Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dying from Could.

If should is the master of obligation, could is the master of potential. I don't mean potential in a good way, like when a coach or a teacher looks you in the eye and promises great things if you just stay persistent and keep trying. The potential in could is a harassment about poor choices, guilt over where you are, and a cruel voice insisting you will never get farther in life than where you are now.

Ever heard could being condescending? I have. I do almost every day, but I'm trying desperately to fight back instead of just plugging my ears or tuning out.

So what is the deal with could? The tricky part I'm seeing is that could reaches into our past, present, and future with the biggest insecurities we attempt to conceal and makes us question not just our choices, but the deepest parts of who we are. Could makes us question our existence and purpose in a way should and would don't quite manage. What makes it worse is the vagueness in which could often operates.

I could have done something really amazing with my life.

I could be doing so many more important things right now.

I could become someone great, if only I could change.

These types of vague phrases can follow, haunt, and paralyze you unless you take them captive and shove them into the truth. I'm actually a terrible example of this, but it's something I'm working hard to conquer. When Paul talks about "taking every thought captive" in 2 Corinthians, he is not talking about simply thinking positive thoughts to make your life better, or to be a happier version of yourself. He is talking about the battle we are in, the war in the spiritual realm we find ourselves fighting by simply being aligned with Christ. He's talking about taking our thoughts and surrendering them to Christ, to be willing to listen to the truth instead of lies.

You see, this battle with could is not just a battle to control your thoughts. The struggle to get could to pipe down is actually the struggle against the sinful state of your flesh and of this world. When you claim allegiance to Christ and give up being a slave to sin, you keep the evil in this world from influencing your decisions and actions. Your flesh will keep you stuck, cause you to feel hopeless, and paralyze you by the shame of your past choices. But when you shut the doors on could, you shut the doors on Satan's voice in your head and the stronghold of sin in your thoughts.

The first thing to know about could is that it is not real. Literally, could doesn't exist. What you could have been is a myth - never happened, never will happen. What you could be doing right now is only true if you actually do it. Who you could be, or what you could accomplish, only exists if you take steps toward it and see it come to life. You have to get brave and be ready to totally throw could out the window.

Right now, the only place I'm going to address how to conquer could is in the present tense, to change could to can. Since you can't change the past, and you can't control the future, you have to completely wipe out and forget about could in the past and the future, and change could when you encounter it in the present. Still with me? Good :)

Like I said before, I am pretty terrible at this. If I don't have a plan for my day, I get overwhelmed really fast, especially if my kids are asking and begging to do something specific that wasn't already on my radar. I see all the ways my day could go and start trying to figure out how to fit all the necessary things in. I'm not sure why, but some days the list seems so long and the kids seem so uncooperative, that instead of jumping in and making progress, I move like a slug and start to feel depressed. We can all guess what that results in. Lots of nothing, at least nothing good.

What I find works best, and what I usually forget to do, is to just get started. I have to stop thinking of what I could do, what could happen, or how the day could go, and simply choose something. On days where I have a huge amount of computer work or writing to accomplish, it doesn't do me any good to be thinking about what I could do to make it happen, or how I could arrange my desk to make things more accessible. It's no help at all to think about what I could accomplish if I paid a regular babysitter, or what I could post on Instagram to help with my social platform. I just have to start. I have to get going.

There are times for thinking about the best way to do things or to plan how to deal with your responsibilities, but at some point we all have to make a decision. Google indecision and you will find hundreds of quotes about how indecision really is a decision, and I see it wreak havoc in my life every week. When I don't make a decision about dinner, I end up spending more money, eating junk, or wasting food. When I don't make a decision about a volunteer opportunity, I miss out completely, and I often make myself look bad by not responding either way. You see how this works?

Time comes to pass no matter what we do, and our days fill up no matter what decisions we make. Even worse, when our days fill up with activities resulting from indecision, we then have to struggle with the regret of not having done what we actually wanted to do. If we aren't careful and intentional, we end up with days or weeks heaping with regret, a bundle full of coulds, and a to-do list that will put you into the fetal position, guaranteed.

