I’m here to tell you this is a worthy use of your life: both the grand calling of motherhood, and the smaller gifting of artistic self-expression.
~ from Life Creative by Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart
A while back an article circulated Facebook with a title that sounded something like, “Back off Pinterest Mom. You’re making the rest of us look bad.” It seemed that there were quite a few women who felt particularly annoyed with the moms who turn simple snacks into elaborate cartoon characters and put together a creative concoction of homemade items for teacher gifts.
The article made me sad. Although I don’t consider myself to be particularly crafty, I certainly know the desire to find some kind of creative way to express myself in the midst of motherhood. In the middle of writing a book about my own desire for self-expression, I read the rant and knew my writing endeavor would upset the moms sharing that article. Because I intended to go all-out with my book like Pinterest Moms go all-out with their school snacks.
Reading the article made me sad for all women. Moms that create in the kitchen, women that throw elaborate parties, girls who sing their heart out instead of holding their voice in. With sentiments like “reign it in” circulating, no wonder we hold back. What if, instead of pressing each other into status quo-level confinement, we call out and celebrate creative self-expression in the midst of motherhood?
From Unfrozen to a Life Creative
The storytelling nature of Unfrozen: Stop Holding Back and Release the Real You was intended to help women who relate to my experience as someone who felt frozen from being able to express myself fully in relationships and in my creative contribution. I am excited to say that if you identified with my story, you will most certainly be nourished by a book that releases today.
Life Creative by Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart (–>Website Here<–) is a composition of reflective teachings that call moms to open their minds and hearts to wrestle with their own desires for creative expression. The authors know the creative-mom struggle intimately, so they speak with compassion and authority.
One of my favorite aspects of this book is that it hits on both our need of living in the moment with our children and our longing to tap our creativity. “If you are smack-dab in the middle of this intense season of mothering right now, and the idea of carving out even a little time for your craft overwhelms your heart and your family balance, then take this woman’s wisdom to heart. Tuck away each torn out picture from a magazine, each story concept, each personal revelation that supports your vision. Jot it down and file it away, then move about your day with peace in your heart that the inspiration waits for you. This recorded book of ideas opens wide the gift of freedom, allowing you to live your dreams first.”
I echo that advice with a big and hearty “amen!” For years I’ve been filing away metaphors, stories, feelings and inspiration in journals and notebooks. These proved invaluable when my kids both started school and I began to write and speak with more intention. And now when I take walks by myself I turn on the voice recorder and document my musings on my phone.
The book also includes a section where the authors discuss another topic dear to my heart. “When the unique needs of a sensitive soul go unmet day after day, year after year, there is the tendency to spiral downward into the pit…Here’s an ugly truth: Sensitive people can be incredibly insensitive when they lose themselves. I’d never been an angry woman until the quiet spaces of my life were threatened.” Yes! Sensitivity and creativity often go hand-in-hand. If you were able to relate to the description of my angry outbursts in Unfrozen, you will certainly be nourished by the thoughts on sensitivity in Life Creative.
Release the Creative You
The creative life of a mom is complicated and frustrating at times, but with the guidance of those moms who have gone before us, we can be released into the joy and freedom of a non-pressured creative self-expression right in the midst of mothering. Whether you’re a “Pinterest Mom,” a wanna-be blogger, or a master-schedule master, you can live this creative mom-life with great hope. There is so much more I could say but for now, I want to offer my thanks to Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart for their hard work and beautiful mentorship through this book. They will help you release the Creative You.
“You are His Poem. Your heart and your art are His song to the world. Sing it loud.” ~ Life Creative
I’m guessing that many of you need this book. If you don’t think you do, I’m confident that someone you love needs this book. So I encourage you to (–>Click Here<–) and buy it today before you forget.
Those of us who are particularly sensitive or empathetic tend to feel the emotions of others. We not only have to contend with our own emotional experiences, but we literally feel what others feel. And sometimes we’re not sure of the distinction between our feelings and the feelings of others.
We see tears and our own eyes fill with tears. We see anger and something inside of us fires up. We see tension and something inside of us tightens up.
