Best Books for Seasons of Overwhelm

Repost: This past week I sent out a prayer letter to all of our prayer challenge team to pray this week because I am feeling extremely overwhelmed. There is no time to sit down and write a wonderful blog post about it, but I will soon. Until then I thought it would be useful to others to have access to the resources I return to over and over when I am overwhelmed. I dug up this old blog post for myself, and figured I would repost it for you. Yes, the links are associate links with Amazon. It will cost you nothing to click through. If you do decide to purchase anything I will get a small percentage of that money with no extra cost to you.

The Golden Rule

I have often struggled with the verse, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), thinking that it would be insulting to my neighbor if I was to love her as I love myself. I have always thought negatively about myself, even in elementary school, believing I was far bigger than others, hairier, louder, and something was wrong with me. The last few years have truly turned me around, and now I truly do see that I must learn to love myself in order to love those around me. God has commanded that I love my neighbor as myself and I would very much like to love on my neighbor, which means I must elevate the love I have for myself. I must stop denying God in His outspoken love for me. I must heal and learn to belong in my skin if I am to love others properly.

The Permission Slip

Today I give myself permission to take better care of myself. I will learn to believe that I am enough, that I have worth, and that I am valuable. Every day I will attempt to say no to something in order to take time for caring for myself. When I sit down with chores and tasks and schedules, I will make sure to add things I enjoy like writing and reading and exercise. I will continue to get to know myself, my potential, my dreams, and my goals for the future. I will continue to walk toward God and learn His Will. In all of these steps, in prayer and meditation, and in practicing kindness toward myself, I will truly Belong. My happiness will be a positive light in the lives of my family and friends and all around me, making it worth the journey.

The Fringe Hours

I will receive a small bit of the money if you click through the links on this page to purchase these books from Amazon, with no extra cost to you. How awesome is that?

I am currently reading the book, The Fringe Hours, by Jessica Turner. Throughout the book there are various writing prompts, so I decided to share this response to one of them. In my quest to learn to love myself this year I knew that books would hold many a key to unlocking the doors and windows in myself. This book has indeed begun to do just that with only a quarter of it read. I am taking my time as I read through it so that the truths of God’s love for me, and my need to love myself in order to pass that love onward, can seep into me. I love reading books with meaning just as much as I love reading books to escape. However, to read a book that will change my life takes many more days than cozy mysteries and adventure novels. Once I finish a book that takes me on a journey through myself, changes a habit or attitude of mine, it is very challenging to share that personal testimony with others. Therefore, many of the most important books get no more than a mere recommendation in passing from me, if that. This is why I thought recommending this book at the beginning of that journey would be successful.

Help Yourself to More Reading

Let me recommend some more books that have been instrumental in my life over the past year or so. I thought I would include links to past reviews that relate to this category as well, so below the new reviews I have included pictures of previous books which you can click on to find my review of that book.

The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. was a game changer for me. Finding out there is a whole community of fellow “barometers” (someone who can sense others’ emotions, and is vastly affected by the mood of a room) as my mom always called me, was thrilling! This book taught me so many things about myself that I have now been able to accept rather than work to change. I recommend it for anyone struggling as I was to live in a sandpaper world.

Rachel Wojo’s
One More Step was instrumental in my moving into this season with joy. I was concerned for the year of waiting for Kyrie to get surgery that only in her healing would I find peace and joy. I learned through all of these books, and it was cemented through this book, that I can find joy in the pain, I can begin to heal even before I can find any solutions. I finished this book sitting in Cyprus watching these birds, and that image is one I return to over and over when I am feeling low. I was able to sit in my pain and feel God’s Presence and hear his voice promising a future. Like Abraham I was able to take one more step each day, to rise early, to obey, without any confirmation of the promise. This book was the one at the beginning of this season of Abraham I feel that I am currently in, so it sits in my memory as a huge book in my year. This book required a contract between myself and God, and I return to that piece of paper almost every other week to remember the promises, and to seek one more step of obedience to God. If you are in the in between of seasons, a time of struggle or transition or trial, this is the book for you. If you are feeling weaker and weaker instead of stronger, read this book before you give in to the exhaustion.

