The “Non-Hack” That Will Completely Change Your Social Media Habits

 

I can always tell the days that I have spent too much time on social media (ahem.. *Facebook*)…

My brain is foggy.

It’s harder to concentrate.

I’m unmotivated.

I’m often grumpy and irritable.

And yet my thumb still reaches for that tiny blue square.

Why?

Is it because I’m lazy? Or I just want to ignore my kids? Maybe I need better screen time limits for myself?

Could it be because I’m *addicted*?

It seems everywhere you go online right now, you’re being told to get offline. The harm of being connected 24/7 and overusing screens is well known.

So why is it so hard to put the phone down.. and leave it there?

No, you’re not addicted to your phone

The dictionary definition of “addicted” is physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects.

So, I don’t know, maybe you are addicted. However, for most of us, I think “addicted” has become a catch all term that both undermines serious addiction and is entirely unhelpful when it comes to the phone problem.

The real problem

So then what? Why does my hand grab my phone and without even seemingly thinking, press that icon and start scrolling?

Habit.

Here’s the thing, our brains love habit. Forget the path less traveled, our brains love the path well worn. Habit is the reason you can drive home while your mind is on a completely different topic and the reason you do a million other little things without even thinking about it.

Our brains love the well trodden path of the familiar. And, lets be honest, they are naturally a little lazy. If you have a brain that automatically would choose reading a heavy book over zoning out on Facebook – I want to know your secret!

Then, once you add in the fact that our brains love rewards, you’ve cemented that habit firmly in place. Cute cat video? Awww.. *burst of dopamine in the brain* Answer a question from a friend? I feel helpful! *burst of dopamine in the brain*

While scrolling social media, our brains *think* they are doing something, but in reality they aren’t. The well worn path is combined with positive feedback. We are stuck treading the same path without giving it much of a thought at all.

And when we do try and forge off path, it feels strange and unfamiliar. Our brains just want to get back on the normal track.

The solution

So what’s the solution then? How do we get off that path and forge a new one?

Well, this is where I have some bad news for you. There is no list of “5 easy hacks” to forming new habits. Forming habits is work. Often hard work.

A “hack” tells you to put a blocker on your phone or put it somewhere out of sight. A “hack” tells you to set limits for yourself. And while these hacks can sometimes be helpful, the problems is they do little to change the way our brains interact with our phones. 

We notice this when the time limit is up, the blocker is removed, and the phone is back in our hands. We fall right back into old habits.

But the thing about recognizing the power of your habits is that change is doable. The word habit doesn’t have the kind of negativity attached to it that “addiction” does, so you are already one step ahead in the mental battle.

You can build new habits.

You have a choice. 

Imagine you are at a fork in the road.

To the right is your current habit. The path is clear of obstructions. The road is level, the footing sure. It is easy to start down that path.

To the left, however, is new terrain. The path is so overgrown you can hardly see it is there. You can set down this path, but it’s going to take some ground work. However, the good news is, once that path is clear, you’ll have a new habit and a new easy path to tread.

5 “Non-Hacks” to build a new habit

So, I don’t have a hack for you, but I do have some ideas to get you started. We’ll call them “non-hacks.”

#1 A well worn path is well traveled

There is a reason they say that it takes 30 days to build a new habit. In order for your new path to be worn, you have to break it in. The more you walk that path, the more you clear it, the easier it will be to walk the next time.

Keep going. Or in this case, keep stopping. Stop posting, stop clicking, and stop scrolling. Go another way.

And when you inevitably turn down the old path, turn around and jump back on the new. Over and over and over.

#2 Replace old with new

If you wanted to improve your diet, you wouldn’t just get rid of the junk food. If you want to succeed with your new eating habits, you would also replace the junk food with new good food.

The same concept applies.

If you are going to change your phone habits, you need a replacer.

Now, there are a ton of things you can be doing instead of using your phone, but for the purpose of habit building you are going to want to pick something that is two things: 1) Simple and 2) Enjoyable.

