Monday, January 30, 2017

Everyday Tools for Homeschool Moms! My Planner!

Everyday Tools for the Homeschool Mom!

What's in a planner?
Well... my life.  Your life.  

   I was attending a bible study on campus when one of the ladies was talking about her amazing planner that she had!  Up until this point I suppose I thought that planners only consisted of the ones that you could pick up off the shelf at Walmart, and had to learn to live with.  I hadn't really put much thought into it, or the fact that I had about twenty notebooks laying around my house with random notes in it from homeschooling information to financial planning, meal planning and course work that I had been doing from my studies.  Haphazard nights found me digging through page after page for those notes that I had taken..  and being unsuccessful.  This sweet girl and her beautiful planner inspired me to try my hand at making a customised planner, and I was so excited at how it turned out!!
    Through her suggestion, I purchased an Arc Planner from Staples, having no idea what that even was.  I ordered it only, and with a coupon that I had gotten in my email (which I took as a sign that I should certainly order it!) It was about $10.00 for the planner and the calendar pages!  
   Still unsure of how it worked, I brought it home and looked up online tutorials on the Disc Binding system.  Only then did I realize what a cool little product I had gotten my hands on!  Because of the way the paper is bound into the planner, it is tight fitting and secure..  but if you pull it apart just right, the paper is removable!  Fantastic!  I can't wait to remove the month after it has passed!  That really helps me to keep organized and to keep a lot of junk out of the way!
   The only con I could find anywhere online was that the stapler that you needed to create the special sized holes for the system was really expensive..  and not knowing what I was getting when I got it, I didn't have one.  A little bit of research later led me to an even more diy way of customizing this planner...

    First I used some of the paper that had came with the planner and lined the single hole puncher up to each circle.  I used this to measure the entire page, and simply punched a circular hole in the areas where the mushroom shape hole was in the actual Arc paper.  

Next, I used a pair of scissors and simply cut a small slit in the center of each hole, and then bound the paper into each disc the same as the paper.  Viola!  It was difficult to get the papers lined up just exactly perfect, and sometimes had to print a few pages to get it not to bunch up..  but the end product was great!  The pages flowed well, and it allowed me to use my own customized pages to the planner!  Winning!

Lastly, I used some sticky notes that I had picked up at the Dollar store to make small tabs so I could find my place easily  in the planner.  Although I do believe I will eventually get some of the dividers that you can find at staples, this makes a fine starting point!

And finally, my finished product!  My beautiful customized Planner!!!

After visiting the staples store, I found out just how customizable these Arc systems are!  You can honestly just buy some of the discs, whatever paper you wish and you can even buy your own cover!  No need to buy the whole planner at once.  I can't even imagine the possibilities, but I'm excited to find out!

And as for the pages in the planner..  well, I made those too, and YOU can download them for free to use for your own customized planner!  I have included 2017 Calendar pages, as well as divider and title pages, such as gratitude journal, prayer journal, homeschool planner, meal planner, grocery list, password page, and more!  Check them out and download them on my post about my free planner pages!  Linked below!

As I travel through the year of becoming more intentional, it all starts and ends with making good plans, goals, and sticking by them!  Hope you have enjoyed, and happy creating!!!

Also, here are some Amazon Links to purchase Arc Planners and supplies!  I am an amazon affiliate associate, so any of these purchases will give me a commission, so I can fill my planner with fun stuff too!  :)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Make over your Mornings: Afterthoughts....

Our morning candles...  with my new table runner.  I've discovered that creating an atmosphere of comfort, beauty and rest can completely change your attitude!

We are morning people!!!

Now that is something I NEVER imagined you would hear me say.

    I began this journey almost at the beginning of the month, so its taken me a little longer than 14 days to go through the course, day by day.  But I finished it nonetheless!  And now, surprisingly, I'm a morning person!  So now I can be really truthful and honest with you guys, without feeling ashamed like I would have a month ago.  
   Last year my mornings were rushed.  I would hit the ground running with kiddos needing something of me immediately.  Devotions were a thing that happened occasionally, sometimes on Saturdays when they didn't get up early.  I looked at my devotion book, Whispers of Hope by Beth Moore and realized that I had been writing in it since my little sister was pregnant..  and my niece turned one in July.  That's a little long to be working on a devotion that is supposed to take ten weeks.  Yet mornings didn't leave time for anything.  On the days that I did take time to workout it was quick, interrupted and honestly quite useless because as soon as my heart rate was up, someone else was needing something of me immediately.  Mornings were NOT my friend.  I rarely saw anything earlier than 8:30, and to be honest, it was normally more in the 9-10ish range...  and I was really wondering why we didn't start school until 11?  
   But I'm getting ahead of myself.
   My issue with mornings began a few years ago.  When I really started trying to follow God, study my Bible and live by the word.  I remember reading about the Proverbs 31 woman, and I honestly wanted to be like her!  The wife of noble character...  I longed for that.  But there was that one little verse...  the one that always got me...

15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.

No.  That part, that wasn't me.  I wasn't a morning person.  That I couldn't do.
    I could sometimes get myself out of bed at 7:30 but I felt like I was miserable for the rest of the day, so I would make up for it by sleeping until 9 the next morning.  I knew that coffee wasn't great for me, since I struggled with high blood pressure and don't enjoy coffee unless its sweetened up with far more of the yummy creamer than is safe for anyone.  The mixture of the caffeine overload and the sugar high was enough to make me happy for a few hours, and come crashing down bitterly. 
    The week before I took the challenge I remember I was really dealing with some miserable headaches.  I started backing off caffeine and the headaches were worse.  I knew that if I was going to make it all day I was going to have to do it without that crash.  So I had to do this, and I had to do it without that fuel.  
   I believe just having the course motivated me to work on this.  Having something specific to turn too everyday.  Also having the accountability of writing about doing the course!  All of this gave me the encouragement that I need to actually bull through the first few days, and that was an amazing feeling!  
    Only a few days of getting up early and cutting the morning coffee or soft drink habit really changed the way that I felt.  The headaches disappeared, and I felt so much better!  A few days into it, I realized that I actually enjoyed getting up early!  I enjoyed the time that I got to spend with my devotions and reading, the time that I got to spend talking to my husband before he left for class..  and just having some quiet time in the house made me a lot happier.  It made me not so snappy at the kids when they were awake and about the house, because once they are awake quiet time is but a memory lol!