I cried every chapter of Undone. This beautiful memoir by Michele Cushatt softened my heart in so many ways. It gave me the courage to keep going through the trials of waiting for Kyrie’s surgery and watching her in pain all the time. Truly, it was life altering to join with Michele in her story through her beautiful writing.

All of Sarah Young’s devotionals have been wonderful for me to grab for a quiet time of prayer and meditation. I so appreciate her gentle way with words and the practice of taking a verse and treating it as straight from the mouth of God as well as something to respond to. She truly makes it safe and easy to be in conversation with God, to pray always as we are called to do. Dear Jesus is one of my favorites because it starts with the place of vulnerability which I really needed the past two years.

This is only the beginning of the original post because I only included the books that I think would aid me in this time of being overwhelmed.  There are plenty of other books that have helped me, and as I work through this season, hopefully I will be able to start sharing some more awesome books I have been reading. Please share any books that have helped you in seasons of overwhelm. And thank you for purchasing through my links, this is my first Amazon Associate post, and I appreciate the support.

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Behind the Scenes of My Homeschooling

What School Does Your Son Go To?

I have been answering this questions since David was 1 year old here in Lebanon. He is tall for his age even in America, so he seems like he is far older than he is in actuality. So, school has been on our minds from the beginning of our missionary work. I always thought I would have years with David before I even had to think about it.

It was far too complicated with our limited Arabic to explain that he was too young for school, so we just started saying he does school in the home. Because I also wanted to do activities with him that my own mother did with me, I searched for a homeschool curriculum for him. I found abcjesuslovesme.com and love the program. I love sharing websites I love on here because they are free. So often we just don’t know what we don’t know. We think it is going to be too hard to teach our kids. The reality is that we are the best teachers for our own kids. We know them and can provide the kind of attention and understanding that teachers cannot provide. We know when they need to be challenged, and we know where they are struggling.

I am Not a Great Teacher

I must admit to you teaching is not my skill set either. I know those of you who know me will try to argue this point. But I do not enjoy teaching, nor do I have the patience for it. This is why the curriculum on abcjesuslovesme is so amazing! It helps me to know exactly what to do. I cannot come up with these activities by myself. In fact, teachable moments are prone to fly right by me if it weren’t for having a focus for the week.

I believe teaching is something that can be learned, and over time I am improving, but there are so many people far better suited for teaching than I am. So, when we had gone through a year of the homeschool curriculum and prayer we decided to enroll David for school when he was 3.

You Enrolled David in School?

When we enrolled Davy I was praying about what to do this year, and we decided that God was supporting us continuing homeschool as well. This has many benefits. The biggest being that in our crazy chaotic transitional lives, this homeschool curriculum is a constant. We have a book of the week, several songs of the week, verses of the week, themes of the week, and that never changes. This year we began the brand new 1 year old curriculum for Kyrie, and she loves it. She loves being involved, and her favorite part is when we pray for her with her verse of the week. This week she even learned her verse “God loves a cheerful giver.”

No matter what else is happening this anchors my super emotional children, and focuses them on Christ. This is the goal of our parenting, so we will continue with the homeschooling.

Traveling Homeschool

Another benefit is that if God calls us to another country, or if for some reason there is an interruption in the school year, I still will be homeschooling, so my kids will not be dealing with gaps. Even on our visa trips I am able to continue the homeschool curriculum by adapting activities to travel based. It is easy to adapt because we have been doing it for three years now.

A huge benefit of continuing the homeschooling curriculum is that it keeps me focused and helps me take every visa trip with a mind toward learning opportunities for my children. They are getting to see parts of the world that other people only dream of. They are getting to walk where Paul and Peter and Barnabbas walked. They are touching history, and we want them to know the history they are a part of.

Please Join Me!

If you are a grandparent or parent or babysitter, Sunday School teacher, abcjesuslovesme has great resources for Biblical activities. Of course, if you are not using it for your own personal child you will need to purchase a license, but it is reasonably priced. I don’t get any money from recommending this, I just want you to be able to raise your kids in the way of Jesus Christ!

Finally, this coming Fall I am planning on stepping into an active role of working with our local church, so if you are interested in helping me to prepare to teach this curriculum to the children at our church and in our refugee outreach programs, please CLICK HERE to sign up to meet with me this summer. We can meet together to discuss ways to help me stock up on materials for the activities, and funding for the licenses I will need to purchase, and most importantly to pray over the ministry God is calling me into.

