Saturday, August 8, 2020

The estate of my heart

When you are a super positive person, it is difficult to be sad. Even when you have to. I decided to give this a try for myself. I had a deeply sad week. 

I thought I should be honest with people about the estate of my heart. I told myself that if anyone would ask me how I was doing, I would tell the truth. 

I got in my car and went to Starbucks. If was going to be sad, at least I shouldn't be hangry on top of that. The drive-thru barista said, "how are you, honey?" Without waiting for a second, I said, "fine." I drove away disappointed at myself. 

All those years of being positive became a habit. I'm always fine. Until I'm not. 

Regardless of what I say, the heart does not forget its sorrow. So I feel it. 

It took me a while to learn that I should feel my own feelings. I would suppress them. Now I try my best to feel them as they come. 

Some sadness is overpowering, such as the one that takes over me when I grief a loss. Another sadness is not as overpowering but it can be as strong once it shows up. I decided to feel them all as they come to me. The other day, as I was reading the Bible, the writer said sadness was better than joy. My only rationale for such a thing is, if you're at the bottom, things can only get better from there. 

The writer summarizes how I feel. "Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face, the heart is made glad." Ecclesiastes 7:3 (ESV).

Having One Another

Sometimes, you all you have is one another.

When Zeke and I got married, we only had one another. There was no big wedding - we couldn't afford one. There was no big wedding party - everyone was far away. What we did have was God and the few people He placed around us. 

There is a lot to learn when all you have is one another. 

We learned to rely on one another. We couldn't run home to complain or talk. We had to learn to work things out. We did seek Christian counseling. We learned to create healthy habits for ourselves that did not involve friends and family. After all, the marriage is ours. We solidified this fact during our early years. 

We learned to work together. I'm amazed at how much you learn when all you have is your spouse. You learned to lock arms and work together. Once the kids joined us, we continued our journey. I choose to believe that we have grown stronger from the inside out.

We learned we have nothing to prove. We got married before social media was a thing. I was already blogging, but things were not as they are today. We missed on the dance you do. You show pretty pictures. You show the pretty people all smiling and looking perfect. We didn't have perfect, and we didn't show what we had. We had nothing to prove and everything to gain. We gained what mattered the most: God's blessing on our marriage. Being stripped of every fluff imaginable worked for us. 

Sometimes, all you have is one another. 

And that's exactly what you will ever need.

Housekeeping over the years

Housekeeping drove me crazy over the years. I knew homes need to be clean. I've never been the person to love that chore. In College, I learned that Saturday was the best day to clean my room. I did not have a roommate, so I cleaned the place for myself. I also washed my clothes on Saturdays after my break from work. 

When I graduated, I shared a duplex with a roommate. She was there first, so the rules were: no dishes in the sink overnight, and we each clean the entire place (except for the other's room) the other month. 

When I graduated, I lived in a tiny little place. 6 months later I was married to the love of my life and I guess that's when I officially become responsible for the housekeeping of an entire family. 

Before the kids were born, it was tough. My major problem was with paperwork. One weekend, I decided to organize everything, one hour at a time. I even wrote about it. I called "the power of one hour." Here is a before and after photo of my results. 

Organizing that paperwork gave me encouragement to know that I could conquer that major issue with clutter. What I didn't know then was that cleaning and organizing a home takes time and effort. 

Sometimes, you just don't have a lot of time. But things need to be done anyway. I remember starting a new job in my now new hometown. While I was job searching, I spent time cleaning, organizing things, cooking, taking care of the family, and volunteering at church. Once I started working full-time, I had little time for cleaning. I needed to clean anyway. 

I learned to prioritize my projects. I knew from past experience that when everything is chaotic, I need to start with laundry and food. That's how you go from overwhelmed to organized. I did that a lot. When I was chronically busy, I made sure there was food on the table and the laundry was done. These two simple chores helped me to properly care for the family, myself, and make progress with everything else I had going on.

I learned that sometimes, you just do not have time to invest in organizing things. I wrote a blog post with creative ways to organize your home. I used one of the strategies last week. A few weeks ago, I had a few service people at our house often. I had 3 clothes hampers filled with clothes day after day outside of our laundry room. I decided that the service people did not need to see those hampers week after week so, I decided to store them in the linen closet. I  used the strategies of "hide some stuff" and "ignore it until you can do something about it." Hiding made the space look cleaner. Ignoring the issue helped me wait until I had time to take care of the problem.

Well, I had some extra time last week and I was able to completely take care of those 3 clothes hampers. 

