From a Sea of Noise to the Quiet Work of Simplicity

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This voice is stirring in my soul. It has been for weeks. “You’re in over your head! Drowning… Get out! Get out, now!” Lost in a sea of artificial noise. I need to unplug. Shut off the beeps, and the voices in Facebook. Including mine. Stop talking. Start thinking. It’s all too noisy… the cell phones, and then there are the TVs, radios and emergency sirens.

My heart races. My blood pressure rises.  My mind responds to the pictures and videos and messages… the debates online over whatever is raging in the Facebook cultural fight of the day. Flooded and bombarded with stories about parenting and politics, lifestyles, religions, God, no god. The economy and our health. I want out. I want it silent. To let the mental tension melt… I have to unplug.

Fill the void. Listen to the silence. Hear the heaven-sent tap of rain on my rooftop. Disengage from the artificial. Hear the real.

Engage the struggle… face the silence. Hear my voice. And the still small voice within that guides. Where do you go for that? Where can you retreat? The answer isn’t necessarily simple. For me, it’s at home.

I can turn it off.  With the click of a button, the TV shuts down. The radio never powers up. The phone is stored away as a phone. No longer available for anything smart. The wisest choice I’ve made all year.

I can’t hear it anymore. The continuous and prolonged drone of people’s voices on Facebook have moved me from a state of mild annoyance into mental tension fraught with fatigue.

It’s time to go.

Tap tap tap tap. I hear the rain. Longing for the downpour. A cry from heaven screaming for my attention.

Listen for the innocent chortling, tee-hee of your children. The snickers of two toddlers oblivious to anything outside of the moment they’re living.

If it truly does go by “so fast,” wouldn’t it be a shame to fill the “time” with that sucking sound of an online world promising everything but delivering nothing?

It’s going to take work. Discipline. Commitment. But I’m there.

Unplugging to give my mind rest so they can hear nature, my family, and God.

I need the quiet.

Where do you go to find it?

 

Discipline ~ Living on Less ~ Finding More

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When I decided I’d had enough of all the ”stuff” in life that had grown up around our ankles, and started giving it away, I didn’t know it was the beginning of an exciting financial journey. One with a permanent impact. Before we had children, when we both had careers, we were loose. We didn’t care so much about paying off our cars, or our student loans. So the bills, while always paid on time, stuck around like a piece of old chewing gum on the underside of a classroom desk. Forgotten, mostly.

By us.

But that nagging voice? The one that says, “hey, what about that interest? What about that bills that you can but refuse to pay off? What are you going to do with this?” It got louder and louder.

The more I cleaned out the clutter of stuff we weren’t using, the more room I had to dance about. The voice in my soul grew louder and more focused. “WHAT are you going to do with your debt?”

Sheesh. Be responsible?

But that’s painful! I don’t care. I don’t want to. I’m selfish.

It takes discipline. Which we all know, is painful in the beginning.

You have to control your every move. You have to ask yourself if you need that new pair of shoes. How much is that spontaneous trip to Starbucks every week  costing you? You seriously DO have to look at what you’re doing with your money. How much do you make, what are your essential monthly expenses, and determine your budget. Then you discipline yourself to stick to it.

We’ve done that now for about six months. And in that six months, we’ve paid off a credit card, and are one month away from paying off those student loans that would have hung around another six or seven years.

I feel liberated.

The last thing on the list now, beside the mortgage is our car payment. Which we also downsized. We were rolling in style in my luxurious MDX. Pretty girl, she was. Bought a basic, boring Honda Accord and cut our long-term “owe” status by several thousand dollars. I know, #firstworldproblems, right? Here’s the deal. And something I’ve learned in this journey. Even in downsizing, cutting back and living on less ~ we are still insanely loaded. Some call it a blessing. I find it to often be a curse. The more I get, the more I want. The more I think about myself. My coffee. My clothes. My house. My comfort. We are wealthier than – I dunno – roughly 90% of the rest of the world. I don’t worry about food on my table. They do. My dilemma as of last night was… do I buy a fancy new camera to start a photography business – or do I pay off the car?

That nagging voice won’t go away. Pay off the car, it is.