How Are You Taking Care of Your Body?

This year my focus is to Belong in my own skin.

One of the ways that I am working toward that is by setting a goal to lose 50 lbs in 2017. I am by no means a health guru, but I have had some major success in the last year losing weight, gaining endurance, and increasing strength, which I want to share in order to encourage you. The few times I have mentioned my exercise routine or goals have received a big response, so I want to keep sharing about this part of my life.

 

In 2016 I lost 63 pounds!

 

 

It was such a good feeling. I lost weight so fast, which has everything to do with making it a lifestyle and not just something on my calendar. In a time of post-baby depression, dealing with a daughter in constant pain, flashbacks of my own childhood trauma, and life in a third world country, it was essential to reduce the number of decisions I had to make each day. I decided to just work a plan for exercise and nutrition and do whatever it took to make that plan a habit in my daily life.

January 2016

December 2016

I followed the Bikini Body Mommy meal plan and exercises six days a week as much as possible. It was amazing! I wrote a post about my experience following the meal plan HERE. The majority of the meals are loved by everyone in our family, and I have a good handle on substitutions my family would prefer when there is an ingredient they don’t like.

I am over 1/3 of the way through Challenge 6.0 now (I took a break for March and April after our move) and I am feeling great. I am getting stronger, looking better, and I am so excited to keep it going.

Every morning I wake up at 5am now, and I start my day by working out. This has been an amazing time of solitude and renewal while also taking care of my body. Briana Christine has the participants in the challenges send a #SweatySelfie each day, but I don’t use social media currently so I Whatsapp my Sweaty Selfie to Louis each day. Here’s one. Yes, I am glistening with real sweat. It’s hard work, and sometimes not as lonely as other times.

* I do not receive any money from Bikini Body Mommy, I just really love this program, so I have included all the links to find what I am talking about. *

Couch to 5K

I had a few people ask about my Couch to 5K progress, which I wrote about in my post about Making Room for Abundance. Somehow in the move I lost my running shoes, and with our budget at below 50% coming in I have not had the money to go buy new shoes. Therefore, I am sticking to the free Bikini Body Mommy videos online because the shoes I do have do not provide the support I need to run. I am planning on buying a pair when I get to America.

The 5K I was thinking about running in is held in September, but we decided to return to Lebanon in the middle of August so that the kids can get back in a routine before September. I still plan on doing the program this year and running a 5K even if just on my own streets. The Couch to 5K plan is 10 weeks long, so as long as I start it by September I can still complete it this year. I am so excited to hear from those of you who also started running after I shared. Great job!

Many of you have been sharing with me your own exercise plans, and I am so thrilled to be sharing this journey with you. Let me know in the comments or by email what you are doing to take care of your body this year.

Just a Stay at Home Mom

One Little Word

A pastor in our sending community often shares his distaste for the word “just.” We use it without meaning it. We say, “I just want some quiet.” Then as soon as everyone quiets down, we say, “Now, I just need to finish this page.” Well, you got what you asked for, quiet, but you were not satisfied. Pastor Tom’s explanations about the word just have inspired me to truly be more aware of the words I am using, and especially with the word just. I have removed it from my prayers because I never Just want that one thing. I want it all. I want the peace, patience, joy, love, grace, time, and sleep running over all over the place!

While I have worked hard to remove the word just in some areas of my life, I spent a season this past year elevating the word as well. In 2015 I felt that I was not being an intentional mother in the way God was calling me to be. I had people affirming my skills in mothering, I was homeschooling my son, but I was not obeying God in submitting to the role of motherhood. I wanted to be able to do all the things I wanted to do, plus mothering. It was like motherhood was my side hustle instead of my primary job. That was what God was taking issue with. So, I took a year to be “Just a wife and mother”.

Just a Wife and Mother

The first thing I found funny when I began using this expression was how people would correct me right away. “You’re not JUST a mom!” If I had said I just want to lose 100 lbs, no one would have batted an eye, but that phrase is all cued up in Feminist America’s mind as NO WAY! And I would explain, “Yes, I do just want to be a wife and mother for awhile. I was called by God to do this, and if I keep pretending I can do every single passion full time I will never have time for my kids.” The year was an excellent learning time for me. When our daughter was in pain all the time, my commitment was not torn from other pursuits, I was already prepared. God obviously knew what He was saying when He called me to this commitment.

