Being Content

Being content gets a bad reputation. Some might think that being content is a step below happiness. Others think being content is settling for less than they deserve. Also, according to dictionary.com, content has nothing to do with your state of mind or your emotional health. So that doesn’t help the bad reputation content already has. If you can’t even find a definition of it being something to do with emotions, how on earth can you tell someone that being content is a good thing?

Well, that is what I am going to tackle. I believe being content is the key to true happiness. If you are constantly chasing something, looking for happiness, you will never catch it. It is like chasing perfection. It’s a marathon with no finish line. If you are looking for happiness in your significant other or your friends, you are going to be miserable. While being around certain people can lift our moods, it is not their responsibility to make you happy. That is a huge expectation to put on someone and it’s unrealistic. No person will make you happy every single time you talk to them. These other people you are trusting with your happiness are human. Humans are nowhere near the spectrum of perfect. They are going to make mistakes just like you make mistakes. If people are the reason you get to be happy, what happens when that person offends you on accident? Or hurts you unintentionally. People don’t wake up in the morning and think about how they will make all the mistakes that day, but mistakes still happen.

The truth is that only you can be responsible for your happiness. Happiness is a choice which is why I believe happiness lies in being content. Being content is also a choice. You have to decide that you are okay, you have everything you need and that you are good where you are. Things change constantly, life throws huge curve balls and places hurdles to jump over. Imagine if your happiness was ONLY in your job and you lost it. What then? Do you live your life being miserable all the time? I’m not talking about losing your job and instantly being happy after being told you no longer have a job. I’m talking about a month later or even a few weeks later. Are you just going to sit and stew because you lost the only thing that made you happy? How could that situation be different if your happiness was because you were content with everything else in your life?

I’m generally a happy person. Even growing up with all the curve balls and hurdles placed in front of me, I kept a smile on my face. Growing up, I didn’t know that there was another option, to be honest. I didn’t know that you could be unhappy about something. I knew when I didn’t like things but I couldn’t control anything in my life so I sort of just had to ride the wave. Riding the waves taught me a lot, I became adaptable to change. Change seems scary. I won’t lie, every time things start to change in my life my stomach knots up a little bit. I could allow my emotions to take over and think of everything wrong that could happen and dwell on it. OR. See, there is another option here. Or, I could decide that no matter what happens, I’ll be okay. I am alive and that is the most important thing. My son is thriving and happy. That is important to me. My husband and I are pursuing our dreams. That is important to me. Nothing can take that away from me. Nobody can take away my dreams or goals. Nobody can take away my husband’s dreams and goals. Nobody can stop us from pursuing them. These are all things that are going on in our lives and we’re okay with that. We are okay with finally pursuing our dreams and goals now instead of comparing ourselves to others who have already accomplished something they have set out to do. We also have faith and nobody can take God from us.

Life is all about change, seasons change, people grow, businesses open and close. Hardly anything ever seems constant anymore. Even the friends you thought would be around forever might not be around much anymore. Which is why I argue that you should be content with where you are at and what you have and when the waves start crashing in, you can adjust and be okay with whatever happens next. There are a lot of things in life that you cannot control. Being happy and being content with where you are at is one of the things you can control.

In the spirit of being content and enjoying exactly where I am in life. We are doing a year of no spending challenge. Another awesome blogger I follow, Miranda, has done this and is the inspiration for our family challenge. She also has a podcast and in one of the episodes, she talks all about her family’s experience during their year of no spending.

So for us, we are not buying anything non-essential. We are also challenging ourselves to buy our stuff online so we don’t have to go to stores. (Also, going to stores takes more work for me these days so this part of the challenge is also to help me out.) Part of this challenge is also not adding to the things we already have. We are still figuring out exactly what that looks like for us and what is realistic  and doable for us. The one thing I can say for sure we are not buying this year is toys. My son has plenty. 

Basically, my husband and I talked about how we wanted to be doing more and not consumed by our to-do list or obligations. (This is mainly a problem for me, my husband usually just has to work around me and that isn’t always fair.)  We wanted to be spending more time as a family. The goal is to become more family time focused and more fun time focused. Going to stores is cool and all but stores are not experiences. My son is already 4 and I still feel like I just had him. I’ve been told that it will feel the same even when he is 18. If he is going to be growing up when I blink, I want that blink to be full of awesome memories instead of me wondering where I was.

With wanting to be more family time and fun time focused, we have a few challenges we have started. This no-spending challenge is one of them. I’ll be sharing more about them in future posts.

I am also launching a newsletter! If you sign up for it you get my 5 Day Kickstart to Journaling for FREE! Let me know if you need help or have any questions. A pop up should have displayed if you are on the blog page.

