Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lent 2017 Part 2 of 4

In 2017, Lent started March 1 and it ends on Thursday, April 13. Any way you look at it, 40 days is a LONG time. I decided to break it down in 10 day increments so we have just finished increment number 2.

It's been interesting to see and hear how people are observing Lent. Some are taking the mass exodus from Facebook (if you wanna do that well, read this). Others are attending special Lent services at their church and giving up things. Oh, apparently I gave up coffee for Lent in the past. The things I did before motherhood!

It's been more interesting to see and heard how God is speaking to me while I observe Lent. I told you I'd modify my process this year and it's bearing fruit. I'm setting out to:

1 •  Pray and ask God for guidance ;
2 • Read the Bible; 
3 • Practice Biblical Fasting;
4 • Be Joyful and 
5 • Listen. 

It's been extremely eye opening to know (yet again) that as I pursue God, He reveals Himself to me. This does not make me super spiritual but it has made me aware of where I fall short and where I need to improve. I am counting on God's help to change me and mold me to be who He has called me to be.

In other news, I've been searching for an Easter Play to attend with the kids. I found a local musical and I am THRILLED about it. In 2017 there isn't a shortage of Easter Egg Hunts (which it's okay cause I got my baskets and we are going to attend one) but plays and musicals about Christ and the Power of His Resurrection are hard to come by. Anyhow, I'm glad I found one.

Friends, remember that the important thing about Lent is not Lent itself but to know how gracious and good God is. He doesn't need a holy day to be good to us and I'm jumping for joy on account of this news! Happy Lent my friend.

More on this series:
How to exit Social Media the smart way
My non-traditional way of observing Lent
Lent: the first 10 days

Saturday, March 18, 2017

2017 goals: the time frame talk

Remember those goals you and I set in January? We can still accomplish them. I love the quote that says "there are no unrealistic goals, only unrealistic time frames." Here's the time frame that you and I, Oprah and Bill Gates have been granted by God: 288 days. This is exactly how long you and I have till we reach December 31, 2017. How much can you accomplish in 0.7 years or 41 weeks or 9.46 months or 6,912 hours

Where are your goals my friend? Take a confident look at them because you have time to accomplish them. It'll require some dedication from your part because your goals are not unrealistic, your time frame might be.

Here's what you have going against you: screens. If you are like the *average American, you are spending close to 11 hours a day looking at a screen. What that means is that out of the 6,912 hours God has given you for the rest of the year, you might spend 3,157 looking at a screen. Impressive hum? I know you and I can do better!

Here's what you have going for you: your Amazing Brain! Yes! You can think for yourself and you can shake this need of letting life pass you by without your full and conscious participation. Decide now who you want to be in 288 days and let those goals serve as a map to get you to your ideal destination. The first step is to decide where you want to go. Then you follow that map. Next, you should expect detours. Lastly you will get there so celebrate! (For a full, fun post on "goals as a map," please click here)

Friend, I can't shake these countdown numbers off my head. If you were a pregnant lady, you would totally have a baby in 2017. Whether you are pregnant or not, we are all expecting great things in the form of goals. I'm here to remind you that now is the time to reframe how you will spend the rest of your year.

Use your brain and map your way to success.

* Nielsen report

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

2 years of Organizing: what works and what doesn't

the never ending work of organizing
I didn't meant to do this but I realized that the investment I made 2 years ago on organizing my home is totally paying off. I want to tell you what worked and how I am maintaining my success in this area.

Let me tell you how it all started. I had a 6, 5 and a 3 year-old two years ago. We never really had steady home help but occasionally we'd hire someone to come a clean the home. The helpers always did a great job and I also learned that while most people clean your home, organizing it is up to you.

I went back to work and my schedule got super tight. Still, my organization problems did not go away. I told my husband that I'd try to manage the home myself. One time I paid a few bucks so someone could help me organize one of my kids' closets. I learned a lot from that experience. So, how am I enjoying an organized home today?