Now What?

This past October I had a friend remind me that my commitment was for a year and it was over. I looked at my life and realized that in that year I had learned so much about how to be a good mom to my individual kids, and now I am ready for this new stage. I am going to be attending Rutgers University to pursue a second Masters degree. This degree is going to be focused on library and information science. I am excited to pursue this passion that I have had on the back burner for quite some time now. I believe it is going to open up new opportunities for ministry and fruit in my life.

3 Ways I am Making Room for Abundance

Limiting Date Nights to Weekends

The first semester I was really loving my routine of Davy going to bed early, and having time to watch movies or play games with Louis late into the night. I would groggily wake up and get Davy on the bus and then go back to bed for several hours to make my 7 hours of sleep. This semester, though I am in a season of effective morning time, and I just can’t stay up all hours on school nights. So, my bed time is 8:30, right after the kids’ 8:00 bedtime.

I am missing the extra time with Louis, but everyone is benefiting from my good mood and the house being cleaner. For some of you reading this, you are not carving out a date night each week, so hearing that I had up to seven nights a week with Louis in our previous season may be surprising. We both knew that it was a routine not meant to last, but it might be something you want to try rather than lessening your time with your loved one.

Front Loading my Biggest Goals

Every year I make big, year spanning goals. My repeated goal of reading the entire Bible is the main one. This year I am looking ahead and recognizing that I have big things coming–starting a Masters program being the biggest. So, I am putting the goal of reading the entire Bible early on. I am spending my mornings reading large sections of Scripture, following a 90 day Bible Reading Plan. Yikes! Once I finish this, I will have the extra half hour to make changes in the next season of life.

My blog posts are slacking, so along with my goals for blogging, I have frontloaded this goal by creating a list of writing prompts and starting an accountability group to check in with me on whether or not I am writing. This will lead to having lots of content to edit and work with, and I can start building momentum from there.

Finally, I am starting (after I shake this terrible chest cold) my workout plan. The 90 Day Challenge with Bikini Body Mommy and the 9 week Couch to 5K combined will give me a big kickstart on my weight loss and health goals. Then I can reevaluate after the 90 days.

Carving out a Weekend

Louis and I are big proponents of guarding the Sabbath. We sit down each week and make sure that we have a day other than Sunday that we are taking as a Sabbath. Additionally, this year, we are not planning things on Sundays so that we have an entire extra day for flex, and we are doing the same for half of Saturday. Whereas Monday is Grocery Day, Tuesday—Arabic Class, Wednesday—Staff Meetings, Thursday—Skype Meetings, etc. Friday through Sunday do not get assignments or tasks to fulfill each week so that as stuff comes up we have space, but also to learn to say no. Friday is our go to Sabbath, and Saturday is half Home Project day, and Sunday is church. Other than those labels, nothing goes regularly on the calendar for those days.

So far this has not once meant we actually had those days off, but it has given us the space to say yes to things we would otherwise be too busy for.

Peace

In this season I am seeking peace and happiness, charging up for the coming work ahead. These three adjustments have been pivotal in my finding calm in my days and nights, and helping me be a better mom, wife, and a better me.

How I Went One Whole Day Without Guilt!!!

Guilt

So many times I read about how guilt is dragging us down. I know that a lot of guilt and shame that I feel is unfounded and irrational, and it is so common in my life that it makes me feel guilty about feeling guilty.

This year one of my goals is to fulfill fifteen 21 Day Challenges. Last year I did several 21 day goals to get habits started, get organized, or just to motivate myself in an area I really wanted to improve in myself. This year I decided to take it from being something useful I did every now and then, to a common thread in my life. I had a great list in my November brainstorming of all the different habits I would start, and even mapped out the 21 days for the first few.

In January we were traveling and holidays were happening, and my first challenge, the 21 Day Writing Challenge, while well planned out, was not completed by me. I stopped at day 14. As many of us feel at the beginning of the year when our goals that seemed so amazing turn out to be a bit too much, I felt like a failure right off the bat. Quickly I realized I needed to reorganize my priorities to be successful, and I needed to set myself up for success rather than set myself up to beat myself up for failing.