Back to the diet example. If you are replacing your ice cream with something that is complicated to make and you don’t even like, what are the odds that you are going to stop eating ice cream? Not likely.

Pick a replacer that is easy to bounce your mind to. Instead of continuing to scroll, it might look like…

  • Reading a page or two from an enjoyable book
  • Telling a joke to your kids
  • Refilling your drink cup with something yummy
  • Turning on some uplifting music

The important thing is to keep it simple and just start with one, easy to remember replacer. Think of it like redirecting your toddler: “No, no, we can’t throw the blocks, but here is a ball you can throw.” The replacer gives just enough distraction to redirect your focus. The more you do the replacer instead, the less the other habit will have a hold on your brain.

#3 Find your triggers

One thing I’ve noticed is that there are certain triggers that cause me to more easily go to zoning out on Facebook. Things like being tired, bored, or overwhelmed. When you can recognize certain things that drive you towards zoning out on a screen, it is easier to fix the root cause.

Are you tired? Take a break that will refresh you.

I don’t know how many times I’ve sat down because I’m tired and zoned out on Facebook, leaving me more tired. Closing my eyes for ten minutes could have actually solved the real problem.

Are you overwhelmed? Face the feeling head on.

When I’m overwhelmed I often like to hide. If I can’t choose what to tackle first on the mile long to do list, I’ll just avoid everything. No matter how many times this backfires, it is still somehow a temptation! Resist it. Pray and then get after that to do list.

These are just a couple of my personal triggers. We all have different ones, but the point remains the same. The more you recognize them, the easier it gets to deal with them. 

#4 Focus on the real FOMO

Speaking of triggers, once I started realizing mine I found one that seems kinda silly. But that’s the thing about triggers, even if they’re silly, they still do their thing.

Maybe you can relate though?

I found out I struggle with a serious case of social media FOMO.

Fear of missing out.

I would find myself wondering…

What’s going on on Facebook?

I wonder if anyone commented on my Instagram post?

I’m just going to check this group real quick to see if anyone needs anything…

As silly as it seems, the online world never seems to sleep and I was always wondering if there was something going on that I needed to know about.

Thankfully, once I realized this was a problem for me, I found a pretty easy solution.

Redirect the FOMO. Look at what is right in front of you.

I asked myself…

Do I want to miss out on a Facebook comment, or my baby’s sweet giggles?

Do I want to miss out on an interesting article, or my son’s cool Lego creation?

Do I want to miss out on what so and so is up to on Instagram, or miss out on a conversation with my husband over dinner?

Now, that’s some real FOMO.

#5 Find new rewards

I was reading a book completely unrelated to screen time, and it had one little snippet that wasn’t even the focus of that section of the book (It was The Law’s Guide to Nature Journaling and Drawing btw – great book!). But that one little snippet totally caught my attention.

It said that the sense of wonder we get when we discover something new about the world gives us a release of dopamine in our brains. 

That got me thinking.. if that gives us a dopamine punch, what else does?!

And if we can choose other activities that release dopamine, can we retrain our screen time loving brains to go after those things instead?

Why not?!

Here’s a list of some things that can give you a dopamine kick:

  • Doing something creative
  • Discovering something new
  • Exercising
  • Having a healthy snack
  • Listening to music (combine with exercise for a dance party – my favorite!)
  • Have some *special time* with your husband 😉
  • Check something off your to do list
  • Spend time in prayer
  • Go outside in nature

Pick some of those to focus on and retrain your brain to find pleasure in these good habits!

You got this!

Alright, it’s time to start putting this stuff into action. This might not be easy, but it is so so worth it. Since I have started figuring out these things and putting them to practice, I haven’t gotten perfect (I’m still building these habits myself!) but it has gotten so much better. And the benefits of spending less time in front of a screen are endless.

Before you know it, you’ll be looking back and realizing you just went hours or even the whole day without the urge to pop onto your phone “real quick.”

Two more resources that have immensely helped me navigate this are have been the book Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn and this article by Hands Free Mama. Highly recommend both!