    Now I am a morning person!  I slip out of bed sometime between 6 and 6:15..  put on my soft robe and make my way into the living room.  I boil a cup of hot tea (herbal tea is my favorite!) and settle down to read my devotions.  Then I spend some time working on something online (this past few weeks it has been this course!) and make my way to the elliptical.  I usually spend somewhere between 45 mins to an hour working out, shower and am ready to face the day with my kids.  School works better once I have spent that time in the morning.  Everything works better.  I am intentional the evening before about making sure that the house is organized and that I have a pretty table for the next morning.  
   Mornings are nothing like they used to be.  We drink hot tea, play classical music and light candles.  Today while I was playing our classic music cd, Pachelbel's Canon came on and Brother yelled, "Hey turn this up!  This is my favorite!"  Pretty awesome when a seven year old has an appreciation for classical music.  
    I can't even begin to tell you the wonderful things that have came out of making over my mornings, and taking this course.  So much is accomplished in the mornings...  I treasure that time, and look forward to it when I go to sleep each night.  Trust me, I never thought that was something that I would say!  I accomplish more in those morning hours than I do sometimes the rest of the day.  Those hours have balanced and changed me into a more productive person.  They have made me who I am now.  
   When Kobe Bryan accepted his ESPY award, he said this... 
"We’re up here because of two-a-days or five-a-days. We’re up here because we had a dream and let nothing stand in our way. If anything tried to bring us down, we used it to make us stronger.”
   Now I can understand that statement, down to my bones.  I'm where I am because of 6am.  Because of making that effort and taking that time no matter how I felt, to center myself.  I'm here because I determined to do it, and its changed me.  In the two hours that I've committed to adding to my day, I've set goals and reached them.  I've planned meals for my family.  I've decided on school curriculum and choices.  I've written blogs and inspired others.  I've read books and fed my soul so that I can pour out to my family.  And in doing all of these things, I've honored and learned an obedience to my heavenly Father to live best the moments that he's given me these past fourteen days.  I've not wasted those mornings in idleness..  and for that, I'm so incredibly grateful!
   So what's next?
   In the scope of this course I have set some goals to execute.  Smaller, more bite-sized goals that are attainable to me in this season of my life.  They all come together to put in place the larger goals that I wanted..  but for this time, its the small goals that matter.  
   It's written in my notebook...
   January- Finish the Make over my Mornings course.  Make mornings a priority.  All of the things I want to accomplish on this list..  becoming healthier, taking better care of my family, cultivating a closer relationship with Him and growing better physically, spiritually and mentally...  all of those things can happen in those morning hours.  So this is important.
-  January's goal- accomplished!
   February- Remake my calendar and schedule meal plans, find healthier food options.
   So that is my goal for February.  
   I to intend to keep all of you readers, my faithful accountability partners- in the loop.  
   I also intend to keep reading blogs from Crystal Paine to keep encouraging and inspiring me.   I was really excited when I saw this series on her blog: 15 days to a healthier you!  I'm looking forward to reading!  
   I've also been going through a Made to Crave 60 day devotional, and its been so wonderful!  I haven't finished the book yet, and that is my goal for Feb, as well as finishing the devotion!  I would also like to follow up with the Action plan participants guide.  I really enjoy her way of writing, and I could use all the help I can get in that area.  
   Just so everyone knows though, it all started here.  With this challenge, this course, and the extra few hours that it gave me, I know that I will reach my goal and make 2017 my most intentional year yet!  Thank you so much for following me on this journey, and I can't wait to share my journeys to come!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Make over your Mornings: Day 14; the Finish line!

 Good morning!
   It is good, isn't it?  I love that throughout this course, Crystal reminds us that her goal in this course isn't just to make you get out of bed.  Her goal is, "To approach life with more purpose and intention."  I find it amazing that this course has been dead on for my goals for 2017.  I'm so thankful that when I asked God to lead me to the tools that could make that happen, he lead me in this direction.  I believe with all of my heart that this was the first step in becoming more intentional about so many parts of my life.  I believe that when I prayed and asked for his guidance, then when I asked for the peace about spending money on this that he was able to give it to me.  That he spoke to my heart the importance of this first step in the big picture.  I know that the hours that taking this course has added to my life in the mornings will be game-changers.  I absolutely believe that with all of me.  Crystal reminds us today to think about these things...  "Will this matter in 25 years from now?  How will this better enable me to do what God has created me to do?"  It will matter.  A lot.  An extra two hours a day for 25 years?  That's an extra 18,250 hours.  That breaks down to an extra 760 days.  That's a lot of extra time over 25 years!  That's a lot of time to dedicate to growing in Christ, to caring for myself physically and spiritually.  That's a lot of time to get a lot of things done by the time I'm 58.  Much better than knowing I've spent that much time sleeping in for the past ten years or so..  I shudder to think!
    The best part about mornings?  That would be who I spend them with....
Brother and Hero gathered in front of a window, surrounded by legos!  Yes, this is a beautiful life, yes, I am thankful, and yes, I am glad that I choose these kind of quiet mornings!