So how can we stop saying could? As you look at your options for what you could do today, or what you could be doing right now, or even what you could plan to do next week, try to minimize the importance of your choices. I am overly fearful about the impact one decision will have on my day, or even my life, but we have to recognize God's control over all these things. In our culture, and especially in mom-circles, we emphasize how our little actions and small decisions can make a large impact, but we don't always notice how this can paralyze us when making a bunch of these seemingly small decisions throughout our day.

You have to remember, God controls the outcome of your decisions, not you.

Sometimes you make a decision to go to the store with all the kids in the morning, then you are so exhausted later and struggle to accomplish anything. It feels like you made the wrong choice. Or what if you put off grocery shopping, then your husband doesn't get home until after dinner, forcing you to take the kids out shopping later in the evening? That's not good either. You look at what could happen and are fearful of a lousy outcome. But the truth is, lousy outcomes can happen regardless of how good your decision is. Don't let this haunt you, instead use it to remember who is actually in control. What we see as a lousy outcome, or a day filled with struggle, is often a sharpening type of day, where we can see God working in us if only we can step back and calm our minds for just a little bit.

You can't mess up God's plans. If he wants you to be tired in the afternoon, there is probably something you can gain from it. If he wants you to be on-task at home during the morning and then you have to succumb to a 2nd-rate dinner, there must be some goodness to be found there. He already knows, He already has a plan figured out, and His love isn't confined to good decisions only.

Remember, there is no could. I mean, there kind of is, but you really can just throw it out the window. You will find greater peace in your struggle with could and all of your decisions when you hold them a little more lightly. Look at your options objectively, choose one, then trust God with the outcome. It feels too simple, a little trite even, but sometimes we need to shut down our brain and just get to living. Don't follow outcomes to their end, or assume one choice will always determine a specific outcome, but make your decisions knowing God will have His outcome, no matter how badly you mess it up. His plans are often different from ours, but they are always best.

If you want to read more about making decisions, I highly recommend the book Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung. It's a fabulous, Christ-centered, empowering book. And just so you know, this is an affiliate link, just like all the books I post about :)

Thanks for taking the time to hear a few of my thoughts on could. I'll be back in a week or two with some ideas on would, and hopefully, you will be empowered to take some control over your mind, live more fully in God's plans, and be more at peace with your decisions.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I Wish I Could...

I really wanted my could post to be ready for you today. I have several drafts started plus another separate outline on my iPhone in the hopes of effectively communicating what a battle it is to fight the could-monster.

But I just cannot get it right. Not today at least, and apparently, not last week either.

I'm okay with that, at least, I'm trying to be. I've been trying desperately to be alright with a lot of aspects of my life lately. Alright with diving into a new CC community, alright with homeschooling, alright with all the concessions I make to be able to CrossFit several early (very early!) mornings a week, alright with the demands of my husband's job... just trying, and trying, and praying, and attempting to convince myself of all the good that can come from all these different scenarios. But I'm not always very good at it.

Recently, it came to my attention that many of you, especially those I don't see very often, think I am "doing it all". I laughed so hard when I first heard a few of these comments, several coming from different people, from different groups of friends. I don't want to go around explaining my behavior, or forcing you to know me, but I also want to share a little more about myself. I want to be transparent and help you know where I am coming from. My hope in all this is that you don't think I have it all together, or have life completely figured out, but that my strengths and weaknesses would be an encouragement to you.

It took me a long time to not be offended every time a friend on Social Media would post common-knowledge tips about parenting. I kept thinking "Duh, I know this. Does she think I don't know this?" I'm pretty sure she wasn't posting just for me, but I still kept wondering if maybe she thought I was one of those people who needed to know about how to buckle my child or what to feed my babies. My mind insisted on obsessing about if I was really doing my best and if other people thought so too.

Mind you, I've come a long way in my perfectionism, but personality tests constantly reveal that I am several things many of you might not be, and much of my writing comes from this passionate place within my bones to be the best, to always be doing my very best, and to constantly achieve whatever goal I can. I know I have to tame these a bit, because following God is no competition, and only He really knows best, but the fire within me keeps on burning. And truly, it does not match up with my physical limits, my mental weaknesses, or my bad habits.

In college I was in a Freshman group where we read and worked through Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton (affiliate link). It was incredibly eye-opening and emphasized working to use your strengths to reach your goals instead of always trying to rid of your weaknesses. I don't know what happened to my old copy of the book, but I do remember my strengths, and maybe they will help you read my blog and understand where I come from a little bit better.