I’d love to know how you are doing in building these new habits, so leave a comment, shoot me an email, or come hang out on the Steadfast Family Facebook page (hey, the nice thing about building these habits is you have control over spending some time on social media, cause it isn’t all bad!)

One last thing for you, I made this fun flow chart to help you start thinking through how you are spending your time on social media and the triggers that drive you there. I hope it helps to give you some ideas!

(Click on the image below to open a PDF)

Happy habit building!

A Revolutionary Mindset for Family Chores

What used to be a given in the life of the family, chores are now apparently falling by the wayside, with only 28% of parents stating that they give their child(ren) chores, according to a recent study. Even in spite of the up and coming evidence that chores are beneficial to children (here, here, and here), and the old-school common sense, parents just aren’t giving their kids chores as much these days.

However, YOU are not that parent, right? Because you clicked on this post, I’m going to assume you know that chores are beneficial. You want your kids to pitch in around the house. You are, after all, not a maid. Amiright?

Herein lies the big question? HOW?

A quick search on Pinterest will only give you about eleventy-billion results for chore charts, job cards, reward systems, and on and on and on. Where do you start? And do these systems even work?

Truth is, I don’t know. I haven’t tried them. The closest I’ve come to using a “chore chart” is when I jotted down a few jobs on a piece of construction paper for my son.

However, over the last few years I have stumbled on something. Something that does work. A mindset that has revolutionized the way I handle family chores.

First, I’m going to lay out the thought process that has worked for us. Afterwards, I’m going to tell you the *secret* to making it all work.. so stick around for that mmmk?

 

First off, no rewards!

Yep, you heard me. Basic, every day chores and house work does not get any compensation from mom and dad, other than the satisfaction of a job well done. We all live here, we all make the messes here, we all help. We do everyday chores together and work on bigger house projects together too. It’s a team effort.

Plus, if you work hard now, it means less work for mama later and maybe she can actually sit down for a minute and play that game you keep asking to play.

In all seriousness though, I don’t want rewards to be my children’s motivator to do good things and work hard, so I use them very sparingly as a general rule.

Three Stages of Workers

Here is the meat and potatoes of this method. It’s an amalgamation of various chores posts and systems I’ve read over the years. The best part is that it will work with every age child in your family. Perfecto!

Stage 1: The Helper

I’m just going to say this right off the bat. The helper’s “help” is not usually very helpful. It’s the toddler who plays in the water more than actually washing the dishes, the preschooler who folds the towels all wonky, and the child who skipped over half the window you were washing.

The helper works beside you, often getting in the way, often undoing what you just did. Sometimes the helper gets a “job” that serves only to keep him or her occupied for 5 minutes.

However, in this stage the importance does not lie with the end product. No, the importance is the feeling being helpful, of being included, and the beginning of family work becoming a habit.

So, take a deep breath… and let the toddler join you at the kitchen counter.

Stage 2: The Apprentice

This is where the real work starts. No, not for them, for you. 🙂 In this stage, you are no longer just doing damage control on their “help” – you are the coach.

It’s best to start with one task at a time. Want your child to be able to clean the bathroom? Be prepared to stand there the entire time, explaining what cleaner to use, how to scrub the toilet, and what exactly a clean counter should look like. With tasks that have multiple steps, it is helpful to have a check-list nearby to aid in independence.

In this stage you are going to be demonstrating, observing, helping, and reminding. With your training, gradually they will need your help less and less, but don’t expect it to happen overnight.

Stage 3: The Expert

It’s the stage you’ve been waiting for! You say the magic words: “please go do your laundry” – and they DO IT. Correctly. Without you. Did you hear that? You did not do the laundry. They did.

All that work has finally paid off. Your child is an expert in the chore(s) you have trained them in. Now, don’t be surprised if their memory seems to fade and they need a little time back in the apprentice stage. However, overall, you’ve got fully functioning members of the family.

It’s time to have a party! A cleaning party that is. 🙂

Moving through the stages

In our home, if you are under 5/6 years old, you are probably still firmly in the “helper” phase. I don’t even think about trying to venture out towards independent cleaning or checklists, or any of that. I just pull a stool up to the counter and call over a helper.

