Happiness Project: Month by Month Roadmap

In Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project  she puts together a monthly focus and specific goals pertaining to that month.  Everyone is going to choose different subjects to focus on.  We all different passions, priorities, responsibilities, etc.  The following are my month focuses:DSC07115

March:  My Kids: My oldest has a lot of extra days off from school in March due to Spring Break and a teacher’s conference.  It gives me the perfect opportunity to bond with my kids and appreciate my role as a mom.

April:  Health & Wellness:  Exercise, healthy eating, routines etc.

May:  My House:  I did a pretty intense “winter cleaning” project this past month, but I know come May all my efforts will be “undone” and there will be other things to tackle…things I have put off for a very long time.

June:  God:  Spiritual life and faith

July:  Mental Health:  positive thinking and learning more about anxiety and depression

August:  Marriage:  My husband’s birthday is in August so I thought this would be a perfect month to focus on him.

September:  Friends:  Now that the majority of my close friends have kids in school, the summer to fall transition is crazy.  I had many stressed out friends in September.

October:  World Missions:  I have always had a heart for mission specifically the places I visited (Eastern Europe & Indonesia).  I want my kids to learn more about missions.

November:  Community:  Over the past few years I have become more interested in community development and how specifically my family can be involved in our neighborhood and community.  God didn’t have us live here for no reason.

December:  Traditions:  I love embracing the traditions of the holidays and focusing on Advent.

January:  Pursue a Passion:  Running:  Only those who are die hard runners will understand it.  My passions have changed over the years or disappeared, but I have LOVED running since I got lost running on a county road by all these cow pastures outside of Coopersville, Michigan in April of 2001.  I did manage to find my way home and I realized I ran 5 miles!  I could run!  

February:   Art:  Last night at youth group the middle schoolers were remarking how good of a drawer I am.  I used to LOVE to draw, paint, etc.  I took extracurricular art classes in middle school.  I would love to try some different types of art with my kids and on my own.

Each month is divided into separate goals.  I will post them at the beginning of that month.  There a few personal goals I am not posting, but the vast majority I will reveal.

Here is the month of March:

DSC07110

Focus:  The Kids

  1. Have a different “theme” days during the oldest child’s day off like “Craft Day,” “Nature Day,” “Fun in the Kitchen” day.
  2. Speak in the positive.  Have you never noticed how negative we moms are!?  “Don’t do that!”  “Stop touching that!”  “Your room is a pit.”  We CAN speak in the positive.
  3. Focus on the role God called me to be:  As I said, I never thought I would be a full time stay-at-home mom and never for this many years.  I want to reflect more on the blessings of this calling.
  4. Smile in the morning:  My kids can be upbeat and happy in the morning and I can be…well…a grump.  I am trying to smile right after my alarm goes off…and it’s SO hard.
  5. Go roller skating:  I want to do something “vintage” with my oldest.  It helps me appreciate the joys of my own childhood and share it with her.

FYI:  I will be posting about The Happiness Project every Monday.  Please follow along.  If you find it boring, do not read my blog on Mondays.

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Philadelphia and back again…

I have been taking a short hiatus from Everyday Mom.  For the past week I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Philadelphia along with fifteen other people.  Our task was simple:  to learn about community development from church planters while participating in a camp for 10-14 year olds at By Grace Alone Church.  This is not just an activity driven camp.  This camp is called Business Boot Camp and the kids learn about entrapeneurship, employment, risk-taking, teamwork, and more.  It was amazing to be a part of it!

It’s part of a project my church started called the Salem/Philly Connect.  Basically we sent a team to inner city Philly to learn about community outreach.  In 2012, the Philly church will send a team to us here in Oregon.  You can read more about how this project got started, why we felt God calling us to do it, how it is totally different than your average church mission trip, and how it impacted our lives.

We hope to do a few fundraisers throughout the year to send some of our new Philly friends to Oregon next summer to help us with summer outreach projects.  Stay tuned.

Now I am getting ready to leave on a much needed vacation.  Everyday Mom may be a little quiet until I return.

 

Pray for Rain!

In the summer of 2003, my husband and I (we did not have kids yet) lived in rural South Dakota surrounded by cattle ranches.  When I say “rural,” I mean dirt sometimes rock covered roads and the nearest grocery store a good twenty minutes away.  We could not see a single house from our driveway.

We met many wonderful cattle ranchers and farmers who did not talk about the weather the same way us city folk do.  They prayed often for rain.  A dry spell meant a loss of cows or crops that slowed business down that affected providing for their families.  These people cared for their cows and took pride in them.  Well cared for cows produce good meat and milk. A loss of a cow is not just a revenue loss.  It’s like a business man losing a piece of his building to a fire or tornado.

I cannot imagine what they are going through now with this drought hitting most of the Midwest and Great Plains.  My denomination, the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) is asking everyone to pray for rain this Sunday and all the Sundays following.  Here are some of the facts from an e-mail sent to pastors in the CRC as well an article from my local newspaper:  the Statesman Journal.