The empathetic leader internalizes the notion that relationships are a big responsibility.
What does it feel like when…
- Your baby cries inconsolably?
- Children whine about the choice of food for supper?
- Students walk in the door with their head down to their chest?
- Colleagues knit-pick every decision other people make?
- Your team bombards you with questions about the upcoming transition?
You may be completely capable of meeting each of these scenarios with grace and wisdom, but it doesn’t take long before they all add up and the needs of the people around you begin to feel overwhelming.
We’ve all heard a lot about the importance of unplugging or disconnecting from social media, email and electronics, in general. It’s definitely important to give our bodies and minds a break from the barrage of media and information overload. Taking time away from these things helps us refresh and remember why we engage in these mediums in the first place.
But electronics are not the only thing we need to unplug from. We need to unplug from people, too. I call it Quiet Time. QT is a period of disconnection from emotional stimulation. It is a time when no one is pulling on you to meet their needs or give them attention. The amount of QT you need each day depends on you and your circumstances. You may have a limited window of opportunity for it and it may take some creativity to work it in.
Be proactive in planning your QT. Don’t wait for overwhelm to strike before you lash out at everyone to get them to leave you alone. Don’t wait until you’re about to crumble under the weight of the emotional storm around you. Plan ahead! Work QT into your daily routine and have a plan in place for a quick moment of down time in case you need it.
Here are some ways you can work QT into your daily routine:
- Drive around for an extra 10 minutes after work. You will be more engaged and prepared to serve your family when you walk in the door if you are not feeling rushed and frazzled.
- Take 15 minutes of your lunch time to sit or lay quietly with your eyes closed listening to calming music or praying with a calm heart. For added benefit, do it in a dark room.
- If you have children at home, implement QT for everyone, regardless of their age. I prefer to have everyone go to their rooms after lunch to play quietly while I lay down on my bed in the dark.
- Plan to go for a quiet walk before everyone else gets up or after everyone goes to bed.
Here are a few go-to ideas when you need a quick QT emotional reboot:
- Go to the bathroom and lock the door for a few minutes. 🙂
- Close the curtains and turn off the light in your office with a “Do not disturb” sign for 5 minutes.
- Use noise canceling earplugs or earphones and use them in a noisy, chaotic environment when you don’t need to engage fully.
- Place a wall between yourself and others. Take your work to another room.
- Ask a friend to trade playdates with your kids or have a babysitter come entertain your kids for a couple of hours while you rest or go for a walk.
Reboot for Greater Impact
Caring leaders want to be there for their teams. Moms want to be there for their families. Teachers want to be there for their students. But for the person who truly cares, there is a heavy weight of responsibility with each of these relationships. You will be more prepared to meet the needs of those around you if you unplug from them on a regular basis.
If you feel like it’s impossible to accomplish, don’t give up. Employ your creativity and honestly state your needs to the people around you.
How do you reboot emotionally? What suggestions do you have for other empathetic leaders?
If you’re looking for someone to help your hurting team unify and restore to health so you can make a bigger impact together, I’m here to help. Click here for more information.
Did you know it’s sling-shot week? That’s what I heard from author Jon Acuff yesterday. The week after Christmas and before New Years is the time in which we have to review the past and look forward to the future. I love that picture. This week I’ve been pulling back the sling, analyzing the past year and strategizing where to aim for next year. Taking aim and firing is necessary – even if it lands me on a completely different target.
Do you have any year-end rituals? Do you create a picture book or even look through the ones on your phone? Do you run that year-in-review app on Facebook or go through your Instagram feed? The year-in-review I’m facinated with this time is the one that shares my website statistics. It’s interesting to look back at the posts of my first full year of blogging. Each post is a little piece of my heart and I remember something special about each one. Here is the story of my 10 most popular posts of the year (in no particular order).