That said, if you haven’t done much by way of chores (or even just certain chores) an older child might still need to be in the helper phase. Let them help you make breakfast a few times (just cross your fingers there’s no egg shells in your food), then slowly move towards the apprentice mindset. Soon, they’ll be able to make a dish, then a meal, and their skills continue to expand.

A child can also be in multiple stages at once. He could be helping with kitchen work, apprenticing bathroom duties, and an expert at making his bed. It is less about having a complicated system, and more about having a mindset of slow growth through the stages.

How we set it up right now

Currently, what this looks like for us is this…

After lunch is our “chore hour.” We all work together for the hour between lunch and quiet time to do our chores and get the house feeling nice(r). The rule is this: first you do your assigned chore (apprentice stage), then you pick up your bedroom. If there is any time leftover, you help someone else with what they are working on.

Currently my 6 year old is apprenticing in cleaning floors (sweeping, vacuuming, mopping). If he has time after picking up his room, he helps me with other tasks (kitchen, laundry, etc). The toddler generally stays by me and “helps” or sometimes I’ll send him to help his brother.

The six year old also has a cooking job, which is currently training on how to prep veggies. Both boys enjoy helping in the kitchen at other times.

The SECRET to making it work

Okay, I promised a secret. So, here it is… (hopefully we’re still friends after this revelation)…

This is HARD WORK

Ah! Mind blowing, right?

Okay, okay, you’re probably thinking “Obviously! I know this is hard work! How does that help me make it work?”

Because expectations are everything.

If I expect my child to do their chores without my help and then they do them sloppily and half way, what happens? I get frustrated.

If I expect to make dinner without a toddler dumping spices all over the counter, what happens when the mess comes? Same.

Training little ones how work hard and function as productive members of society when they are grown is HARD. It is way easier to send them to their room while you fold laundry, put on a movie during dinner prep, or shoo them outside so you can mop. The struggle is real!

But, heres the thing…

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” 
-Galatians 6:9

Don’t give up! Keep the future goal in mind and it will make all that hard work worth it.

So lean on God, roll up your sleeves, grab a kid, and get to work.

Seven Year Itch? Seven Things to Make Year Seven The Best Yet

Seven Things to Make Year Seven The Best Yet

Have you ever heard of the “seven year itch”?

According to Wikipedia,  “Divorce rates show a trend in couples that, on average, divorce around seven years. Statistics show that there is a low risk of separation during the first months of marriage. After the “honeymoon” months, divorce rates start to increase. Most married couples experience a gradual decline in the quality of their marriage; in recent years around the fourth year of marriage. Around the seventh year, tensions rise to a point that couples either divorce or adapt to their partner.”

Simply put, whether fact or urban legend, time passes, frustrations build, and at year seven things are thought to finally reach a boiling point. 

I found out about this so called “seven year itch” as we were nearing the end of our seventh year and I was intrigued. Why, you ask? Because I thought our seventh year had been the best year of marriage yet!

So, my husband and I took some time to talk over the things we did this last year that led to it being so great and what we want to keep working on so we avoid any “itchiness” in the years to come!

Seven Things to Make Year Seven The Best Yet

#1 Make intimacy a priority

You know what I’m talking about.. marital relations, bedroom time, coitus.. wink wink, nudge nudge. There is something about this God given aspect of marriage that flows over into all the other areas, helping to smooth things over and bring unity. Because of that, we (especially me) realized we needed to cut the excuses and just do it. 😉

#2 Make intentional time for just the two of us

With two young children and a seemingly always changing and busy schedule, this didn’t mean anything neat like regular planned date nights out. It looked more like ice cream and Netflix on the couch, working out together (cause of all that ice cream ya know?), working on projects around the house, and chatting while driving in the car.

Regular date nights are awesome, but I’d venture to say that there are more of us than not who are in a stage of life where it’s just not possible. So, we found that we had to be intentional about using the small moments we did have, or we’d end up living two separate lives in the same house.

