Finding My Voice

When I first started my blog back in 2010, I titled it Everyday Moments: Celebrating Life, Love, and Laughter. I knew I wanted to use my own photos and I wanted to write encouraging words, but I really wasn’t sure exactly where I was going to go with it or who it might appeal to. Funny how, looking back, I just noticed that my very first entry fit well with the Faith Barista’s post on perfectionism from February 18th.

At that time, this is how I saw my blog developing: “my eyes are being opened to the importance of everyday moments and how we react to them or how we change because of them. Noticing the beauty around us. Spending time really talking to someone you care about. Finding things to laugh about every day. These are the types of things I’d like to share in my blog as it develops and grows.”

Squirrel

Several months went by before I wrote again.  In January of 2011, I began combining my words with words from Scripture, devotionals, and other blogs I read. I focused on the word “trust” for the month. Two entries were strictly quotes from other sources. While I think they are good quotes, I see that without my own story surrounding the words that I share, they are less likely to engage someone looking to connect.

In the following months, I wrote about things like “rest” and “peace,” but then I got to second-guessing myself. In May, I included these words in my post—“What Do I Hope to Accomplish?”:  “I’ve been thinking a lot about my blog lately. I’m not sure yet if I have really found ‘my voice’ or my niche. I’ve been struggling with figuring out what works best for me on posting specific topics or following certain formats. I believe, for the most part, that some of my content has been good and valid, but it also seems like what I have been writing is more appropriate for a paper for school rather than something directly from my heart. And I have been more worried about consistency rather than connecting. I don’t want my posts to seem like I am giving a lecture or a sermon (although many a good sermon has changed lives).  But I would like for people to want to read what I write.”

Dove

I thought about my title to my blog and how I should be showing more moments of love and laughter, so I later wrote about “Living with Joy” and I included pictures of some of the things that bring me joy, starting with my family and moving on to other things.

Live with Joy

And then came 2012. I was inspired by books and magazines on getting more organized and living a life with more meaning and less stuff. At that time, I changed my blog service and my domain name. I chose Fuller Way of Life (because Fuller is my last name) and I made my tag line “on living simply and living well.” Here  is what I planned to focus on “I promise I will have some interesting household suggestions, product recommendations, blogs to check out, ‘did you know’  concepts, and more.” I guess I thought that I might appeal more to others if I offered them a compilation of some of the information I was discovering for myself in simplifying my life. On top of that, with the big surge in Pinterest use, it seemed like so many people were focusing on food. I was doing a lot of cooking and trying new recipes myself so I began writing about food and sharing recipes with others, as in my “Food for Thought” post.

IMG_7915

I continued down this path for a few months. I think the recipes were appreciated and I enjoyed sharing them, but truthfully, I didn’t feel like this was the right voice for my blog or for me. It didn’t really fulfill me or provide the creative outlet I was looking for. In July, I eased back into something a little more thought-provoking with my “Seasons of Life” post, but ended it with a recipe. Just to cover all the bases, I guess. 🙂

Next up in my blog journey was our move from Texas to Kentucky and a big focus on “Finding Time” during a very busy period: I “realized that sometimes I need to forget about all the things that should be done and actually make or schedule time for the things that really matter to me – like writing, making crafts, and capturing images with my camera. I also need to try not to get so caught up in doing that I miss out on the chance to experience simply being.

IMG_8592

I delved one more time in some food sharing, and then … there was nothing. From October 2012 until October 2013, I didn’t write or post anything. Right after writing about finding time, it seems I was unable to actually make time for doing something meaningful that I enjoyed. “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.”

I’m actually quite happy with my November post – “In Pursuit of Peace.” I feel like it has the right combination of personal story, quotes from other sources, and  real-life application. Plus, I have continued to use my own photos to enhance my posts. I know I personally enjoy blogs that include pictures as well as words, and I enjoy sharing the images I have captured, especially the ones from nature.

Ice Melting

Now, with the help of bloggers like Bonnie Gray, the Faith Barista and Holley Gerth, 2014 is off to a good start. Although I still cannot keep up with regular weekly posts (and I don’t see how anyone does this on a daily basis), their weekly writing prompts are helping me to focus on, develop, and continue to share my voice … whatever it happens to be or wherever it wants to take me that week. And each time I submit a new blog post, it makes me feel somewhat accomplished. I also experience the joy of connecting to other bloggers at the same time, reading and enjoying their words and their journeys. This community of bloggers is really helping me continue to find my voice and appreciate the beauty and value of my own words as well as the words of others.

If you are a creative person (whether it be writer or artist or cook) or you want to be creative but are afraid that you aren’t good enough or you don’t know where to start, just begin anyway. As you work and play, you will begin to find areas where you are more often “in the zone” and where you feel fulfilled. And that’s really more what it’s about – not creating what’s necessarily pleasing to others, but finding your own joy and happiness in the process.

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

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.