Discipline. It hurts.

So… Here I am again. Back from being “on assignment.”

Did you wonder what that assignment was? When you (if you) came to my blog and found the message with a picture of the Canon Mark II? I was using my time on my family, of course, but also planning a new business start up in April. Any extra time I could muster, I focused on photography “stuff.” I found a very gently used, Mark II in mint condition. I was set to buy it after paying the student loans. But before paying of the “new” used car. I was going to start a birth photography service for new moms. Funny how my “I was” has turned into anther lesson in discipline.

Pay off the car.

I’m not sure the photography dream will come into focus. The “plan” now is to wait another eight months. My camera seller is in no hurry. But who knows. Plans change. And from what I’ve learned in this new journey is that the blessings and outcomes are far greater than what I could EVER come up with under the old way of doing things.

I’m so excited about this.

Aren’t you?

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

 

The Gift of Conscious Discipline ~ Building Connected Relationships for Life

Beautiful

Where did that little fella who ate spinach with a smile and devoured anything I set before him with a glances toward me as though I hung the moon run off to? The happy guy always game for whatever it was I had planned. My baby that I could have picked right from a magazine….

Ah, yes – he grew. He developed into realizing he is separate from me, has a mind of his own and is capable of making decisions.

He turned two.

And somewhere along the way, I forgot something. I forgot that he was simply reaching yet another stage in development. I erroneously, because of the harping preached by the masses, believed his resistance to my demands were from defiance that deserved “punishment.”  I was heading down the path of leaving little room for testing and growth. In him and in myself.

Deep down, I guess I knew I was expecting too much.  Not clear on where to turn, who to ask… my frustrations in all the demands of running a house, guiding two little ones and maintaining a relationship with my spouse became increasingly worse and overwhelming. The stressors started heating up like lava in a volcano. Surely, with each resistance to eat, brush teeth, use the potty, hold my hand, go outside, go inside, take a bath….the lava would heat to eruption, spewing ash all over everyone.

I knew I needed help.

Still, I couldn’t bring myself to continually strong arming him into submission. Towering over him and forcing him to “move along” felt wrong. Something in all that I was seeing other people do, and what I was pulling from my experience with watching parents, mine and others…. didn’t line up.

I was parentally paralyzed.

Sometimes, we’d have smooth days. Days when the littler one, my still very needy daughter, wasn’t so needy and we could connect.

Connect. That’s what we needed more, my gut said. Somehow, I needed to understand him more, so we together, could coöperate. I started praying for wisdom. I started asking friends.

And in my quest, I found some fantastic, sound, wise advise. What I found is Conscious Discipline. “What is that?” I’m glad you asked.

According to its website: “Conscious Discipline is the most comprehensive discipline program available. It is specifically designed to provide parents with the conscious awareness and skills needed to create safe, connected, problem-solving homes.”

Boy, does it ever deliver! Within MINUTES of watching a series of videos on YouTube, we, my daughter, my two-year-old and I…. we were a new team. A TEAM!

What I was missing wasn’t a firmer grip on my little ones. I was missing tools. Tools that now help me appreciate both toddlers’ developmental places in life.

Most of all, I wasn’t breathing. I couldn’t relax. And the more stressed I got… the worse my children reacted. While I’m using the following video to teach my toddlers to breathe – which they actually DO respond to – I’m learning to chill out myself. And man, what a difference in JUST A COUPLE DAYS!

My parenting **journey** still takes time and tremendous effort because children don’t process and think like adults (duh) and they need time to respond. But wow, what a relief knowing we CAN work together without a constant adversarial, punitive tone.

Man, I LOVE this stuff.

 

Thanksliving ~ Free to be nobody.

This isn’t some lofty post about why I do what I do or how I realized what I, excuse me, God wanted to change. It’s just… a few thoughts cranked out after a long day of parenting two people way too close in age.

I’m a simple human, so… don’t laugh.

Here goes:

My life is becoming a bit of a paradox. I’m losing the wish to make a name for myself, and to stop seeking approval from people around me. I’m finding peace in chaos and my total lack of control over how my day will play out. In the process? I’m finding value in being nobody.