#3 Be more positive with each other (the 5-1 ratio)

A while back my husband had a training at work where they talked about how it is optimal to say five positive comments for every one negative comment. They don’t need to be elaborate praises either. A simple “thanks” or “good job” will do just as well.

This is something that we have been working on, but need to keep getting better at! I think it is so easy to get into the habit of taking your spouse for granted. You get into that day to day rut and forget to take note of the positive. However, it is amazing what a difference such a simple thing can make. It can totally change the atmosphere of your home.

#4 Have quality family time

In addition to having one on one time with your spouse, family time in general is so important. Seeing your spouse care for your kids just brings about those warm fuzzy feelies. Being together draws you all closer together. So, put down the phones, turn off the tv, and do something. This year, we found that taking walks and having less TV time made a big difference for our family.

#5 Spend time figuring out what makes your spouse tick

After those initial fun “getting to know you” dating days, it is easy to stop learning more about your spouse. However, the more you know about each other, the closer you can become! I love that my husband knows me better than anyone else! Plus, having an understanding of how my husband works (and him me) has saved us from a ton of unnecessary conflict.

If you are looking for ways to get to know each other even better, I highly recommend the personality test the Enneagram. It is the most in-depth, spot on personality test I have ever used. You can get started digging into it at the website 9types.com but I highly recommend the book “The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective” by Richard Rohr. Author Shauna Niequist also has a great overview of the enneagram here.

#6 Pray more together

I’ll admit, we did way way better at this in the early days of our marriage. We seriously could use some improvement in this area because I know how important it is to make God the center of your marriage. I think these ideas from Sheila at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum are great and we need to get started working on this asap!

#7 Talk about the big stuff

Intentionally discuss the big topics. Have healthy fights. Get on the same page in life.

You can’t avoid these types of discussions because of the possible conflict they might bring. In fact, we’ve found that it is often because of these healthy conflicts, not in spite of them, that we grow closer together.

This also includes things like making marriage and family goals. Where do we see ourselves in 5 (10, 15, 20) years? What do we want to work on this year? How can we improve? What goals do we have in the big areas of parenting, faith, money, and health? Tackling these goals as a team can make all the difference.

What about you? Have you ever heard of the 7 year itch? What have you found to be important for building a steadfast marriage?

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If I could go back and give advice to my newlywed self… (#3 of 4)

If I could go back and give advice to my newlywed self...

My little sister is getting married this Summer and it has got me thinking back to when I was preparing for my own wedding seven years ago. The excitement and the unknowns of it all. The first couple years of figuring out what marriage is all about.

The truth is, we’re still figuring out what this thing called marriage is all about, but if I could go back in time and share with my young(er) self my advice after seven years of marriage, I think I’d share four main things.

Today, I’d like to share the third thing.

 The trials you face will be some of the best things that happen-3

#3 The trials you face will be some of the best things that happen to you.

I covered this a little bit under my second post of this series, but I think it bears digging into further.

You are going to go through some tough stuff. However, you’re not going to want to change a thing. Here’s three reasons why…

#1 It will force you to lean on each other

Going through these difficulties will really spur you on to develop a mindset of tackling problems together. This mindset will continue to help build and strengthen your marriage when you face problems both big and small later on down the road.

With the right attitude, the problems you face will do an amazing job of bringing you closer together. Sometimes one of you may have to do more of the heavy lifting, and sometimes there might be tension to wade through, but if you stick together you’ll make it through.

One more added benefit to this is that, in the future, when you are struggling with the big decisions of life, you will know that whatever path you take you will be able to make it through it if you’re in it together.

#2 It will build your character

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4

I hate to break it to you, but at the age of 21 you still have a lot of growing up to do. Just like our muscles don’t grow stronger when they aren’t used, that maturing is not going to happen unless your character is put to the test.

Both you and your husband will be stretched and molded by God through all these trials. Seven years later you will still be learning and growing every day, but by the grace of God, you will be much further along than when you started.