  •  55% of the country was in a moderate to extreme drought by the end of June 2012.
  •  The Midwest has experienced the 14th warmest and 10th driest June on record.
  •  The percentage of affected land is the largest since December of 1956
  •  1/3 of the nation’s corn crop has been hurt.
  •  2/3 of the state of Illinois is in a severe drought.  70% of Indiana is in severe drought as well.
  •  More than 1,000 counties in the United States have been declared disaster areas.

“Times like these remind us that we are completely dependent on God. And that God has told us that he wants us to come to him with our needs and petitions.” – Reverend Joel R Boot (Executive Director of the CRCNA)

Five days until I run a marathon!

Five days!

I am more nervous about getting to the starting line than I am running the actual thing.  When I did my first marathon in the fall of 2006 in Portland, I nearly missed the starting line.  Being too overconfident with directions and going way off track, we managed to find “an angel” in Oregon City who let us follow him all the way to downtown Portland.  I made it with very little time to spare.  Never again.  I still feel the panic when I remember sitting at that gas station.  I was wondering how I was going to explain to people including my parents and in-laws who came from out of town, “Yeah…um…I missed the race.  We got lost.”

I was nervous about the sports drink.  When I ran Portland, whatever was at the aid stations made my stomach turn.  I’m happy to see we get good old Gatorade in Seattle.  That’s what I have been training with.

Will I break four hours?  It’s a lofty goal, I know.  I would rather start out trying and slow down with the 4:15 group if I can’t keep up with the 4:00 team.

Training has gone amazingly well.  Lots of miles pounded out here in my own neighborhood, a few on the treadmill at the gym, and I managed to get some runs in while traveling to California and Michigan.  I began training right around Christmas and now it comes to a close.

I’m almost a marathoner times three.  Seattle, Rock & Roll Marathon, I’m on my way!

And by the way–I am running for a ministry called the Salem/Philly Connect.  I’m a part of a team that is traveling to inner city Philadelphia this summer.  We will be working with several urban churches and assisting them with various community development projects.  In 2013, they will be sending a team to us help our church with our summer ministries.  To learn more and/or make a donation, read our blog.  We’ve raised about $750.00 so far.

What Thanksgiving Really Means To Me

My daughter's Thanksgiving greeting on the family white board

About ten years ago I had the opportunity to serve as an adult leader on a mission trip to a low-income area of North Carolina.  We were assigned to a work-site where we had to clean-up and replace dry wall.  I was inside a lady’s kitchen that was ravished by Hurricane Floyd only a few weeks earlier.  I wrapped what was left of her glasses and plates in newspaper and placed them in a cardboard box while conversing with the two other high school students on our team.  One of the other adult leaders interrupted us an hour into our work and asked us to come sit on the front lawn.  Some of the guys who were in the middle of ripping out drywall asked, “Can we just continue working?”

“No,” the other adult leader said strongly, “you need to hear this.”

She gathered us all on the front lawn and the elderly lady whose home we were working on shared her story.  She told all about the strong winds and heavy rains of Hurricane Floyd and how she barely escaped.  A family member showed up to her home with a boat and she had to climb out the front window.

After her story, we went back into the house to work and piled up water-soaked mattresses, moldy furniture, stained clothing and made a pile in the front yard for the garbage men.  I looked at the items and Matthew 6:19-21 kept circulating in my brain:

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust  destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves  treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do  not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be  also.

“It could just all go away.  Like that,”  I thought.

We live in a culture where we want things and we want them yesterday.  It is getting easier and quicker to buy a new computer or the latest gadget or a new pair of Nikes with a click of a mouse.  You do not even have to leave your house, brave the rain or ice, or go from store to store.  Yet it takes just one hurricane or one tornado or one fire or one robbery or one fall of the economy for it to go away.

I am not implying that this Thanksgiving weekend you should avoid the Black Friday crowds or get rid of  your iPod or worse yet live in fear that a hurricane is going to destroy your home.   Please remember that the stuff of this earth is temporary and it is not going to give you the all surpassing joy that Paul talks about in Philippians 3:8.

“I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.”

Because of my time spent in low-income areas and living on a beans and rice budget for years and yet seeing God provide, I have grown in my faith.  I like my computer, my mini van, my digital camera, and my vacations to the Midwest & Canada.  And don’t get me wrong I want a nice pair of boots and a road bike.  But somehow it just doesn’t matter as much.  Stuff doesn’t carry the same priority as it did years ago.

The Lord gives.  The Lord takes away.  The Lord provides.

Our walk into financial freedom

With our economy right now, living “frugal” is in.  We have been living that way for almost ten years now.  It was not easy.  Being a spender is in my DNA and I had to change some unhealthy habits.

Dave Ramsey, the Christian financial guru said “a spender” marries “a saver” I found that to be true.  I love the feeling of leaving a store with a bag of full of new things.  I get a thrill out of looking at my purchases.  I enjoy the rush of winning an Ebay auction and waiting for my package to arrive in the mail.  If I would not have discovered Dave Ramsey on my own nor married a “saver” I would probably be in major debt.  Instead I amwe are debt free!