The first thing I identified was my greatest frustration source. I would say EVERYTHING but to be honest, laundry was the worse thing on my list. It had to be done and I just couldn't keep up with it. I used to have everything laying out on my closet floor because things were really out of hand. Once I identified my greatest source of frustration, I went after my solution. Hiring a professional organizer was out of the realm of what I could afford. I also didn't think that paying someone to clean and do laundry was a good investment of our budget. I knew I had to do it myself, the question was "how?" I came up with my 45-minute solution and I insisted in using it for the past 2 years. I truly found something that I could do myself, it did not cost $30 an hour and every time I use this method I get great results.

The second thing I identified was a time slot when I could implement this plan. I had to take a hard look at my schedule to realize that if I was going to reach the goal of working on organizing my home, I had to BE at home. I had to turn down a lot of outing opportunities so that I could work on home organization. I know some of you probably knew that but I certainly didn't. This also explains why I couldn't keep up with laundry before. I was not at home enough and when I was, I was exhausted. Laundry was the last thing on my list. A great plan without time to implement it is not so great.

The third thing I identified was the need to be persistent with my new discovery. Once I found out that the 45-minute solution was going to get me out of the hole and that I needed to be home to implement it, I added persistence to this equation. Getting organized feels like a miracle but there's nothing miraculous about doing laundry every week. I needed to realize that persistence is the name of the game. I often tell myself "finish what you start" when I am about to work on laundry. I also timed myself washing and folding clothes to further convince my brain that this necessary chore doesn't take long and the benefits are immense. I also learned to save some fun Podcast for such time as laundry time. Anything to aid persistence is worth doing.

I understand some of my readers are just too busy to think about adding one more thing in their schedules. I want to offer some solutions that did not work me for me but may work for you.

Hire Professional Help - Just admit you can't do it and bless someone else with your money. The return for your investment are a clean home and peace of mind. Where would you find such person? Ask around. Ask me if you live in my neck of the woods. Even if you get monthly help, it will be worth the investment.

Hire a young friend - I told you that I paid a few bucks to a friend who helped me organize my kids' closet. I know people who have the habit of hiring a teenager to play with their kids while they organized a certain area of their home. If the kids are your main concern, there are people out there who will play with them while you get organized. It costs a fraction of the cost of hiring a professional and most of your good friends would tell you that they'd do it for free. All you have to do is ask.

Barter - I have yet to find someone who would do this for me but I know that exchanging one talent for another is a great way to get organized. Again, all you have to do is ask the right person and let go of the pride that stops you from admitting you need help. Think about your talents: you have many! I am sure that someone out there can benefit from your talent and you can benefit from theirs. Be open.

Live in a mess until your kids grow up - I'm not willing to do this but it is also an option. To each its own right?

Join a Coop - I understand that people are more open to join a cooking coop than an organizing one. What I've heard through the years is that people do not want others to see what their house looks like. Here's the thing: if your friends want to see a perfect house, they go to the stands and look for Martha Stewart's Living Magazine. We all just need to recognize that living in community requires transparency and an open door policy. Transparency because if you are open, God can answer your prayers through your friends. Open door because if you decide to open your doors any time a friend comes over, you will benefit from living in truth. You will also stop apologizing for the way your home looks. Your friends don't care, they do care about your beautiful heart.

Oh wow, I started with home organization by the way of laundry and I ended with transparency. If you know me you've heard me say that it is through transparency that light shines brighter. Happy organizing!

More on Home Organization:
Time Management for the New Mom
Why Declutter?
How to avoid holiday clutter
Food Prep Day
Organization Hack: time your chores
Finding an Organization Method that works
The 45-minute solution: organizing
Want to be hospitable? Here are 5 tips
Leaders in the home front: organization 

Monday, March 13, 2017

10 Free Spring Break Activities

1. Pinterest Projects - Remember your Pinterest board? What about those supplies you got in the store to complete those cool projects? This is the week to get busy with them. Let's be honest: you could open your own craft store with all the things you have in your house. Get creative using what you do have. Your kids will love the things you come up with! 

