The Protection Racket, Fears, Worry, God and Other Things

Yesterday, I got unsettling news and all day long my prayers began with “I’m scared” and “God, I’m afraid” – even knowing that “fear is a form of unbelief.” Fear is also what nags at you when your self-imposed methods of protection begin weakening.

I scolded myself all day long for being afraid. Why? Well, in the last year, I’ve had some groundbreaking personal development, breakthroughs and realizations. I’m proud of that. I’m in love with the joy I’ve come to know through mental breakthrough. I feel a small rush of adrenaline and the tingle of butterflies in my tummy almost daily when I realize how incredible life is. I’ve shared that somewhat publically.

So, when I experience dark moments of fear for my future, shed tears because I don’t know how I can do everything by myself and just feel scared – I generally don’t tell anyone. Sometimes, I might call a friend but then hang-up before they answer because, really? Didn’t I just post on Facebook how awesome life is? How can I be sitting at home crying because I’m scared I’m not up to handling all that life is throwing my way? I don’t want people to think the joy I described in the previous paragraph isn’t real. I want them to know it’s here, it’s stayed here for months and months and no, no drugs are needed. It’s real. I want it for everyone. So, it’s hard to reach out – even to a close friend – because I want them to know that inner joy is real if they don’t have it yet. I don’t want my example to cause doubts. (Clearly, my inner peace still needs work;-) So, I keep quiet. I’m protecting people and some of them I don’t even know. Who made that rule?

This misguided sense of “protecting others” seems to hurt the one doing the protecting more. Perhaps even symbolically martyring ourselves albeit unintentionally.

I don’t like to admit that there may have been more valleys than mountaintops in the last several years. There are some good reasons for not admitting it (in my mind, anyway). Admitting there were more bad times than I let on implies a bad attitude, poor perception and even poor judgment. But there is more to my own reticence than just bad choices. I think it was the whole subconscious ‘protection racket’ I had going on.

For example, sometimes admitting that things aren’t so great feels like a betrayal to the ones closest to you. Often, we don’t admit that we aren’t doing so well because we’re protecting someone. And, admitting that to ourselves, means that we have to admit that life isn’t perfect, that the people we love aren’t perfect, we are not perfect and even that the people we care about don’t care about us as much as we believed. And that last, is a huge reason why so many people choose to pretend that things aren’t so bad and protect people when they should be standing up to the truth and giving their own hearts a little TLC.

And once you admit that you’re protecting your own little illusion(s)?

It opens up a whole kettle of introspection. Some will run from that. But those who don’t run learn some critical information about themselves. It means you have to face up to some ugly facts. Wading through them ranks right up there with cleaning your bathroom after the sewage backed up. In some cases, cleaning the bathroom is easier. When you try to protect someone, you’re actually trying to protect your image of the relationship and how it should be. This can be with a significant other, your kids, family, friends. So much energy focused on denying what’s in front of us is exhausting both mentally and physically. In relationships with significant others, it’s like a never-ending charade where you never, ever get a chance to be you. Eventually all parties involved become someone other than themselves because they’re just worn out. They don’t recognize each other much less the person in the mirror.

But are we really protecting the other person, the relationship, and the illusion that everything is okay? I say no. We are unconsciously protecting our hearts. We are subconsciously scared of “what will happen” if we face up to reality: that things aren’t the way we want them, we can’t change it and we can’t force other people to change. That’s scary when it’s your future involved.

But it’s breathtakingly beautiful when I recognize it and set it free.

I’ve “stood up” to most of those realizations this year. Seems crazy but I can feel self-growth happening. Bizarre but cool. I’ve learned that I always have a choice to see through “clear lenses.”

I’ve learned that there are “turning points” in every relationship where we get to make choices, to set boundaries, to decide what roads to take, what words to say, what battles to fight, what’s worth it and what’s worthless.

So, while a small part of me wants to think my “valleys” were a waste of my time, I know I learned something most people don’t. Recognizing moments are a key secret to lasting relationships of all kinds. I’m better able to recognize those moments than I’ve been my whole life. I’m sure I’ll miss a few here and there but I’ve learned the importance of trusting my “gut” and acting on my heart’s conscience.

So what happened yesterday after I spent the whole day saying “God, I’m afraid?” After I had a seriously serious pity party, I wiped my tears, blew my nose very unladylike and crowned myself Drama Queen. Wait, you want to know what happened after that, right? I opened my Jesus Calling book to the current date. Here’s what it said and please note the scripture I bolded:

I am the gift that continuously gives—bounteously, with no strings attached. Unconditional Love is such a radical concept that even My most devoted followers fail to grasp it fully. Absolutely nothing in heaven or on earth can cause Me to stop loving you. You may feel more loved when you are performing according to your expectations. But My Love for you is perfect; therefore it is not subject to variation. What does vary is your awareness of My loving Presence.

When you are dissatisfied with your behavior, you tend to feel unworthy of My Love. You may unconsciously punish yourself by withdrawing from Me and attributing the distance between us to My displeasure. Instead of returning to Me and receiving My Love, you attempt to earn My approval by trying harder. All the while, I am aching to hold you in My everlasting arms, to enfold you in My Love. When you are feeling unworthy or unloved, come to Me. Then ask for receptivity to My unfailing Love.

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.—1 John 4:15–16, 18

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”—Deuteronomy 33:27

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.—Psalm 13:5

I thought that was pretty good but I didn’t totally let it sink in. I mean, I read it, right? But then after tossing and turning a few hours, I woke up, grabbed my iPad and pulled up the Bible app. I figured I’d read a bit. I have no idea how it worked this way and don’t remember what I read in that app last, but the app opened the Bible right up to this scripture:

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

—1 John 4:15–16, 18

It gets better. In the morning, I read a separate devotional based on a scripture. Guess what the scripture turned out to be? Yep.. 1 John 4:15-18.

