Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My Summer Bucket List

I love lists. I love the order they provide. I love thinking ahead and anticipating what is needed to fulfill those lists.

I'm great at planning.

And if you read my writing much, you know I'm not so great at following through.

(But we aren't going to dwell on shortcomings right now. No Debbie Downers allowed.)

Because it's summer (well, almost. Tomorrow is Caleb's last day of school and I only have a couple of more days to go).

And the sun has finally decided to peek out a little...

And Monday is Memorial Day, which is the unofficial start of summer...

It's got me dreaming a little.

Summertime is my favorite time of the year, and I've been thinking of all I plan to do this summer.

So, here it is, my bucket list for Summer 2016:

1. Put in lots of miles at Red River Gorge.
I've never really been an outdoors person... I mean, unless you count lounging by a pool outdoors. However, in the last couple of years, I have learned that my favorite kind of exercising is walking.
Ok, it's the only kind of exercise that I can really tolerate.
And hiking is different from walking...
But I've also found that I enjoy hiking. Let's face it, nature is beautiful, and there's something about fresh air.
So, Wallace has bought us a map and we're going to go exploring. We are also going to drag Caleb along for some of the fun.
2. Put in lots of hours on the lake.
See note about me not being an outdoors person... but lounging by a pool and in the lake is kind of the same thing.
3. Spend lots of back porch time with Grandma Bert.
Mamaw''s porch is peaceful. There's windchimes and hummingbird feeders and rocking chairs and I can look out in the yard and see memories from my childhood.
Wow, that just sounded really poetic... but seriously. The trees we climbed are no longer there and her butterfly garden on the hillside has turned to grass and the rock garden where we made the most awesome mudpies is now part of the back porch... but if I close my eyes I can still imagine it.
4. Seeing the moonbow at Cumberland Falls.
I've wanted to do this for a while now and this summer I'm going to make it happen.
5. Make S'mores with my family.
Except Wallace, because he doesn't like chocolate.
6. Visit as many different counties as I can.
An overall goal on my big bucket list is to visit all 120 counties in Kentucky. Obviously, I've been to most of the Eastern counties, but I don't know if sitting in a gym counts... so... if you're from a county other than Breathitt, I'd love for you to share suggestions of what we can do in your county.
7. Watch at least a movie a week. I love watching movies, but we don't get to watch a lot during the school year, so I'm going to catch up this summer. Again, send me suggestions!
8. Read.
Well, obviously.
As if that was even a question.

So... what's on your agenda this summer?

Monday, May 23, 2016

My Manifesto

So the past few weeks I've really been pondering life...

Big questions, right?

But part of my thinking on purpose has got me thinking about how I live my life.

What's most important to me? And do my actions always reflect my priorities?

In my office, hanging just above my desk, is a free printable Ann Voskamp published at A Holy Experience. She called it her Sanity Manifesto, and even though the printable was published in 2013, I still sometimes look at the words and think about them as I cling to my sanity amongst the mundane.

Because let's face it. Life can get kind of crazy sometimes...
and sometimes it is just plain difficult to put one foot in front of the other.

A manifesto is a written decree, something you believe in... so much that you live it out.

As I look toward this summer, and winding up 2016, I'd like to put pen to paper and have my own manifesto...

something to guide me on the good days and the bad days. Something that can inspire me to keep on going.

I realize this is especially important this summer vacation day where I allowed the bed to coax me into crawling back under the covers and hibernating until 11 AM. The sun is brightly shining in my windows, and I know that I'm missing out.

Here's the thing. We can miss out on life by sleeping it away. We can miss out on life by wishing it away. We can miss out on life because we allow our anxiety or frustrations or depression or fear of WHATEVER cause us to either squeeze our eyes shut to keep it out or look wide into the life of "what-ifs".

Neither way is truly living.

I'm as guilty as the next person. I pout at those around me and pout at God and sometimes I even pout at myself, all while the world keeps spinning and the clock keeps ticking and I lose precious minutes that I'll never get back.


So... here's my Summer Manifesto. It may be my All Year Manifesto, but we'll reevaluate when school comes...

