Flipping That Switch

I returned home yesterday after spending the weekend at a conference with the teens from my church. On the last day of the conference, Sunday morning, as we all sat in that huge convention room one last time, sleep-deprived and ready to go home, the keynote speaker issued a final challenge.

By the thousands, we bowed our heads in prayer, and we invited the Lord God to speak into our hearts at that moment. As we were about to head for home, we invited the Lord to tell us what in our lives needs to stop, immediately.

Well, the Lord spoke to me instantly, and in usual Katie style, His answer was grand, and moving, and beautiful.

Um, no. The Creator of the universe and lover of my soul spoke to my heart, and he said these four little words:

“Turn off the TV.”

And, in usual Katie style, my automatic response to the Creator of the universe and lover of my soul was truly accepting and eloquent:

“Wait, what? That can’t be right…”

Yes, for just a few seconds, I argued with God and justified my sin. I told myself that He didn’t really say it, He couldn’t really mean it. Since when does God tell people to turn off the TV? I gave Him this great opportunity to tell me anything, and that’s what He said? I must have imagined it.

And then I admitted to myself that I had opened my heart to Him and He had indeed spoken to me. I just didn’t like His answer. I don’t like that TV watching is my sin. One of my sins. Quite frankly, my sin sounds dumb to my ears. But it’s so very true.

This morning I got out of bed, and as I went about my bathroom routine, my finger itched toward the television remote. It’s my routine; I listen to the TV. The TV is on in my home pretty much every waking minute of the day while I’m there, at least while I’m there by myself. I turn it on to listen to, to keep me company, entertain me, and I suppose even to block out my own thoughts at times. It fills my brain so that I don’t have to.

It steals my attention, it steals my focus. It fills my mind with the world. And on mornings that I don’t have to immediately get ready, I sit down for “a few minutes” to watch. And I become a slug. I hide from the world, from responsibility, from emotions and people and God. The TV is my go-to, catch-all comforter and fixer.

Watching TV is not always a sin, but it is a huge area of sin in my life.

My sin is gross, and it shames me.

This morning as my finger itched, as I automatically longed toward the noise that gives my brain respite, it suddenly clicked that it was time for me to choose.

What’s more important to me? Obeying the command of my Creator, who has a brilliant plan for my life if only I will allow Him in, or flipping that switch?

The answer seems obvious, but every time that I have chosen to turn the TV on and tune the world out I am speaking with my actions.

I finally know the right choice.

Turned OFF TV

Along the Way

“To give thanks is an action and rejoice is a verb and these are not mere pulsing emotions.”

~Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are

Lately, I’ve been stuck. I feel like I’m always saying this, but isn’t it always true? To a certain extent, we get recharged, we move forward in joy, in fresh newness, and then slowly, so slowly we hardly notice it, we’re back where we started.

Taking time for quiet time.

When I started my journey to 1,000 gifts, I was all in. Counting the gifts that God lays out before me each day? No brainer! Making a list, displaying it for both myself and others to see, what could be better? How could this not show me the joy, the purpose, the gift in each moment?

Well, I guess that’s the nature of me, and maybe of life? I’m forgetful. I carry on, and I forget the purpose of my journey, and I forget the gloriousness that is the gift of each moment. The unexpected, undeserved surprise that I get another moment, and another, and that beyond simply having the moments, that so many of them are filled with good.

Postcards from my love while he was away for work.

The quote at the top of the page is from this week’s reading for book club, and it’s a line that particularly stood out to me. I don’t have to feel thankful to give thanks; I don’t have to feel joyful to rejoice. Both are actions, and I’m the choice-maker. In each moment, what will I choose?

A mama duck with one precious little duckling, on a very early Saturday morning.

I looked back over my list after finishing up today’s chapter, and I realized that it had been 18 days since I added one single gift. Before that addition ~ 6 days. I have wallowed in my busy-ness, in my seeking and my ignoring, and my living for me and my living in fear, and I have not chosen to rejoice anyway. Today I added 12 gifts, with intention and purpose.

My Chobani winnings ~ such excitement to find this on my doorstep!

The photos in this post are all moments from the past 18 days. While writing this post, I looked through my camera roll on my phone to see what was there, and I found that I had captured many, many moments through my lens, many, many gifts. I have been seeing, but not naming.