To read an article, click on the title
I sat trembling in the old Da Buzz coffee shop on the little couch by the electric fire while writing Behind Closed Doors. I was scared out of my mind and just wrote the truest thing that would flow through my fingertips. The morning of the first day of school for Grant, I went to the patio in our backyard to write The 1 Thing I Hope Our Son Remembers About Our Fairy Tale, tears streaming down my cheeks. I am particularly proud of Your New Superpower. It represents a struggle Amelia and I have while demonstrating a moment of compassionate clarity. I don’t recall where I was when I wrote When It’s Not The End Of The World, After All, the story about our dog getting hit by a car, but I remember constantly refreshing the statistics page and laughing as the post was shared and viewed by more and more people. Aaron was concerned that I was becoming obsessed with the stats.
I wrote a couple of highly popular posts about my experience at Walmart: When The Walls Close In and Why I Wear Sunglasses In Walmart And Perhpas You Should Too. I do not hate the store, but shopping there brings out my struggles with sensory sensitivity. It is an issue that effects at least 20% of the population, yet very few of us have any idea of what we or our kids/loved ones are facing.
Be More Of Who You Are was a labor of love. I worked hard on that piece, the first one where I highlighted other people. It’s one of my favorites. I waited a long time to post Book Impact: Schema of a Soul because I love the author and wanted to get it right. I look forward to sharing about more special books that have an impact on me in the future.
I found out I needed to submit my trial article for Her View From Home the week my last living Grandparent died. This Too Shall Pass will forever be one of my favorites. Gospel singer and my childhood idol Sandi Patty announced her last tour and a few days later I shared An Open Letter To Sandi Patty, which she apparently read because she re-tweeted my tweet about it on Twitter. (Can I say tweet and Twitter any more in a sentence?!) It is my most-viewed article of the year and it reminded me of the power and accessibility of the Internet and that my voice matters.
Where do I go from here? I do not write for myself. If I did, I would keep a journal instead of sending the message out. This is my job, and I take it very seriously. You have the potential of playing an intregal role in helping me know where to aim my offerings for 2016. My analysis is based on statistics (popularity of posts) and direct feedback. I’ve been paying attention to what you say in comments here and on Facebook and in person and I’ve noticed a few things.
- Stories of real-life and my internal response to it are the most interesting to you. They often give words to your own feelings.
- The idea of sensitivity is intriguing and you’re curious about it on some level.
- You really aren’t all that interested in my thoughts about my experience with writing (though you may read it because you want to support me.) 😉
- You aren’t looking for advice as much as you want to know you aren’t alone.
What would you add or change about those points? How can I best serve you in 2016? Please comment honestly here on this post, on Facebook, or send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May your sling-shot week end with a clear target and may you fire with confidence into 2016!
She walked across the street, brow pursed as she stared at the ground. Our once exuberant 6-year-old threw irritable glances at her brother as soon as she got into the car. I couldn’t figure it out. What was going on at school that made her so upset? She loved kindergarten and the first half of first grade, but as she got into the second semester, her after-school outlook dimmed.
A year later her 2nd grade teacher informed us that she was beginning to lose ground in reading and comprehension. As words got smaller and closer together, she struggled more. Her self-confidence and love for school diminished. That’s when Aaron decided it was time for a more thorough eye exam. We found out that our daughter could see 20/20 when tested, but her eye muscles were working so hard that she easily became fatigued and words began to float on the page. We tried special glasses for a year. Amelia struggled to keep them on and I struggled to remind her. Then last week we went back to the eye doctor and decided it was time for eye therapy: computer-led exercises 20 minutes a day and therapy with the doctor once every 3 weeks.
Do I have what it takes?
My enthusiasm for helping our daughter turned into anxiety as we hit the road for our two hour trip home. How could I possibly motivate her to do exercises that cause her discomfort every day? I haven’t even been able to keep track of her reading log for school or help her stick to a routine for practicing piano. I’m horrid at keeping routines and the kids know it. The dark sky around us loomed as I asked the kids if they had any ideas for how we would fit eye therapy into our day. They seemed as lost and defeated as I felt.
But as we turned onto the interstate, I turned a corner in my mind. I was preparing to speak the next morning about how what we say to ourselves about ourselves is important. I know what it’s like to beat myself down for my lack of a detailed routine and focus. And I know that beating myself down never makes me perform better. Instead, with self-shame I become self-focused and I lose my ability to offer myself to my family. I wanted to search deep for words that are more true than, “I’ll never be able to do this. Other moms would do a better job at providing what my kids need.”
