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Friday, 31 May 2013

Rebuilding from the ground up

Do you remember the children's story about the three little pigs?  I was reminded of it last weekend.  You know the one when the wolf "huffed and he puffed and he blew the house down" that belonged to pig number one, because he had build with straw.  Pig number 2 had built with sticks so his house didn't survive either.  But Pig number 3 had built his house with bricks so all 3 pigs ended up safe and sound within it's walls.... happily ever after I'm sure!  Just like all good children's stories!



Between that story, and a conversation with a friend this week I'm realizing that I'm being given an opportunity to re-build life from the ground up.  A bit like re-building a house.  Life sometimes gets flipped upside down on us and at first it might seem like a disaster.  But maybe it's not.  

When things seem to have fallen apart, be it health, or family, or career or finances it can feel like the rug got whipped out from underneath us!  Maybe you know the feeling?!  Perhaps though, once the dust has settled; the heartache, the struggle, the shock at finding ourselves in that situation... perhaps there's a silver lining.  I'm not saying that it's an easy process, I'm saying maybe we have a choice in how we'll handle "the aftermath."  

Hopefully Little Piggy number 1 and Little Piggy number 2 learned their lesson and went back and re-built their house with bricks.  For us it might not be that simple.  The lessons to learn might be a little less obvious.  We might have to dig a bit to find them.  I'd say it's worth it.  Worth the time to take stock.  To re-evaluate.  To learn from any mistakes we may have made and choose to do things differently next time.  

Maybe this chance to start afresh is actually a blessing in disguise

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

7 Reasons why Less is More

This last month we've been forced into living with less.  Our home is starting to head towards minimalism as many of our things have now been shipped off to England ready for us to join them there in September!  


I actually enjoyed the process of packing what we wanted to keep, giving away what we don't need and throwing out the junk we've accumulated.  There's less to clean around now and our house feels more organized and simple.  Add that to the fact that I've had more energy to clean the house and bring some order to things, it's feeling great to get back to a more normal routine. Inspiration has also come my way from some other bloggers such as: organized jen, becoming minimalist and a bowl full of lemons.

Having not missed any (well...most) of the stuff that's been packed off to Old Blighty, it got me thinking about how I can continue this on in my life.  If you've read my Bucket List/Life Goals posts, you'll know that my "Use it or Lose it" goal is one thing I'm hoping will keep on helping me to live simply in the amount of things I own.  

Less really is more!  Here's some of the things I've learned, hope to experience, and want to be motivated by:

1. Less stuff means more space.  
Clutter for me is stressful.  I find a clean ordered room more relaxing.  How about you?

2. Less clothes means more focus on what's really important.
Less time deliberating over what to wear or how I will look and hopefully realizing that the state of my heart is more important than the state of my wardrobe.  Choosing a full heart over a full wardrobe!

3. Less clutter means more time.
I wonder how much time we spend organizing and tidying and cleaning around things we don't really use?  

4. Less TV means more reading.
The more I read the more I want to make time to read more.  It helps us grow and learn and I always feel like I'm spending my time more wisely reading than I do when I watch TV.  

5. Less food means more health.
To steal the words of Michael Pollan: Eat Food. Not too much.  Mostly Plants.

6. Less time on the insignificant means more time for the significant.
Living with Lyme's Disease this past 18months or so has helped me re-evaluate what's important and what's not.  This will look different for everyone and in different seasons of life, but I think it's important to be intentional about where we spend our time.

7. Less "wants" means more "thanks"
This is the most important one I think.  In a world that's desperate for more and yet never satisfied, it seems to be a never ending cycle of dissatisfaction.  This year has been a reminder to me to be thankful for what I do have instead of wanting more, or just wanting the next thing.  

I also want to share with you a post from the blog of a Pastor named Joshua Becker who has been trying to de clutter and simplify his life for the last 5 years: "5 Life-Giving Truths, from 5 Years of Living with Less."  

In what areas of your life have you learned that "Less is more", I'd love to hear and learn from you!