1. Priorities should dictate your day.
There's only one of me, and there's only one of me that can do certain jobs. I first thought of this concept when reading a book by Karen Ehman, but I'm slowly realizing it. I'm the only person that can make sure I've got a right relationship with God. I'm the only person that can make sure I exercise. I'm the only Mom Caleb has, and the only wife Wallace has, no matter how much either of those may want to change that fact. So there's my priorities.  God and family.
2. People should always help you determine your priorities.
This may seem like it contradicts the first statement, but I should always remember that we were made for community. As hard as that is for this introvert, it's the truth. And community means relationship. This summer, may I keep my eyes open and my ears open to opportunities to minister to those around me by seeing their needs. I can be so self-centered.
3. Kindness matters.
In this world, we don't have enough kindness. I've really been wrestling with this so far this year. How can I be more kind? How can I be more intentional? I'd like to say I'm knocking it out of the park, but there are still days that I struggle.
4. Choose happy.
There are always going to be bumps in the road. It's always going to rain on days when I had something planned... but rain doesn't necessarily mean a wash out. You can always find good in something if you keep looking.
5. Aim for peace.
I have always been defensive. Always ready for an argument. But as I've gotten older, I know in my heart of hearts that's not what I was made for. Even though we were told we'd have troubles, we are to strive for peace. Peace within. Peace with those around us.
6. Be balanced.
I know if I don't spend time in God's Word, I become unhinged... so I need to get His Word in me. That should be a priority.
And I know that I need to exercise every day.
That should be a priority.
And I look around my house and know that I need to clean everyday.
I know that it's awfully easy for me on summer break to sleep all day and then sit around reading, but that's not good for anyone. So, I plan to start my day with God and exercise, clean, and then relax... making sure that it's all balanced.
7. Don't get legalistic about this manifesto.
I have a tendency to plan bravely and then follow through timidly. Or not follow through at all. So while I do plan to work this summer to get an organized plan for cleaning my house and time management and NOT sleeping in all day, I realize that some days, I will sleep and not clean house. Some days I'll spend all day in my yoga pants lounging on the couch with a good book, and that's ok. I just have to do enough of both so that something gets done. =)

And make sure that, ultimately, I'm caring for others in the process.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Expect

Expect the unexpected.

Those three words can describe life as a nurse. As a mom.

As anyone.

Because even thought we like to plan our days and our months and our years, there will always be speedbumps along the road.


Flat tires.

And you have to be prepared.

Like yesterday. I had gone to a conference and my husband was going to pick me up from a designated meeting area.

I ended up getting back in town about an hour earlier than I had led him to expect...

which means that he wasn't ready to pick me up in the traditional fashion, because he had been in the hills riding our Razor.

So... he opted to pick me up in a way I did not expect when I put on my dress pants and dress shoes that morning to attend my meeting.

My ride home was a little bumpier than I expected...

but it was pretty fun, too, after I let go and stopped worrying that my bags (which he had placed in garbage bags and tied on to the back) would get dirty and my computer would get smashed.

Obviously, that didn't happen because I'm typing this right now.

Sometimes, life is better when things happen that you least expect...

You just have to be willing to stay open to the adventure and trust the driver.

Linking up today for Five Minute Friday, where we write for five minutes, unedited, on one word.

Today's Prompt?

Just as you'd expect...


Monday, May 16, 2016

Live At Peace... Nothing Shall Offend

Tomorrow is Election Day, and 2016 has already been a volatile one for politics. Heck, not just for politics.

It seems that everything anyone says or does leads to a debate.

Often those debates take place in a very public forum, on social media, where people feel the need to air their dirty laundry and to express their opinion about everything and anything.

Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing, but not everything necessarily needs to be said.

Yesterday I read a quote about how you can't take back a stone that was thrown or a word that was said... or typed, and as I've mentioned to Caleb far too many times the last few weeks, social media provides us with a false sense of intimacy.

We feel like we know everyone... and maybe we know too much.

With all that being said, it's easy to get offended. It's easy to read something and feel as though someone is calling you out. It's easy to read between the lines and find something that isn't there.

Everyone will have differing opinions. You can poll ten people in a room, people from similar socioeconomic and educational and religious backgrounds, and chances are you'll still get ten different opinions.

And that's ok... because our opinions are formed from our own individual life experiences, and that's the beautiful thing that makes humanity such a brilliant masterpiece most of the time.

I say most of the time, though, because that same sense of false intimacy gives us incredible courage, and we often say things that we would never say to someone's face...

Or if we would, then we don't have any manners.

And then there's the whole thing about being offended.

There's a little thing on your laptop called a mouse.

If you read something that offends you, you can just scroll down...

 But we don't. Because we're somehow convinced that we are justified to our exclusive opinion and maybe if we argue in just the right way it'll change somebody's mind.

Because it's really all about being right, right?

About pride, essentially...

And the thing about pride?

It's the antithesis of true love.

Love is humble and kind and seeks the good in other people. Love is not easily offended.

Love seeks out peace.

Love is really the only commandment we are given... but we struggle so hard.

Tonight, as I was reading in Psalms, a verse jumped out at me.