Given my prayers beginning with “God, I’m scared…” off and on the previous day, ya think there is a message here about my fears?!

I think that this is what they mean by “getting a Word” from the Lord.

It’s these moments that freak me out in a good way. I literally giggle out loud and say “Thank you, God” several times over.

 

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This is My Life and It’s Beautiful

This is my life and it's beautiful-2

I love this picture.  I think about it off and on.  Randomly.  I took it a few years ago. I was sitting on a mattress in the floor.   More on the “how-I- had- a- pile- of- nuts, bolts, and screws- on- top -of- my- iPad- on- a- mattress- in- the- floor” later.    I think we all have a photo like that or an image in our minds that we can’t “un-see.”  Some of those images are funny. Some not.  You know, like the time your 10 year old nephew barged in on you in the bathroom.  You’d like to un-see his expression and he’d like to un-see a lot more…

If you’re lucky in your life, you’ll have a lot of moments that you want to keep “seeing.”  Memories.  There’s also moments you  do what I call “feel – seeing.”  Where your soul or your essence seems to memorize the way certain moments feel right down to how your hair slid across your face when the wind blew, the smell of someone cooking fried chicken nearby and the sound of wind chimes and crickets. Maybe it’s the flood of adrenaline right before you walk on stage for recognition knowing your awesome but scared silly.  The rush of butterflies before a first kiss. You can bring feelings back.  They’re memories, too.   I once told someone that I knew exactly how “places felt” and that I said goodbye to moments in time. I was promptly told I was weird.   It came up because I mentioned that when I left home for college – I sat outside and said goodbye to the air, the trees and how it felt to sit on the tailgate of my dad’s truck as a teenager living at home.   And yes, the night before I left west Texas after college – I sat on the tailgate of my truck and said goodbye to Abilene, wind, trees, moments and a phase in my life.  It had it’s ups, downs, sadness, laughter, learning and living.  It wasn’t all pretty but looking back, I  think it was beautiful.

Maybe that’s why I love this picture of nuts, bolts and screws.  It symbolized a lot more than me moving back into my home (one that I’d previously talked to and said “goodbye” to).    I was in my bedroom, surrounded by boxes and my “movers” had unloaded as much of my stuff as they could the night before – at freaking midnight.   But everyone was gone and I didn’t have a clue how to put together an iron bed.  So the king size mattresses were in the floor and I’d gone to sleep on them.  Now I had to figure out the bed.  I dumped out all the screws and bolts on top of my iPad beside me and stared at them.  And I liked them. I thought they were pretty.  Still do.  They were dirty and shiny.  They were all different and I sure as heck didn’t know where they all went and how the pieces would fit.  For some reason, I picked up my phone and took a picture of them.  Maybe I was stalling on figuring it all out.  I don’t know.  Just snapped the shot.

This is my life and it's beautiful-2

I’ve thought about this picture off and on for the last 3 years.  It just comes back to my mind now and then as something I want to look at.  Maybe that’s weird.  Maybe not.  Because it occurs to me that these pieces represent my life.  Things are going to happen.  I’m going to get dirty.  Things might blow up.  Might fall apart for a wee bit.  Turns out there’s beauty in the way you pick each piece up.  Life isn’t always bolted into place.   Sometimes I’ll get screwed and sometimes I’ll nail the moment 😉   No matter what – I can always pick up the pieces and build something new or figure out how something else works.  And if it sometimes takes a long time to get over the difficult parts, that’s just me scratching my head in confusion, talking to my heart, trying to figure out where everything goes.  Some “life projects” are harder than others.

So, this picture?  It’s my life and it’s beautiful.

Speak to Me

God voice

 

Have you ever really wanted God to speak to you ?  

Undeniably reach out and touch you and you touch Him?  


I try to pray on the way to the gym. Not because working out scares me. But because I have trouble making myself stick to a prayer routine. Growing up, prayer was something you did at church, maybe before you went to bed at night and before you ate pot roast on Sunday after church.

As an adult with my own life, challenges and the task of setting an example for my children, I want prayer to have more meaning. For me. For my kids. Back then, it was just something to check off on a list before you ate or went to sleep. Or got on an airplane to fly somewhere.

So, on the way to the gym, I pray. I’m alone in the Jeep usually. And if I’ve had a hard day or I’ve felt pretty emotional about something, I also yell at God, simultaneously apologize for yelling and ask the hard questions out loud.  One of the questions has been repeated a lot lately. I keep asking God to speak LOUDER to me. To be more direct. I want to feel unmistakable supernatural presence that can only be GOD. I tell Him that I KNOW He can hear me. I demand to know why others talk about “hearing God’s voice” or say that “God spoke a “word” or gave them a particular “word” over their life.   Some people describe a still, small voice. Sure, that’s from scripture. I know people who claim to have seen angels during deep prayer, speak in tongues and describe being “slain in the Spirit.”

What I, personally, think about all these forms of communing with the Lord is not important. My curiosity wants to know how they KNOW without a doubt, they are hearing from God. What’s the common denominator? Some people mock these things. I say, no matter my own questions, they cannot all be delusional. For thousands of years now, people have recorded experiences with our Creator.   Around 2000 years ago, God came to Earth in a form that wouldn’t frighten us. And a few thousand (or more?) years before that, ancient history records further interaction with God.   I keep asking God to show Himself in a big way. A way that my stubborn brain couldn’t begin to deny. Seriously, God… Jonah refusing to go to Nineveh and the whale thing? Moses got a burning bush, all sorts of crazy signs and an entire sea parted before him. Those lions didn’t eat Daniel. And Paul got his name changed after having his sight removed and restored.