#3 It will draw you closer to God

Much like you must rely on each other to get through your struggles, you must even more so rely on God. You will learn that there are hurts and trials that only the Lord can be the strength to get you through.

Your faith and love for Him will be refined through the trials you face. He will truly become your Rock during these times.

Not only this, but looking back over your life, you will be able to greater realize God’s perfect plan for your life. So many things will not go the way you would have planned. Though you may grieve the loss of some of these plans, the joy brought from God’s will for your life will far outweigh that.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. – Proverbs 16:9

If I Could Give Advice To My Newlywed Self-3

What lessons have you learned through the trials in your life and marriage?

Stay tuned next week for the final installment in this series!

The Hidden Blessing of a Full Life

The Hidden Blessing of a Full Life

As I flopped into bed, exhausted, I lay there thinking of all the things a left undone. Yet another day had passed, busting at the seams. Filled with highs and lows. Responsibilities, routines, and even some excitement.

I sighed, trying to figure out what I would need to prioritize tomorrow. “Life is crazy,” I thought. “Will it ever slow down?” My days felt like a never ending to-do list.

I was frustrated. I am someone who generally prefers the slow, simple life. However, this kind of life seemed to have disappeared lately. Replaced with early mornings, late nights, and a whole lot stuffed in between.

Frankly, in that moment, I had a little bit of a bad attitude.

But, then it hit me, life isn’t just this crazy mess I was portraying to myself. Yes, our days were full. Very full. However, they were bursting at the seams with good. And if I looked close enough, I just might see what’s really there…

The Hidden Blessing of a Full Life Days full of baby snuggles, interspersed with the delight of a child over a simple tower of blocks or a splash in a rain puddle.

Time that was sacrificed for friends. One helped to move across town. Another over for dinner last minute. Plus lots of spontaneous playdates among the kids.

Meals were cooked with little hands alongside. Walks around the block were taken, with stops every 20 feet to look at the scenery.

Small hearts were shaped through tantrums and chores, kisses and hugs, and silly giggles. And, of course, lots of pointing to Jesus.

Hidden Blessing of a full life

Sure, the bathroom (still) didn’t get cleaned. And routines were once again derailed, though my intentions were there. Lunch was mac-n-cheese from a box.

There may have been moments of anger, frustration, and exhaustion. There were moments I wish could have been skipped and time I wish I could reclaim.

But still, life is so rich. So good. So full of the sweet moments. Moments that will pass you by without a second glance if all you are doing is focusing on the crazy and wondering if you’ll ever get to take a nap again.

The Hidden Blessing of a Full Life

It is these moments I want to keep my focus on. Because, yes, times of peace and rest are so important, but how we view the other, not so peaceful times of life is what determines how we feel about our days. And even the hard moments can be bittersweet and full of good, if they cause us to lean more heavily on our Savior.

The Hidden Blessing of a Full Life

So, instead, as my head lays on the pillow, I choose to redirect my thoughts. I lay aside the mental to do list for the night and thank God for the good he has surrounded me with. Thankful for his grace, once again, carrying me through another day.

Thank Goodness God’s Not Like Me

Thank Goodness God's Not Like Me - www.simplelifemessylife.com

Bitter words they can’t really even comprehend pour out of my mouth.

“Kids! Please just play nicely! Everyone will have so much more fun if we treat others how we want to be treated.”

“That’s it! Time out! Now. You’re done.”

“You see? I told you this was going to happen if you didn’t listen to me!”

Wow. Toddlers sure could be frustrating and I was exasperated. Why wouldn’t they just listen?! Everything would be so much easier if they could just use a little bit of common sense. I wasn’t trying to make their lives miserable, but they sure seemed to think it was fun to try and make mine.

In case you couldn’t tell, I had a horrible attitude.

Then, a thought came mind.

What if this was how God treated humanity? 

After all, we must seem an awful lot like foolish toddlers to Him.

“Come on humanity, can’t you just be kind to each other? I’ve condensed it all down to two simple rules! Follow them already!”

“Now, see – I told you these horrible things were going to happen if you didn’t listen to me!”