We were talking in Bible study about His Word and how it helps us overcome, and here it was...

"Great peace have they which love thy law, and nothing shall offend them." Psalm 119:165

Great peace...

And nothing shall offend them.

The word "offend" comes from the Hebrew word mikshowl, which means stumbling block.

When we are offended by something, we stumble... take our eyes off of the prize, the path set before us.

And we are told to throw off everything that hinders us.

Everything that is a stumbling block.

But here's the other thing. We're also told not to be a stumbling block to others.

We're told that we'll be known by our fruit, by allowing the light of Jesus to live through us.

The people of the  dark hate the light...

but Jesus is the light...

And we are told to love our brothers, our neighbors, like Jesus.

In Romans: If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

1 John 2:10- The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.

So... not being offended, or not offending others.

But loving.

So... just keep scrolling... and then go post something encouraging, because the world has enough darkness but we can be the light.

Even on social media.

Even in politics.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Missing Pieces: A Book Review

I love a good suspenseful novel.

I just don't much care for reading them late at night...

And Heather Gudenkaf's novel Missing Pieces does not disappoint.

Jack and Sarah have the perfect life. They are married, have raised a family, and Sarah has a successful career as an advice columnist.

Then, Jack's aunt becomes deathly sick, and a trip to his hometown reveals that Jack isn't all he presented himself to be.

As the novel progresses, Sarah finds herself doubting all that she has come to know about her own life and her husband.

Secrets and lies intertwine to potentially destroy all that she has come to accept as reality.

I would highly recommend this novel to readers who enjoy suspense. I honestly did not know how it would turn out and was surprised at the ending.

Gudenkaf writes clearly and her characters are well developed. I would give this novel 4 stars.

This novel is available for purchase at book retailers and Amazon. I received free access to this book through Netgalley.com and am posting this review on their website.  I receive no compensation from Amazon for using their link with the book information.
Professional Reader

Thursday, May 12, 2016

What I'm Reading in May

I have four official days of work left until summer break.

Which basically means I'm sitting at my desk and browsing Amazon and adding 100 more books to my wish list that I'll read when I retire.

And also working on a literature review and other documents pertaining to completing that DNP degree that has been hanging over my head...

but since scholarly articles aren't the most summery reading material, we'll just skip right over that...

I did count the books piled in my bedroom floor and if I read a book a day I can get through them by the end of July.

But that's not counting the books on the shelf in the workout room or the books on my Kindle...

 My goal of 125 books a year means that I need to read roughly 10-11 books a month. I'm right on target for this goal, as I've read at least 10 books most months.
But how on earth did I become the girl that reads 20 books at a time????
So, here you have it:
The Last Long Night, the 5th book in the Bregdan Chronicles, a series set during the Civil War. This is a great series and if you're a historical fiction fan or if you loved Gone with the Wind (Guilty!!!) you'll enjoy this book. Carrie's ambition to go against the expectations in her society make me want to stand up and cheer for her.  There are eight books in the series and they are all fairly long, so this series will probably be in my reading list all year.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy is another book set during Civil War times. This book focuses on four women who really lived during the Civil War and the roles that they had during that time.

Another non-fiction book I'm reading is Five Days at Memorial, which tells the  heart-wrenching story of the events at downtown Memorial Hospital in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I had read an article by the author and actually had one of my classes discuss it last year, and this book is very interesting. As a nurse, I can't imagine the hardships that were faced. I received a complimentary copy of this book from blogging for books, so I'll be doing a book review on it as soon as I finish.

I Am Malala is the story of a young girl who was targeted by the Taliban. It was a book read for April but I didn't get finished. Fascinating story. Highly recommend it.

This one will come as a shock to many, because I'm not sure how I could go this long without reading it... but since JK Rowling is coming out with a new Harry Potter book this summer, I decided to jump on board and started Harry Pott. I'm currently reading Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, the third in the series, and I'm not sure where I've been for the last however many  years, because the books are amazing. Just plain mindless reading, which is great for summertime. Guess I'll be doing some movie watching as well!

Outlander is another series that people have raved about to me that I'm just now starting. I'm about 100 pages into book one and it has taken me awhile, but just last night I was thinking, "I hate to put this down", so chances are it'll be a quick read. There are seven other books in the series!

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf is a book I got free from net galley, so there will be a review on it once I finish reading it. It's great, though!  Suspenseful, with believable characters. Stay tuned because it's a good one.