As I asked God this, I thought to myself that in this day and age, maybe miracles are explained as coincidence or imagination. After all, if a donkey started talking to me, it would likely end sitting in front of a psychiatrist writing me a prescription.

Even so, I asked God to speak to me, to show me that it was impossible to doubt Him.   On this day, as I ask, a memory of a scripture teases at my mind. Mark 8:18 perhaps? Jesus taking some people to task for seeing but continuing to have stubborn unbelief. I don’t want to have stubborn unbelief. But I’m searching for something.

On this day, I tell God that I’m sometimes afraid that the skeptics are right. That when I’m trying to make a decision about my future or I’m uncertain, it’s really tough when I can’t “hear” Him. I tell God that I start wondering “What if God is really what all the new age sorts think?” Just variations of their own inner spirits. One common form of thinking is that “WE” are all God. That’s SO depressing. Cause, if I’m God and you’re God and President Obama is God…. You see? Just depressing.

Back to this day. I’m driving. It happened to be a Sunday. I’d gone to church for the first time in months. (Long story, long life.) The lesson that day was about prayer.   The pastor commented that when we first start to pray, it will feel emotionless. I’ve been praying with varying intensity most of my life. But I think he was saying once I get into a habit and make it a priority – it won’t feel so one sided – and I’ll have that interaction I’m seeking.   He said that like any habit, you need to “show up and do the work” to see results.   I get that. I still argue that undeniable interaction should happen sooner in the relationship. People will say to ‘have faith’ and remind me that it’s all “God’s timing.” Fine. But sometimes I want things to happen in my timing so I can understand faster.

And so I continued nagging God – for undeniable proof that there’s more than just us humans trying to control the world. I said my “Amen” and went inside the gym.   I climbed on the elliptical and forgot my prayer while I concentrated on reducing the effects of gravity on my rear end.

An hour later, I’m walking out the door. My eyes are drawn to the basket of colored slips of paper on the counter by the exit.   The YMCA keeps a basket full of colored slips labeled something like “spiritual vitamins” and each paper has a scripture verse printed on it.   Normally, my 9 year old son grabs 2 for each of us. Today, he wasn’t with me and I was just going to skip it.   I almost walked out the door but felt drawn back to the papers. “Alright!” I grumble. Grab the slip and walk out the door. I look down and it says: 

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

I sigh. Just a basic verse. I guess God isn’t even going to tell me anything by scripture.

Then…. I’m pretty sure I felt my brain give a twitch.

In the beginning, GOD created….

Didn’t I just tell God that I wondered whether someone besides us humans was in charge? Didn’t I just yell that I wanted proof that there really is a sentient presence or creator who exists and interacts?

Well, God knows I DO believe that a creator made the earth and all that’s in it. That He had to be involved enough for living beings of all sorts to be so amazing.

So…was the scripture a clear reminder of what I know and therefore should inherently trust is real? Or was it a coincidence that jolted memory of conviction?

I can’t answer that for others. But I did walk away from the gym and drive home with a smile.

So, maybe I know for me and that’s what matters.

5 Ways You Can Work It Like a Dog

Enjoy Life: Work It Like a Dog

 

Watching my dog Maya is a great source of inspiration and positive emotions for me.   Throwing a ball or a Frisbee over and over across a field for her to retrieve can sometimes bring me the same benefit as meditation. She’s a two-year-old German Shepherd with a huge amount of energy. Sometimes she forgets to mind her manners.   Ladylike is not the word I would use to describe her. (You should hear her burp. Ugh.) Yet, she has some qualities that we can all benefit from. I’ve often thought that anyone with a goal or say, an entrepreneur with a dream, would do well to emulate Maya when she has her mind set on something she wants.

That being said, Maya and I put together some tips so that you, too, can work it like a dog.

5 Ways You Can Work it Like a Dog

Never Give Up. Be Relentless.   When Maya wants to play ball or fetch, she will follow you around the house trying to push her ball or Frisbee into your hands. You cannot escape her.  Want to unload the dishwasher? Maya drops her ball in the dishwasher. Walking on the treadmill? Expect a Frisbee to land under your feet. Maya does not give up. Eventually someone gives in and tosses the ball or rolls it a little distance. But they respond.   We think that’s how life is, too.  Work it like a dog. Don’t give up. Never stop trying. If you believe in someone, in some cause or a personal dream is worth having, follow Maya’s example and don’t take “no” for answer.

Keep Excited, Use Enthusiastic Focus.   Maya loves few things more than she loves going to the lake. In fact, when we get about a mile away from it, she KNOWS where she’s going and she cannot sit still. It gets very loud in the Jeep as she barks, yips, turns in circles and tries to climb over the seat as soon as we turn in. And once we are there? Well, the poor soul left holding the leash better hang on tight, because Maya is going in that lake one way or another.   She’s so happy, she can’t think of anything else.   Wouldn’t it be great if us humans could be that way even after we aren’t little kids?   So excited about our end results, our destinations and our dreams? Maya keeps this enthusiasm whether it’s time for a walk, going outside to see her best friend dog, Freckles (lives next door), or jumping on the trampoline with our son. Yes, Maya plays on the trampoline. Just try and keep her away from that fun! She approaches life with passion and excitement. Whatever it is, Maya’s down with it.   That’s how I want to be, too.     It took me awhile but one day I realized that life, living it and just the whole journey of it – good or bad – is a present from God. I think God hopes we will do our best to enjoy the journey like Maya does.

