Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Finding Gratitude Even Through Utter Frustration

 hard workYou know what they say, 'When life gives you lemons....'

I am in the middle of a MAJOR life lesson right now.  I'm learning a lot about how little control we really often have. Although we like to think we're the ones running things, that control is so often just an illusion.  We cannot control rude or dangerous drivers, although we might yell or honk in an attempt to do so.  We cannot control other people, situations, the world or a loved one making a poor choice. We might think we can somehow control these things, and even spend large amounts of time and energy worrying about them, playing out scenario after scenario in our heads in an attempt to gain control.  But ultimately, the only things we really control are ourselves, and our reactions to things.

This life lesson is teaching me to accept what I cannot control, and to instead focus my energy on myself and how I react.  I want to react to things with kindness and compassion; with gratitude and patience; with thanksgiving and with love. We cannot control the world, but we can seek to have a grateful heart.  Gratitude is not an illusion.  We can look for gratitude, even in the midst of the most utterly frustrating experiences. 

I am grateful 
For everyday, taken-for-granted kinds of things:
~for health -for this body of mine, with it's aches & pains, issues, and extra pounds
~for family- a nearby loving and supportive network
~for freedoms and liberties in this country I love
~for friends without whom life would be boring and dull

For overflowing abundances:
~of God's love
~of blessings too numerous to count
~of simple joys, like sweet bedtime kisses or 'just because' hugs

For constant, unshakeable blessings:
~my wonderful, handsome husband and sons
~my brothers and sisters, by both blood and marriage, living near or far.
~my beautiful, imperfect home and gardens

For first world conveniences that would be third world wonders:
~freshly brewed morning coffee where others thirst simply for clean water
~a home with running water where others go homeless and unwashed
~a refrigerator stocked full of food where others go hungry

Most of all, I am grateful that I have been given so much, because with this abundance comes the opportunity to share it with others, and share the blessings.

I am grateful.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I want that shirt

You know those really witty T shirts that you see here and there?
I want one that says:

Jesus is my guru. 

Now wait!!  Stick with me here.  I'm serious about this.  I'm not making fun of new age-y yoga types.   I get a lot of 'you're wacky/nutty/slightly crazy' for my love of yoga,  but hang with me, at least for this post.

I've been studying the 'stuff' behind yoga, to learn more and how it meshes with my personal religious beliefs.  What I've found has been both very encouraging and inspiring, and all that I have learned follows along the same lines as how the bible teaches us to behave.  It's very interesting.  Especially since yoga is very ancient wisdom, older than the bible.

One of the things in this book I'm reading started talking about "how to choose a guru".  Not in those words, but that was the idea.  Uh-oh, I thought.  Here's where it gets a little wonky and I'm going to have issues.  To me, "guru" is some wacky person followed blindly by another even wackier nut-ball.  But I kept reading, and this is what I found:

~A guru is a spiritual teacher...a teacher of truth.
~Guru has two parts- 'Gu' means 'stuff which hides our true light' and 'ru' which means 'the thing(person) that removes the stuff hiding our true light'.  
~A spiritual guru must live what he teaches, because power comes from that truth
~It is not always necessary for the guru/teacher to be physically present, or even in physical form to teach us.

Hmmm...something to think about.  A guru is a teacher who lives by example.  Who was the ultimate teacher?  Jesus.  Did he live by example?  To his very last breath, literally.  Can he remove our "stuff" (a.k.a. sin) and let our light shine?  Isn't that why he came? 

JESUS is my guru.

Jesus says: "I am the way and the truth and the life." ~ John 14:6

The bible says, "Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16  I like the way the Message puts it even better: "Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept."   Isn't that a wonderful image?  'Bringing out the God-colors in the world.'  Love that.

Finally, Jesus said to the disciples: "I want you to open their eyes, so that they will turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God."   If that doesn't fit the definition of a guru, then I don't know what does.

Jesus was always telling people to think differently.  I don't know if making a witty t-shirt was what he had in mind, but he knows where my heart is.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Focus for the Week:

God's law is in their hearts.              