A second issue I had was the thought that if I only had help, housekeeping will be easier. I've had seasons when I was doing everything by myself as a stay-at-home mom. I've had occasional help as a SAHM. I also had seasons when I was working full-time and cleaning full-time. I also know what it means to work full time and have the help of a housekeeper. Housekeeping never got easier: I got smarter. 

I found smart solutions, whether I had help or not. I made peace with repeating those strategies over and over again. I also learned to teach those strategies to the kids. Their help has made a world of difference. 

Housekeeping used to drive me crazy. I have learned which strategies I need to succeed. 

Goal consistency

I love setting goals. The process of setting goals is fun because involves dreaming. The process of making those goals become reality is not so fun because it involves consistency. 

A reader once asked me to write about achieving goals, with consistency and grace for yourself. Today, I'd love to share a few strategies of mine. 

Failure is my greatest teacher in goal setting. Every time I failed, I learned what it means to try again and again. I remember acquiring joy for new beginnings. Mornings, Mondays, Minutes were all chances to try again. Failure can be a good teacher if we decide to learn from it. Don't be discouraged by failure, make it your teacher. 

Vision is necessary in achieving your goal. Without it, you lose sight of the importance of the small, day-to-day tasks. I remember working on a challenging goal along with a group. A lot of members gave up on the goal and dropped out of the process. I remember their discouraging words about the process I continued to follow. I mostly remember the vision I had for myself. That vision allowed me to press on and continue to make progress towards my goal. Let your vision become greater than your excuses and you will see how much easier it is to pursue a goal. 

When I really want to achieve a goal, I make room for that goal in my life. How does grace become part of this journey? I see grace as the empowerment to start again each day. Although working towards a goal has a compound effect, you don't really see it until you completely reach the goal. You need the power to start again each morning. To work tirelessly until you see your goal realized. Grace will get you there. 

What are your strategies for achieving your goals with grace and consistency?

Sunday Seven

 This week, I am sharing seven small things that make a big difference. 

1 • Focus on the solution, not the problem. I’ve been guilty of focusing on the problem. Focusing on solutions helps me make progress. The solution is to read more. To take small steps to take care of my health. The solution is to focus on how I can make progress. 

2 • I’m on the driver’s seat. I learned that when we feel like we are not in control, we act that way. It turns out, I’m the driver’s seat of my life. Because of that, I can take care of my health. I can make decisive, small changes to get there because I’m in the driver’s seat. 

3 • What is the big 3? Every day, I could have an endless list of things to do, everywhere I go. When I ask myself, “what is the big 3?” I immediately add margin and focus to my every day. I don’t get easily distracted when I know what the Big 3 list is. 

4 • If you have it, teach it. If you lack it, seek it. Some things we know should be shared with others. If you lack skill, you should seek it. It is through giving that we help others and we receive. 

5 • Pre-planning helps me stay focused. I noticed that when I pre-plan my meals, workouts, event outfits for the week, it is easier to stay focused on my goals. Pre-planning is not glamorous. It is repetitive and boring. Oh, but the results are fantastic. I often look back and I say, I’m glad I prepared myself for this week. Plan for the result you want to see. 

6 • Write the story of your success as you go. I can guarantee that your story will be unique. It won’t be like everyone else’s so no need for comparisons. When you write your success story as you go, you will find extra encouragement to keep going. 

7 • Make room for God. I’m amazed at how God wants to be involved in the big and small details of our lives. It seems that we have time for everything. What we often don’t have time for is God. We need to make room for God in our lives. The more, the better. I believe that when we make room for God, God can increase His reign and rule in us.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Making a Hometown your Own

One year ago, our family visited East Texas for the first time. We were in the middle of living life. Theater camp, marathon group coaching, and work was part of the routine. We took a step of faith and God met us where we were.

Here we are, living in this new hometown for 10 entire months. One of my dear friends asked me what makes a hometown my own. I thought that was a great question. The answer always will be: people.

My people - My first instinct as a mother is to be sure my nest is settled, warm, and inviting. I put a lot of thought and effort into making my house into a home. I believe that's the number one way we make a hometown our own. Once the family is okay, I move on to meet new people. 

New People - I've written extensively about meeting new people. Our experience it's been interesting. When we come to a new hometown, we already have a church family. It does not mean we are friends with everyone there. It means we work there. It takes time to get to know people. Working at a church means you have a place to worship, work and a bunch of people to get to know. The theory I developed over 15 years leads me to think that I need to meet people in the community also. 

Community People - I love getting to know people in the community. Before I moved, I was one of the neighborhood reps. I loved getting to know my neighbors and organizing community events for families. I love getting connected with the public library. The kids and I always participate in events and we check out books and other resources often. Before moving to East Texas I found a running group. I actually found the group before I found a house. I know, priorities. People are important to me. 