As I move forward from this moment, it is with new intention. To name the gifts, and to choose the rejoicing. Will I slip again? Undoubtedly. Is it still worth the effort? Absolutely.

What gifts have you noticed in your life recently?

The Journey to 1,000

I’ve mentioned here and there that I’ve been reading a fantastic book lately, and I’m finally getting around to telling you about the experience!

#1: The smell and anticipation of coffee on an incredibly sleepy morning.

Back in February, an acquaintance of mine put out a question on Facebook to find out if any of her friends were interested in doing a book club, working through a book a couple of chapters at a time. I’ve been wanting to join a book club for about forever, but I simply don’t have the time right now to read an entire book in a month (usually!) ~ this was exactly the chance I had been looking for! I would have joined pretty much whatever the circumstances! It turned out to be one more fantastic choice in a series of fantastic choices that have come along lately.

#26: The satisfaction of deleting homework items from my calendar (my version of checking them off the to-do list!).

It turned out that only one other person was able to commit, and from there our little club was born. Alyssa, Sara, and I all knew each other before this started, but only “surface-y”. Several months in, I’m feeling so very blessed to be sharing pieces of our lives together.

#41: Date nights with my lovey!

We’re reading One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that the experience has been life changing for all of us. We’ve ended up choosing to read only one chapter every two weeks so that we can spend our entire evening when we get together going through just one chapter.

#74: A freshly-opened jar of almond butter.

We’re learning to live life in the moment. To fully commit to whatever is happening right now. To see grace and God in the smallest of moments, and to view the gift in all of it. I’m a different person than I was, and it’s amazing.

Track with me as I list 1,000 gifts in my everyday life.

What have you been doing lately to grow, and stretch the boundaries of who you’ve been?

March By The Numbers Challenge

And so we begin a brand new month.  Can you believe it’s March already?  Because I definitely can’t.  Since this semester started, the days and weeks (and apparently months!) have been flying by practically unnoticed; I think that this strange winter weather has something to do with my disbelief at the nearing arrival of spring as well.

One of my new favorite things about starting a new month is my new-ish tradition of reviewing the past month, what went well, what decidedly did not, and reevaluating my current priorities.  There’s something rejuvenating about looking back, refreshing, and starting anew.

What I have discovered this month, in the ever-evolving fashion of these by-the-numbers challenges, is that the goals I chose for February (which actually rolled over from January!) are not actually all that practical for my whirlwind, nutty semester.

I did hit 65 servings of produce, up from last month, which I’m glad about.  Now, I know there are many of you out there to whom 65 servings of produce is a pretty sad number, and let it be understood that I know it’s not a great number.  But it’s progress toward a healthier Katie, and to me that’s pretty darn great!

The other goal from February that I came much closer to was to blog every day (aka on a regular basis).  This goal was chosen because while I know that writing really helps me clear my head, I do not turn to it as readily as I turn to less-healthy options.  Making this my goal two months in a row has really helped me to prioritize my blogging, and now the writing is really starting to become a habit.  Yay!

For March, I’m ready to revisit my epically-failed December goal of hugely reducing the time I spend in front of/in earshot of the t.v.  This is one of those less-healthy options that I mentioned above; when I get too overwhelmed, t.v. is an easy way to escape and has really become an all-too-time-consuming habit.  I also think it’s really consuming my brain ~ it wouldn’t hurt me to be alone with my thoughts once in a while!!

I also am going to hold onto and continue improving my produce servings goal ~ this one’s super important!

So without further ado, March’s By The Numbers Goals:

  • 124: Minimum Number of Fruit/Veggie Servings Consumed
  • 40: Television Hours Watched

What are your goals for the month?  The week?  Today?

My One Word: Transparent

At the beginning of January, I noticed that several friends on Facebook kept talking about their “one word” and mentioning their success or lack of success with their chosen word, or whether they thought that their chosen word was even a good choice after all. I was intrigued, so I messaged a friend and found out about My One Word.