As I searched for truer words, I recalled a phrase I learned from a friend of mine who knows about walking through life, confronting hard things as a mother. I took a deep breath and with Kimberlye Berg’s words in my mind I said, “You know what, kids? We are going to figure this out. We are smart. We are creative. And we can do hard things. We’re going to come up with a plan to fit it all in and we are going to stick to it, even when it gets hard.”
Something about saying those words changed my perspective. I felt like a grown up. I felt like a mom who refuses to be tossed around by expectations and chooses to serve her family with purpose. And I knew that in order to accomplish our goals for the next few months, our whole family would need to be more intentional about our routine. That which changes one of us must change us all.
The next night I outlined our weekly schedule and determined how to fit in the things we want to accomplish, as well as the things we want to enjoy. It requires me to get up and go to bed much earlier than I prefer. It requires Aaron and I to be more intentional about planning out our work time and family time when we usually prefer to do whatever feels right day-to-day. But you know what? I believe that we can do it. Because we can do hard things when we decide the benefits are worth the sacrifice. We can do hard things for one another.
This morning I woke up at 5:30 and desperately wanted to roll over and go back to sleep. But my determination to lead our kids by example propelled me to the gym so I could come back and start the day with our kids. Even if Amelia doesn’t gain ground in reading, I’m hopeful that she will gain confidence in the next few months and retain an important lesson: “I can do hard things.”
You can too.
What hard things are you facing that you can do?
Read more about replacing self-shaming words with powerful words in my article for Her View From Home this week: How I Lost and Found My Dignity
Read more about Kimberlye Berg in Book Impact: Schema Of A Soul
Read more about: Vision Therapy
I know. I need this message more than anyone else.
There is a place for self-evaluation and growth. But when self-awareness turns into self-deprecation, you turn into someone who JUDGES.
Belittling yourself in front of other people makes you UNSAFE and influences others to believe that it is normal and even good to belittle themselves.
I want to see people grow in their positive impact on the world. I want to see an END to slavery in my lifetime. But my voice is counterproductive to the #enditmovement when it is self-deprecating.
So I’m calling all leaders and all activists and all mothers and fathers and older siblings and anyone who has influence over anyone else…
If you want to be a leader and make a difference in the lives of others, take this to heart:
Let’s end it.
It just happened. We were looking at pictures of the Nebraska State Fair in anticipation of visiting soon when Grant screeched with glee, right in my ear. I don’t know how to describe how disturbing it is for me when loud, sharp noises upset my internal equilibrium. I went from being at complete peace to feeling inner turmoil in an instant. An INSTANT.
This, my friends, is not a an emotional problem. It is not a relational problem. I am not screwed up and neither is my son. It is not a spiritual problem, though I believe everything is spiritual in one way or another. No, this mood-altering screech was a direct hit to my nervous system. It is physical. I am extremely sensitive to sound.
I don’t think I really noticed it before I had kids. Perhaps something happened in childbirth that impacted my nerves in ways that left me more sensitive to sensory stimulation than I was before. (Check out my series on Childbirth and Postpartum Depression by clicking here) I’ve done a lot of personal research on the matter and I absolutely believe that sensory sensitivity is a thing. A real thing. The sounds of chaotic play, startling “bangs” and screeching children can throw me into instantaneous sobs. INSTANTLY.
I avoid our local Wal-Mart* as much as I can unless I feel lazy or desperate. I’ve heard of many reasons why different people avoid it but I have one: It makes me crazy.
I am well aquainted with my tendency to become irritable as I shop there but the other day I courageously stepped into the door with both kids and a short mission. I wondered how long I had before I would start to feel overwhelmed. It took all of five minutes. Aware of how bright lights also bother me, I took note of the fact I was squinting as I pushed the cart down the asile of dishes I ducked into a moment before. So I put on my sunglasses.
Instant relief. INSTANT.