Recovering from Disappointments Quickly is Loyalty to Your Goals.   Maya is a pro at this. If she doesn’t get to go outside when she wants to, she’ll sit by the door and make little groaning noises. Imagine a dog making that sound a kid makes when told “no.” “awwwwnnnh….” But 5 minutes later, she’s in your face trying to steal a kiss whether you called her over or not. She’s happy to be with you.   If she gets into trouble for getting in the trash or coming into the dining area during dinner, no worries. She’ll put her head down, fold her ears back and look really, really sad. But the whole time? She’s waiting for a better moment. Maybe she’ll try again. Or maybe she’ll go get her ball and try to get you to play instead. The point is: Maya does not let disappointment ruin her day or her overall mission.   I want that personality trait for myself. How many times have I let a discouraging word or experience ruin my whole day? Maya’s got the right idea.

Don’t Be Afraid to Get Close. Be Real. Maya does have issues with respecting “personal space.” She will randomly get in your face for a kiss or to sniff you. She has to be reminded she is nearly 70 lbs. and cannot just run and jump into your arms. Still, she watches her people closely. She reads emotions on faces. If you sit down at the table to work, on the swing to enjoy your morning coffee, or on the couch to watch T.V., you can expect Maya to push her 70lb furry hide right behind your kneecaps where she will stay pressed up against you because she enjoys being close.   Humans should also try to get closer to others because they care. Maybe not closer in physical space. If you invade the personal space of someone you don’t know that well, it could lead to negative interaction… a punch in the nose or possibly an arrest warrant 😉 Still, we can all take the time to chat a little more, ask a few more real questions (not just business) and let those we interact with see that we’re real people.

Wag Your Tail Often. Right. If you wag your own tail excessively, you may get some interesting looks. The point here is that Maya is always smiling. Dogs wag their tails when they’re happy.   Maya is happy ALOT. That tail wags everywhere. Books get knocked off shelves, glasses turned over and things just go flying when that bionic happy tail starts wagging like crazy.

Maya and I think you should smile like crazy and often. Chaos might ensue at your house, at school or while you are working. But it will be fun and if you use your smile while pursuing your goals, it’ll work like a magnet.   Just ask Maya: Whatever she hits with that happy tail usually causes people to come running.

 

Maya and Me

 

Minimal Fireplace?

Recently I repainted the living room.  Going in the direction of less is more I decided to remove almost all the pictures from the walls and the fireplace mantel.   At some point, I may need to post photos of the living room but currently it’s waiting for  a large cabinet to be painted, which will then have a 70-90 gallon fish tank placed on top of it.   I’m trying to convince my sons to be minimalistic about all they put inside the aforementioned fish tank but that’s a story for another time.

So….back to the fireplace.  I did not take “before” shots of it but I will describe it to you:  On the mantle are several framed pictures, a small statue, some painted rocks.  Also, a toy helicopter, a pen and a tack.  If you have kids, you’ll understand how random things appear in odd places.  One of the ways I’ve gotten the kids to cooperate with our own version of minimalism is to say something like this when they are cleaning:  “….and there should be NOTHING on the floor but the furniture when you are done…!”  or “Unique-ness!  We’re decorating the mantle with empty soda bottles now.  Awesome!”  (<—super heavy dose of mom sarcasm) and my other favorite:  “The only thing on the bathroom counter should be the soap….if there is something else -like your underwear and socks…you’re NOT done….”  <— This hollered from the other room almost always causes a sigh from a kiddo and footsteps back into the bathroom.  Still, it’s easy for everyone if there are less things to figure out where they go.

But back to the fireplace….

Hanging above the mantle was an old painting of a German Shepherd I had for 13 years.  She passed away over 10 years ago.  Our family has a new 2 year old German Shepherd (Maya) who deserves her own painting some day. With a little tug on my heart, I made the decision to put away the old painting.   Minimalism emphasizes focusing on what’s most important and determining priorities.  It doesn’t mean your memories are less valuable.  For me,  the less there is to organize and clean, the less time there is spent stressing.   Less stress improves my memory.

So that was the top of the fireplace I just rambled on about.  The bottom of the fireplace? On the right side was a large terracotta pot (which contained a  missing flip flop belonging to my younger son and another toy helicopter), several vases on the left side and some painted Mason jars on the inside.

I decided everything needed to go.   I looked at the fireplace and remembered hearing that just sitting a large interesting picture or piece of art on top of a mantle (not hanging it) helped liven up a room quickly and simply.  I am so not a domestic goddess.  But I know where my domestic goddess friends hang out.  So, I made a quick trip to Hobby Lobby.  Two hours later, I arrived home with something that matched my couches and walls.  (I think it looks like a bunch of mandalas which I also like to color but that’s another story….)

colorful painting

 

Then, I looked at the lower half of the fireplace and thought of some vases I’d picked up from my sister awhile back.  I could sit them inside the fireplace…..hmmmm…. but then I looked IN the fireplace and saw this:

dirty fireplace

 

I didn’t want to show that off but I SO didn’t want to clean it either.   Unfortunately,  my kids were spending the week with their father so I couldn’t force them to do it.   No help for it, scrubbing black soot was in my future.

I scrubbed for awhile with MelaMagic (an industrial strength cleaner without harmful chemical ingredients) and also used a little sandpaper.    I wanted it to be totally white but this is a fireplace, after all.  We do use it when it gets cold but that’s months away.  I was hoping to make the fireplace mostly bare.  I got pretty close to making all the stains come up though.  Check it out:

Fireplace after Melamagic

 

That being done, I grabbed the vases and now the fireplace is one of the places I can tell my kids – when they are cleaning the living room – “and there should be NOTHING on the fireplace!  The room isn’t picked up if there IS!”    Here’s my minimal fireplace:

Minimal fireplace

Minimal Bathroom

I’ve kept my bathroom looking neat like this for several months.  It’s super easy to clean and switching all the towels and linens to white makes life a lot less complicated as well.  I read somewhere that lots of white and white space is soothing to the mind and for me, it turned out to be a great choice.