Paradox indeed.

Remember when I asked you a couple of weeks ago to go vote for my blog? I had this rush of excitement and energy over blogging. I wanted to commit to becoming this great DIY project blogger. (I’m so funny.) I wanted to create. I wanted to be …. cue the music… a serious blogger. Nothing wrong with any of that. Really, there isn’t. Unless you let it control you.

Confession: It consumed me. The idea of blogging did. It was how I was defining my self-worth and I didn’t even realize it. The more I thought about creating a life outside of “just being a mom,” the more miserable I became. I couldn’t find the time to think clearly. I couldn’t commit to growing the way other bloggers have. I started comparing. And then I wondered if I mattered.

Slippery slope when we do that, isn’t it?

Once I finally stopped lying to myself, and saw this deep “need” to “be somebody,” you know what I did? For the first time in my life, instead of wallowing in self pity, I turned to God. Admitted that my heart needed changing… yet again. It’s always pretty deceitful, that heart of mine. Before you cast a stone… go sit in a quiet corner and look at your own. If you dare! (Do it! Do it!)

It wasn’t faith that helped me. I wasn’t faithful at all. I was dreaming of my own little empire. My own world. ME. ME. ME. ME.

I was losing sight of what matters.

My toddlers. My home. My husband. My God.

It wasn’t faith that brought me to this realization. It was God. It was God being faithful.

I asked him to take away these all-consuming desires that were replacing Him! The God of the universe! Really? I would settle for less? Yeah, actually I would. Grace brought me here. Letting him again take over guiding my life steps.

And faithfully, he will.

What’s most beautiful of all is that in the process, I’m finding that in losing myself in following Christ, I see value I never did before. I am learning how to enjoy God. I’m living thankful in just breathing. In the comfort of a God being in control.

It’s Thanksliving, really.

Finding joy… in being nobody. But knowing I’m somebody…. known before I was born by the God of all creation.

Approved indeed.

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The Buy Nothing Christmas

We aren’t buying gifts this year. And we may not even have a big fancy meal. It’s not because we think Americans are crazy spenders and we want to act differently. {Which, actually they are… and we do.}

Shopping!

There’s more to it than that.

We owe folks money. And we’re tired of owing folks money.

If we take the Bible seriously, and we do, it says that the borrow is a slave to the lender, and that we’re required to pay back what we owe. We’re tired of being slaves. And we want to set our kids up better than what we had starting out.

Fortunately the hubby and I have never been crazy spenders, but we’ve always been loose. Forgoing the ability to pay off student loans, we spent our money in other places. Instead of saving a huge stash of cash for emergencies, we ate out – all.the.time. We’ve never set a budget and so… obviously, we’ve never stuck to one.

Until four months ago.

Now we have a budget. We have a plan. And we stick to both.

Cash only, baby. Cash for food. Cash for incidentals. And cash for my “mommy help” – which can be anything from outings to lunch… or dinner. Whatever helps. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to save my sanity.

Friday, we pay off our credit card! {Where’s the confetti, y’all?!}

The bill wasn’t gigantic, but it was enough that … had we continued living the loose, eating out… buying furniture, remodeling our house, it would have stuck around for a few years. What happened?

I started listening to Dave Ramsey. My husband got tired of debt. And hearing me gripe about debt, as we’d sink our forks into whatever fancy meal we’d gone out to eat.

So we went crazy.

First, I started putting stuff we no longer used on Craigslist. That wasn’t huge, but it was motivating. And about the same time, we started throwing every single cent above the food, gas, basic incidentals {haircuts, shampoo, shaving gel… seriously – BASICS} mortgage and my mommy help toward our debt.

It bears repeating: Friday, we pay off our credit card.

Up next: Student Loans. <facepalm>

After that: My car. {if we don’t sell it first.}

After that: We start saving.

Our children are young, very young, and our families are extended… so: nobody is going to suffer without gifts from us.

We’re looking at two solid years of hard work and no extras. But the payoff will be a load off! And what a blessing that will be.

Who knows, after this, we’ll learn to keep Christmas quaint year after year.