Thanks for stopping by :)
VK





Saturday, 25 May 2013

Bucket List (Part 3): Learning to read!


I do love a good book.  Especially these days that I'm able to actually concentrate again - like I've said, I'm becoming a bookworm!  It has to be a hold-it-in-my-hand good old fashioned book for me though.  Somehow an e-reader just doesn't cut it... anyone with me?!  I came across some crazy statistics though recently from a US study.  Did you know that only 56% of young people claim they read more than 10 books a year?  And that 42% of collage students will never read another book after they graduate!  70% of adults have not been in a book store in the past 5 years, and 80% of all US families have not bought a book this year!  (Source: StatisticBrain.com)

“You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” -Ray Bradbury

So, safe to say I've been in some of those categories at one stage or another!  But, that brings me to my next bucket list item:

- Read, a minimum of one book per month every year, more if possible.
I'm trying to be realistic here.  Right now I can read a lot since I have time on my hands, but I'm not naive to the fact that life won't always be this way.  I'm hoping that if I can build a good habit now while I have time, maybe it will stick?  So far it's going well!  I'll post some of my favourites in my next blog.  Not only am I trying to read more though, but I'm also trying to read more non-fiction - I'm trying to stretch this mind of mine - it's a little rusty!  


Don't get me wrong, I'll always love a good Grisham novel, but my reading history definitely would be more like a magazine than a newspaper!  If I'm going to spend the time reading, I might as well learn something at the same time (See, Ken really is rubbing off on me!)

So, what are your favourite books?  I'd love to be inspired by what you're reading at the moment... Maybe I'll add them to my ever-growing list!

vk

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Bucket List (Part 2): Use it or lose it. Collect Moments, not things.


Today I'm going to share the next item from my bucket list/life goals.  If you missed the first few, you can read them here 

I felt like this bucket list item deserved a post of it's own.  There's lots of lessons that God teaches me in life that I honestly don't really enjoy the process of!  I think know I'm slow to learn in certain areas and so He has to get my attention in a way that's sometimes painful!  In the end though, it's always worth it... if you're there right now - be encouraged :)

That said, this is actually a lesson that I've enjoyed learning, maybe you will too: 

- Practice "use it or loose it" with my possessions I once did a Beth Moore study with some other ladies on the book of James and she talked about this practice she has of "use it or loose it".  If she's not using something, she purposes to give it away to someone who will, instead of just hoarding stuff! 

"hoarding means withholding what we don't even use from others who'd treasure it." ~ Day 1 of Week 6 of the James Bible Study by Beth Moore" 

I really want to be someone who lives simply and has a life that is uncluttered by too many possessions lying around that are never used.  When I really thought about it, I was inspired to look at my things and actually look at what I use and what just sits there.  It was quite eye opening. The best part?  Giving things away!  I'm not talking about ratty clothes I've owned for 10 years (they went in the garbage), or broken trinkets.  I'm talking about things that are still nice that I can give as "just because" gifts.  So, it's now something I'd like to do at least each year.  I think it's something I'll look forward to!  

"All of us are accustomed to the saying 'use it or lose it" but, the fact is, we're going to lose it all anyway.  We're not taking one ounce of this stuff with us when we die." ~Beth Moore  

How about you - do you do this?  Clothing can be the biggest area to deal with, do you take an item out of your wardrobe every time you put a new one in like a friend of mine does?  I'd love to hear your tips and stories!

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6: 19-21

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Bucket List (Part 1): Dream Big


A year ago, Ken and I were given a little weekend break away by some friends of ours.  It was so refreshing and a time for us to chat and put some things down on paper.  


One of the things we did was write a bucket list of sorts - the top 100 things we each want to do before we die!  Yes, I said 100!  Ken has really inspired me to set goals and dream big and that if you shoot for nothing you'll hit that target bang on!  He was inspired to write down 100 things when he listened (and had me listen) to this podcast by Michael Hyatt: Seven Steps to Thinking Bigger.  But for us, it's more than just planning things we think it would be cool to do before we die.  We wanted to think about what was important to us and how we can implement that in the practical areas of life.  How can we intentionally live our lives to be a reflection of what we believe?  What might that look like in the way we spend our time? Our money? Our resources?