Goal Tracking

In December I started my new Annie-style bullet journal, and started it off with a tracker for almost everything I was currently doing daily. It was a great way through December to make sure I was doing the things I wanted to do every day. Right away I noticed a staggering correlation and continued tracking in January to find the correlation to hold true. Every day that I missed taking alone time, I would raise my voice at one of my family members the following day. I decided this had to stop, and so truly began to prioritize self care, even starting the book I have had in my Kindle for quite some time, The Fringe Hours, which is specifically about self-care.

I began meditating and reading the Bible intensively early in the morning, and going to bed earlier to make time for 8 hours of sleep as well. The results have been amazing!

Do you feel a but coming on?

Well, there almost was one. This weekend the kids and I got sick. The beginning of the week was rough, and David ended up missing a day of school. Midweek David and I were feeling so much better that Louis wanted me to come down with Kyrie to the center to help him out with a double booked hour he had. It sounded simple, and Louis even had thought of goals I have for the year that would be worked toward with this. However, it just was not good timing. So I said no, he would have to reschedule something, I just couldn’t. I did hem and haw about it, but in the end I said no. And initially I felt terrible about it. But I stuck to it, and Louis even repeated to me the reasonable reasons he agreed with me.

I woke up this morning feeling tense that the guilt was waiting right outside, but as I started the day I felt…wait for it…

RELIEVED.

Yep, no guilt, just relief as I took care of Kyrie who still is super sickly and I was able to get so much done around the house. I decided this morning that my next 21 Day Challenge is to say no to something every day. If you are in need of learning to prioritize yourself so that you can care for those around you better by being in a better mood, maybe you want to do this with me. I said no to going out today with my sick kid, and I said no to doing the dishes last night. I said no to an extra load of laundry today, and I said no to pushing my exhausted and recovering kid to do homeschool. Everything I said no to was a “good” thing, but not the best thing. One of our mottos is running through my head now, Good is the Enemy of the Best.

I Can be Happy!

My Imaginary Friends

In junior high and the beginning of high school I still had imaginary friends. I knew I was too old for them, so I had released my imaginary ducks in the middle of 6th grade. But I kept 3 imaginary blue aliens from the planet Pluto in my head. These imaginary friends lived in my heads much like the emotions in the Pixar movie Inside Out. When I got to college I did not admit having imaginary friends, but instead moved to the idea of a good side and bad side arguing in my head (instead of on my shoulders). The idea of a shadow version of myself worked itself into conversations a lot in those college years.

The reality is that I am likely to think negative things about myself, and there is no little voice, alien, shadow or other self doing it to me. I am the one with the negative words and thoughts about myself 99% of the time. And it has to stop. I don’t think negatively about my kids like this, but I am teaching them to think about themselves this way by modeling this negative behavior.

I Want to Belong in my Skin

This year my word of the year is Belong. I have a dream of Future Annie, a lovely woman I would want to be best friends with. I imagine spending the next year getting to know her, and then looking in the mirror and realizing she is me. I want to love myself the way God loves me, so that I can love others the way I know God has called me to love them. I have truly struggled with the Golden Rule because of self-hatred, and it is going to change this year!

Guilt, Irritation, and Other Lies

I have struggled with guilt to the extent that I think it has become as natural as breathing. I rarely make it through a day without getting annoyed at someone in my tone, sighs, or stares, even if I am trying to hold it in. I have decided this year that those things will not define me. Every mom has to undergo a learning curve of our lives changing dramatically. My body, my time, my meals, my romantic life, my relationships, my family, and every other aspect of my life have been altered by the entrance of kids. This can be hard, but I am doing good as a mom, and I am going to continue to obey God. If I make a mistake I am going to say sorry and pick myself up to keep moving forward. In this way I am going to learn to be happy and to hold onto the joy that is promised to reside in us as Christians.

Choose Happy, Dream Big

I have not been a dreamer until recently. I did not believe I could be happy. But God told me in a prayer time that I can be happy, and I chose to believe Him. I didn’t read a few books and seek counsel, I just decided then and there that I believed him and would spend the year chasing after the dreams He has put in me, knowing He is going to make me happy this year! I claim the promise, and will wait on the Lord as long as it takes.