Ready or Not by Chautona Havig is a book I got free from kindle a while back. I'm going to be reviewing the fourth book in this series, so I started with this one, the first, because the beginning is a very good place to start (channeling my inner Sound of Music). This book is about a young lady who inherited her sister's eight children. She's funny, smart, and I'm loving it so far! The only thing I don't like about it is the typeset for my Kindle, which is smaller, so it's hard to read at night, which is when I do most of my reading... but that's workable!

My sister's book club introduced me to Joanna Fluke's  Hannah Swenson series and I am in love. I'm currently reading the third book, Blueberry Muffin Murder. Hannah is a baker who conveniently finds dead bodies in her small town. It's not very realistic at times, but reminds me of a Janet Evanovich book without the curse words. Highly recommend these for fun summertime reading!

Still rotating between two devotions on my Kindle- One Year Alone with God and Love is A Verb, two devotionals. Love is a Verb has yearlong devotions and I am doing one a day so I'll be writing about this one in December. One Year Alone with God goes into some of the names and characteristics of God, and has three short devotions on each topic, so I usually read all three together.

Wendy Blight's I Know His Name goes into the names of God as well. I started this book for the P31 OBS Bible class, but fell behind (surprise!) It's an indepth study that takes more than just five or ten minutes a day... but it is so good. I love Wendy's infectious personality. Her desire to dig in deep in the Scriptures inspires me!

Sheila Walsch's The Shelter of God's Promises is one that I've just started for a facebook book club, and I'm enjoying it. Walsch has an easy to read narration.

Tricia Goyer's Made with Love is another facebook book club read. This one is about a young girl who wants to open her own pie shop. I'm just two chapters in, but it's a good read. Sometimes you just want something that doesn't make you think, you know?

Chasing God by Angie Smith is not one of those type of books. This one is being read by another facebook book club (I may or may not have a problem). I LOVE Angie Smith. Her story is so inspiring, and she writes with so much heart. This book is basically about how we spend so much time looking for God in what we read and listen to that we miss Him, and I have been so guilty of that! Thought this went well with my word purpose, and living more intentionally.

Yet another facebook book club read is Julie Presley's Stones of Rememberance. I'm just a couple of chapters into this one as well, but the main character has lost her sister to a tragic death and is trying to find her way.

And, because it's summertime, Elin Hildebrand's  Barefoot. I love her books. She makes me feel like I'm at the beach. This one is about two sisters and a friend who travel to their Nantucket summer home in the midst of difficult situations. One sister is facing a medical crisis, the other is facing a professional crisis, and the friend (who one sister doesn't seem to like) is pregnant but her cheating husband doesn't know it. Y'all.... drama at it's best. (Note: I also have two more Hildebrand books in my bedroom stacks, because it's summer, and if I'm not going to the beach I might as well read about it from my hammock/poolside/boat on the lake/ ATV).

 One of the suggestions on the reading challenge was to read a commentary, so I'm reading Matthew Henry's Commentary on Jeremiah slowly. I've enjoyed reading the commentaries, but it's sometimes been hard to find time to sit down with my Bible and go line by line, which is what I've been doing. It does give you a new perspective on what you're reading.

Holly Gerth is one of my favorite authors and I'm reading a short book by her called The Do What You Can Plan. It's about taking small steps to work toward your big-time goals. I just finished her You're Already Amazing Lifegrowth Guide, and am reading through her You're Already Amazing again, as the three of these books all go along the same theme.

Books I've Read this Year for my reading challenge:
A Book about Christian living: Fervent by Priscilla Shirer... a book on prayer. I haven't always had the best prayer life, and this book gives Scripture suggestions to help guide prayers. It goes along well with Armor of God, which I just finished.
A biography: Off Balance by Olympic Gold medalist  Dominique Moceanu.
A children's book: The Secret Garden
A book published in 2016: Unashamed by Christine Caine

And books I plan to read for the reading challenge suggestions, which are currently on my Kindle or my bedside table:
A classic novel: My Antonia
A book someone tells you changed their life: Sun Stand Still
A book about theology: Probably Mere Christianity by CS Lewis
A book with "gospel" in the title
A book your pastor recommends: The Balanced Church
A book 100 years old: Uncle Tom's Cabin
A mystery or detective novel: Sherlock Holmes
A book about a current issue- not sure yet

And I have two books on my nightstand that are movies (y'all know I have to read the book before the movie) :  Room, and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
And since it's summertime, lots of beach-themed books and, of course, Gone with the Wind.


A lot of reading.  If only I had more time. I'd love to hear your suggestions!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

You're Already Amazing Lifegrowth Guide: A Book Review

You're amazing, did you know that?

You are. I see it all the time... in the things you do at your job or with your kids or the cute ideas you post on pinterest.