   Today Crystal just encouraged me to stick it out!  This course has been wonderful and amazing and helped to hold me accountable each morning, but she just encourages to stick with it.  Also, something she hasn't mentioned before is that you should stick with a routine for 21 days before you change it up and tweak it.  I haven't really thought of that prior to her suggestion.  Actually I've spent a great deal of time changing it up and tweaking it, and not enough time just resting in it.  I welcome the challenge now to set a specific set of goals and do them exactly the same for 21 days.  I'm excited about that!
    There is a part of me that is glad that I am all the way through the course.  The reason is that one of my goals that I found was to make my mornings more quiet and less connected.  I do enjoy the morning videos.  I look forward to them and they keep me accountable, but I am looking forward to the mornings without the video or my computer in front of me.
   One extra mile I took today to keep me accountable was to print out the actual workbook pages to keep in my planner.  Not the lessons, but the sheets.  I intend to go through them during my daily study time and work on them, to help solidify what I've learned during this time.  I did do the workpages on notebook pages, but this gives me something graphic and fun to work on while I'm not watching the videos.  It will hold me accountable.  I'm so thankful for this course, have I mentioned that yet?
   Another thing I'm proud of myself for during over the duration of this course, (which has actually taken me 18 days instead of 14, but that's not so bad!) is that I've also finished the two books that I started along with this course.
   The first was The Early to Rise Experience  by Andy Traub.  I've listed several quotes from this book and I've really enjoyed reading it!  Today I read about Reactors vs Creators.  There are two choices we make everyday, we make the choice rather to react or to create.  Reactors wait on people to talk to them, to initiate conversation.  These are the people waiting for something to come to their mailbox, checking facebook over and over again- waiting for someone to say something they can react too.  Then there are creators.  These people reach out.  I have been a reactor my entire life...  responding as best as possible to the things that came my way.  My introverted nature makes me obviously drawn to being a reactor.  However, lately I've started to creep over into creator territory.  Writing even if there's no response to my writings.  Sending letters that I'm not sure will be responded.  Making it a point to reach out and tell somebody hi, to text people who I don't speak too on a regular basis.  Making connections and just trying, again and again.  It's really changed my attitude!  I can't say that its been groundbreaking or I've inspired someone or anything such as that, but its been really nice to not feel so insecure.  It's been great to be who I am, even though sometimes it makes me feel silly.  I was once extremely apprehensive about what I wrote on this blog- and here I am, welcoming people into my heart and into my home.  Parts of me still think that I really just need to go into hiding- but then the creator part of me says no..  welcome them in.  Just because they don't say it doesn't mean you aren't inspiring them.  And think of those who have responded?  If just one person took back their mornings and it changed even a small part of their lives, wouldn't it be worth it?  I think so at least!
   Also, an important reminder was that you should change one habit at a time to introduce.  Rather than trying to change everything at once, do it slowly.  Once it becomes a habit, like if you miss it, it feels something like forgetting to brush your teeth, then you are ready to introduce something new.  That is the hardest thing for me!  I seem to want to change everything all at once, and time and time again God is showing me that real change takes time.  I need to use bite-sized goals and take baby steps, and change..  over time.
   Another book that I read during the course of this couple of weeks was recommended by Crystal Paine, it was What Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam.  I have also really enjoyed this book, and it is also a quick and easy read.  Today she reminded me the great things about mornings is, "they always feel like a new change to do things right!"  And she's right!  Each new morning brings a new chance.

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. -Psalm 143:8

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. -Lamentations 3:22-23

For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. -Psalm 30:5

O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. -Psalm 5:3

My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. -Psalm 130:6

    It's been a great two weeks, and a life changing one at that! I'm so thankful for this refreshing beginning to a new year, and I'm so excited to see what the rest of the year will bring!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Making over my Mornings: Days 12 and 13


We are on the home stretch.  It's kind of sad actually that tomorrow is the last day of my makeover my mornings course!  I'm not going to reflect today though, that will be used for tomorrow.  Today I finished day 13, and I can't tell you how I've enjoyed the past two sessions!
  Day 12 was great.