Here's the question: with COVID and all, have you connected with people Cintia?

I certainly have tried. I just heard about research on concentric circles of friendship where it takes 50 hours to go from acquaintances to casual friends and 90 hours to go to the good friend category. 

I will elaborate on these hours on a later post because they made me think about so many acquaintances I thought of as good friends. My experience dictates that for some friends, the number of hours are irrelevant. 

I believe I made a good friend here. This person is not afraid of me. She welcomed me into her life. She listens to me and we've been able to speak the truth to each other. I am still getting to know this person and vice-versa. I am choosing to believe that we will be good friends. I'm committed to this friendship and I can only pray I will be a blessing. 

I counted the hours I've spent with this good friend. So far,  we spent 117 hours together. Outside of the hours, there have been words said, prayers prayed and mutual understanding established. I'm grateful.

In the past, I made good friends without meeting the 50 to 90-hour goal. We understood we were for each other. Our hearts connected and we were committed to the friendship. 

How do I make a hometown my own?  I focus on people because the right ones make any place sweet.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Camp Listenbee 2020

Camp Listenbee is often an adventure. A new city and a global health emergency required us to get creative and adapt. Adapting we did. 

We spent time with family. This summer, my nephew is officially taller than I am. We love spending time with our sweet family. The kids had a great time together exploring our town. The public swimming pool is open with restrictions so they all splashed quite a bit. 

We spent quite some time in the public library getting books and returning books. I signed up for the summer reading challenge (which we more than completed) I just haven't logged in their books. I guess I should before school returns. I read quite a bit myself. The library is new to us but a familiar place at the same time. The kids and I love books. It's amazing to scape to the world of a book. 
We swam quite a bit. There were restrictions everywhere but the kids had a solid swim team season. They enjoyed it and I was happy to see their progress. I've always said that swimming is a gift. I'm glad to share it with my littles. For the record, I've never been in a swim team. My parents put me in lessons and I learned three styles. I'm not a competitive person so I swim for the joy of it. I like to swim because it gives something different than running. I am thankful to God for the ability to swim as a sport. 

I learned that there are millions of berry farms in our area. My sweet friend invited us to visit one and we had an amazing time. The kids enjoyed the ice cream and the hot dog at the end. Ha ha! We will be back again and again for sure!
We did a little bit of traveling in our area. It was fun to get away for a bit. We visited an indoor waterpark. The kids absolutely loved it!
We also had a chance to get to know Canyon Lake. It was so incredibly beautiful! Our family loved that area of Texas and we will return for sure. 

This summer the kids wrote quite a bit as far as letters. They were faithful to keep in touch with friends. It was fun to see their smiles when they got letters in the mail. I'm glad we share the same appreciation for letter writing. 

We stretched our musical abilities quite a bit. One of my littles gave us a concert featuring a song she wrote. It was so precious and encouraging. 
Summer is my favorite season. I enjoy the warmth. I enjoy celebrating the kids' birthdays. I enjoy seeing family and friends. I enjoy swimming and eating fresh fruits and veggies. I thank God for summers. They remind me of how good God is to us. He gave us new life and we get to enjoy it to the fullest. 
It took a village but we had an amazing Camp Listenbee. I can't believe this is our first in East Texas. The only thing we didn't do was Cow Appreciation Day. We did give Chick-fil-A quite a bit of our money tough. Lol! 

I think that when I look back at the summer of 2020, I will remember the smiles of my kids. I will remember their incredible faith and trust. I will remember our adventures together and I will remember the goodness of God. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Marathon training: from friendliness to deep friendships

Marathon training season starts in a few weeks. This will be officially the first season I won't train with my old running group. 

Although I moved after last year's training season started, I went back for a few key runs. I also became a virtual head coach instead of an in-person coach. I guess I was ahead of my time, considering all of this COVID-19 stuff.

I finished what I started (thank God) and marathon number 6 was a wrap.

I decided to sign up for another marathon this Winter because I thought it would be a good goal to pursue. Before the official training starts, I am working on eliminating extra body weight.

I have run enough to know that the extra weight only impedes my progress. I don't want to be on weight loss mode all my life. I want to reach my goal and proceed to maintenance. I have a great chance to reach my weight loss goal and I will reach it before the end of the year.

Back to running. I'm glad I learned a lot about myself these past 6 marathons. I know how to run with a group and I know how to run alone. 

Both skills are very important. My thing is, I don't want to be stuck. I need to be able to adapt to my surroundings so I can reach my running goals. 

One time, the weather was awful and I ran 17 miles on a treadmill. I don't recommend it but that experience taught me to press on and accomplish my goal.