I, on the other hand, am not...

but according to Holley Gerth, we are all amazing in our own way.

I had previously read the book You're Already Amazing, but when I saw that Gerth had released a Lifegrowth Guide that followed along with the book, I was excited. To see that she was planning a book club was even more exciting!

And did I mention the FREE video sessions she's posted on her blog?
Yes, free!!!

Gerth writes this book using clips from You're Already Amazing. She has a comforting style that makes you feel like you've pulled up a seat next to her and are having a cup of coffee. Her warmth is evident in her words, as is her passion for women's ministry.

The Lifegrowth Guide can be completed separate from You're Already Amazing, as the activities help the reader focus on finding your unique purpose in life, centering on your strengths and skills. It also reminds the reader that we are all unique in our gifts.

I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to explore their purpose in life. I'm giving the book 5 stars because it is well-written, encouraging, and easy to read. The exercises are easy to follow and are applicable to real-life.

I received free access to this book through Netgalley.com and am posting this review on their website. This book is currently available for purchase wherever Christian books are sold.  I receive no compensation from Amazon for using their link with the book information.
Professional Reader

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Unashamed: A Book Review

I love Christine Caine.

I think maybe it's the Australian accent.

Or the story of her organization and all that it is doing for women worldwide to free them from human trafficking.

I was honored and excited to be chosen as a member of the launch team for her newest book, Unashamed.

Shame is something that is innately human from the very beginning. Whether we have deep shame from "major" sins  (aren't they all major??? But you know what I mean)... or just feel ashamed because we stuck our foot in our mouth, it's something that we all struggle with.

Thus, Caine's new book is relatable no matter where you are. She writes candidly of a difficult childhood, of how she was transformed by God, and how she still struggles with the battle of shame.

Because isn't that just like the enemy?

He keeps throwing stuff up in our faces and just won't let us forget.

Caine reminds us that we are God's image bearers, and God doesn't feel shame. She reminds us that if we are focused on looking up at Him, we can't look inward at our pasts... even if they were just yesterday. She talks about how our mistakes are not us... because mistakes are something that you do, not something that you are.

No matter what anyone else may have told you.

Caine tells us that we're created on purpose, for a purpose... and that we each have unique things to offer. If we allow shame to tell us to hide, we hide those unique gifts that someone needs from us.

She then teaches us the power we have to walk through our wilderness into freedom... power given to us by His Spirit that enables us to transform our minds. Sometimes this has to happen daily.

Caine gives Biblical examples ranging from the Adam and Eve to the Israelites to the lady with the issue of blood as she walks us through God's desire for us to live in freedom.

I'm giving this book a 4 star rating. It's my pleasure to review and recommend it. I did receive a free copy through Caine's launch team, but it is one that I would have purchased.

Unashamed is available TODAY at your favorite Christian book retailer, at

Amazon, or at Christine Caine's website.

Let's all #liveunashamed!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Beginnings and Endings

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end..."

Life is funny.  Just when you get used to how something is, it's over.

Four years ago, I wrote about Kami graduating high school.  It seems like yesterday.

That graduation was an ending to life as we knew it on Twin Cedar Road... and the beginning of four years of anticipated visits, of text messages, of emailed papers, of stalking social media for a glimpse of our Princess.

Tonight I'm thinking about beginnings and endings.

It's funny how sometimes you don't even realize when something is beginning or ending, until it's halfway through and you're not sure how it happened or it's over and you look around and say, "Now what."

I can remember the first time I held Kami. I can't remember the first time she spoke, or the first time that she walked, or the first time that she picked up an ink pen and wrote me a note...

but I can remember moments, just tiny spurts of time.

A snaggletooth grin.

Long ponytails flying behind her as she ran up the soccer field in her yellow jersey that "matched her dark hair and eyes", hands in her pockets as she ran.

Hours and hours of Rugrats and Doug and RocketPower.

Curling up on the couch to read books.

Waking up in the middle of the night to find out she had rolled out of the bed on me...

twice... or that she was lying on top of me, with the rest of the bed wide open.

None of these could be classified as beginnings, but none the less they are woven together in the tapestry of our sisterhood.

Too many memories for this post, so I'll just share this link to one I wrote for her 21st birthday.

So, back to my thoughts on beginnings and endings...

I have always thought of graduation ceremonies as being the end...

for my nursing graduates, it's the culmination of two years of ten pound textbooks and hours studying and care plans and stressing over tests.

But there's a reason they call it commencement...

Because graduations are really a beginning, coming from that ending...

The beginning of adulthood.