So, to recap- being content is a choice. Being happy is also a choice and true happiness lies in being content. The things we chase after do not really make us happy. Also, being miserable is also a choice. You define yourself, nothing else does unless you allow it to.

Good / Better / Best

I’m the yes girl, I say yes to almost everything asked of me. The only time I ever say no is if I’m already committed at the same time or if I don’t think I could actually do what is being asked of me. There are just some things I am not capable of doing- like lifting 100lbs. Truth is, even when I’m already committed I still try to figure out ways to work things around so I can say yes. Really, I’m only saying no when I cannot do what is being asked. Not many people are asking me to lift heavy things so I’m literally saying yes to everything.

Being reliable and dependable are awesome things. I enjoyed that people could ask me to do things and feel confident that I would get it done. I felt needed and I love that feeling. Being needed was like a subconscious life goal. I didn’t plan to make that a life goal, but I was constantly doing things to make it happen. It was like in order to be okay, I needed to be needed.

What I didn’t realize was that in all my yes saying, I was saying no to others. I was saying no to me and my dreams. My real dreams. The dreams and goals I felt like God was putting on my heart. I was saying no to more time with my family. I was saying no to time with my little man. I was saying no to date nights with my husband. None of these things I set out intentionally to do. I was filling up my schedule with other yeses that when it came time to plan out family time or date nights, there was no room for me to fit it in. I tried to, I tried so hard to make everything fit into the 168 hours I got in a week. I was constantly stressed and feeling like I wasn’t putting my all into everything because I was being pulled in so many directions. Did I mention that I was working full time and a full-time student? It was like my subconscious thought there were over 200 hours in a week the way I tried to schedule everything.

The thing about time is that you cannot make more of it. You have what you have and that’s it. It is up to us how we spend our time.

So one day, it hit me that how I was doing life, all this saying yes and jumping up to volunteer for every little thing wasn’t working. I was having horrible anxiety and health issues and something had to give. So I did what I know best, I sat down with a journal to write it all out.

There is a really good book that was given to me a few years ago as a gift. “The Best Yes” by Lisa Terkeurst. (Even my friends knew I said yes too much and were trying to give me tools to realize it.) In this book, Lisa talks about commitments and how to stop and really think about what we’re deciding to do before we just answer all willy nilly. The book challenged me to only be saying yes to the best things I could be doing. She talks about a good / better / best list and how to rank things. She gives examples of how things can still be good things to do but it doesn’t mean that it’s our best. The challenge is to start saying yes to only our best, to the things God has truly called us to do. The book was very eye-opening for me.

So when I grabbed my journal to write everything out and dump it from my brain, the idea for a good / better / best list came to mind. That is exactly what I did. I made a list of everything I was currently committed to and doing. I listed out the upcoming things that I had already said yes to. I also made a list of all the things I was saying no to, that I felt like I needed to be doing. All the dreams and goals I had that I was putting on my back burner because I was too busy saying yes to everything else. I wrote down more time with my little man and husband because I felt like I never saw them. I took my two lists, separated out my good / better / best sections and began to fill in the spaces. I took each item from each list and categorized them. It was shocking how many things I had said yes to or even things I had been doing for a while, a commitment I had for years, ended up not being my best yes. It was a good thing I was doing, but it still wasn’t my best.

Categorizing wasn’t easy. I wanted to believe everything I was doing was my best but it wasn’t. I had to really think about what I wanted to accomplish in my life and what really mattered. I had to be completely honest with myself and sometimes I had to ask why I was doing certain things in the first place. Was I doing it because I’m supposed to be the person doing it? Did I volunteer for something because there was a need and I just jumped in? Realizing the motivation behind some of my yeses helped me realize they didn’t belong in my best section.

After I had moved everything in my lists to a section, I had to do the hard part. As I was categorizing everything I thought it was hard, I wanted everything to be the best. I wanted more hours in the day. I wanted to make it so that I could do it all. However, I am not superwoman. So once my sections were finalized, I looked at my sections, and I made one of the hardest decisions I’ve made. I decided that everything that wasn’t in my best section I was giving up. This might sound easy for some people, but as the person who loved to be needed and said yes to things before the question was finished, this was the opposite of what came naturally to me. I didn’t want to let people down or feel like a failure. I didn’t want to hurt people by saying no or that they needed to ask someone else.

The truth is that I might have not even been the person who was meant to say yes to all the things anyway. Just because I can say yes doesn’t mean I should say yes. I also shouldn’t be saying yes before really thinking about things. It’s completely okay to tell someone maybe and you’ll get back to them. Not everything needs an immediate decision.

So I stepped down from some things. I went to people and said it was time for me to take a break from some other things. I started to prioritize the best section. It was a decision I had to make and then follow through with. It wasn’t easy, even after stepping down from the things and freeing up some time. Sometimes, I wonder if I say yes so I can do the easy things, things people think I’m good at so I don’t have to chase after the hard stuff I feel called to do. 