      Their feet do not slip.              
 Psalm 37:31

Friday, August 27, 2010

Goodbye Junk Challenge

So, I've been trying to embrace life, and have more time for my family by getting rid of the junk that has found it's way into our house since moving in three years ago.   The clutter is taking up time I don't want to devote to it.  Time to find things.  Where did I see that ___again?  Time to clean.  It takes more time to clean if there is more stuff  sitting around. Time  being frustrated with how much stuff there is everywhere.  This is big for me, because it robs me of enjoying my day even when I'm not cleaning.

Another thing I'm trying to do, besides get rid of junk, is to make sure that everything that stays has a real home.  Not just some pile on the counter, but a real place to be put away.  I've found that I'm much more successful and consistent about keeping things neat if there is a home for things.  The kids are better at cleaning this way too.  Things that don't have a home inevitably end up in a pile on some horizontal surface in my house.   And stay there.  Not good.

After surfing around and reading some articles about clutter, I decided to host a Goodbye Junk Challenge.  Do you have junk like this that you want to deal with once and for all?  Do the Goodbye Junk Challenge with me!

In reading online somewhere, maybe unclutterer.com, I came across this idea to get rid of one piece of junk a day for a whole year.  What a great idea, I thought!  Being the beginning of a new school year, it seems like the perfect time to start a new challenge like this, so here's what I'm thinking:

*Get rid of one item each day.  It must leave your house for good...donate it, trash it, recycle it, give it to someone, sell it on ebay, whatever, just so that you don't ever have to deal with it again.   More than one is fine too, but if you just get rid of one thing a day, that counts!
*Find one item that needs a home, and give it a home!  Maybe something that  you've never known where to put...figure out a place.  Or maybe just put something back in it's rightful home.  Easy!
*Leave a comment or link a post about how you're doing.  Let's encourage each other!!

That's it... quick and simple, right?   Want to join me?  Let's see how much junk we can get rid of together! 
Here are a few other details:
*Feel free to make this challenge fit your life.  Want to do a week worth all on Saturday? Fine!  Want to fill up a box before taking it to Goodwill?  Great!  Just make sure that the stuff you pile up to leave your house actually leaves your house, otherwise, you'll just be going through it all again in the future, and who wants that?
*If you miss a day here and there, or even a whole week, don't give up!  There are no Junk Police to knock on your door, and ask what you've donated today.  You don't have to do the whole year.  There is no right or wrong.  Just clean until you're happy!
*Remember there are lots of sites out there with helpful ideas.  Unclutterer.com and http://orgjunkie.com are two of my favorites.
*Just for kicks, meaning, 'because there is a math-y nerdness in my blood', I'm going to weigh the stuff I get rid of.  For example, when I started Monday, I filled up a basket of stuff.  19.2 pounds.  Tuesday, it was lighter weight stuff...about a pound.  Today, I pulled out 5 pounds of stuff from my china cabinet.  You don't need to do this, unless you want to.  I just thought it might be fun to see how much I've donated once I'm done with the year!  I'm sure it will be staggering...I'm shocked that the little pile I've got for Goodwill is already over 25 pounds in 3 days!  You could also make a pile, take a picture of it when you donate, whatever.  Or just be happy it's gone.  Like I said, do what works for you.

It's a win-win challenge.  I/we get a nicer, cleaner, more organized house, and Goodwill (or the charity of your choice) gets to benefit from our donations!

Are you ready to take the 
Goodbye Junk Challenge? 
I hope so!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Goodbye Junk

Goodbye Junk Challenge

Coming Soon!

When Life Kicks You in the Teeth...

I'm having a month that feels like life just keeps kicking me/us in the teeth.  Ever have one of those? Where thing after thing after thing happens to drag you down?  Well, that's me.   And I'm usually a pretty look-at-the-bright-side kind of person.  I look for the good, because there is already too much bad in the world.   If you see the good, if you practice looking for the good, then it becomes easier and easier to see it. 