I sort of see this as a huge gift to my kids in the long run.

Instead of leaving them with nothing, they’ll have both the wealth to get better starts to adulthood and hopefully the money sense to know how to use it.

 

Our Sunday Afternoon in Pictures

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The funny toddler.

My 2.5 year thinks his daddy goes to work to get pizza and gas.
Lately, before bed, he’s been telling him, “thank you for coming by.”
The kid is funny. And vibrant. And brimming with personality.

1004990_10202181903059443_674063823_nHis personality shuts down long enough for him to sleep. {Which he’s always done with ease.}

Lately, as the big mister leaves to pick up pizza and gas for work, laptop slung over his shoulder - coffee in hand, the boy says ever so sweetly, “hope you come back and say hi!”

This morning, I greeted him with the usual, expressive, “hi baby,” glee. After I told him what he would have for breakfast, he said in a staccato-trance tone, “you will make waffles.” {We didn’t have waffles.}

Lately, he’s been throwing out the words, “for example,” without any examples, of course. I have no idea what he thinks he’s saying, but I know if he keeps this mental growth and development up I ‘m in for a deliciously fun ride.

If God gives us all the grace to keep his heart pure and our attitudes in the Spirit, there’s no telling what this boy will do.

Miles, you’re brilliant, you’re funny, and you’re the most precious little boy I could have EVER imagined having as my own.

Man alive, I love you.

Exhibit A ~ My first DIY Project

I present to you, Exhibit A. Proof to myself I do have a creative bone.  My very first presentable DIY project.

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For those of you who know about the house we remodeled a few years back, you should know why I’m not counting this forgotten headache.

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The only DIY we did was demolition, redesigning space, and painting. (I’m probably forgetting something.) I guess I should count that monster headache, but… I never blogged about it, and we actually paid for most of the big work we did. So, let’s just say, I never got a chance to get crafty.

We started large and were clueless. I have now completed my first baby-steps project. And I did it on a dime.

We are on track to pay off our consumer debt and have a sizeable emergency fund within two years. As a result, we’re on a budget that allows very little for extras. And by no extras, I mean… we’re drinking a lot of water!

Anything I want for the house, I have to either make, or find for next to nothing. I wanted a cork board to start a wall, organizational work space in my kitchen. I’m a little embarrassed to show this, but… I was pretty determined to spend as little as possible. So I scrounged for the tools I needed.

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That included the toddler scribbled foam board that has so many creases, I should have spent the $2 or $4 (I can’t remember) at the grocery store for a new one. I set up a workstation outside and I think it’s pretty impressive for me. I usually fly by the seat of my pants.

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We already had the drop cloth from our old house remodel. The only things I bought were a glue gun, glue, some ribbon adhesive, paint and my nifty letter A. I may take the ribbon down. I’d planned to pin family pictures to the space on the left, but I don’t like it all that much. Lose it? Yes? No? what’s your vote?

Other than that, I’m pretty satisfied.

It’s not perfect, but it’s done. And now I can say, I’ve officially posted a DIY project and I’m proud of it.

The funny thing about this whole thing though, in all my prep work, I forgot to by push pins.

Not perfect, but making progress, eh?

 

Update on my Top Mommy Blogs ranking!

From my home page:

“Your blog is currently ranked #71  overall and #3 in its category.” So, THANK YOU for voting. Go ahead and vote again. Do it every day! I insist! :) Just click the banner. Really! That’s it.

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Thank you for your “votes!”

Please click! A visit a day boosts my blog ranking at Top Mommy Blogs - The Best Mommy Blog Directory Ever!

Top Mommy blogs is a niche directory where bloggers are categorized ranked and rated. I applied to join five days ago and now I’m a member. The TMB website boasts more than 4500 blogs in more than 30 categories.

Talk about competition!

After four days, I’m ranked #99 overall and #5 in my category! That’s pretty cool considering I joined just four days ago. I’d love to jump to the top 50. Heck, who am I kidding? The top 10 would be fantastic!

So here’s my little request for more clicks. It’s been fun logging on to see where my friends are taking me.

Honestly, I never even expected to show up in the list at all! So, THANK YOU!

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