Rob and I got married in 2001

The year before I married Rob I lived paycheck to paycheck.  I was able to pay most bills by their due date and have money for the necessities. I was not paying the full amount of credit card bills and I was fearing I would never get caught up.  This kept me up at night.  Had some unforseen thing happened like a medical emergency, car accident, or my apartment burning down (which I feared because my neighbors burned candles unattended) I would have been in trouble.

I was looking forward to being married and having the money shared with someone else.  I knew Rob was better at money management than I was.  However, I learned very soon into our marriage that differences create conflict.  It was no big deal to me to take extra money out of the ATM so we could go out to eat.  Why was Rob scared of us spending money?  Now I know you absolutely have to get on the same page or you will have those fights over and over and over.

Somehow (and I say it was a “God thing”) we got on the same page months within our marriage.  I was driving somewhere and had the AM Talk Radio station on. The Dave Ramsey Show was on and he was talking to a gentlemen who had bill collectors calling frequently.  It seemed intriguing and entertaining.  As I listened more, it peaked my interest.  I asked Rob if he had listened to the financial show that was on in the afternoons.  He told me he had been listening to it for a while.  He was afraid to bring it up to me.  He assumed I would have my nose in the air about it and refuse to try the “Dave Ramsey” principles.  I hate to say it, but he was probably right.  I had to discover Ramsey on my own and choose to manage money a new way.  Not my way.  Not Rob’s way.  But OUR way.  Which for the most part is similar to what you will learn if you take the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University Classes that are offered at churches all over the US.

We never took the classes actually.  We learned all the principles from listening to his radio show.  Back then, we spent much more time commuting and driving places so we often listened to the show in the car. We also went to a full day seminar in Grand Rapids, Michigan hosted by Dave Ramsey.  The seminars now are called Live Events.  We walked away with a clearer understanding and a reinforcement we were managing our money the best way we could.

We really felt that God called us to live this way.  I spent considerable time in places like Romania, Indonesia, & Mexico where people have very, very little.  Then I would go back to the United States and get trapped in the “I need more stuff” mindset only weeks after coming home.  When I got some stuff, I wanted even more.  It never seemed to end.  But I discovered an even greater joy in having financial freedom.  We have been able to do things I never dreamed possible like buying a car and pay for it in full using cash.  I thought only crazy penny pinchers did that!  Well now I am one.

It is such a great feeling buying a vehicle with cash!

Rob and I very rarely argue about money.  It has not always been easy.  There have been times of struggle and even times we started to revert back to the “spender/saver” conflicts.  I will share more about our walk into financial freedom in future posts.

I would love to help others someday because we all know too many couples that suffer in their marriages due to financial problems.  Honestly, that could have been us too if we did not get on the same page.

Family Outreach Projects

I was a high school student in the 1990’s and part of “the mission trip” generation.  Most youth groups were abandoning going to youth conventions and camps and instead going to places like inner city Chicago or venturing south of the border to Mexico doing everything from construction projects to Vacation Bible Schools.  We and the generation that followed us are “hands on.” We like hearing missionaries share about their experience and watch the slide shows in the church basement, but we want to seize new opportunities on the front lines of ministry.  We want to get our hands dirty and directly support these missionaries using all five senses.

As a mom I want my children to learn they can help the poor, reach out to those in need, and love people who are different from them.  We started doing one small outreach project a week.  I hesitated to blog about it.  I do not want to have an attitude of “Look at us–we’re a great family because look at the nice stuff we are doing in the community.”  After I talked to several moms over the past few weeks who said, “Our family wants to do something.  We don’t know where to start,” I realized it might be helpful to get our ideas out there.

I am also a learner.  I lived in the inner city for a year, I spent four months in Indonesia as a college student, I have been to Mexico a half dozen times, and I studied missions in college.  But teaching my children about outreach is a brand new experience.

We decided to do one small project each week.  We started when school began.  The first week we made zucchini chocolate chip muffins for a Women and Children’s shelter.  I asked the volunteer coordinator how preschool and elementary children could serve and this was one of their suggestions.  My kids loved it and I took them along to drop off the muffins.

Making muffins for the women and children's shelter

The second week we drew pictures for a young child in our church that was having surgery.  My son thought of this on his own when he said we should pray for the little boy.  My kids could not visit him in the hospital, but my husband took the pictures to him when he went to visit the family.

The third week we drew pictures for a girl in India our family sponsors through Gospel for Asia’s Bridge of Hope. They make it super easy to write to your child.  They even send you a blank letter and you can send it to their US office.  You do not have to worry about postage to India.  My oldest child drew her a picture and wrote the girl’s name on it.  Trying to explain about third world countries and poverty to preschoolers is difficult.  It helps that we have a picture of the girl we sponsor.

Drawing a picture for our sponsored child

These are very simple ways you can teach your children about giving and outreach and you hardly have to leave your house to do it.  Honestly they take up so little time.  We are all busy, aren’t we?  Some of these projects were things my daughter could work on while I unloaded the dishwasher or made dinner–not a huge time investment.  I have more ideas in mind and I will share them as we do them.