  I wasn't alone for my morning on Monday.  My little guy was up bright and early as well.   He sat at the table coloring as I went through my video and my worksheet.  He fills my heart with so much happiness it spills over.  I began my morning this morning by writing about him and his sweetness in my gratitude journal.  
   I began by reading the Early to Rise book on my kindle, and came across this great quote; 
   "If you want to control the starting line of tomorrow morning, then get control of the finish line tonight."  I love how the books tie in together.  One of the first things I remember from beginning this challenge is Crystal letting us know that a good morning begins the night before.  I love how he emphasized on this in his book as well!  The key to getting up early is getting to bed on time.  Absolutely.  
   The next note in the book that really stood out to be was about simplification.  "One solution to missing out on so much is to do less."  Also, "We can experience rest all day by simplifying our tasks and being present in every moment."  That was awesome to me!  I'm the person who tries to do everything at once.  I noticed this the other day, when the internet connection on my computer was being hit or miss.  Each time the computer would kick me offline, I instinctly grabbed my phone that was lying next to me and flipped through it until the computer came back on.  I didn't even realize I was doing it, but once I did I realized that I do it all the time!  Mindlessly scrolling through pinterest and news feeds and the weather app.  Notably, my automatic go-to phone usage has decreased significantly since I stopped using social media..  yet its still so accessible.  Sometimes we just need to be intentional with our down time as well.  The book also mentioned that you must force yourself to do one thing at a time.  It doesn't come naturally..  being busy comes naturally.  you must force yourself to do one thing, one computer program at at time...  one app at a time.  
   I really truthfully love how these studies are all pulling together.  See, I prayed specifically for tools to equip me to better serve Him, and these are the ones that he gave me.  I'm thankful!  And I know these are the tools, because they flow together too well to be happenstance.  :)  
   Day 12 on Makeover your Mornings was about decision fatigue.  Again, it was about doing too much at one time.  We do this all the time.. . one decision after another, without even thinking about it.  However, Crystal points out in this session that you make so many decisions each day, and by making several decisions, it can lead to making poor decisions, just out of what she terms as "decisions fatigue".  She suggested writing down some stressful areas in your life that require making a lot of decisions, and make a plan to eliminate those decisions.  
   By far, my most stressful decisions are about food.  I absolutely despise stopping in the middle of the day and wondering what I am going to make for our meals.  A meal plan is something that does take time and effort, but at the same time simply planning it can eliminate a lot of stress for me, and take away that one decision day after day and placing it on one day alone.  It seems like something small, but I know that I end up making worse decisions about meal planning when I don't plan ahead.  I throw something together or go out to eat.  So making that decision a planning period rather than something I have to decide on every day will eliminate a lot of stress for me!  
   Another area was directly with our homeschooling.  I made the decision a few years ago to start doing a History lesson on my own, and then this year I landed on two options for history that I really enjoyed!  So rather than trying so hard to put together something on my own, I've made the decision to go with the set curriculum that I have found.  I'm excited about it, and I won't go into details because I have a blog post coming up specifically about the wonderful things we are changing in our homeschool and I'm excited to share!  But that was another area in my life that required decisions that I can change and alter to meet our needs.
   She used this quote, "The last thing I want to do is make poor decisions simply because I'm so exhausted by so many choices."  The choices about what I feed my children and what I chose to use to educate them is a big decision!  Not something I should make a poor choice about out of fatigue.
   Day 13 was all about failure.  I needed this one!  As I mentioned, day 12 was on Monday.  By Tuesday, I had gotten the cold that my little guy had this week, and I was out for the count.  Monday night and Tuesday were really hard, and yesterday I was miserable.  I haven't felt like working out, and we have also eaten out for several days.  It has been hard to be a sick Mama.  Today I do feel a lot better but not 100% just yet.  But still, it taught me a lot about allowing yourself some grace.
   Now even though I've been sick and have been getting up later, its still a good one and a half to two hours earlier than I was getting up when I started this journey, so that is still an accomplishment, especially.  So as much as I don't consider it an actual failure, this lesson played into this.  She mentioned that failure is simply evidence that you are trying.  Also, that failure may be a sign that you need to stop and tweak your goals to better fit what is going on in your life.  Sometimes when you are sick, you require more sleep, so you either have to go to bed a little earlier or sleep a little later.  Also if you're not working out, you can afford the extra sleep.  That was my cause this week.  I am congested and coughing so working out would be so difficult..  yet the extra thirty minutes of sleep from not working out is good for my body and helps me to rest and recover better.  
  A really great portion of this lesson was her two action steps to take when you fail.  The first one was, evaluate why you failed.  Was it because your goals were unrealistic, or because of an unplanned circumstance?  The second was, are you getting stuck in the comparison trap?  Are you failing because you are trying to emulate someone else, and trying to use their routine instead of making your own?  I'm afraid this is a trap that I fall into more than once in my life.  Homeschooling, weight loss, and even this...  sometimes we hold ourselves up to others and want our plan to look exactly like theirs.  Like in the beginning of the video it shows her alarm clock going off at 5:30, so my initial thought was that I was going to get up up at 5:30!  After struggling with that, I realized she also said her kids were small and she was in bed by 9:30 each night.  That is never going to happen at my house lol.  Maybe when my kids were younger, but now that they are older they are sometimes in bed by 9:30 but rarely asleep.  Also, with my husbands work, school and ministry schedule, sometimes the later hours in the evening after the younger kids are asleep are the only times that we can spend together.  It's precious and our time, and I love it.  So I had to tweak my schedule.  I can get up around 6 and still accomplish what I need too in the two hours before school.  Also, she works out about 20 minutes a day.  That would be great for some people, especially if you are in the 'maintaining' area of your goals, but I'm in the weight loss area.  I'm also trying to control my blood pressure..  so I need more than 20 minutes each day.  I'm also not a huge money-maker blogger the way that she is, so there doesn't need to be specific amounts of time dedicated to that each morning.  So my routine can't be exactly like hers...  or like anyone elses.  It has to be my own, work for me, and replenish me.  
   I credit the fact that I slept in and still got up early to God first and foremost, but secondly, to the fact that by now I've made it a habit.  Crystal also mentions that, "Sometimes just sticking to your goals and your routine will make getting up and ready easier.  It can change your attitude."  I began this by saying I could stick to it for 21 days, because I've been told thats when it becomes a habit.  It has been close to that, but my next goal is just to stick it out another 21 days, and make sure that its a solid habit in my life.
  I leave you to my needful kiddos with this quote;

   "Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going."
Jim Ryun -long distance runner

Also, visit this blogpost by Anne Voskamp about new habits...

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Intentional and Organized, and Free Pretty Planner Pages!!!

   In the beginning of the year I made some resolutions.  All of them centered around one thing..  being more intentional.  That is the center focus of all of my goals..  and so far, a month into the year, its been a pretty great one :)
   I've worked hard and Made over my mornings... which has been a life changer.  Because of this simple move, I have become more focused and attentive.  I have became a better Mother, wife and steward of my time.  It has been one of the most life-changing things I have ever done!  I'll leave the rest of the bragging to the blog posts about making over my mornings, because I gush about it endlessly then!
   I've also cut caffeine significantly..  and its still been very hard for me.  I've made small changes that although I'm not seeing big results yet, I know that the results will come with time.  Health, friendships, and all of my relationships.  I've intentionally kept in touch with friends and family.  I've sent cards and letters, texts and phone calls.  I've tried so hard to make each person who is important in my life know that they are.  
   Now I'm finding it rather important to focus on organization, especially since I feel like I have so much more time to do so!
   Which brings me to my new fun creation!  I looked far and wide to find a planner that worked really well for me.  Usually I had issues..  not finding the colors I wanted or the content.  Not being able to have everything that I needed in a planner...  so I decided I would try my hand at making my own!  And I LOVED the way they all turned out!  
   Since I worked so hard, and it looked so nice, I wanted to make it available to all of you wonderful people who are checking in on me, free to download!  Here are some screenshots, so you can check it out!

    I will be sharing later in this week how I used the Arc Binder System from staples to customize it!  Absolutely amazing...and surprisingly   check back in for that :)

   So without further ado, here are some free goodies, and I thank you SO much for stopping by!  Be sure and follow me on blogger or google plus so you can get other free goodies that I'm sharing!  And let me know if you enjoy these!!

Monthly Calendar Pages:

*Jan * Feb* March* April * May * June * July * Aug * Sept * Oct * Nov * Dec *

Divider and Title Pages

Blog Planner                        Meal Plans

Monthly Calendar                            Notes

Financial Planner                            Passwords

Gratitude Journal                        Prayer Journal

Grocery List                       To-Do List

Enjoy!  And come back Monday to see how I put all of this together in a really fun planner!  