But I'm having a hard time of it this month.  I keep getting dragged back down.  I know that there are much worse things happening to other people in this world.

People who are gravely sick.  

People whose children have cancer.  

People who've lost their jobs.  

People in serious pain.  

People who are fighting addictions.  

People who don't even have food to eat
or clean water to drink.

There are a lot of people who are dealing with way worse problems than we are.  I mean a lot of people!  But I'm still feeling kicked in the teeth,  I think mostly because I completely lack any control over our situation(s).

Last week, on a particularly bad day, I found this post (thank you @traceepersiko!) which I loved.  It started with, "Sometimes talking to Him is all you can do."  And that sentence in particular changed my whole attitude that day.  So, while I'm still having a hard time seeing the good, at least I can remember that advice. 

Sometimes talking to Him is all you can do...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Helping the Family (the chores post...)

Since it's back to school time, we're getting back into our regular school routines, and that means more formal chore duties again.  Not that my guys didn't do any chores during summer, just that it was a more relaxed, 'Hey, please go do ____' type of thing. Now, we're back to our chore chart.  I think chores do three major things: *Teach responsibility and life skills
*Help the family
*Show how you are an important part of the family

Someone asked me what kinds of things I have my kids do.  Cleaning up their own toys is one.  That's pretty basic, and they have a sort of organized toy/play room, and then in their bedroom they are only allowed what can fit in what we call the "toy pockets"--stuffed animals not included.

The "Toy Pockets"... just a shoe organizer.
Sometimes those pockets start overflowing, so they have to dump them out, sort out the stuff that really needs to be put away somewhere else, throw away junk/broken things, donate toys they don't want anymore, and so on.  This was them cleaning out the pockets at the beginning of summer:

Purging Toys
They have to make their beds, which used to mean getting everything back up off the floor...
(Even the 4 year old who regularly slept in between the beds on the floor...)
The result usually looked like this:
Not what I'd expected...but mostly neat & off the floor.
Sometimes they'd make the other bed:
This is why it takes an hour to make the bed...
This kid of mine is making a stack of animals as tall as he is...
He's 4 foot 6 inches tall...Can you see my little one in the pic?
General room cleaning would result in something like this:
8 Year Old Interior Design...Dino Style
 However, now that their room has been completely made-over, making their beds is much easier.  Just straightening out the blankets/covers, mostly.  We are strictly enforcing the 'everything must be off the floor and put away' rule each night, which means there really isn't much room cleaning to be done other than making the beds.  That's pretty huge considering they've been in that room nearly 24/7 since the makeover!

Other chores include:
Left side:8 year old / Right side: 4 year old(with pics)
We use a pocket chart.  I found it in the dollar section at Target last year around this time I think.  It works wonders.  I can add or remove chores as needed, and as they finish one, they take the card out and put it back in the tray.  We also have a card for HOMEWORK,  [put away]BACKPACK & LUNCHBOX,  and one for SHOES, so that I don't have to nag those everyday-must-do things either.  Now that I think about it...what happened to the BRUSH TEETH card? Seems to have mysteriously disappeared.  Time for a new one!

I don't make them do all of these things everyday.  It's more of an as needed type thing.  And they tag team some chores.  Like laundry.  The little one has to bring it to the laundry room, and the older one has to sort it.  New this year, he's also going to learn how to do a full load himself (with my help, of course).  It was his original idea to add the chore of doing ALL the laundry.  I so wanted to take him up on that, but just couldn't do it to him!  After I explained how much work that was, he was happy to edit it back down to one full load.  And that will probably just be once a week.

Also new this year: 
*Taking out the garbage.
*Little one is going to put away silverware (after I remove the sharp knives)
*Older one is unloading all the rest of the dishwasher, moving up from just silverware...
***The NO NAG Clause: If I have to nag you or remind you to do your chores, then I get to add another chore to your list.  And, it might just be one of my harder/longer chores, so beware!
***The FAMILY HELPER Clause: If you see a chore that needs to be done, and do it without being asked, you get to remove one chore from your next chore list!