I used what I had on hand: Mason jars, old flower vases and filled them with more “white things.”   I still battle with keeping my cabinets organized underneath but since throwing out 85% of the contents (because they weren’t useful or used often), it helps keep under the sinks organized as well.

 

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Who’s Says God Doesn’t Use Facebook?

God Facebook

[Note: This is very casually written – it was a Facebook post.  I decided to share it here because I love how God shows us there are still good and honest people out there – and we meet them when we least expect it.   My sisters, brother and I have become Facebook friends with the lady who returned the wallet since this post was written.  She lives about an hour from me and I hope to meet her in person someday.]

I was talking to my sister, Misty, today and she told me about what happened to them just last night. She and her husband, Brad, were traveling and stayed overnight up past Round Rock, Texas.   On the way back from their son’s baseball tournament, they stopped at Buc-cee’s to fill up with gas. Next, they stopped to grab some lunch where Brad discovered he couldn’t find his wallet. He assumed he’d left it in their vehicle. So, Misty paid the tab and they went on their way. Brad didn’t check for his wallet because he just assumed it was in the RV.

Then something weird happened. As they are driving through San Antonio, Misty’s phone rings and it’s our brother, Scott.   Scott lives up in Leander, Texas and didn’t know they had passed through the Austin area that day. She answers and he asks her – out of the blue it seems – “Do you know where Brad’s wallet is?”

Obviously, Misty was startled and said something like “Um, no, now that you mention it, I don’t know.”   Brad confirmed again he just thought it was in the RV somewhere.

Scott then tells them that some nice lady requested friendship on Facebook and said that she has Brad’s wallet and she FOUND IT NEAR AUSTIN ON TOP OF A GAS PUMP!!   Yep, Brad left his wallet there while pumping gas.   Turns out the folks at Buc-cee’s suggested posting a comment on their Facebook page and that inspired this lady to look up Brad on Facebook. Brad doesn’t have a Facebook page but Misty does. This lady then starts friend requesting Misty and some of her friends and finally gets our brother.

Moral of the story: God makes good people. And those good people are on Facebook.

Also, Misty says Brad is going to get his own Facebook page now….

Minimalism: The Cure for Being Late

Minimalism- Cure for Being Late

Minimalism- Cure for Being Late

I’m one of those people who gets distracted by ‘things’ on her way out of the house.  I find myself going back to get a towel out of the floor, wash the dishes left in the sink, demand that the trash be emptied or checking the doors, etc.    Last year, my resolution was to work on that.  I gradually began consciously trying to leave earlier and ignore the distractions.  I did really good, considering.  In fact, I made it most places on time.  Not early.  But on time.

It wasn’t enough.  I kept feeling inside that it shouldn’t be so difficult to get out the door. Why do stupid things distract me?   Seriously, will anyone see that the empty water bottles are still on the counter while I’m gone?  That I forgot to throw my laundry in the hamper that morning when I got out of the shower?  Ugh… But what if….?!!?!    What if what?   Someone sees the water bottles and the laundry?  Sigh.  I know.

In early 2015, I had what you might call a wake up call.   That’ll be in another post someday.  But, in a moment of yelling at God,  I’m pretty sure I had a “mental breakthrough.”    I’ve always read about people having them and how they just “woke up” changed one day.  I scoffed.  Til it happened to me one afternoon.  I remember sitting at my desk.  I was praying and all the sudden, I could ‘see’ how I had been living my life, how my attitude affected my path.   I realized I’d gotten depressed somewhere along the way.  I’d lost track of personal goals, dreams and my energy levels.  I knew that I hadn’t consciously chosen to get off track.  I wasn’t even sure when it occurred.  Just a rough idea.  I felt simultaneously cut to the heart and incredibly happy.   Regret for the time lost.  But so grateful to get that moment of clarity that signaled transformation of heart and mind.   In that moment, it was like someone wiped a very dirty window and I was finally able to see out of it again.  There were other revelations and steps I took to put me on track.  Long story short:  There were other factors in my personal life as well but as part of my wake up call,  I also realized that too much “stuff” had stifled my energy, my motivation and my outlook on life in general.

Compared to others, I wasn’t a slob.  I had the same stuff problem as most Americans do.  Too much stuff to go in your space.  I’ve even had people tell me: “I didn’t think you had much stuff to begin with.  What are you talking about? Minimalism? What’s that?”

The Minimalists define it this way:  Minimalism is a tool used to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.

For me, having to take time to organize unnecessary items and extra clothing impairs my ability to think straight, to get out the door on time, to keep my house clean and even to be in a good mood around my family.  In short, ‘stuff’ stole happiness, freedom and fulfillment from me.  And it was all my choice to keep it.  Bleh!  The good news?  It was also my choice to let it go.

20 years ago, I had a lot less stuff.  And a lot less stress.  There’s a connection there.  I promise you.  You can have all the ‘finer’ things in life but if you are annoyed and stressed to the point of depression and impatience because you feel guilty for not organizing, controlling and managing it all – what good is that?

I decided I wanted more happy time.  Once I made the connection that ‘things’ did not equal what was most important, it was easy.  Internally, I accepted that unnecessary household items, bedding, decorations, appliances, books, etc. were not what held most meaning for me.  The most meaningful things in my life weren’t sentimental items.  They were my family and close friends.  My relationships were my heart.  Irreplaceable.  So… in a heartbeat, literally, it became the most natural thing to box up a ton of stuff in my home and sell, toss or donate it.