- Activator - likes to get started, immediately jumps when new opportunities or plans arise.
- Achiever - I'm pretty sure you know what this means ;)
- Competitor - uh huh, I'm one of those.
- Learner - this makes me great with homeschooling, I love learning almost anything!
- WOO - Win Others Over. Frequently known as People Pleaser.

That is a pretty intense combination, yes? Add to these things my near-constant fatigue and poor cleaning habits (ask my husband) and you have a recipe for someone who is doing a lot of hyped-up, inspirational, self-talk. Then, add that I love to write and enjoy telling others what I am learning, and you get a person who cannot shut up about what great things lie ahead for those who have vision and motivation. No, you've never read those types of things on this blog ;)

I often look at these strengths and want to cry. I hate being misunderstood, and I want all of you to know that I don't preach living with ambition because you are all unambitious or because I have got this life figured out, but because it's the natural output of my heart. It's God-wired, and spurred on by my other strengths. I sometimes despair because all of these strengths exhaust my mind and body. I need more sleep than most, but I also have more ambition than most, and how I can I fit both of these together? I want to share all the wonderful things I learn, but I also want all of you to love me like your best friend and hate to sound like a know-it-all. I want to give up on striving so hard to always do what is absolutely best, but doing so often feels like settling, losing, or letting others win at life while I curl up in a ball and sleep.

If I have learned anything though, it's that all of these strengths combined force me to turn over my future, even the one hour away future, to God. I constantly have no clue how I will cross off the items on my to-do list, so I have to move forward, trusting God with the outcome, trying to convince myself that He will give me energy and discernment for the things that have to be done, even if many items on my list are left undone at 10:30pm. I have to strive to find my value as His created person, not in what others think of me. I have to let many ambitions and goals lay silent while I strive to serve my family with a willing heart, instead of taking up my creative endeavors and looking for fulfillment in my accomplishments. I have to come to peace with the fact that my busy mind needs down-time, and not to feel guilty for resting instead of achieving.

Often, being wired this way feels like a burden, and it feels worse when I consider how some of you might see me as having it all together. I do strive to put my best foot forward, to put my best images up on the internet, not because I desire to hide the ugly, but because I love things that are excellent. And being the achiever I am, if I can do something better, I'm going to work to make it happen.

It's a stretch for me to even put this up on the internet. I really wanted to have my could post done, but this post is going to have to be good enough. I will admit though, it still includes a bit of that striving for achievement. After all, it will allow me to cross off my mental "blog once per week" goal.  I can't help myself. I want to make great stuff happen! This post might not be incredible, or life-altering, but it's really how I feel about myself and my life. My strengths make me really great for some tasks, and not so great at others. My weaknesses will try to hold me back, and my strengths will continue to push me forward.

Much of life is learning how to balance, which is what I am going for here with this post. I'm settling for "not what I wanted" but still working toward my goals. Can you relate? Are the things holding you back causing you to despair or give up? Or will you press forward, taking any ground you can gain in having peace with your circumstances? This is what I really want, to feel at peace about my decisions, my progress, my life.

All these things rest in God's plans for us, and I think He really does want us to be mindful about our impact and our growth while we move ahead. I see a lot of growth in my life, and while most things are not how I envisioned, or what I would have aimed for, I still desire to see His plan in all of it, to be content with who He is making me to be. It will be very different from who He is making you to be, but we can all still find the good in each other and celebrate it without guilt, comparison, assumptions, or shame. And that is a really good goal, to be fully yourself, the best you can be, but not rest your hope on what that will look like or base it off what other people's lives look like. So here I am, not really blogging about could the way I wanted to, but hoping that you, like me, can take your eyes of what could be and are able to enjoy what is. In your life and in yourself.

Friday, September 9, 2016


Congratulations to Megan on winning a copy of Give Your Child the World! Thanks so much for reading my blog and commenting on my book review. I hope this book brings your family many adventures, including learning about lovely Canada :)

For all you other readers, I will be giving away many books this year... some pertaining to homeschooling, most not. I just love a good book, and any excuse to write more about books and buy more books is good for me! I'm willing to go great lengths to find time to read and review for anyone who is willing to hear me out (as you can tell from my photo of my unkept toes). If you really want to know about any of the particular books I've been reading, comment here and let me know what book you hope to win.