Running with a group is an acquired skill. The running community is generally friendly. The problem some people run into is turning that friendliness into deep friendships. Some runners remain acquaintances after decades of running together. Others develop deep friendships that last a lifetime. 

I don't think there is a secret to developing deep friendships with people. It all depends on the individual and where they are in life. I will write more about this in a later post. 

As a newcomer to a group, you will notice small groups in existence. Most groups are friendly and they do not mind you running with them. Some groups say they are friendly but they are really closed groups running in public. 

It doesn't take long for me to figure out these dynamics. I often ask myself, "should I try to belong to this group who clearly does not want me to be part of them or do I find another way?" 

That's when my skill of running solo or with a group comes in handy. I've had to do both and I'm okay with both. What I try not to do is to be hurt because a group or a person does not want me to run with them. 

Running doesn't discriminate but runners sometimes do. Reaching my running goals while cultivating a forgiving heart is better than getting frustrated with trying to belong to a closed running group.

I've learned to pray about everything, running included. My prayer is that God will lead me to the right people and vice-versa. When I focus on the vice-versa part of the equation, I feel better.

For example, I noticed a lot of people around me were trying to belong to the running community. I thought about my experiences as a runner and as a minority runner. I decided to be a safe space, an encouraging force to anyone who will receive me. I decided to act on this belief.

I verbalize the following: "I am glad you are here. You belong. You don't have to jump any hoops or do anything special to be part of us. You belong just as you are and we want you to feel you are part of us.  Here is my number if you ever need it."

This statement makes my heart's intentions crystal clear. I also find that instead of waiting for someone to do this for me, I can freely offer it to others.

Focusing on the positive is the best way to live and run.

This training season will be different. I dearly miss the familiarity of my old running group. Still, I will learn more about myself. I will bring all that I am to my upcoming training season.

Most runners I met in the past are great people. I met a lot of welcoming, genuine people. My share of bad experiences does not represent the overwhelming good I receive from the running community.

I am thankful for what was. I look forward to what will be. I am committed to being a force for God's goodness in my local running community. I want to be welcoming, encouraging and I want to see my friends reach their running goals.

Here's to a brand new long-distance running season. My heart is free, my whole being is ready to accomplish another marathon. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Writing our History

"I always wanted to be a hero--to sacrifice my life in a big way one time--and yet, God has required my sacrifice to be thousands of days, over many years, with one more kiss, one more story, one more meal." 
- Sally Clarkson

Family history is written in ordinary moments. COVID-19 is a chapter in our family's story. I never gave a lot of thought on how we were writing it. I did think about how to make a positive investment with the time we had. 

We counted our blessings daily. We spoke to the kids about other people in different places of the world. We remembered our relatives and friends who live outside of the US. We prayed for them. We remembered people everywhere going through hardships. We prayed for them, knowing that God cares and God can help. 

We wrote our history through the prayers we prayed this season. We prayed together because we believe God called us as a family to pray for others. 

We wrote our history as we adapted our goals and desires. The kids have a habit of setting goals for the academic year. I can guarantee that those goals did not include changing schools after the year started and not returning to the new school at all after Spring Break. We changed our approach to our goals. The kids worked hard. They were really blessed in their doing. 

We wrote our history each time we sat at the dinner table and shared a meal. We shared a lot of meals together. We prayed, laughed, ate and enjoying being with each other. The dinner table is place where we continually learn we belong: we belong to God and each other. We know that because we invite God's presence at our table. We feel we belong because of the acceptance and love for one another we share with each bite. 

We wrote our story through the struggles we overcame. There were many struggles. There were multiple difficult times. There was also a lot of victories. I can't glorify my struggle because it minimizes the strength the Lord gave me as I leaned on Him. 

God helped me. He lifted me high. He taught me to keep showing up, keep loving. He taught me not to be overcome by fear but to rely on His perfect love. 

My friend Sarah Rolland said of this season, "Live the dream even in the toughest times. Keep hope alive!" 

We write our family's history when we choose to live our dream. My dream is simple. I want to be the best person Zeke will ever meet. He is mine and I am his. I want to be better for him each day. I want to be a Godly mother. God gave us our children and we are responsible to be good stewards of their souls. I want to do a great job. 

It won't be perfect but it will be great if I rely on God's wisdom and grace. I could tell you about other dreams I want to live. I know that if I don't get these two right (wife and mother), everything else will not matter. 

Family history is a great thing. It is just written so slowly. We write it with each kiss, each hug, each recipe we complete. We write it in sunny and rainy days. We right it during birthdays and funerals.

I encourage you to pay attention to the story you are writing with your family.