The philosophy behind this movement is that instead of choosing impossible resolutions and making endless lists of goals, we simply choose one word that represents something we need or would like to see within ourselves. This movement really appeals to me because, as I’ve mentioned, New Year’s resolutions in general just aren’t my thing for the same reasons that they mention. I also think that any time I want to make a change is the right time to do it, not just at the start of a new year; that’s why, in typical Katie fashion, this post is coming to you mid-way through February!

I also think that, while concrete goals such as “clean my spare bedroom” (that finger is pointing right at me!) are useful, a more abstract goal that forces me to explore myself, my personality, and my tendencies on a continuous basis, will result in something altogether different ~ change on a different level. A hopefully more permanent change.

I’ve chosen the word transparent for myself for a wide variety of reasons. This past summer I really started exploring my own behaviors, and really the ways that I choose to live my life, and I realized that some of my behaviors that I consider most shameful or terrible are only so because I hide them. That’s when the idea of transparency really started for me. When I committed to my Character Development class(more to come!), I also made a commitment to myself to open up as much as possible because I knew that that was how I would get the most out of the class. As I’ve mentioned, my experiences in Character Development are opening my eyes to my own sin that I didn’t even know was there, and instead of hiding and burying the information to cope as I would have in the past, I’m ready to set it out in the open and let God take it from there.

How is my transparency going to look in my life?

One of my favorite new tools for transparency is my blog. I started this blog with the goal of opening up and sharing my life ~ the good and the bad, the super exciting and the crazy boring, the stress and the relaxing. My hope and prayer is that this blog will show my life as is, and that in some way my words and my experience may touch someone else. I know that the more transparent others are, the better their stories touch me, and I believe that that can only hold true for my words as well.

Aside from blogging, in my “real” life, I want to share my life and experiences with those around me. I want to stop hiding behind excuses, or hiding a bad day behind empty words.

My One Word offers resources and a weekly blog update for support throughout the year, and I’m looking forward to participating in that community.

Do you have a word?

Keep Calm and Write On

So far, today has been a truly great Saturday!  I slept in, but not too late, hit the gym for a (crowded!) workout, and did some cleaning.  I met my Mom for a coffee date, and since it’s so beautiful out today we decided to grab our beverages to go and headed out to a local state park to enjoy the weather and the lake, which we both love.  We also enjoyed lots of chatting ~ sometimes I feel like neither of us gets a word in edgewise because we both have so much to say!  It works for us.  Now I’m at the library, where I just finished my first exam for an online class I’m taking this semester and now get to do some blogging!  I’m hoping to get in a Bible reading as well.

Yesterday I recapped my goals from January, and today I want to talk a bit about what writing is for me, and why I am trying to make it a priority.

I don’t know if it’s like this for everybody, but I think in words.  As in, constantly and sometimes to the point of frustration.  At times I feel there are simply too many words in my head!  This is where the writing comes in.  I’ve always found that it’s easy for me to think, express myself, and communicate through the written word.

The problem I experience is that when I become too anxious or overwhelmed, the words build up, and the habit I’ve taught myself to safely escape is to push everything back inside and ignore it.  Trust me when I tell you, this is not a great plan!  It has, however, proven to be “safe”, which I’m sure is why I have stuck with it for so long.

Now, however, I’m ready for a different approach.  I want to let my words out, to do their work and to clear my head.  I love my blog as a place for me to not only do this, but also to interact and communicate with others.  This is why I’ve made it my goal in January and now again in February to do “at least one” blog post a day.  Truthfully, it’s not so important to me to actually have one blog post documented per day, and if I miss a day I’m certainly not going to get worked up over it!  Several weeks, on the other hand, is something I’d like to not let happen again!

This goal is more for me to focus my intentions on getting my words out on a regular basis.  Letting my words take shape and clarity, and putting them out there as a testament to my reality, as it is in that given moment moment.  Instead of pushing aside any anxiety, I want to give it value and meaning by giving it a name and a voice; instead of stuffing it in only to have it explode out later, I want to let it out with intention.  And the same with the joys in my life ~ I want to name them and give them value as well, as they happen.

photo source

Here’s to giving my words ~ and myself! ~ a voice!

January By The Numbers Recap & Rollover (+ A Non-Apology)

Oh boy.  Just logging into my wordpress account gave me a little bit of anxiety just now.  I’ve been gone too long!  Getting back to school snatched up all my attention, and it took me a little bit to get into my heavier workload and figure out a routine for this semester.