And the side benefits began to show themselves almost immediately.  When the stuff was out and the surfaces were all smooth and bare, guess what?  I didn’t have all sorts of distractions on my way out the door.  Getting ready to go somewhere?  Takes half the time it used to take.  I’m now early to my appointments and places I need to be.

I’m not so minimal that I live with only 100 items.  Give me a break.  I have kids, a dog and a cat!   And my kids are boys.  MESSY boys.   Still, my rooms are now basic enough that they also take half the time to clean and my sister commented that it must feel like no one actually lives here.

I say someone here has finally started living again….

 

A Minimalist Bedroom is Born

Here's the bed.  Painted in Shabby Paints brand, color "Licorice" and topped with sheer Vax for protection.  Walls are in a soft universal gray.

Minimalism and the master bedroom…. Where would I start?  For some reason I kept seeing my cream colored iron bed in black iron.  The idea of a white comforter has always appealed to me.  I guess I never took myself seriously because of the amount of times the bed was mauled by children running in and jumping on it.  I figured it would get dirty too easily.   Turns out that I was wrong.  My kids didn’t seem to mind that I wanted them to keep dirty feet (and the dog!) off the bed. So…after thinking it over, examining the room from all angles and glaring at the bed, a minimalist bedroom plan began.

I really found myself liking the idea of plain white sheets, simple white comforter and pillows.  Even more, white could be bleached and returned back to being white without the colors fading.  Could I really do this?  The bed was more of a country quilt, shabby chic pattern style.  Sea greens, muted yellows.  Even the dresser was painted a mermaid green and cream to match.  Would I dare to paint a several thousand dollar custom made iron bed?  Would it look good?  What if re-doing my furniture took me forever?  Would I lose interest?   My mind kept visualizing a black and white color scheme with little to no decorations in the room.   It seemed like home and new simultaneously.

I decided to go for it.  And guess what?  I finished all of it in less than a week!  Once I got started, it felt so right that I just couldn’t stop.

Here's the bed. Painted in Shabby Paints brand, color "Licorice" and topped with sheer Vax for protection. Walls are in a soft universal gray.

Painted in Shabby Paints brand, color “Licorice” and topped with sheer Vax for protection. Walls are in a soft universal gray. Still no curtains months later.  Still on the fence about them.

Not stopping meant that I would paint my tall dresser (chest of drawers?) and thatIMG_6122 I would also bring in an ugly plain brown dresser and mirror from our garage for a transformation. (I forgot to do a “before” shot.)   I mentally calculated how much paint I had on hand and thought about how I would get the look that I wanted.  At some point during all these mental gymnastics, my brain decided it really wanted clean surfaces.  Not only in my room but also in the rest of the house.   I visualized the surfaces and realized I wanted my furniture to bring to mind a black and white photograph.

Before I painted the bed and the walls.

Before I painted the bed and the walls.

If you notice in the picture above, the walls were a caramel color.   I had it stuck in my head that the room needed some gray.  You guessed it.  I painted the whole room in the same week that I also did the furniture and bedding.

The room is easy to clean.   I think it comes close to reflecting my desire to have a calm but happy spirit, organized mind and home.

Here’s the “before” shot of my dresser before I painted it:

Yes, she was pretty before but this dresser would no longer match the bed that I dared to paint myself.

It was okay – and topped with rocks from my youngest’s collection – but this dresser didn’t match the bed I decided to paint – so facelift for her, too.

 

Here's the dresser again. Painted in Shabby Paints Alamo White with black ReVax.

Here’s the dresser again. Painted in Shabby Paints Alamo White with black ReVax.

Refinished dresser with chalk paint black and white

Long dresser with mirror. Transformed from ugly brown to Alamo White with new iron style drawer pulls.

 

Minimalistic Me…Who Knew?!

simplicitySo, I made the decision to convert to minimalism.  Well, minimalism my style anyway.  My life had recently gone to hell in a hand basket and even though it was painful, the experience left me with clearer vision.  It sort of “dropped the scales from my eyes” to borrow a term from the Bible.

I started with my bedroom.  Blacks, whites, and soft grays seemed soothing to me.   I changed the colorful quilt and even the furniture to a black and white theme.  I already had black and white chalk paint in a closet so I didn’t buy new furniture.  I just re-painted and refinished what I had.    I swapped out the colorful bedding and bought white everything.

I think the thing I like about minimal style and stuff is that it doesn’t seem to cost much money at all.  Plus, you get to de-stress your life at the same time.  A few years ago, I read a book called Miss Minimalist.  It’s a collection of the author’s blog posts about living minimal with really helpful hints.  It basically gives you a starting point. So, when I decided to make this change, I scanned back through my old Kindle purchases and dug it out.  Did a Google search and loved that I found her blog and website.      She has a post on the Top 10 Benefits of Being a Minimalist and I have to say – she sums up exactly how I’ve felt the last few weeks having less stuff to deal with.

Someone – on a blog I read somewhere (sorry, I can’t reference the name in my memory!) said that the majority of people say they don’t have a “stuff problem” but a “space problem.”   The reality is, it’s a stuff problem for most people and we don’t need to live with 10 different bottles of styling gel, spray and cream.  We don’t need 2 blenders, 6 baking sheets and 3 different kinds of vegetable steamers.  (Yes, that was a confession).

The only area that I seem to have true difficulty with paring down my stuff was my shoes – more on that later – but you ladies will understand…..  You don’t mess with a woman’s shoes!

I plan to insert photos of changes made (and yeah, I mostly didn’t take “before” shots).    I also have plans to go camping on the beach with minimal supplies here very soon.  No, that does not mean a sleeping bag and a bag of trail mix.  But it did involve trading the big bulky tent for a 30 second set up dome tent.  Til next time…

Who Needs an Ironing Board?!