“Alright, you’re done. That is it! I’ve had enough of you and your attitude!”

Needless to say, if God had my short temper I’d have been done for a long time ago. Dealing with humankind must be beyond frustrating, yet still He loves us and responds to our foolishness with grace and mercy.

The challenge is showing that same grace and mercy to the imperfect people around me.

“The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”
-Psalm 145:8 

Thank goodness for mercy.
And thank goodness God is nothing like me.

Do you struggle with a short temper some days? What do you do to help keep things in perspective?

Two Simple Things That Have Made A Big Difference In Our Family

2 Simple Things That Made a Big Difference For Our Family

When the new year rolled around, like millions of others, my husband and I sat down to discuss what areas we felt needed improvement. Being the imperfect creatures we are, the list ended up being quite long!

We started January with high hopes to make some changes – both personally and for our family. We made a plan to focus on the things we felt were the most important and we set out to put our plan in action. And it worked… until it didn’t. Since then we’ve fallen on and off the New Years resolutions bandwagon more than once.

However, there have been two simple things that we’ve been able to keep up with that have made a huge impact in our family.

photo

#1 Nightly Walks

This goal was originally made for the purpose of starting a healthy habit – and getting this pregnant lady moving each day! However, I never would have guessed what it would do for our family.

Almost every night when my husband gets home from work we head out for a walk around our neighborhood. It takes us about 45 minutes and we usually get back just in time to eat dinner. While this does give us some good exercise, the biggest benefit is a side product of the walk – conversation.

We push the stroller, walk briskly, and talk. We talk about our days, we talk about our plans, we talk through our problems. We brainstorm together, dream together, laugh together, and yes, sometimes have an argument as well.

Conversely, on the nights that we stay home (for whatever reason) we tend to go about the business of the evening and never get into the same depth of conversation.

In order for these nightly walks to happen, we have had to make sure it is a priority. We encourage each other to keep up the habit and I’ve had to make sure K and I are ready to head out when dad gets home. Although sometimes we’ve gone for our walk after dinner, we definitely prefer to go before we eat. Because of this, I have to make sure as much of dinner as is possible is prepared in advance so we can eat as soon as we get home.

The work is worth it though. We’ve grown closer as a couple and even K looks forward to our nightly stroll!

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#2 No TV until 8pm

Now, those of you who don’t even have a TV to begin with are way ahead of us in this area, but this has been a big thing for us. It used to be that my husband liked to come home from work and decompress by watching TV. However, the TV would end up staying on all night. It sucked us in and didn’t let go.

So, for Lent this year I suggested changing our TV habits. After some discussion we settled on no TV until 8pm, K’s bedtime.

Now, in the evening we go for our walk and then eat dinner together around the table (or as of late, the picnic table!). Daddy and K have time to hang out for a while before K’s bedtime and I have nothing distracting me from either cleaning up the kitchen or joining in the playtime. If we have anything that needs to be discussed further or any to-do’s that need to get done, they are much more likely to happen with the TV off.

This has been so nice for our family. We interact. We make memories. And I have a better chance of waking up to a clean kitchen. 🙂

Then, K gets put to bed and the final stage of the evening can happen – relaxing together while we watch our favorite shows. A time that we both thoroughly enjoy even more without having had the TV on all night already.

Lent may be over, but this is one habit that we will be keeping up.

Well, those are the two simple things that have made a big difference for us. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with that long list of things you need to improve on. However, you can’t forget about the little things you have accomplished that make a difference in your life.

Do you have any little changes you’ve made that have made a difference in your family? I’d love to hear them!

Using a Bad Day to Point Your Child to the Gospel

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It was one of those nights. The ones where the clock ticking down to bedtime couldn’t possibly move any slower. It had been a rough day. K had been particularly… well.. three years old. We’d been struggling with disobedience, stubbornness, angry outbursts, mischievousness, and lack of self-control all. day. long. Typically on nights like this I’m ashamed to admit I normally speed through the bed time routine in record time and then crash on the couch. Teeth, potty, jammies, prayers, kiss, hug, lights out – done.