And, speaking of chores... I'm still trying to purge and organize myself.  I signed up to some challenge to post a pic, but can't find the post to save my life.  I still did the challenge though...
Here's one of my kitchen cabinets before:
I hated this cabinet!!

And here's the after:
Sorry it's blurry...not enough light for my iphone camera.

So, what chores do your kids do?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Focus for the Week

Real quick:  How many loved ones are in your life?  Mom, dad, kids, sisters, BFFs, brothers, grandparents, cousins, aunt & uncles?  Got your number?  Mine is around 30.  Probably more, but that's just a quick count.  Now, take your number and divide by 3.  For me, that makes 10.  That's how many people I love that might be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes.  One in Three.  Staggering, isn't it?

That's my focus for the week:  
Care more about others. 
Right now, I'm focused on doing that through raising money to help fight cancer.  I feel strongly pulled to do this, and I'm not sure why.  I just can't help but picture one of my loved ones being one of the people who will be diagnosed with cancer.  One in three of us will be diagnosed in our lifetimes.  But we have the power to change that, and to help people already fighting right now.   Will you help?  You can click on that little purple A Proud Supporter of Relay for Life button up on the right to donate. Even as little as $10 could make a big difference.   Or you can go here and buy some cool scrapbooking supplies (there are easy albums great for Christmas gifts!) and all profits (that's 30%) of your order placed through my page will go to the American Cancer Society too. 

Care about them as much as you care about yourselves
Philippians 2:4 (Contemporary English Version)

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I love a pretty pink sunrise.  

Every once in awhile, I get really motivated, get up really early.  I usually make this rather long list of things to accomplish, but because I'm basically alone while everyone else is asleep (and no one else is up on FB or Twitter to distract me),  I usually get almost all of my list checked off before the house comes alive.  It's a wonderful feeling.  I feel great all day.

My point in telling you all of this random information about me is a challenge I found through an online friend (one whom I really wish I were going to get to see IRL in October, but that's another story...).  My friend Michelle is hosting a Maximize Your Mornings challenge through her blog.  The idea is to get up a little earlier, get in some quiet time for meditation or prayer, get in a little exercise, and start your day off in a better way then just rolling out of bed at the last minute and scrambling to get started.  This is a super easy challenge.  Not wake up at 4:30 or anything crazy.  Just: Step #1: Get out of bed.  That's it for the first step.  Five minutes earlier.  That's all.  Baby steps, easy goals, no burnout.  I thought: "Piece of cake...I won't have any trouble with this.  After all, I do it occassionally anyway."

Boy, was I wrong!  I have seriously struggled these last two weeks to just get out of bed.  I'm not sure if it's a mental thing, knowing that in 10 more days school starts and I'll have to be up EVERY day early, or if I've just never accepted how lazy I am.  Either way, I really need this challenge!  I don't do well at all if I get up when my boys do.  I end up grumpy and irritated that I didn't get any 'me' time.  I'm not glad to see them because I'm not glad to be out of bed yet.  When I do manage to get in that 'me' time at the beginning of the day, it changes my whole attitude and outlook.  I'm glad to see the boys when they wake up.  I'm happy to have gotten some easy chores already out of my way.  I'm looking forward to the rest of my day, because it's started out so peacefully.

Best/worst day of the challenge so far?  The other morning, I had my plans laid out for morning time, had my yoga mat laid out, my journal open, my alarm set.  I was 100% prepared to wake up and have a great morning.  But, when that alarm went off, I was tired, grumpy, my asthma was bad, and my head hurt.  "Forget it," I said to myself and rolled over.  But that alarm also had a reminder note: "sign up for swim lessons".  And I just couldn't let it go in my brain.  There are only 4 spots!  What if we don't get in?  So, I dragged my aching head into the office and signed up for fall lessons.  And then I tweeted something like "#HelloMornings: I'm up but going back to bed.  #Cheating, I know."  My brother replied back later that day: "I don't know what game you're playing, but if going back to bed is cheating, it has stupid rules."    I laughed so hard at that!  He was right, of course.  Nothing wrong with going back to bed once in awhile, especially when you're not feeling well. 