So, since it's one year on, I thought that over the next 3 posts I'd share some of my bucket list items that I've managed to accomplish, or at least work towards already!...


- One Year, make all my Christmas Gifts

I'm pretty crafty as some of you may know and so I just thought this would be a fun challenge.  This year I managed to do it for the most part for my family, and I loved it! 

- Take a road trip across Canada
Being from England, it's a bit of a novelty to be in such a massive country, and I wanted to see a bit more of it and have an adventure together. Christmas 2012 we made a pretty good trek all the way to Manitoba and back here to the West Coast again!  

- Read through the Bible in a year
I'm ashamed to say that I've never read through the whole Bible before and I completed it this February!  I'd like to keep making this a priority in my life...maybe you can hold me accountable?!

I'd love to hear some of your bucket list items/goals for living intentionally!  How are you doing with them?

I also came across Donald Miller's "Storyline" Programme, about goal-setting with meaning.  Have any of you heard of it?  Done it?  

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Watch your mouth! : An impromptu lesson on marriage and relationships! (... and a quick update)

Last week I read a book called "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell. It was pretty interesting and I enjoyed the stories he tells to illustrate his point that our snap judgements, our instincts, our first impressions, can often be more reliable than we think.  That "Blink" of an eye moment where we just have a feeling in our stomach about something... where does that come from?


Anyway, I found myself being served an impromptu lesson on marriage, relationship, communication, attitude and watching my mouth!  I wanted to share it with you...

He tells the story of a guy named John Gottman who has been analyzing married couples since the 1980s in his "love lab" near the University of Washington campus.  Each couple is videotaped and analyzed just like on the show "Lie to Me"!  (Which I love!)  Based on his calculations and assessments he can predict, after one hour of observation, whether a couple will still be married fifteen years later, with 95% accuracy!  How does he do it?...

"People are in one of two states in a relationship," Gottman went on.  "The first is what I call positive sentiment override, where positive emotion overrides irritability.  It's like a buffer.  Their spouse will do something bad, and they'll say, 'Oh, he's just in a crummy mood.'  Or they can be in negative sentiment override, so that even a relatively neutral thing that a partner says gets perceived as negative.  In the negative sentiment override state, people draw lasting conclusions about each other... It's really hard to change those states, and those states determine whether when one party tries to repair things, the other party sees that as repair or hostile manipulation..."

His success rate is still around 90% just after 15 mins of observing a couple!  He's found that he doesn't need to pay attention to every little detail of facial expression and words that are spoken, he's found he can find out much of what he needs to know just by focussing on what he calls the Four Horsemen: defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, and contempt. ....that's quite the ugly list!  He goes on to say that "Even within the Four Horsemen, in fact, there is one emotion that he considers the most important of all: contempt.  If Gottman observes one or both partners in a marriage showing contempt toward the other, he considers it the single most important sign that the marriage is in trouble."

"You would think that criticism would be the worst," Gottman says, "because criticism is a global condemnation of a person's character.  yet contempt is qualitatively different from criticism... It's trying to put that person on a lower plane than you.  It's hierarchical."

"Gottman has found in fact, that the presence of contempt in a marriage can even predict such things as how many colds a husband or wife gets; in other words, having someone you love express contempt toward you is so stressful that it begins to affect the functioning of your immune system."

WOW!

To me it's amazing that our words and our attitudes towards each other can have such a huge affect.  In our marriages and our friendships.  I guess it's totally an illustration of what the book of James says: "So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.  See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!" James 3:5

What a challenge.  I'm also reminded of Jesus' lesson teaching how the words that come out of our mouths are just a reflection of what's in our hearts (Matthew 12:33-37)  What a reminder that we need His promptings everyday to help us keep our hearts in check so that we don't spit out flaming arrows straight to the hearts of those around us!  I'm guilty of it I know, but thankfully He's not finished with me yet!