And new beginnings are scary. With them comes fear of the unknown, fear of failure, anxiety about yourself and your place in this world.

They are also exciting, because new beginnings are like white pages that have yet to be marred by red ink.

So, to each of you new graduates...

Write your story. I would say write it in pencil so you can erase, but I can't help but think part of the beauty of life is looking back and seeing those scribbled out words when you make a mistake.

Appreciate every moment. Live every moment.

Don't be afraid to take new avenues and to talk to new people and to go new places... even if other people are afraid for you.

Write it loud... in bold ink, big letters. Don't be afraid to write in uppercase letters, because sometimes we need you to shout at us. Don't be afraid to make your mark on this world.

You're beautiful, and you represent all that is well and good in this world.

Hope... because that's the best thing new beginnings have to offer.

And if you mess up... well, that's just the beginning of something else.

Congrats, Kami! Apologizing in advance for being such a sappy sister. I recognize that you've had it rough sometimes, because not only were you loved by many, but you had to put up with a Mom and two older sisters who tried to mother you.

But you turned out pretty good, if I must say so myself.

Love you!!!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Reflections on Purpose: April

How is it already May? Seems like I just wrote this post..
ok, maybe I did, because half of April was over when I wrote the last one.

I've been reading some about our higher calling in life, trying to flesh out just what purpose is.

I've mentioned before that I tend to overcomplicate things. I tend to overanalyze and try to work out the details.

Life isn't always willing to let you do that. Sometimes things happen just because and you have to go with the flow, which I am NOT good at.

But as I'm thinking on purpose and intentionality and what that means in my life, I'm reminded again that we all were made for one thing. Fellowship with God, worship, and bringing Him glory. How I do that may look different than how you do that, but in the end it's the same result.

Our purpose is not about us.

It's about Him.

And sometimes, a lot of the time...
that means being open.

Not rigid.

Even if the to do list maker in me says, "Plan it!!! Set goals and figure out how you'll reach them."

Sometimes living with purpose looks more like being flexible and appreciating the moment... I've been reminded of that again and again this year.

So, that being said... here's my look back on April and where I am.

My 16 for 2016:
1. Live with Purpose- intentionally. Have I mentioned how I love my planner? And to do lists? And how I lived last year in a sense of chaos because I didn't use it like I should?

Well, I did.
And so far I'm doing much better using my planner and actually being productive, which is part of living intentionally with purpose.
I've also been thinking more about time management... funny; I'll be doing a session on that for some incoming Allied Health students in a couple of weeks, but it's something I still struggle with. I downloaded an app called Moments on my phone and I spend 2-4 hours A DAY on my phone.

What could I do with that time? That'll be my focus in May for living intentionally... putting the phone down.
At least some.

2. Exercise- Goal: At least five days a week, 30 minutes a day, and at least 10,000 steps 26/30 days or 27/31 days of each month (24/28 days in February). (Because nobody is perfect).

April was a bad month. I didn't average 10,000 steps. I only exercised 20 days, and I gained a couple of pounds... but I've started this month off wonderfully.  so there's that.
3. 1,000 Gifts- Gratitude Journal
Doing pretty good on this. Part of living intentionally is recognizing the gifts all around you. I'm almost to 500.
4. Scripture- http://www.swtblessings.com/p/faith-signs.html#.VmcOQU3bKid
I finished April and am one day behind in May. I find that this truly does help me. A lot of times it's been just the verse I've needed that morning or night. Also, writing those words help me get it into my mind, which helps get it in my heart... and what's in the heart will overflow. I NEED His Word.

5. 365 Day Challenges- One picture a day and writing at least 10 minutes each day. One of my facebook friends developed a challenge and we even have our own hashtag- #write365.
Grace. That's all. And recognizing that even though I need the discipline, sometimes some things aren't the most important in life, and it's ok to realize that some things aren't necessary a priority. Or maybe that's just a cop out. I am doing better about the writing.! 

6. Reading Challenge- http://www.challies.com/resources/the-2016-reading-challenge
I finished 10 books in April so I'm on track for meeting my goal. Not doing great on the other... I keep downloading series books on my Kindle. But the summer is almost here, my Kindle is fully loaded, and the books are piled up!

7. Chronological Bible- Still not caught up on this one but one thing I will do this summer is catch up. I WILL read the Bible all the way through this year.

8. As I mentioned before last month, I'm no longer writing down the words, but I do still get the email from an online dictionary and I'm learning lots of new words. Ok, maybe not actually learning them... but some of them you can't help but remember. Like today's was margauretize (not sure of the spelling), which I assumed would have something to do with a margarita... but no. It had to do with being of pearl color, or something like that. Not sure when a person would actually use that word...  ..