However, for some reason this night something stirred in my heart and I decided to slow down. I tucked K in and smiled at him.

“We had a rough day today didn’t we?” I said.

It took maybe all of five minutes, but the conversation that followed brought about more fruit than a quick kiss and “I love you” ever could.

We talked about how he had made a lot of bad choices that day. He didn’t do a very good job obeying and he wasn’t very nice. Then, I said something that surprised him a little. I told him that mommy and daddy make bad choices too. He wanted to know what kind, so we talked about that for a little while. Then I told him that everybody does bad things, that’s why we need Jesus. I told him that God is the only one who never does anything wrong. God only does good things.

He thought that was pretty cool.

I told him that we can only be with God if we do good things too. If we do bad things, we can’t be with God, because He is good. Then I told him the good news. Jesus came to be good for us, so we can be with God. Jesus saves us.

We ended our short discussion by deciding to try again tomorrow to make good choices and be nice, because that’s what Jesus would want us to do. Then finally the kisses and hugs and goodnights. I came downstairs feeling at peace, instead of drained from the day’s struggles.

The gospel was something both of us needed to hear.

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How much did my son, a little three year old, retain or even understand from that conversation? I don’t know. However, what I do know is that a seed has been planted. A seed that will continue to be cared for until it grows to fruition.

Later that night as I lay in bed I told my husband about our conversation. He said that earlier in the day he, too, had a similar talk. K had run out into the road to get a ball even after being told to stop. There was a car coming (slowly, thankfully) and my husband had to run and grab K. Somehow their discipline conversation moved to talking about how Jesus saves us, just like daddy saved K from the road. When I had my conversation with K, he mentioned how daddy saved him when I was talking about Jesus saving him. Even though I didn’t know what he was talking about he had remembered the earlier talk and connected the dots.

They remember more than we think sometimes.

In our goals of raising kind, obedient, and thoughtful children we must not forget the bigger picture. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. Even our kids. No amount of training is going to change that. Let us never cease in pointing them towards our Hope.

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What tips do you have for sharing the gospel with your children? Share them in the comments. 

My Husband Travels for Work: 10 Tips for Transitioning Home

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After spending an extended amount of time away from my husband over the last two years, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the process of returning to doing life together again. Today I’m guest posting over at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum about what I’ve found are my top ten tips to make this a smooth transition.

I’d love it if you would come join us over there!

My Husband Travels for Work: 10 Tips for Transitioning Home

 

 

 

When I Don’t Want My Child To Obey

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My blood was boiling. It felt like the tension inside was going to break me into a million pieces. The last string of patience I could muster snapped.

My thoughts whirled.

“Why does this always have to happen?”

“Can’t I just have a few minutes of peace?!”

“That is it!”

Words spewed out of my mouth like poison.

Anger. Frustration. Bitterness.
Hurtful words. Shaming words.
Little eyes wide open, taking it all in.

Finished with my lecture, I collapsed at the kitchen table. I regained control of my racing pulse and pushed back the tears. My heart felt like it was a million pounds.

What had I done?

I opened my Bible and tried to pray. But I was overcome with remorse. I gained obedience, but at what cost?

It was then I knew that I didn’t want obedience like that. I didn’t want to teach my child (or any child) that you obey the person who hurts you. I want my child to obey me because of my calm authority as his mother, not because I know which words will cut at his heart.

I love my child and I want it to show. Even when I am frustrated.

And I must admit, I am far from perfect. The life I lead is often a messy one. However, I’m trying my best to take my parenting lessons from the best Father of all. The One who is slow to anger and abounding in mercy. The One who never shames, but holds out abundant grace and invites me to sin no more. The One who is ever just and lets me reap the consequences of what I sow, but who never deserts me along the way.

This is the Father I want my child to know as well.
So, I swallow my pride and I ask for forgiveness from the little one that I hurt, pointing him to the One who will never fail him.

 

Have you had a messy moment this week? I hope you will join me in casting my burdens at the feet of a Father who cares.