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Making Over my Mornings Days 9, 10 and 11

   I realized today how close I am to being finished with this course and it kind of made me sad!  It has became a part of my mornings that I look forward too!  However, there's a lot under my belt to pick up when its over.  We started a new bible study for our Sunday school class at church that I'm excited about! Also, for our women's bible study on campus we began a new book and both are about how to study your bible.  I'm so excited.  That's one thing I've prayed hard about since we got here.  I have a pretty nice study bible that gives background information, and my husband has plenty of commentaries, but I've never really been shown how to study the scriptures.  I can't wait to learn, and I believe these studies will be amazing!  Not to mention I still need to finish the Armor of God study by Priscilla Shrier that we started and I never got finished with.  I'm amazed at the amount of time that I've been able to have now that I've started with this course.  Amazing.  Truly!
   It's as if Crystal Paine and I are on the same wave length.  This morning I was thinking about my morning routine, and how I needed to get it in place.  Since I'm used to getting up early, it doesn't seem so hard anymore...  but I'm still going through the morning without any set routine.  Today that's what she talked about.  I've been thinking a lot about routines and how to set them, and I've decided on some things to keep, some things to put away, and what time to do all of those things!
   First, I am keeping my devotion time.  That is special to me.  Crystal mentioned lighting a candle, and that sounds wonderful!  I try to keep candles on the table for the kids to wake up too.  But I didn't think about lighting them for me!  I love candles.  I also want to find something good for me and good to have as a warm drink in the mornings.  I don't do coffee, so I want to find something to look forward too that's not so bad for me.  
   I also want to keep my exercise time and to do it earlier.  I originally wanted to wake up 30 minutes or more earlier to do this, but each morning that I got up earlier, I was tired more and more the night before.  I LOVE spending time with my babies at night, and reading book after book..  so in order to do that I'm going to have to settle for waking up around 6, so I will get enough sleep and not be exhausted the next evening.  The one thing that I am willing to part with, is blogging in the mornings.  I can still blog on Friday and Saturday mornings, because we don't have school so if my workout runs a little past the kids waking up that's okay.  But on school mornings I absolutely need my workout to be over by 8, and in the shower around 8am so I can be with my kids during breakfast and get school started around 9.  So that is my plan so far!  Her goal was all about narrowing down the things that are most important in your morning routines, and setting those up in a way that you look forward to those routines each morning.  
   So I'm excited and thankful!  These nine days have been such a blessing!  Glad there's at least a few more!

Day 10
   Today I studied that you should not go with the flow.  If you go with the flow of life, you are not in charge.. 'the flow' is in charge.  If you don't become intentional about your life, then it will roll over you and you will feel like you are being dragged along.  It's important to make decisions and be intentional over your life.  And unselfish.  If you are intentional about your life, you can better use your time to bless others.  I think about how I use my mornings to bless others.  I get up early enough to make my husband coffee before school.  I take care of what I want to do first so that I can give the rest of me to my children.  I take time to learn and grow spiritually so that I can be closer to God, hear his voice better and be a better servant for Him.  
   Today Crystal also talked about lies that we tell ourselves, and how that can hold us back from who God meant for us to be.  She mentioned that a lot of the time, the best things can happen right outside of your comfort zone.  I can completely understand this!  The best Bible studies have been the ones I've been worried about going too because I was 'not spiritual' enough.  The best friends are the ones I was originally nervous about talking too.  The best relationships are the ones I was often hesitant about pursuing.  Let me tell you, moving me into an apartment between two families, sharing a backyard with two other families and living on a college campus in my early thirties with my four kids was WAY out of my comfort zone..  but I realize in doing so God has taught me hospitality, he has taught me to be kind to others and love on people, and in return he has shown me true love of a neighbor.  I don't think we'll ever live secluded like we have before..  neighbors are amazing!  Did you know this, or have you been too stuck in your comfort zone to find that out?
    I love this quote from Crystal for today, and it really encouraged me so much!
   "I encourage you to be mindful of the messages currently percolating in your head.  If you feed them, they take up permanent residence.  But if you replace them with something new- with truth and hope- new life has space to flourish instead."
   Which actually tied in beautifully with the devotion I've been reading, Made to Crave..
   In this devotion, she quoted Luke 9:23, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me"  She followed by saying that she once turned from television because she found that it was discouraging her.  My favorite quote from this book so far is this, "When I'm depleted, I soak up deeply whatever I take in."  And that is absolutely true for me!  When I'm discouraged, everything seems so magnified, everything that I take in is completely overwhelming.  I also believe that they can feed the lies that are circling through my head in the moment.  So it is my intention to try and sort out what is depleting to me and what is life-giving.  What is truth and what is more lies that make me believe I'm inadequate..  and soak up what is good.  

  Day 11
   Day 11 was all about exercise.  This is a big one for me.  As I mentioned before, I have struggled with weight issues for ten years now, since my daughter was born.  I also have had gestational diabetes in all three of my pregnancies, as well as preeclampsia with my last baby, which turned into hypertension in the aftermath of my pregnancy.  So these health issues make it absolutely imperative that I lose weight and cultivate a healthy lifestyle.  This course was a beginning for me to step in that direction, by giving me time to exercise. 
   With all four of my kids at home, three of them homeschooling and one of them preschooling (or running around the house unschooling and distracting his siblings- I love my baby :)  ) I have a high-demand job that doesn't give me time to workout unless I do it in the morning.  Thankfully this course has carved out some time, and motivated me at the same time.  
   I mentioned early on in this course that I was also reading a book recommended by Crystal called What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.  I was super excited this week because she quoted  a study that was done at my very own Alma Mater, Appalachian State University!  (Go Apps!)  So naturally, I have to talk about it!  She said that morning exercise has more beneficial effects that other times.  A study at Appalachian State University found that people who work out first thing in the morning doze off faster at night and have less disrupted sleep than those who exercise at other times.  
   The only problem with having time to exercise was that I normally did it when the kids were eating breakfast.  I have decided to still do my morning devotion time and bible study, but cut my blogging time until the evening hours or the weekends.  That will give me time to workout in the mornings, and be ready to serve my children breakfast..  which is something I really do enjoy doing.  
   Two suggestions that Crystal gave was one, making exercise a priority.  I do intend to do that by making it second to only my prayer and bible study time.  Lastly, she suggests using daily trackers for food and exercise.  I can't recommend more that you somehow get a Fitbit and some friends who are using it!  Some of my accountability partners keep me in weekly challenges that really motivate me to do well!  My weight watchers tracker also keeps my food in check.  I just have to be intentional on using it, and using it daily!  
  Did I mention I have loved this course!  Three more days, and I have to say, it has truly been a magnificent success!  