Image Credit: KLZ https://flic.kr/p/6SE647

Thinking of going all minimalistic on your house?  There are some items that may get passed by when they should be donated or thrown in the garbage.  It’s one more step towards de-cluttering.

One of those items, for me, was the ironing board.  I’ve actually been ridiculed for not being all that fab at ironing.  And, well, face it:  I’m a little challenged when it comes to just making the stupid board stand up and collapse smoothly.  It’s an evil invention.


Image Credit: https://flic.kr/p/6SE647 I’ve nothing against ironing.  It just seems a huge waste of someone’s (my) time — when so many clothing choices don’t need ironing these days.  And if they do, well, those are the items that go to the dry cleaner.

Ironing = Time Sucker.   It’s like adding ‘busy work’ into your day for the heck of it.   And me?  I  take three times longer than anyone else.  The last time I ironed – I remember clearly – it was a button down dress shirt.  After 30 minutes (yes, 30!) on one shirt – I hung it up – certain it was perfect – only to be told that I screwed the collar up.  Definitely not going to be my forte.   Ironing is evil.  Ironing boards take up unnecessary space.  Ironing boards can leave if you want to live more minimalist like.

I’m told minimalistic living involves fewer choices and more basic necessities.  I’ve always been a black T-shirt and jeans kind of girl.  Guess what?  Throwing out 90% of my clothing and sticking with basic blacks, whites and neutrals cuts my “get ready” time in half since my choices just got drastically reduced.  Reality is?  I only used 10% of the wardrobe anyway.  And you know what else?  It’s nearly all stuff that never has to be ironed.

So???  Bye bye ironing board.  Someone at Goodwill – who enjoys ironing – will be happy to get you.

Organizing Your Closet – Minimal and Magical

Definitely a more clean closet!
cleaning closet out

Here’s the evidence: 5 HEAVY trash bags in clothing & accessories alone. Wow……just wow!

Well, I did it.  The closet.  I knew it would be tough but I made up my mind to part with most of my clothing.  Most people would say “But WHY??”      Well, for a number of really good reasons.  I’m going through some major life changes and I’ve recently experienced my own personal – shall we say – epiphany.   I realized that too many things and issues were “cluttering’ my mind.

Update:  6 months later, I am still happy I did this.  I’ve only looked for a couple of items I no longer own and it was really no big deal to realize that I had donated them.

I used to scoff when I would read or come across the saying that your surroundings were an indication of your inner mindset.  I tried to keep things clean but always felt like I just couldn’t keep up.  Most moms can relate to this.  But I began to mentally see myself as not able to keep up.   I attributed my inability to focus and keep up to other things.   And as most Americans do, I thought I had a ‘space’ problem and not a ‘too much stuff’ problem.  I think deep down I knew the truth because about three years ago, I bought a book on minimalism and read it cover to cover.  I just never took action.

The amount of stuff in our small home (approx. 1500 sq ft) never seemed to stay organized and my mind gradually became as cluttered and unfocused as parts of our home. My clothes were spilling out of baskets in the closet.   If you don’t think this can have negative impacts, think again.  If you can’t think straight, stay unfocused and are constantly running late because you made one adjustment here and then there – well, it can mess up your relationships, career, finances and much more.

So, after the bedroom and bathroom, the closet came under scrutiny.  I donated five large bags of clothing and accessories to charity.  One of my girlfriends heard I was cleaning out my stuff – and asked me to send her a box.  So, I shipped a 23 lb box of clothes to Michigan.  (You’re welcome, Veronica)

Next, I looked at the clothing items I still couldn’t toss.  One of the minimalist blogs I scanned suggested storing them for 6 months (seasonally) and if you didn’t miss any of it during that time, then toss it.  Seemed reasonable to me so that’s what I did.  Since Spring is here, I packed a box with my gloves, scarves, winter boots, etc. and put them in the attic for next year.

One key rule:  For everything, if I hadn’t worn it or used it in a year, it had to go.

Definitely a more clean closet!

Definitely a more clean closet!

After that, I hung everything in categories (most worn, business or dress wear).  Then something weird happened.  That new part of me that emerged with the aforementioned epiphany?  Well, she decided to color code her T-shirts and blouses.  Yes, I know!  Crazy, right?  But when I get up in the morning – I know if I’m in a T-shirt mood, dressier T-shirt mood or blouse mood.  I can go right to the top I want and my jeans, pants etc. are all lined up next to them. Work out clothes neatly stored, too.   Vastly decreased the time I spent staring aimlessly into the closet!

Update:  6 months later. I’m still mostly color coded on one side of the closet.  I have to remind myself not to slack off pretty much daily.  But I’m doing it. I’ve also taken to putting my high heels on alternating sides of the baskets on the shelves.

Since I had previously organized and labeled stuff in my pantry (think baskets and cards with names of what’s in them) – and attacked my bathroom cabinets, I started to worry that all the years of having too much clutter may have triggered a case of OCD.  So, after everything was complete, I took the time to Google the signs of OCD and was relieved.  Given the amount of dog fur on my living room floor, the overflowing trashcan in my sons’ bathroom and at least two crooked pictures on the wall, it appears I’m not in any danger of having OCD any time soon.

So what’s my next minimalist adventure? Minimalist guides all say that an important step is organizing your junk drawer.  Okay, I can do that.

Hmmmm… Which one?

😉

Gluten Free Beef Nachos

IMG_5443Gluten Free Beef Nachos

with

Jalapeños

 

Ingredients

1lb ground beef (I use 96% lean)

1 large bag gluten free tortilla chips

1 medium size onion, chopped

1 minced clove garlic (large)

1-2 cups chopped grape tomatoes

1/2 cup sliced jalapeños

2 cups + 1/2 a cup or more shredded Colby jack cheese**

1-2 tsp each: chili powder and comino powder (cumin)

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Brown the ground beef, mix in onions and garlic.