2. Public Library events - This is the money maker friends. Your public library understands their goal demographic and they planned amazing events for this week all for FREE. In my neck of the woods there's an opera performance for kids, story time, movie and teddy bear camp just to name a few. Log on to their website and look at their schedule of events. I know you'll be glad you did. 

3. Your Gym - This is the week to put your gym membership to use. We're blessed to have activities for the whole family in my gym so the kids get super excited about going. 

4. That membership from Christmas - If one of your loved ones gave you a membership to the zoo or to the Children's Museum, use it this week. Of course it'll be packed but there are ways of getting there in less visited times (such as when they first open). Take the dust off those memberships and use them this week! 

5. Free Museum Days - Museums are wonderful places. Some are generous enough to offer free days. find out when those days are and start exploring. 

6. Parks - I love parks with all my heart. They are always there, they are always free and they are great ways to enjoy the great outdoors. I often take a picnic to make the occasion extra special. Plan a visit to a local park with your little ones this week. 

7. Church - Really Cintia? Church? You bet. These wonderful places do not close on Spring Break and they have great activities for kids. If your excuse has been 'I'm too busy with other stuff,' this is the week to engage in some faith building time for the whole family. It will make an eternal difference. 

8. The Beach - If you live close to the beach, this is a the week to go! It's not super hot but we can all agree that just looking at the water and letting the kids play in the sand is super fun. 

9. Playdates - Most people do not do a good job keeping in touch with their friends, so getting together for a playdate is a wonderful thing to do this week. Here's the 'big girl' challenge: offer to keep your friends' kids so she can have a few hours to herself. This is a true test of selflessness and love. I'm just saying and yes, I do practice what I preach. 

10. Grandma's House - If you live close to your folks, going to their house for a few hours is a great way of getting some family time. We don't, so we rely on our church family for that. The kids will also build some great memories that will last for a lifetime. 

11. Boredom - Most people don't know how to be bored and disengage their brain from the digital buzz. This week, give your kids the gift of boredom. I often turn off all the screens at our house and I force the kids to use their own brains. Goodness what a gift it is to be trained to use the brain and the imagination God gave us! 

I hope I inspired you to find some free fun this week. Let me know how it goes! 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Lent: The first 10 Days

Lent lasts for a long time: 40 entire days without counting Sundays! I recently shared with you My non-traditional way of observing Lent and today I want to give you an update on the first 10 days.

• I decided to brake it down in 10 days increments and have 4 areas of prayer focus. Once 10 days go by I don't totally forget about the areas. I actually wrote down a Bible verse to encourage myself in that certain area. My point is, 40 days seems like a LONG time to do anything so eating the elephant in small pieces is more manageable. Remember that I believe that God is good all the time so I'm not twisting His arm to do anything for me. As a matter of fact, my main petition is that God will open my heart in those 4 areas so I can receive all the goodness He has for me. 

• Fasting is not easy. It's been my goal for years to fast more often and if I don't make it a habit, I realize it can be so hard. I know it is supposed to be hard for part of it is humbling myself and turning my whole focus on God. Once the "fast fog" disappears, I am often glad I decided to engage in this spiritual discipline. I don't believe in being a secret agent for the Lord when fasting: I think we find much encouragement and we learn a lot from others when we share what we're doing. I don't believe in being a show off either so I always keep that balance in mind. I don't believe in secrecy in fasting because trust me, we can learn a lot from each other when we support one another as we seek to pursue God. 

• God answers prayers even before we pray them. I know God's been faithful in these first 10 days and I've seen His faithfulness even before I cover all my areas of prayer focus. I'm telling you, God is so good and He doesn't need a holiday to be good, holy or gracious. That's a great piece of news to me! 

• I'm more aware of areas I need repentance. I always knew that a fast would open your vision and this time I am experiencing this when it comes to my own character. I've been doing a bunch or repenting and I've been asking God that the people who know me best (my family) will enjoy the change God is bringing into my life. 

Lent will be here for a couple of weeks and I pray that you will find time to connect with God in a deeper way. I know you will find that taking small steps, taking on the challenge of fasting and expecting great things from God will change your life. Lent is about preparing my whole being for more of God. It sure is worth the price!