I’m in a place now where I am doing my best yeses. I am considering everything that is involved when I get asked to do something and whether or not I’m actually the person who should be doing it. This wasn’t an easy place to get to. It’s not an easy place to stay either. I see myself starting to go back to old habits, old ways of managing my time and when I catch myself doing that, I immediately tell myself to stop. I take a moment away from all the things I am putting in my calendar and really ask myself what I should be doing. Just because there is a blank spot in my calendar doesn’t mean it needs to be filled. Dreams are what happens when there are empty spaces.

Valentine’s Day

It’s the first day of March so it’s probably time I finally write about my Valentine’s Day, right? 

In all honesty, Valentine’s Day used to stress me out. I would forget to do cards for my son’s class until the day before because my schedule was so hectic. I would be scrambling Pinterest for easy to make printables and things I could put together for an entire class without a trip to the store. He just turned four. I still have like six years of valentines day class parties to deal with. The crazy thing is that Valentine’s Day happens the same time every year, I should be able to plan ahead.

What do me and hubby do for Valentine’s Day? Well, we usually don’t make a big deal about Valentine’s Day. Our anniversary is in January and our son’s birthday is also in February so we kind of push Valentine’s Day to the side. This year, I wanted to do something for Valentine’s Day. We could do something small, as a family and have a nice night. Little man wasn’t in school so I didn’t have to worry about making a gazillion valentines. I grabbed Little Man and we headed off to Target to raid their dollar spot.

I grabbed a couple decorations. It was all going to be very minimal, just enough to make it look like we were decorating for something, on purpose. While we were raiding the dollar spot I found a notebook that had dinosaurs all over the cover. I always carry a notebook with me and I write in my journal with me and Little Man is always asking to sit next to me and write. I knew that notebook would be the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for Little Man. Once I decided to get Little Man a gift, my decoration set up changed in my head and we all needed gifts to make it work. My husband is the hardest person to shop for when it comes to presents. He isn’t someone who ever wants anything. Conveniently, he pointed at something during our last Target family trip that he thought was cool. That made deciding to get everybody gifts less stressful than it could have been. I grabbed myself a cute mug and I was all set.

I did all this about a week and a half before Valentine’s Day so I hid the presents, put away the decorations and waited for Valentine’s Day. When the day actually came, I ended up having to go to a local bake shop to order cupcakes for Little Man’s birthday. It turns out, finding a place that will make dairy-free cupcakes is a lot harder than you would think. While we were at the bake shop, I grabbed a cupcake for myself and hubby, they looked so good and would make a great dessert. They even had extra vegan cupcakes in the back so I was able to get one for Little Man.

Everything looked so cute once I was done and we didn’t even use it. Hubby got caught up in homework. I got a headache and took a nap and the next thing I knew it was almost 7pm and we needed to eat. We decided to go out to dinner. We also made this decision forgetting it was Valentine’s Day and everybody wants to go out to eat for Valentine’s Day. Apparently, the trick is to go out after 7pm because we didn’t have to wait for a table or anything. We had a nice dinner did another Target run, stayed out too late. It was weird but fun and not planned but awesome.

Hubby said my table looked nice even though we didn’t use it. Him and Little Man liked their presents. The cupcakes were delicious. It was good. This is how I kept Valentine’s Day minimal this year.

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Chasing Perfection

Some days just kick my butt. Do you know what I’m talking about? The days that seem to tackle you to the ground and you’re left looking to the sky wondering how it even happened. I had a day like that recently. It was yesterday. I still can’t even tell you what was wrong with yesterday other than all of it. Except, that’s not right. There was nothing wrong with yesterday other than me and my expectations. I don’t even know what I was expecting but it wasn’t happening. I kept getting frustrated and everybody wanted something from me and I just couldn’t win. I would sit down to do something and my dog would let me know he wanted to go outside. I would let him outside and he would start barking incessantly, which would annoy my husband. I would let the dog back in for him to whine to go back outside. My son also wanted things during all of this and I’m pretty sure the cat had something to say about all this racket going on. My head sure didn’t appreciate it and I quickly got a headache.

I just wanted to sit down and work on some writing. Tuesdays are blog post days. I have some projects I wanted to do. I also have an article I need to start writing. I just felt like no matter what I did, it was wrong. I don’t enjoy being wrong or feeling like I’m wrong and that didn’t sit well with me. The worst part about this feeling is that it didn’t feel right. I couldn’t figure out why I felt like I was wrong and I couldn’t shake it even though I knew there was no logical reason for me to be wrong.

I walked upstairs to get something from my bedroom, where my husband was working and he asked me what was wrong. I just told him I was grumpy and irritated. It was just a fact. I couldn’t change it. I didn’t know what to do because all I had done all day was sit in my wrongness no matter how hard I had tried to fix it, I still messed up. All my attempted fixing just made me grumpier.