Now, thinking back to that reminder that dug it's way into my brain and wouldn't let go, I'm thinking maybe that's the answer.  I'm going to try putting a little message to myself along with the alarm.  "Go on, get up...you'll feel better when you do."   Or maybe, "Don't miss the chance to start your day with a little peace and quiet."

If you're doing the challenge along with me, I hope you're enjoying it too.  If you're not a morning person (I am definitely NOT), I highly suggest you give it a try.  It's a amazing how good you can feel once you're up and going.

May you be blessed by quiet
and peaceful mornings!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Want to Help Me Pay it Forward?

Did you know that ONE in THREE of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime?

Ever thought you might be able to fight cancer by scrapbooking?  Well, now's your chance.  My Relay for Life team has set up an online fundraiser to raise money to fight against cancer.  This online event is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. All profits, that's 30% of retail, from online sales (using the link below) through August 30th will be donated to the American Cancer Society through our Relay for Life team.   If you decide to order, please put Relay for the host name where it says "Credit Order to my Host". The double host credits will be used to purchase items for the silent auction, also to benefit the American Cancer Society. 

Please pass this along to anyone you think might be interested.  
We appreciate any help you might feel led to give!

 Shop here to help fight cancer: www.mycmsite.com/michelleacker 

DATE:     Through August 30th, 2010
Shop Here To Fight Cancer:  www.mycmsite.com/michelleacker
Now through August 30th

Stock up to scrapbook your summer vacations, work on existing albums, or start something new.  Christmas is just around the corner...Check out the picfolio line for easy photo album gifts!


Monday, August 9, 2010

The Summer Done List

Summer Fun- Living Room CampOut
I don't know about where you are, but here in Texas, we're down to the last two weeks before school starts.  This time of summer always makes me a little sad, not that I'm not counting the days, because I AM! I'm sad because it's the end of our free schedule, let's-just-have-fun-together time. I'll miss my boys when they're gone at school.

When May rolls around and school is about done, we're always excited about the huge time in front of us, and all the stuff on our "Let's do THIS" summer list.   Last year, our list was oh-so-long, but by the end of summer, we'd seemingly not done very many of the things on it.  We had a great summer.  But I felt disappointed in not doing all the fun things we'd thought of to do.  Mostly because we had forgotten what we had done.

This year, I decided to look at it differently.  I decided to keep track of all the things we'd done, instead of what we 'could have' done.  I'm calling it our "Summer Done" List.  It's growing pretty long.  It's packed with fun memories, and all the fun things we've done together.  We're savoring these last two weeks, trying to pack as many more things onto our list as we can before we have to officially close it when school starts.   And that little shift in perspective has made all the difference.  Honestly? This summer wasn't better than last year's summer.  But the fact that we have a list of memories to go back and reflect on, that makes it seem like a more of a jam-packed-fun-filled summer.  It's a list of positives instead of a list of a list of what we didn't get to do.  And I'm not nearly as sad this time around, because I know we thoroughly enjoyed our whole summer!

How about you? What would be on your Summer Done List? 
Or do you have another creative way of counting your blessings?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Focus for the Week

Do you ever wish there was just someone to tell you,  "I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for"?

There is.  And He also says, "When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. When you come looking for me, you'll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed."

My focus for this week?  God's plans...not my own.

I took the above verses from The Message.  You might have heard it or be more familiar with it like this:

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. 
“They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 
12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 
13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 
~Jeremiah 29:11-13 (New Living Translation)

May you have a blessed week!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Well, Golly & Gosh, Maybe it's True...

"If you think you can do it, or you think you can’t do it, you are right.”
– Henry Ford

I stumbled across this quote yesterday, and it made me realize that deep down, I've had the thought that this little blog couldn't or wouldn't really make any difference for anyone but me.  My purpose for writing was to help myself embrace life and find balance, and if it helps someone else along the way, then wonderful, I thought.  But deep, deep down, my heart was also thinking, "BUT IT WON'T.  It's just not gonna touch anyone else. You're not important enough, or....[insert whatever negative thing comes to mind here]". 