The muscles around my eyes relaxed and nothing felt as urgent. I wore the glasses for a few minutes before I felt really awkward and tucked them back in my purse while I rushed through collecting our remaining necessities. As we checked out I looked around and saw narry a smile. I wondered how many of the employees who work there day after day are also sensitive to the harsh light bouncing off of the blue walls, white fixtures and shiny floors? How many people leave this store believing they hate it, not really knowing why?
How Do I Know & What Do I Do?
Friends, many of us are sensitive to sensory stimulation and just think we’re irritable people. Many of your children are and don’t know how to tell you. So let ME tell you.
If you prefer to work with the lights dimmed…
If you think more clearly when music with a strong beat is playing…
If you cut out the tags in your clothes or find comfort in twirling your hair…
You may be sensitive.
If your infant relaxes when listening to loud heart-beat sounds (as described in this article: click here)…
If your daughter likes to wear tight clothing that presses securely on her skin…
If your son refuses to eat foods with strange textures…
Your child may be sensitive.
There is much more to say on this matter, including the power of sensitivity. I will likely be writing about it for years to come. But for now, know this. If you or your child is sensitive to sight, sound, taste, touch or smell, do three things:
- Be Aware. Watch for it. Take note of moments when you feel or your child feels irritable or overwhelmed and consider how your environment may be making you uncomfortable. Plan ahead for next time.
- Increase Your Buffer. Intentionally stay in your super-comfort zone at times so that other times you can take courageous steps into an overstimulating environment.
- Rest. And above all, get sleep! Sleep makes a world of difference.
Are you sensitive? Do you think of yourself as an irritable person at times, perhaps especially after having kids? What steps do you want to take to help yourself or your child?
Maybe we could all just wear sunglasses in Walmart so no one feels awkward!
*I do not intend to ever bash anyone or anything and that is not the purpose of this article. If you know someone who has a voice with Wal-Mart, please forward them this post so they are aware of this issue that negatively effects their company, completely unrelated to their business practices. Thank you.
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I wonder if this day marks the beginning of the end of a fairy tale. You may know the one I’m thinking of – the one where the young knight is inflicted with a paralyzing wound that can only be healed by a kiss.
A mother’s kiss.
It’s a fairy tale, but somehow the power of this special magic has instantly stopped end-of-the-world screams for help. It’s completely blocked floodgates of tears on the spot. It’s turned a paralyzed boy on his heals and turned him into a knight ready to fight again.
Today I walked my little guy into kindergarten. My bright, confident, enthusiastic, sensitive boy. The paperwork I handed his teacher answered the question “What are your concerns?”
I said that I’m concerned he will get upset and think he needs me to be there to comfort him. Sometimes he runs away and hides under our bed when he’s upset. Sometimes he refuses to talk when his feelings are hurt. And mom is the only person he will engage.
But as I sit here this morning, searching for the truth inside my heart, I am realizing I’m not really concerned about all that. Honestly, I’m more concerned that when he gets hurt he will realize he doesn’t need me to be OK. I’m sad that my special magic is sure to lose it’s power as he grows up and into an independent young man.
I don’t know how many times I’ve kissed his boo boos. Probably two a day for 6 years. Let’s see…that would be over 4,000 magical kisses. That’s a lot of power for one person to wield.
It’s a lot of power to hand back.
I’m guessing my kissing-booboo-days are numbered. I will take his cue to know when it’s time to settle for a hug, to stay in my seat when he falls on the field, to bless him when he finds someone else to adore.
He may forget my kisses, but I pray that his heart will always remember the power of a loving, tender connection in life’s most difficult moments. And I pray he will use that knowledge to fight for the hearts of others with all of his bright, confident, enthusiastic, senstive self.
For more about this topic click here: (What The “Movie Move” Means To a 5 Year Old)
Some days I don’t want to read.
Some days I don’t want to write.
Some days I want to go to the movies and eat popcorn and let someone else inspire.
Some days I don’t want to care.
Some days I don’t want to hope.
Some days I want to leave my sunglasses on and let someone else see the depths of others.