Monday, January 23, 2017

Must Read Books for Mommies

What's on your bookshelf?  Although this walk through Mommyhood often leaves little time left to read books that aren't children's books, its important to keep our hearts in check.  It's important to have our own outlets and our own interests.  However, some of those interests sometimes (television shows, movies, hobbies..) I find actually do more damage than good.  They take my heart away from Mommyhood and leave me discontent.  Last year, I really did a lot of re-evaluation in finding things that spoke life into me and things that left me wanting.  I found that the books on my bookshelf were what compromised of my "Me" time, and that I should use that wisely in order to keep my heart in the right place...  where God and my family need it to be.
   Although I share frequently, since we are beginning a new year I wanted to take the time to encourage you, sweet Mama, to fill your bookshelf with life-giving books that will encourage you and help you get your heart in the right place to begin a new year with your sweet babes.  So here are some books from my bookshelf to yours, and I hope that you enjoy each of them as much as I do!

The Mission of Motherhood: Touching your child's heart for Eternity- Sally Clarkson
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World Joanna Weaver
Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love- Sally Clarkson
Hope for the Heart of the HomeSchool Mom- Jamerrill Stewart (My Review)
Pressing Pause: 100 Quiet Moments for Moms to Meet with Jesus- Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk

 Joining other bloggers to give you some great reading material!!!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Motivation Monday: Measure of Success

   Just a disclaimer..  I know there are a handful of different people reading my blog.  So if you are one of those of the opposite gender, there are some girly things in this post.  So you may not relate, and may not want continue.  If you do, you have been warned, lol.  
   Last week my post summed up my entire week.  Unmotivated.  Unmotivated to do anything.  For years I just piled through it, I had seen enough movies to know that a woman's cycle brings her down.  But it was this beautiful woman, and her beautiful blog post that really changed my heart and mind, and made me finally be at peace with the way that God made me...  Stasi Eldredge: Making Peace with Hormones.  
   After reading her blog it was like a breath of fresh air.  What we were allowed to talk about this?  Who knew!  Since I had finally decided that it was okay to have these thoughts and feelings and that my hormones were not just a terrible excuse, I picked up this book, (disclaimer: this is a very secular book..  so there are some distasteful humor in it..  but for the most part, its spot on!) and started really trying to get in touch with my hormones and what was going on with my body.  Insecurity, not being motivated..  fatigued, sore, sad..  all of these things characterize that final week..  which leads to being unmotivated.
   I have since stopped tracking and stopped studying, but this past week that hit me dead on and hard has encouraged me to keep up my studying.  After all, God made our bodies and made our feelings for a reason.  It's something worth exploring and finding out what is going on.  And certainly something worth trying to find out what affects our hormones and intensifies them.  Perhaps on the up side of a cycle one could figure out what's working before the plummet begins again!  
   So all that being said, finally being in an uphill battle makes all the difference for me.  Although, my dear Effie, the odds are not in my favor.  Certainly, I slept too late today.  Which I don't count as a disqualification of my Makeover your Mornings course, as I was up with a baby who coughed all night and wanted him just to rest easy in my arms as late as possible this morning.  Those mornings are dear and precious to me..  yet it has made me far more away this time of night than I usually am.  It is a rainy evening which is foretold to product into a raining morning.  And if all of that wasn't enough, I had finally broke down and ordered a decent pieces of workout attire to motivate me, and somehow it was marked as delivered today, and is nowhere to be found!  So with all of that bummer, added to the top of the fact that I completely fell off the wagon last week makes me realize that this Motivation Monday is going to be a hard one to keep motivated!  
   So what can we talk about here?  Not another unmotivated post.  Not about how I just wanted to die a little today when my sister told me my niece was having a pool party next month, or the thoughts that I was about 8 lbs smaller the last time I wore my swimsuit...  no.  Lets not talk about that.  Lets not talk about those odds.  Lets talk about the real measure of success.  The ones that are probably not going to show up on that scale tomorrow morning.
   Two weeks ago I decided not to drink coffee in the mornings, and began drinking sweet tea instead.  It helped me to kick the caffeine habit effectively, yet still made me consume a sugar-filled beverage first thing in the morning.  My desire to find something to look forward to in the mornings that wasn't caffeine or sugar landed on herbal tea.  To my pleasure, while my husband and I were looking for a tie to match for a wedding here on campus at the closet that campus families donate their items too to share with other students, someone had donated a tea kettle!   The next morning I had a hot glass of blueberry tea, and it was wonderful!  No caffeine, no sugar, but a wonderful morning nonetheless!
   On Friday my husband and I had that rare date night to Applebees, and rather than ordering potatoes on top of potatoes...  I opted for some grilled green beans.  
   Friday evening, I actually walked around the grocery store scanning snacks with my weight watchers app.  Yep I did...  that was me.  I got some snacks that would curb those cravings and not destroy my points, so I could that as success for certain!  
   I took vitamins and drank water...  and those were successes.  No matter how small.
   Its the small steps.  It's the moment by moment.  It's being intentional, it changes everything.  I'm writing this on Sunday evening, because becoming more intentional about my mornings I'm deciding to put off blogging until the evenings, which I can't always assure will happen.  But I'm being motivated, and for this Monday, I'm not allowing the scale to measure my success.  This Monday I won't even get on the scale.  Next Monday, I will be weighing in, because this week I plan on killing it.  
   How's that for motivation for you! 
  Until Monday friends.  Keep smiling..  even if you are on day 25+ on your cycle.  We'll figure this out together.  :)  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Make over my Mornings: Days 7 and 8