We’ve all heard the quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.” Chasing perfection is my insanity. I know I will never achieve it. I know I will never reach it. Most days, I don’t chase it anymore. Most days, I’m healed of this desire to chase perfect. I have stopped the chase. Most days, I’m good. I’m content in my imperfection. Some days though, I’ll fall back into that chase like meeting an old friend. I can usually catch myself when I fall back in, and quickly run back out reminding myself that there is no way I will ever reach perfection. I need my grace and I need it in truckloads. I will never reach perfect this side of heaven.

Yesterday though, it took me too long to realize I fell back into old ways. It took too long to realize I was chasing an ideal I will never match up to. Yesterday just felt like a hot mess day and everything was just a roller coaster.

But then I had a moment. A tiny moment where I remembered that I am loved, despite how I felt. Despite all the “wrong”, I was doing that day. I had grace. I just needed to breathe. So I took that moment, and I breathed. In and out. It felt good. I’m a child of God. I took another breath. My heart stopped racing a little bit. A few moments later and I felt better. I felt peace. I didn’t feel wrong.

Proverbs 16:9 tells us ”In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” Some days I wake up and just go into my day thinking I have everything under control and that my plans will be exactly what needs to happen. God sometimes has different plans. I think I feel like I am fighting the world when my plans go against God’s plan. This isn’t the first time this has happened and I’ve come to the same conclusion after a moment of being still and breathing. I’m going to start trying to open my heart to God’s plan in my days instead of shoving my schedule in God’s face like a child who says, “but what about this and this” because God knows. God knows what needs to be done and what my deadlines are. God’s plans are still better than my own, even when I don’t understand.

For example, if I didn’t have yesterday happen to me. This blog post would have been about something completely different. However, I think this is better. I’m done chasing perfection, I’ve done it for so long though that it is pretty easy to pick back up. What is something you’ve stopped doing that you still find yourself doing sometimes?

The Comparison Game

 

There is a game we as people like to play. I call it, The Comparison Game. We always look at others and wonder why we don’t have what ”they” have. Whether it is the awesome new phone they have or the promotion they just got or maybe the house they just bought.

For me, they can be anybody. It can be the stranger at the mall that I will never see again. It could be my best friend. It could be my co-workers. It could be my boss. I’ve been comparing myself to everybody else for as long as I can remember. Mainly because I’ve always wondered why the “bad” stuff always happened to me. When my mom was diagnosed as terminal, everybody else had a healthy mom. When my parents were going through their divorce and screaming at each other in the middle of the neighborhood, everybody’s else parents kept their fights inside the house. I always wondered why life hated me. I used to make a really awful joke in high school that my life was God’s soap opera. Something for him to laugh at. The things that came up in my life I couldn’t make up if I wanted to.

I played the comparison game because I wished for an easier life. I played the comparison game because I wanted to know what I was doing wrong that I kept getting all the junk thrown at me. Why can’t I just have something be simple? Why can’t something just be easy for me? Why does everything have to be complicated?

I look at my best friends and they have it easy. What are they doing right? What can I copy so that things will be easy for me? What can I mimic that will make things easier for me? Oh, this comparison game could go for rounds and rounds because when it comes to me and my best friends, there are a lot of differences. I’m also different in body type and I’m louder and more obnoxious and all sorts of personality traits different. Outside of how I think their lives are easier.

Now, these are my best friends. So I am assuming I know most of their struggles. The truth is, I don’t. I don’t know every single struggle they go through. I know some, but not all. I know I don’t call them up for every single thing I struggle with. If I did we’d be on the phone every night because I feel like I am driving that struggle bus.

The comparison game doesn’t work. We are not meant to live the same life as someone else. My calling is not the same calling as my best friend. Her impact on the world will not be the same impact I will have. If I am comparing my life to my best friend’s life, I’m trying to figure out why my life doesn’t look like something it was never meant to look like. It’s like trying to figure out why an apple doesn’t look like an orange. They were never meant to be the same thing. My best friend was put in my life to support me, do life with me and be in my village/tribe/whatever you want to call it these days. Just like I’m supposed to support her. I’m not supposed to compare my life to hers and wonder why we don’t have identical looking lives. We’re not meant too. God didn’t make it that way. Her gifts, talents and abilities are not going to look like mine and her life isn’t going to produce the same as mine will.

We both have the same goal though. We both want to hear “my good and faithful servant” when we get back home. What we should be comparing is whether or not we are both using our talents, gifts and abilities to serve God.

If we need to be comparing anything we should be comparing whether or not our goals line up with what God is calling us to be doing. Instead of looking horizontal-out into the world, we should be looking vertical-between us and God.