But now I've been loved ambushed.  And my heart has changed from thinking "This won't matter to anyone" into... "Maybe something I post here will be just exactly what someone else needs to hear."

So, here's to hoping praying that this practice of mine will bless others in any small number of ways.  I'll be putting "feet to my faith" and trying to be a blessing more often.  I hope you'll come back and visit soon!

Have a very BLESSED weekend.


Friday, August 6, 2010

The Day I Got Ambushed

Wow.  I am both at a loss for words, and have so many thoughts racing through my mind that I'm not sure where to start.  So, I guess I'll start at the beginning.

Yesterday, I got ambushed, and it was truly one of the best days of my life.  Seriously.  Right up there with getting married and having my boys.  

I got up, had coffee, checked email, got the boys ready, typical morning stuff.  We headed out to drop my youngest off at his summer camp, and then headed home to do a few chores.  One of my chores being some work paperwork, which means getting on the computer, and being my gmail-facebook-twitter-addicted self,  I had to check my email again first.  I opened it up, and there were FOUR comments on my blog.  From three people I don't know.  It was like Christmas in August!  Completely unexpected, completely out of left field.  Beautiful comments.  Seriously, I cried.  I'm crying right now too, btw! ;)

'Wow, that's so wonderful!  Someone must have sent them my way, I've got figure out who to thank!'

I went on with the morning chores, ended up at my neighbor, SomeGirl's house, (our boys are buddies) and asked if she'd sent these kind comment makers my way?  No.  Not her.  Hmmm....  Strange, but still wonderful.  My whole entire day had been brightened, and now it was obvious that it wasn't someone I knew in 'real' life.  Even more amazing and AWE-inspring.   I was starting to feel a little of that 'God's got His hand in this' feeling...

Went on with my morning, taking my oldest out for our shopping date.  My addiction to gmail made me stop on the way into the mall and check to see if my other friend had replied back yet about our plans that night.  Yep!  But right below her email was another.... "Your post has a comment" email.  Actually, a couple of them.  What?  MORE comment love?  Is it 2012? Is the world ending, because this little ole blog of mine usually gets comments from my 3 IRL friends/family followers.  Six comments in a few hours?  I felt like I was being punk'd...but in the really best, nicest way possible.  And yes, I cried again.  WHERE are these coming from?  I've got to find out who to thank.

Well, it just kept happening.   I'd check email and there would be a new comment.  Or two new comments.  I was truly blown away by the love and kindness that was pouring out of the internet to me, from people I'd never met.  I don't think I can recall any other time when I just felt surrounded by so much love and positive energy all day long.  The first comments were enough to make my whole day.  The fact that I kept getting comments throughout the day, and even into this morning, just makes me speechless.  There is definitely a BLESSING happening to me here.  And it's beyond words.  It's as if God is telling me, through these wonderful people, 'Okay...you've headed in the right direction.  Keep it up!' 

There have been two other times in my life when I have completely felt the presence of God.  Not like, "Yeah, He is with me" but like I was surrounded by Him, and by His love. He might not have been visible, but He was THERE.   They were incredible experiences.  And now, this LOVE AMBUSH is another.  I felt so loved all day long.  And every time I would think that was wonderful enough, and not expect more, there was more love.  It was like being surrounded by love all day, no matter which way I turned.  Truly incredible.  And I will never, ever forget it.

To each of you who left me a love ambush comment, and to my 'regular' comment makers too:
You have blessed me beyond words.  
From the very deepest part of my heart, Thank You!

To the ladies at Gather Inspirit who set up this little love ambush: 
Thank you.  
You have no idea how blessed I am by you.  
Thank you, thank you, thank you!

My hope for all of you sweet readers:

May you embrace life,
Find yourself surrounded by blessings,
And look for ways          
               to be a blessing to others.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Focus For the Week

If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.                                Ecclesiastes 11:4 NLT