While the meat is cooking:

  • Preheat it to 375 degrees.
  • Chop / slice  jalapeños and tomatoes.  Grate your cheese if not already shredded.
  • Line a large cookie /baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray the foil with cooking spray.
  • Pour the bag of tortilla chips onto the baking sheet and spread out.

After meat mixture is cooked:

  • Top the chips with the meat.  Spread evenly across all the chips.
  • Top the meat with the tomatoes and MOST of the cheese*
  • Add the peppers
  • Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the peppers to keep them from browning too much.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted to your satisfaction.  Use a spatula to place individual servings on a plate.

**NOTES:  I place the peppers on last so that anyone who DOESN’T like peppers can easily spot them and remove them.  I also sprinkle a little extra cheese over the peppers at the end because I don’t want the pepper cooked “too much.”  This is a matter of preference.  Some people like all the chips and peppers a little browned.  

Friendly Reminder:  Most cheese is gluten free unless you get a brand that adds different flavors or other ingredients.  Always check the ingredients!

ENJOY your gluten free nachos

Gluten Free Meat & Potatoes Casserole

M&P Breakfast Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. mild ground pork sausage
  • 1 lb. ground maple pork sausage
  • 1o large eggs
  • 30 oz bag of hash browns (Ore Ida prominently displays “Gluten Free”)
  • 1 -1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • cooked bacon (enough for everyone to have two slices)
  • olive oil (to cook the hash browns in)
  • salt and pepper to taste

 

As always, when cooking gluten free, check labels to be certain they are gluten free.

Directions

Brown the sausage.  Cook the hash browns according to package directions.  Salt and pepper to taste.   I cook my hash browns in olive oil instead of other cooking oils because we prefer the taste.

Make sure the sausage is crumbled well.  In a large bowl mix the hash browns and the sausage together.

Spray a 13X9 glass baking dish with cooking spray

Gluten Free Fajita Nachos

Ingredients

1lb beef or chicken fajitas (cooked, chopped into bite size pieces)

1 large bag gluten free tortilla chips

1 medium size onion, chopped

1 large ripe tomato, chopped

1/2 -1 cup  of fresh finely chopped cilantro (your taste decides more or less)

1 green bell pepper, chopped

2 cups + 1/2 a cup or more shredded Colby jack cheese**

1-2 serrano peppers – sliced (or jalapeno if preferred)

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook the fajitas according to directions.

While the fajitas are cooking:

  • If you did not use your oven to cook the fajitas  go ahead and preheat it to 375 degrees.
  • Chop / slice all your vegetables.  Grate your cheese if not already shredded.
  • Line a large cookie /baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray the foil with cooking spray.
  • Pour the bag of tortilla chips onto the baking sheet and spread out.

After the fajitas are finished cooking:

  • Slice or chop the fajitas into bite size pieces.
  • Top the chips with the fajitas.  Spread evenly across all the chips.  (If you have a vegetarian in the crowd, who doesn’t mind cheese, you can always leave section w/o meat)
  • Top the meat with the onions and bell peppers.
  • Add the tomatoes and then the cilantro
  • Sprinkle the cheese evenly across the pan of deliciousness
  • Add the serrano peppers
  • Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the peppers.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted to your satisfaction.  Use a spatula to place individual servings on a plate.

**NOTES:  I place the peppers on last so that anyone who DOESN’T like peppers can easily spot them and remove them.  I also sprinkle a little extra cheese over the peppers at the end because I don’t want the pepper cooked “too much.”  This is a matter of preference.  Some people like all the chips and peppers a little browned.  

Friendly Reminder:  Most cheese is gluten free unless you get a brand that adds different flavors or other ingredients.  Always check the ingredients!

ENJOY your gluten free nachos

Lemon Turkey & Asparagus – Krissy’s Version

Lemon TurkeySomeone  asked me to recreate my fit foods® Lemon Turkey recipe.  It is one of the few recipes I’ve ‘copied’ that I really enjoyed after I made it.  I also love how fast it is to throw together and get on the table.

My version involves much ‘seasoning’ to taste but I’ve given some minimum measurements below.  I actually double the amount of lemon juice and zest.  I also enjoy extra thyme and oregano in my version.  If you aren’t sure how much you’ll like the herbs and such, go easy.  I like how ‘forgiving’ ground turkey is in that it gradually absorbs a little at a time.  Another thing that may be important to many is whether you choose to combine regular ground turkey with ground turkey breast.   For this recipe, I used only turkey breast.  Some people think that makes it too ‘dry.’  You’ll have to make that decision for yourself.

my fit foods® serves their lemon turkey with rice and asparagus.  I do, too and I had another idea tonight!   Lettuce wraps! So, I refrigerated the leftovers and will probably make a lettuce wrap for lunch tomorrow.

 

Ingredients

  • 1  lb ground turkey breast  (or 1/2 lb ground turkey + 1/2 lb ground turkey breast)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp  ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 large garlic clove minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • pinch cayenne pepper (go easy if you don’t like things super spicy)
  • 4 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • zest from half of a lemon
  • 4-5 cups prepared rice (I prefer Basmati since it doesn’t stick together like regular rice)
  • 1 bunch steamed asparagus

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium heat, add ground turkey. Add all the ingredients and be sure to break the meat up using a wooden spoon or spatula.  You want it to be very crumbly.   Stir well to combine all the spices and cook until turkey is browned.

Serve it on a bed of rice and top it with asparagus.

Done!