I know that this is often the point where bloggers will apologize for their absence, and I’ll be up front with you right now ~ I’m not going to do that.  This blog is my place to be real and to be me, and the real me has ups and downs and sometimes abandons a project for a couple of weeks!  With that said, I did get two texts from my sister asking why I stopped blogging, and one text from Sarah saying that she missed my blog ~ that was quite affirming!

The real drive that pushed me back ~ besides all the words building up in my head, bursting to escape ~ is that I need to recap my January goals!  I will admit, I don’t really want to recap them, which may give you a preview of what’s to come…

Goal: 124-Minimum Number of Fruit/Veggie Servings Consumed

  • Although I love fruits and veggies, I’m REALLY bad at working them into my diet.  For whatever reason, they don’t typically leap to my mind as a first choice.  I set the number 124 because it equaled 4 servings of produce per day for the 31 days of January.  I have to say, I am nearly ashamed to announce that my final number for the month was 63.  That comes out to about 2 servings per day.  This is bad news!  And it’s news that I was aware of, but really never examined in black and white.  Lots of room for improvement here!

Goal: 24 Daily Bible Readings

  • This was also a goal in December, and I didn’t stick with it then.  Happily this month I did a bit more ~ I hit 11 daily Bible readings.  This goal is definitely a work in progress, and I’m looking forward to continue to incorporate this part of my day into every day.

Goal: 5 Pounds Lost

  • Suffice to say: nope.

Goal: 1-Minimum Number of Daily Blog Posts

  • And… nope!  Please see above…

With my less than stellar goal completion for the month of January, I am rolling all four goals over to February.  They’re all reasonable goals that are important to me, and so I will continue to work on them!

My Abstract January Goal

Yesterday, I talked about my new goals for the month in my January by the Numbers Challenge. I mentioned that in addition to these straightforward goals, I have a more abstract goal in mind for the month of January.

I’m currently on my winter break, and I don’t return to classes until January 23. This leaves me with a lot of free time on my hands! While many people thrive in this kind of situation, I tend to do the opposite ~ with my days free and clear, for some reason I become less motivated to get things done. This has been a real struggle for me for as long as I can remember, and something that I’m ready to explore and confront.

With that said, my abstract goal for the month, or rather the remaining three weeks of my break, is to keep busy and get things done!! Vague, right??

A few of the larger ticket items on my to-do list:
*Transform our second bedroom from a dumping grounds back into usable space
*Clean & organize my gift wrapping station
*Clean & organize my crafting area
*Look at our finances, work on a budget, and work on couponing
*Heavy duty cleaning of the house ~ the stuff I don’t usually have time for

Time to get busy!!

January By The Numbers Challenge

For the month of December I decided to do a by-the-numbers type challenge, and I really liked it.  It forced me to focus in on specific goals, and it gave me a realistic amount of time in which to focus on those goals.  Right now, a lot of people are focusing on their New Year’s Resolutions, and while I know that this works for many people, it is simply not for me.  To my way of thinking, any time is the right time to work on a goal or change a negative behavior, and quite honestly it seems that when I force myself to wait until a specific “start date” I’m often less successful.  Also, a year is a really long time and it’s easy for me to get discouraged or forget what my goals were altogether!

With that said, I’ve decided to do month by month goals of areas in my life that I want to focus on right now.  I also realized with December’s goals that I need to really choose just a few areas to focus heavily on; in December I was a bit ambitous!  Here are January’s by-the-numbers goals:

  • 124: Minimum Number of Fruit/Veggie Servings Consumed
  • 24: Daily Bible Readings
  • 5: Pounds Lost
  • 1: Minimum Number of Daily Blog Posts

I also have one, more abstract goal which I will be talking about tomorrow.  Wish me luck!

Recap: December By The Numbers

On December 1, I sat down and came up with some numbers-related goals that I wanted to try to achieve during the month of December, and my personal December by the Numbers Challenge was born.  Today I have the task of looking back over my month and reviewing what went well and what, um, didn’t.