Day 7:
   Today's lesson was all about accountability partners.  Crystal first mentions that, "Accountability is the key to our success in so many areas of life."
   The idea of accountability partners is something that I didn't take very seriously for years.  Although it seemed like every bible study that I took part in was learning in toward the importance of community and surrounding yourself with other people who can invest in your life, I still shyed away from the idea.  Especially in this season of life, where I'm in a new place with a lot of people who I don't know very well- accountability seemed less important than other things.  I didn't reach out, I didn't seek accountability partners...  actually I tried my best to stay away from it.  I shut myself out and tried to do it all myself, and found myself resting on survival mode for a long time.
   It actually took deleting social media for me to reach out to other people.  That sounds strange, because the basis of 'social networks' is that its supposed to be social, right?  For me that wasn't the case.  Without social media, if I wanted to know about someone, I had to contact them.  I found myself actually talking to people I normally would just look up on their page, check on them and go on about life.  Strangely, leaving the 'social' network made me more social!
   Most recently, I started making accountability partners in my life for my 'getting healthy' routine.  I began texting a friend who was also on weight watchers, to share recipes and ideas...  to talk about how we had done that week and if we had tracked our meals.  I then reached out to others and we began reading the "Made to Crave" devotional in a little group message, and posted about it each day.  Although it didn't take much of my time, the fact that I was  posting in that little group gave me the inspiration to get up and read that each day.  Just because I knew I was going to text her, it gave me the inspiration to track my foods and seek out healthier options.  Accountability has made all the difference!
   The more I reached out the easier it became.  I started speaking out in Bible study and Sunday school so I could have women praying with and for me.  I stopped shutting myself out and started reaching outward.  It was a big step in my life, and comforting to me when I was feeling lonely.
   My accountability for this program has been right here in this blog.  Knowing that I'm sending my commitment out there into the world does make me feel a bit more vulnearble than I ever thought I would like to be...  but its also inspired me to do it again and again.  I honestly didn't think I had this in me, I was surprised the first morning I woke up..  so now knowing I've been doing this for over a week is mind blowing to me!  All of the hours I have made up, all of the extra time I have had lately has made ALL the difference.  I'm so thankful I made this commitment, and that God gave me this tool!

Day 8:
    When I first turned on the lesson I was like..  ugh.   She was talking about a "To Do" list.  I was tired of making lists.  The goals list was out of my character.  I am the person who makes a grocery list and gets in the store too overwhelmed to actually look at it.  Strange, I know!  Something about lists just don't mesh well with my personality, although I really do long to be a more organized soul!
   Yet the deeper I got into the lesson the more I was nodding and saying Yes!  I need that!  It was very inspirational!
   Her first step was focus on making sure that you and your family are taken care of.  That brought me right back to the quote I had written down just moments ago from my devotion, that really spoke to my heart this morning in my book,
   "The God who gave you your gifts and talents is the same God who gave you souls to bring up, train, invest in, and disciple.  I don't know what His "dream" is for you, but I know that scripture is filled with admonitions for a Mama to make her focus and bring up her children.  A Mama's primary domain is her home.........
   .... A wise woman manages her time; she doesn't necessarily give up everything, although sometimes she must."
-Sarah Mae, Desperate: Hope for the Mom who Needs to Breathe

    Somehow, getting up earlier and taking moments for yourself makes you feel like you can conquer the world!  I mean it!  With that hour of extra time that you didn't have before, you can really start to feel human again.  I had been living in survival mode for so  long and not even noticed it.  Now that I have time and space to breathe again, I all of the sudden have an awakening that's hard to explain.  A zest for life, and a loooong list of goals that I want to accomplish!
   One of those goals is to create a blog that is warm and inviting, and most of all- inspiring.  One that is clean and simple and inviting, not bombarding with ads and pop ups and list after list.  Somewhere people can come to feel and breathe and connect.  I know that it takes years and years to build such a blog, but I want this space to have meaning and feeling to it.  It's a slow process, but its a goal of mine.
   Another goal of mine came with a long conversation with my husband the other night.  Years ago, I had a pretty successful photography business.  My kids were small and we hadn't really gotten into the gist of homeschooling yet.  I spent myself up and eventually, gave up the business altogether.  Over the years its been hit or miss...  I've done a wedding here and there...  some kids photos.  The other night my husband and I were talking about our collective interest in photography, and how we would like to go out and take photos, just for us..  not for social networking (which we are both no longer a part of) or to share on any platform, just because the years have made us grow to love and appreciate art and photography.  So again, that is another part of my ever-growing list of hopes and dreams.
   However, I have to prioritize, and not let my pie in the sky dreams become bigger than the intentional calling that God has placed on my life when he made me a Mother.
   I loved this quote from Crystal,
   "Taking care of the basic needs of others is a very important thing to be investing your life in."  
She said the most important thing on your to-do list must be the things that will matter in 10 or 25 years, and I know absolutely what those things are.  The basic needs of my family.
   Since I've been spending some time in the morning, I've been so much better about that!  It's easier to pour out to others after I've spent a good part of the morning pouring into myself.  It's easier to put my things away and pour myself into school for the kids.  It's more filling and life-giving to them if I don't wake up by hitting the ground running because the first moments of my morning are filled with meeting needs.  I'm more loving and more giving, I've had time to pray and ask God to take off my fleshly desires and give me desires to take care of them first.   I'm thankful for that, for the re-prioritization of my life that God has granted me through this journey of getting up earlier, and I believe it will have lifetime, lasting effects.
   She mentions that after you take care of step 1, then its time to take care of step 2, those other things on your list.  Those dreams and interests that make you who you are.  There is a time for that if you make time, but she also mentioned that this requires breaking it down and making it into bite-sized pieces.  Since I've joined a network of bloggers, I can find blogging prompts and ideas.  I can use my bite-sized time to write those blog posts, a little at a time, and schedule them to post at a later date.   It's not immediate, but its reaching that goal of building an encouraging blog and fulfilling my passion for writing, but its taking it 10, 20 or 30 minutes at a time rather than sitting down and giving big chunks of my day to writing.  Sometimes it takes days to write a blog post...  but I write it anyhow.  I also don't feel like I'm putting my desires in front of my children, because they are first, and those bite-sized moments between homeschool, meal times, laundry, chores, running errands, taking naps, reading books..  and all the other Mommy things I do, those are spent doing things I enjoy.  I don't feel so 'wrung out' any longer, and I don't feel guilty for doing things I simply enjoy doing.
   The last step was to make a home for that to-do list.  Those simple things floating around on post-it notes or in the margins of my notebook, or in my case..  that ever growing text message I send to myself when I have something I really need to remember!  This brings me to a big project I've been working on that I will be sharing!  In order to organize my life, I've been working on putting together an ultimate planner..  complete with pretty pages made from photoshop by yours truly :)  I will be sharing that this week, so keep coming back or sign up for email updates to be sure you get it!  The printable calendar and divider sheets will be free, as well as templates for meal plans and to-do list.  I'm SO excited to share this with you, and I've used lots of those bite-sized time slots to work on it, so keep checking out, or leave me your email address and I'll be happy to let you know when its posted :)
   Thank you for stopping by, and for checking in and keeping up with my morning routine!