Thanks again for the support and participation. Until next time...

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Should I?

In my last post about should, could and would, I told you to replace should with shall, could with can, and would with will. While I think those mostly hold true, I'm struggling with the replacement of should. Shall doesn't quite cut it, but I am lacking a nice "sh"-word. Jamie Martin, over at Simple Homeschool, posted a great article last summer on why we need to stop using the word should. We agree that should often stems from guilt, and that we need to see if those thoughts are legitimate. She suggests when we start saying "I should", it's better to ask "do I want to?".

I know many times when I've struggled through a should, I find that I don't actually want to, but other people seem to think I should, or my comparison problem has led me astray from my genuine desires. So instead of saying should, let's trying replacing it with desire, aspire, or strive.

Asking yourself if you should take action can be a hard question to answer. When guilt shows up and your mind starts reeling, should often comes in and tries to boss you around. It will say you aren't doing enough for your children, or that you are spending too much money on yourself, or tell you what endeavors deserve more of your time. Should will remind you of old hopes and desires, or even tempt you to compare yourself to the images you see of friends or even strangers on Social Media. Asking ourselves if we desire what should is telling us will help lead us down a path of action, rather than leaving us drowning in unsure waters.

While there are things we really should do (like feed our children, be kind to others, and to love God first and foremost), feeling guilt over what we should be doing all the time is not the way God changes our hearts. I'm not going to touch on concepts about what we shouldn't do right now, and maybe some other time I'll handle the idea of God's work in bringing us to repentance, but for now I'll stick with how God moves us to following Him intentionally and sifting out His voice from all the others around us. The Holy Spirit often comes at unexpected times, and rather than filling our thoughts with guilt over what we should do, he ignites passion and conviction, shows us what is possible, and makes a path for us.

Do you see should, could, and would in there?

The Holy Spirit Himself pours into us the alternative to these guilt-ridden words.

He gives us these instead: Desire. Can. Will.

These are the three words that help us move away from should, could, and would. We look at if we truly desire what should is telling us, ask if we are able to do what the task entails, and analyze if we are willing to do what it takes. In this way, we use our hearts, our minds, and our strength to walk into freedom from guilt. It is in this same pattern that we serve the Lord. We are told to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might". This is Jesus' response to the Sadducees about what the greatest commandment is and I find it interesting that this same way of turning our hearts toward God can also be applied to straightening out a heart and mind swirling with guilt. His methods always lead to clarity and freedom, and I find great comfort in this.

So how do we start?

A good beginning question is always why. Why should I drink less coffee? Why should I spend less money on myself? Why should I invest my time in these specific places? Once you've got some answers there you'll be able to ask yourself if these shoulds are true, if you want to pursue them, and evaluate how important they are to you.

Don't be discouraged if your answers to these questions lead you to some not-so-fun revelations about the gunk in your heart. It's easy to know something is good, but it's another thing to want it for your life. I love coffee. I don't actually want to drink less, but it's possible that I want other things more. This is where we have to turn to the Lord to guide our hearts. When He places a desire within us, we can trust Him to give us the help we need to follow it.

I read this quote from Amy Carmichael the other day and it seemed very fitting for where we will head next...

"It is a safe thing to trust Him to fulfill the desire that He creates."

If you discover this should really is something you want for your life, but still feel incapable or lack the desire to follow through, you can rest in God's ability. You can trust Him to help you decipher this should and give you vision and desire. He will help take you from could and give you a plan for can. He will renew your strength and help make you willing to endure the sacrifice required to pursue that particular desire. He will make your desire big enough to conquer any fear, resistance, or reluctance still lurking in your mind and enable you to follow through on your plans.

All your shoulds cannot be overcome by simple practical solutions or sheer willpower. As a Christian, the best thing you can do is rely on God to produce everything you need to follow the desires He puts in your heart. Allow yourself time to think about this desire, whatever it may be. Don't distrust a desire because you can't see the path yet. And don't follow shoulds blindly because everyone else seems to be doing it. Use your mind to think about the truth behind each should, and bring them before the Lord.