But other days I do read and write and care and hope.
And on those days I tend to the weeds growing through the foundation of my soul.
On those days as I soak in the sun, I plant and water and nourish and share the harvest of kindness, hope and love.
Because I don’t want to forget the other days on some days.
I care too much to let the some-day weeds overtake my other-days garden.
So on some days I walk slowly through the other-days beauty and try to remember the passion and power and joy of the other days.
And then I go to sleep praying that I’ll not forget to rest in the grace of the well-tended garden of the other days.
What goes through your mind when you wake up in the morning? Do you jump out of bed, ready to hit the day or do you roll over and hit the snooze button instead? Perhaps you are like me and set the alarm for as late as possible.
My kids have been my alarm for a very long time. I know, I know. It’s in the top 10 list of the worst things I can do as a mom. But seriously, if I wanted to get up before them I would be up at 5:00 a.m. When my son was a toddler, it would have been 3:30. No, thank you! Surely, you can understand why this night owl mom doesn’t set an alarm. I steal every last minute of morning-shut-eye I can get.
Survival Became Normal
For over six years, I haven’t had to set an alarm. Unfortunately, that means my peaceful sleep is often interrupted by tears, barking or fighting. I throw the pillow over my head until the interruption moves into my bedroom, and then finally get up. I am thrust into chaos then struggle to survive until hitting the pillow again at night. It’s awfully difficult to feel purposeful in life when it’s all you can do to survive your physical, emotional and spiritual fatigue. And for a long time I couldn’t do much about it.
But somewhere along the way my morning routine became less of a necessity and more…normal. I just assumed that I would be tired and unmotivated all day. My problem turned into an attitude choice. The kids woke up a little later and were a little less needy, yet I still felt like someone was trying to torture me when they woke me up. And I acted like it.
Wake Up For Your Life
Wake up for your life, not to your life.
I don’t think this suggestion means that I must wake up before my kids wake up. (I’m not a huge fan of blanket statements about the way we ought to do things.) However, there is a deep jewel of wisdom here. I can wake up ready to meet my life with all I am rather than being smacked by it and play catch-up all day.
And that’s just it. Life has a way of catching me on my heels when I wake up unprepared to meet my day. Through the sleep-deprived years I settled into a pattern of action and thought that generally kept me in a reactive mode, tossed around like a flag in the wind. I know there is a better way. My whole family feels more stable and at peace when I stay in a proactive mode, keeping the forward motion of a bird in flight. Of course, I am not able to control the winds of every argument, injury or fancy of those around me. But I can meet all of life by leaning into the headwinds and navigating them with all the wisdom, strength and humility I’ve been given.
5 Proactive Ideas To Start The Day
I’m a work in progress. Here are a few things that I do to when I focus on wake up for my life. Perhaps something here would help you, too.
- Prepare. Take a few minutes each night to think through the next day’s schedule and goals. It took me twenty minutes to prepare this list for my kids last night, but it bought me hours of cooperation and accomplishment this morning.They loved their lists today and asked for another tomorrow. I rarely have a big list for the kids, but any kind of plan helps!
- Purge. Cut, minimize and simplify your schedule, possessions and expectations. Find and then keep finding the right balance for you and your household between being over and under whelmed. I have a long ways to go, but every little decision helps. My friend Trisha Martinez wrote a great post about this topic (here).
- Pray. In the groggy minutes after opening your eyes you may find a scripted prayer
or verse to be really helpful for realigning your heart and mind with the heart of God. Spiritual Director, Kili Wenburg (here), introduced me to “Six Gestures of the Morning Praise” from Joyce Rupp’s book Out Of The Ordinary. It is lovely.
- Pump. Get your blood pumping in the morning with physical activity before it pumps with anxiety or anger. Your brain and nervous system will be more prepared for the stressors that come your way.
- Play. Find one light-hearted way to get everyone laughing in the morning. (Hint: making fool of yourself with slapstick humor works for kids every time.)
What routines or tips do you use to wake up for your day? I would love to have more ideas
from which to draw when I start to feel blown by the wind. Share here or on Facebook.
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