Goal: 2,000 ounces of water consumed

  • 2,000 ounces of water for the 31 days of December came out to roughly 64 ounces per day ~ the bare minimum recommendation for healthy daily water consumption.  I thought that in this area I would really excel, but I was shocked to discover that I was not consuming nearly as much water as I believed I was!  This was the first time I ever tracked my water consumption, and it was really eye opening.  I used the app Waterlogged, which was fantastic, although I got a bit discouraged and stopped tracking sometime mid-month so I don’t have a final number!  I do know that it’s very unlikely that I reached 2,000.

Goal: 248 hours of sleep (or at least hours in bed, eyes shut!)

  • 248 hours came out to 8 hours of sleep per day, and in this area I easily was successful.  I used the app Sleep Tracker, and I found it to be extremely easy to use.  Again, I stopped tracking sometime mid-month, but this was more due to distractions and general busy-ness!

Goal: 64 maximum hours of TV watched

  • This area came out to be…  an epic fail.  I always turn the tv on while I’m doing things around the house, and although I had high hopes, the Christmas season turned out to be a very bad time to try to change this habit.  However, I definitely still need to work on this because I fall into the trap of getting sucked in to whatever’s on way too often; this goal just may need its own whole month!

Goal: 24 daily Bible readings

  • This goal started out strong, and fizzled out as the holidays got nearer.  I started a daily Bible reading plan in November on my iPhone using the app You Version, so now I have quite a bit of catching up to do!  I’m headed out to Manitowoc Coffee after this to play catch up.

Goal: 15 home-cooked dinners

  • This goal was really important to me, as it’s typically very easy for me to get caught up in the stress of the holidays and not even think about dinner until it’s too late.  I’m happy to report that we consumed 11 home cooked dinners during the month of December.  No, it’s not a 15, but this goal really forced me to focus on cooking more than usual during the holidays so it gets an A+ from me!  The times that we didn’t eat at home were (for the most part!) unavoidable social and holiday occasions.

Goal: 10 hours of fun, connecting time with Terry

  • When I set this goal, I had no idea which number to choose ~ I didn’t know what our schedules and social obligations would end up being, so I didn’t know what would  be realistic.  I’m again happy to say that we easily surpassed this goal.  From our Christmas at Camp Sinawa date, to our day after Christmas dinner and a movie date, and several hours of playing games and getting hot chocolate, we spent a lot of dedicated one-on-one time with each other and this makes me happy.

Goal: 10 gym workouts

  • This goal was really important to me as well, and unfortunately I didn’t make it.  The month started out great (remember when I found a gym to go to while visiting Jaime?), but again fizzled out as the holidays neared.  I planned to make up for it during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, but I came down with a nasty cold and decided to focus on getting healthy in time for our trip to Mom and Dad’s.  I ended up about halfway successful here.

Goal: 8 non-holiday visits with family or friends

  • This goal ended up being a little overwhelming ~ between all of the social events of the holidays themselves, I was pushed a bit to the brink with this goal.  I’m a girl who definitely needs her alone time for rejuvenation.  I ended up having 5 visits, and 2 more scheduled but cancelled; my friend Angela and I scheduled a Skype date two different times but her kiddos were sick and she needed to focus on them, and my friend Becky and I planned a movie night but she and her baby ended up getting sick!  Overall, this goal was good and helped me to focus on the fun and social aspects of the holidays rather than just the “must-dos”.

Goal: 5 hours studying for my 2 finals

  • This goal did not pan out at all, but I will be taking a whole post to talk about why!

Goal: 0 pounds gained

  • I’m very happy to report that this goal was a total success; in fact, I actually lost 2 pounds!  This is huge to me because I usually use the holidays as a free-for-all excuse, and I didn’t want to do that anymore.  I considered setting a weight loss goal, but decided to go easy on myself and simply set the goal of not gaining, and it worked!  I didn’t feel too pressured, but I was reminded of my healthy goals ~ all in all, exactly what I wanted!

How do I feel about the challenge results?

I feel good overall.  There are a few areas that I was disappointed in my results, particularly the gym workouts and the Bible readings, and I will continue to work on those.  However, there were many areas that I was pleased with.  Ultimately, I wanted to use this challenge to stay focused on my overall health during the Christmas season, and I think that it was a success!