that will help you get up, get out, and release some tension. Less tension leads to a feeling of peace and well-being.

The Woods

Once you’ve got those muscles flexing and stretching, it’s time to work on “clearing your head.” According to a Roper Starch Worldwide study, the number one de-stressor around the world is listening to music, followed by watching TV, then taking a bath or shower. Other stress busters include laughing, playing with children or pets, spending time in nature, keeping a daily journal, spending time with a hobby, and doing something rewarding, like volunteer work. I believe that one of the strongest combatants of stress can be prayer.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Prayer is more than asking God for things we want. It’s about being in His presence; it’s about talking to Him like a loving Father… like a best friend. And when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed in life, it’s important to lean on friends, not to ask them to solve your problems, but to gain a little emotional support from their presence. God is always present for us; we just need to be more intentional about being present for Him.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he says: “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4–7, NIV).

In a chaotic and constantly changing world, when our days are filled with stress and our minds are filled with all the things we have to do, how can anyone have genuine peace? True peace can only come from placing your life and future into the hands of a loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful God who is greater than you and greater than your circumstances. God does not promise that things will never go wrong for you or that you will never have overly full or stressful days. But what He does promise is, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV). You will never have to face anything alone. When you find yourself going through difficult times, God promises to be there with you and help you through them, if you just call on Him. That’s true comfort and peace.

Squirrel

Finding Focus

First touches of fall

First touches of fall

How sad that I haven’t written on my blog in almost a year. I knew I had been busy and that it had been a while, but it’s crazy how a whole year has slipped by on me. I hadn’t realized that it had been that long. That’s what happens when we don’t make time for the important things in our lives. We lose opportunities to create special moments that will provide us with memories we can look back on.
Recently, because I have been working so much, I thought about writing about the importance of making time to enjoy some of the little things like sitting on my back porch with a cup of coffee or actually working on some projects in my craft room.  When I started reading some of my past blog entries, I realized I wrote about this very thing last September. But I haven’t been able to follow through on it. That, too, is sad.

I am currently at a very busy stage in my work (writing, copyediting, proofreading, etc.), which I love. But some days I feel like I spend way too much time at my desk, looking at this:

My desk

when what I really wish I had more time to enjoy would be this:

The creek behind our house

The creek behind our house

So, once again, I find myself working on finding focus in my life. Or maybe it is more accurate to say adjusting my focus. I know what the important things are. I just need to find a way to fit them all into my schedule. I need to set priorities and stick to them. Bart and I both need to get back to working out (I’ve been off schedule on that way longer than he has). I’d like to enjoy a little more pleasurable reading time (I have been starting to fit that in again). I’d love to get back in the craft room (I’ll probably actually have to put something on the calendar to get that started). I would like to spend a little time outside of the house with friends (which is one of the last things I make time for). I need to give myself some down time where I’m not doing anything but sitting and relaxing (that one is hard for me). And I’d like to spend a little more time with Bart (that one is hard due to his busy work schedule).

The one thing Bart and I both make time for is our sweet Bella. She will be a year old this month. And though the first few months of puppyhood were trying times, as she required a lot of attention and maintenance, things are smoothing out and we have begun to establish our own rhythms for the day so that I can get done what I need to and she gets what she needs to be happy. One of the things that Bart and I enjoy doing together is taking Bella to the dog park. It gives us an opportunity to get outside, hang out together, and watch Bella have fun running around with other dogs. I truly believe that Bella is much more well adjusted and socialized than many other dogs I’ve met because of her frequent interactions with the various people and dogs at the parks and at doggy day care (we drop her off when we are going to be away from the house most of the day).

Bella

Bella

So, I know what my focus should be. Or what I would like it to be. The question is – Will/Can I make it happen?  What are some of your goals for finding/adjusting your days and your priorities? Does anyone have any tips or suggestions for how they make time for the important things in life when they have a busy schedule already? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Meanwhile, no promises about how often my musings will appear, but I am going to try to write and post more frequently in the coming months.

A New Vision

At the start of the year, I had a vision for a new blog. Inspired by a book, Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider, and several magazines, I decided I wanted to write about living a life with more meaning and substance and less stuff and chaos. Based on my last name (and url availability), I chose Fuller Way of Life as my domain name. Well, as life would have it, the first few months of the year have certainly been “fuller,” and because of that, I haven’t found the time to actually simplify my life or get my new blog going … until now.

At the beginning of the year, all my magazines contained articles on decluttering, organizing, and eating healthier — concepts many of us are trying to incorporate into our lives.

But something happened recently that stirred the writer in me, and I feel that I must put the words and thoughts down soon or they will endlessly circle my mind and mentally drain me until I do.

To appease the muse, I am working on a post that doesn’t quite fit with my new theme, yet I feel compelled to write it. I had hoped to post it this past weekend, but I was suffering from some fibro pains and was totally drained, so I rested  instead.

Sometime this week, I will get this “special” post up, and then hopefully move on to more lighthearted content filled with tips and recommendations for healthy recipes, time-saving products, and earth-changing movements. I plan to post once a week, probably on Mondays, maybe Tuesdays. That’s my plan anyway … only time will tell what actually happens. 🙂

Meanwhile, if you were a follower of my blog “Everyday Moments,” please go ahead and follow me again here at Fuller Way of Life. I recently migrated my posts from Blogger to Word Press, which I believe will give me a lot more flexibility and will make it easier for more of you to follow me.

And if you weren’t a previous follower, I hope you will choose to follow me now. I promise I will have some interesting household suggestions, product recommendations, blogs to check out, “did you know” concepts, and more.

For example, did you know you could use removable window decals (like the ones sold for holidays) to decorate and distinguish wine and water glasses at parties or even for everyday use? It’s a quick and easy DIY project.

Do you have keys lying around the house or in a drawer that you have no idea what they go to? Check back with me next week, and I’ll tell you how you can recycle them for a good cause.

Hope your week is only as full as you wish it to be.