- - - - - - - -

UPDATE
I realized I haven't given a health update for a while. For those of you who are and have been praying for me, thank you SO much.  I really appreciate you all and that you've stuck with us.  Thanks too for those who've encouraged me in my blogging :)
I'm happy to report that I have been enjoying a stretch of doing really well.  My energy levels have been improving and we're hoping that that's a sign that my immune system is strengthening and killing the Lyme bugs!  I do have some symptoms and some flare ups but am able to manage them for the most part by pacing myself. I also was able to do a little helping in the office in the last couple of weeks - it was nice to be back!
Last week the students left, and after an amazing commencement celebration I couldn't help but look back and remember where I was at this time last year... on the sofa, for most of the day, ending with Ken bringing me a little plate of food from the banquet to eat at home.  And look at us now...!  SO thankful :)


Taken at the Commencement Banquet

Love from across the water
VK

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Inspired! ...to say no!

I just recently found an amazing blog and I'm totally inspired!  Maybe you've heard of moneysavingmom.com?  I just listened to her on Erik Fisher's "Beyond the to do List" podcast.  Her name is Chrystal Paine and she blogs on all kinds of things from saving money to how to make your day more productive.  Her blog even helped them to pay her husband's way through law school... and she home-schools her three kids!

Some of the things she talked about in her podcast interview with Erik Fisher was how she does it, and what her daily routine looks like so that she can fit everything in.  She says Stress is a choice: learn to expect the unexpected! .  Those things stuck with me.  I expect things to go smoothly and then when they don't I get stressed!  She too has a time where her full-on life style took it's toll on her health and her relationships too.  She took 6 months to fully recover...  Her husband told her that she was the problem and that she needed to learn to say no!  Hmmm that sounds familiar!  I think I could learn a lot from this lady!  Are you a "yes" person too?  How have you learned to say no so that you're not so overloaded?  I'd love to hear your words of wisdom on this one :)

I'm really learning that at the moment.  Saying no to some things means that we can take care of ourselves so we can be more helpful and energized for the things we say yes to, or those we're already committed to.  

Some other things that were inspiring to me were how her parents taught her to dream big, and that she and her husband set goals for every area of their lives at the beginning of each year.  I love it!  That's helped her to become more disciplined and productive, making the most of her time.  

Thanks for stopping by!  I'd love to hear from you and your thoughts.  I'm excited to have found a way for you all to comment on my blog without having to login!  Try it below! :)

Love from across the water
vk






Wednesday, 1 May 2013

An open book

Our house is slowly emptying out!  We did a bit of a "practice pack" this week to make sure the rest of our belongings, that won't be going in the crate, will fit into suitcases.  Needless to say, our bedroom looked like a complete bomb site as it turned into our make shift "packing station!"  Ah yes, I am learning to be ok with living in chaos.  And that's a big stretch for this "everything-has-it's-place" girl!

Last week I was asked to tell my testimony to the students - the story of what God has done in my life.  As I prepared, I wondered where I should start!  So much has been going on, as you all know if you've been reading my blog!!  I knew if I shared the full story I would probably cry... and crying in public isn't my favourite thing to do!  It's probably not yours either?!  That said though, I also didn't want to skim over things just to save face.  God has brought us through some pretty tough stuff these last few months, but He HAS brought us through.  


I thought it was important to share.  God is our protector, but He doesn't always protect us.  Even though He's able to.  He let's us go through the fire sometimes so that we'll come out the other side a little bit more refined, and stronger for it.  

Too often there's a perception that once someone believes in God they sail through life with this Big Unseen God guarding them and protecting them from all things uncomfortable.  Not true.  We grow in the hard times - so we'd be pretty immature if we went through life wrapped in cotton wool... not that I haven't wished for that sometimes!!

How important then to learn to live transparent in front of those around us.  Weak, imperfect, and figuring out life together.


So, yes, I did share with the students the ups and downs of life so far, and yes, I did cry... but if it helps someone else to see that we're all in this together, then I think I played my part.

vk