9. Random/Unrandom Acts of Kindness- Still looking for ways to randomly impact people through my words or deeds. Not doing something every day, but I am making the conscious effort to look for opportunities. I'm reminded of how cards are a lost art... maybe something to consider in the coming months.

10. Presence- Doing better about this, but I already mentioned my goal of putting my phone down. And also listening. And I also need to be nicer. Just today, I responded in a not so nice way to Caleb, which leads to him responding not so nicely to me, which escalates the matter. Intentional living is about enjoying the moment, and I"m still learning about that.

11. Cross something off of my bucket list. Nothing yet. But I emailed my advisor and I don't have to submit anything else for the class I'm in this semester. Just a lot of hard work the upcoming months as I crank out that research project. Prayers, please!

12. Be more organized. Procrastinate less. Fold the laundry as I get it out of the dryer and actually put it away =)
(I have a looonng way to go on this one... but that's why we have all year, right?)
Ok. I'm happy to report that I AM cleaning my office out at work. And I'm setting deadlines for assignments and working ahead... a little. And the laundry isn't completely blocking the back door... but that may or may not be because Wallace got bored one night.
13. Laugh. Everyday.  Hard.
Because laughter is truly good for the soul.
So many things to laugh out. I don't know that I laugh hard everyday, but I come close. And it truly is good medicine.
14. Keep a Sabbath day of rest.
I have done this. I have also, as I mentioned, used it as excuse to be lazy. I am trying to make an effort to use it to rest my soul... get in His Word more... appreciate nature and His creation.

15. Make new friends. Make time for old ones.
Just yesterday I wrote in my journal for God to open my heart to allow me to cultivate friendship. I'm so awkward, and I also have crazy expectations. I'm reminded to be a friend you must show yourself friendly.
Am I the only one struggling with this?
I don't think so... because I'm amazed at all of the groups there are on facebook. I"m in several... many of them through Christian groups where I don't really know the people.
The online world can cause a sense of  false intimacy. I can like someone's picture and then not speak to them in Walmart.
I'm trying to do better... even if it makes me uncomfortable.
God never said we could stay in our comfort zone... and it can be pretty lonely there.

16. Continue to love. Love Jesus. Love myself. Love others.
Living out my values: Be Yourself. Laugh Often. Live well. Love long. Just breathe. Work it out. Finish Strong. Hope always. Give grace. Positive Thinking. Jeremiah 29:11. Romans 8
I forget these values sometimes. I forget to give grace and find myself dwelling on the negative. I forget sometimes, even just to pause and breathe... but I'm finding that He reminds me. He brings them to surface. He is so good, y'all. Even when we're not.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dear Teacher...

Dear Teacher,

I see you. It's still summer time, yet there you are in your classroom, arranging desks and decorating bulletin boards while your kids lounge in the floor and complain about being too hot. The first day of school is just a few days away and you know those desks will be filled with bouncing kids excited about seeing their friends or mopey teenagers too gangly for the desks excited about nothing because they are teenagers.

I see you, handing out pencils that you bought with your own money because some kids don't have them. I see you, checking attendance and taking note of which kids look a little worse for the wear. Not judging, mind you... but storing away information for future reference because those will be your kids... the kids who may not have anyone else.

I see you... sitting in your recliner at home with your lapdesk out and your red pens by your side, marking up papers for future teachers and nurses and lawyers and social workers.

I see you, at your desk during your "planning" period working on lesson plans and entering grades and talking with the student who needs that little bit of extra help.

I see you, shivering in the cold for early morning bus duty.

I see you, scarfing down your food on your fifteen minute lunch break while a group of teenagers holds court in a corner of your classroom because you're welcoming.

I see you, standing on your feet after a ten hour day to take up tickets at that basketball game.

I see you, coaching and encouraging and going the extra mile for peanuts on the hour.

I see you, working on your own homework because a teacher never stops learning.

I see you, in the library at five o'clock for teacher meetings and curriculum meetings and parent meetings.

I see you, biting your tongue as another parent has graced the door of your classroom to complain about the C on a report card, because every kid is perfect even though they haven't turned in one assignment all year and you've been lenient.

I see you, complimenting that girl's dress and that boy's shoes, offering the only smile they may get.

I see you, handing them a dollar or some spare change so they can get something at pop break.

I see you, baking cupcakes in your kitchen late at night so that birthday kids will be recognized the next day.

I see you, tired and weary but still putting one foot in front of the other and still smiling...