Now that I've got you questioning your shoulds with intentionality, it's time to make you wait another week to find out what to do with could. The best way to fully tackle your shoulds is to take them all the way through these three words. Should I? Could I? Would I? See if you want to, ask if you really can, then dig down deep to find out if you are actually willing to do what it takes. Once you get to the end, you will see progress in your heart, soul, and strength. You will be renewed with vision, empowered with ability, and focused on achieving what you desire with a willing heart.

I love to witness God's freedom in these areas of my life. It's a beautiful thing that He places desires on our hearts and makes our paths straight enough to follow them. Not every desire of our heart is good, but you can trust Him to guide you when you are seeking Him earnestly and diligently. He is loving, and He will not should you to death. After all, His burden is light, and His yolk is easy. So inspect that desire and be ready to more forward.

If you are up for a challenge, write down several shoulds you find yourself saying this week. I'll make my own list too. Go through them in the evening and see where you end up. Like any sort of list, it often feels fabulous to cross items off, and getting rid of all your shoulds will help you rest easier at night. I can't wait to hear how it goes for you!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Giveaway Time!

That's right, it's time for a giveaway! Homeschooling or not, you will want to devour this particular book, along with the hundreds of books listed. This post does contain affiliate links, which means I make a few cents if you click and buy. Thanks for contributing to my writing endeavors ;)

The book I'm going to tell you a little about is called Give Your Child the World by Jamie Martin.

I first saw this book popping up on various social media accounts early this summer. These posts came from people like my local Classical Conversations director, Sarah Mackenzie at Read Aloud Revival, other dear homeschooling moms, and even random friends on Facebook who simply have an interest in giving their children a more global experience. If you have any interest in bettering your children's education or experiencing another culture despite your inability to immerse yourself in it, this book is definitely for you!

Right away I knew I was going to love Jamie Martin. I actually didn't realize she was a homeschooling mom until later in the book, as she certainly does not boast in her methods of educating her children or even endorse homeschooling exclusively. You can tell she genuinely loves learning about the world and sharing it with her family every chance she gets. She speaks in the beginning about how Story enables us to set aside worry and immerse ourselves in the present, even if we are reading about the past. I don't know about you, but I need all the help I can get with laying down potential problems and enjoying present circumstances.

Story is a big part of how we learn, and Jamie talks about it frequently in Part 1 of her book. She gives really practical tips on how we can introduce other parts of the world to our children from the comforts of home. Food, home decor, international news, and child sponsorship are just a few of the ways we can dip our toes into the waters of learning about the globe. Jamie gives very tangible examples on how to do this, but doesn't stay there too long. She reminds us over and over again that knowing our world and the people in it are important, fulfilling, even life-giving tasks, and we can gain ground in doing so every day.

So what exactly is in the book you ask? Too much to list here!

First off, Jamie explains the importance of global learning and being immersed in story, then she separates many categories of books for us to browse. There are multi-cultural books, and then books according to their continent, all sectioned by age groups with descriptions and anything pertinent us parents should know before diving in or allowing our older children to do so alone.

Thanks to Jamie and her book, I have a giant list of books to get from the library, and we've read a few of her suggestions already! It was fun to see books I'd read as a teenager listed as well and remembering what I learned from the people in all those pages. I plan to look through these lists and pick out some books for my kids based on people and places we'll be learning about this school year. For us, that includes the middle-east, some of Asia, and a lot of historical figures from Europe. With Jamie's book, I'll be able to easily look at what books will suit our needs this school year, one continent and age-group at a time.

So, do you want your own copy yet? Good! Because I have one copy to give out to one of you lucky readers! You can give a big thanks to The Blythe Daniel Agency and The Blog Spot for contributing to this giveaway. I was already reading this book when they offered to let me post a review and give away a copy of this wonderful book at their expense.

There are only three simple rules to participate:

1- Go and follow Jamie Martin on Instagram.

2- Go and follow me on Instagram.

3- Comment on this blog-post and tell me what country you hope to learn more about or visit one day!

See? So easy!

Next Friday morning I will post the winner, so come back to see if it's you!

In the meantime, think about how you encounter other places everyday in your normal life at home. Where was your shirt made? What Historical person came up randomly in conversation and where did they live? Think about a time you experienced another part of the world and share that story with your children. Opportunity to see more of the world from home is hiding under mundane routines, but it's so accessible, and I love that Jamie and her book have helped me uncover it for myself and for my family. Happy learning, see you next week!