   And just so you know!  Because I have loved this course and have been overwhelmingly inspired by how amazing it has been and how life-changing, I have decided to promote this, so you will see my affiliate link at the bottom of all of my entries!  If you purchase the program from this link, a portion of the purchase will go back to me.  :)  Only because I've completed over half of this course and absolutely believe in its ability to grow and change you!

Make over your mornings too!

note: this is my affiliate link, so a portion of your purchase goes to me :)  So I can try her other courses!  Haha :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


   I read this today in my book, "Desperate: Hope for the Mom who Needs to Breathe" which I am re-reading.  I wanted to share it with you Mommies out there who may be having a hard day, week, or month.

    "This process developed by faith, and over an extended period of time.  I had to behave as though I loved and cherished my children even when the feelings were weak or hidden.  Learning to be patient and really listen to them when I was exhausted was a commitment I had made long before finding myself in such situations  I had resolved beforehand to focus on saying words of life and encouragement when I really wanted time alone; to use a gentle and respectful tone when I was tempted to express anger.  IT was out of the belief that these commitments mattered to God that I made them.  The core of this concept is that feelings will follow obedience.  The more I practiced love, joy, peace, patience, and all the other fruits of the Spirit, the more I found myself loving such attributes in the depths of my heart.  It was as though God gave me these children, so that I could grow up and become all that He had designed me to be."
-Sally Clarkson, "Desperate: Hope for the Mom who Needs to Breathe."

Monday, January 16, 2017

Motivation Monday: Unmotivated...


   How hard it is to write a post on motivation when you feel really, seriously unmotivated?  Well, I've been awake now for 13 hours, and I'm just now sitting down in front of my computer trying to type out this post..  
   It started out with a not so great weekend routine, which I discussed briefly in today's Making over my Mornings post.  Then today is one of those days that you feel like just existed.  Weigh in was not great, I lost .02 lbs..  so basically, nothing?  I didn't do well on my sleep routine, I hadn't worked out since Thursday.  Yes, pretty much I felt like a failure.  I dreaded writing this post.  Why?  Why would I tell people I had failed?  All I was doing was making me, and making God look bad.  Why did I start this blog and start telling people I was going to try, only to come up a week later and say that I had failed.  It's been one of those sort of days.
   As I pondered on this, and the reasons why I let myself go at the end of the week even though I had started so strongly, I realized that this wasn't going to be an easy battle to fight.  This war was not going to be easily won.  This morning I read my devotion, and my heart prompted me to keep reading into the next one, the title alone, "The War against My Soul" was enough to intrigue me.  
   I loved the part when Lysa said, "This issue was too small for God, but too big for me."  I hear her, and I know how that feels.  I feel like that all the time.  This is nothing to God, why should I give it to him?   I'm being vain.  Beauty is on the inside not on the outside.  I'm just fighting a losing battle.  Isn't it okay for a preachers wife to be plesantly plump?  I'm far past my prime years anyway.  
   So. Many. Lies.
  God does care.  He cares a lot.  He believes your body is a temple, the indwelling of the holy spirit, and he intends you to take care of it!  He wants you to feel good and feel whole.  And yes, this is very much a spiritual issue.  It's an issue of self-control.  It's an issue of obedience.  It's an issue of feeling confident in myself and being able to confidently help my husband in his ministry.  It's about so much.  Even on the days like today, when it doesn't feel that way.  It means a lot.
   God loves me.  He wants me to be the best me that I can be.  So yes, this is important to him, and I should never belittle that.  
    I also learned, again from my Make over my Mornings course, that goals are easier in bite-sized portions.  I wrote today on some goals and some small ways to make them.  So I honestly think that is what this is all about..  making goals, making them small enough to achieve, and believing that I can do it.  
   My goal for January was to finish my morning course, and complete it, to begin my day at 5:30 each morning.  That gives me plentiful time to do personal devotions and to work out before my kids need me for school.  That is something small, and if I can focus on small things, the big things won't seem like mountains.
   Also, I just need to track.  I think planning is key to tracking.  Make sure you have snacks, make sure that you know what you're eating and know where your boundaires are.  Also, working out!  If I work out in the mornings I find that I'm MUCH more likely to keep up with my tracking and eat better.  I also feel so much better after a morning workout.  
   Also, something funny..  I saw this thing on an internet news article (really I did..  I'm still not social networking, yay me!  It's been a month and I'm still loving it!)  about a lady who had committed to going to the gym for 100 days and how it had changed her.  It was called #giveit100.  Although I don't do social media, I'm still inspired!  One of the most simple yet effective workouts I've ever done is simply planking.  So I commit today, starting tomorrow, to plank for 100 days!  I"m excited about this challenge, and its simple enough to commit too.  Especially since I can only do it for around 30 seconds right now lol.  
   So here's to better Mondays :)