Because you're doing the Lord's work, even if you don't think you are. After all, wasn't Jesus the greatest teacher of them all? And didn't He say that if you do it for the least of these.. well, you know the rest.

And you know what, dear teacher?

They see it, too.

Even the ones who backtalk and are mouthy and who hide their faces behind their hair.

They see you, and they know.

They know you don't do it for the paycheck (even though everyone has to make a living).

They know you do it out of pure love.

And because of that love, that belief that they can make something out of life...

They will.

And one of them may be standing in front of that very classroom you're standing in right now.

Thanking you...

And continuing the cycle.

Monday, May 2, 2016

See the Person #StigmaFree

There are certain illnesses that you can see.

You can see swelling, or difficulty breathing, or even symptoms of pain.

It's easy to diagnose these, easy to treat these, and with the right medications, the patient is on the mend quickly.

And then there are other illnesses that can't be seen... but they are just as painful. Maybe even more so.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month... an effort to bring to light better understanding about mental illness.

Mental illness is more common that you might think. Approximately 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness in a given year. Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13-18 experience a severe mental disorder at some point in their life.

1 in 5.
That means that on any given Wednesday night, we may have ten kids sitting at a table downstairs. Chances are, two of them will have some kind of mental health issue.

Scary stuff when they are all kids I love.

In our area, one of the largest problems is substance use. Over 50% of those affected by substance abuse had a co-occurring mental illness.

That makes treating the substance abuse harder. The patient is anxious, so they self-medicate. Depressed, so they self medicate. Angry and frustrated because they find themselves alone because their families are unable to support them because of their drug habit... so they self-medicate.

Addiction is real, and chances are it affects someone you know.

It destroys lives... but I can't help but think we have become too calloused to care.

Mental health illness leads to homelessness. Crime. 70% of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental condition.

They are doomed before they start.

And mental illness is undertreated. The stigma associated with mental illness makes it hard for a patient to seek help.

You're just faking. You just need to try harder. You just need to think happy thoughts. You just need to have more faith.

So, they sit quietly. They pretend there isn't anything wrong. They fake their way through life with a forced smile on their face until they can't fake anymore... can't take it anymore.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.,20 the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–2421 and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24.22

 The LEADING cause of death for teenagers and young adults.

Scary stuff.

Let's be aware of each other. Look each other in the eye. Ask how we're doing and really listen when someone responds. Offer our support.

People with mental illness don't always need answers. Sometimes, they just need presence.

That may be the only way they get peace of mind.

And let's be aware that different isn't always bad... that we should always seek to "see the person and not the illness" (NAMI).

Be stigma free.

My message of the week/month/year, it seems.

Love each other.

Visit http://www.nami.org/mhm for more information. All statistics from the NAMI website.

See more at: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers#sthash.1RtAG1gx.dpuf

Sunday, May 1, 2016

One Deep Breath

It's May already.

I can't believe it.

My April resolutions went down the drain in a hurry...

but I've had lots of time riding in the hills on the Razor and enjoying the sunshine and spending time with family and laughing at Melody and Will and running to Owsley Co. to pick up Lauren Green.

So... maybe May will be better and maybe it won't. I told y'all in last month's review that I was learning about a new meaning of purpose.

Of presence...

of being fully in the moment.

I'm still not great at.

I still zone out on my phone more than I should, and find myself retreating in a book because it's better than real life... or maybe not better, but more comfortable, if that makes sense...

but yesterday a chilly rain blew in my windshield as we drove down gravel trails, and the leaves were especially green, and the sun would occasionally peek out from a gray cloud to show us a little love.

And Melody's eyes were particularly blue as she caught mine in a game of peek a boo..

And today at church, Caleb's hands were much larger than mine as he reached over and gave my hand a squeeze during the singing, and I paused to look at those hands and remember them sticky with popsicles on warm summer days.

Will leaned into Wallace, asleep, but his little boy legs, with a few little boy bruises on the shins, curled up underneath me, and when I picked him up he buried his sweaty head into my shoulder for just a second.

They played I'll Fly Away and I remembered my Dad singing it at my Aunt Virginia's funeral... "Just a few more happy days and then..."

And I thought how I was pretty sure that this year of 2016 has been a little bit more weary days than happy days for him... but His Grace is sufficient for the weary days and the happy days.

And today the sun beat down and I breathed in the smell of mud and looking back on it I thought of how we were created from dust, with the very breath of God breathed in to us... and that we were good..

He is good.

So, I may not be on track with my Bible reading and my exercise plan may have gone out the window and I may have gained a couple of pounds this last month (again)...

but He is still good... and He is still God... and His purpose is still there.

We just have to reach it one deep breath at a time.