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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Davy’s First Year of School!

This morning I sent David off to school for his last day of KG1. Last night as I was thinking about this school year I had a bit of a slideshow playing in my head.

The Tears

I remember the first two weeks putting him on the bus, pasting on a big smile, blowing him kisses and waving goodbye. Then, as soon as the bus was out of sight bursting into tears and crying all morning. Even into April I was still tearing up every now and then when I put him on that bus.

The Culture Shock

There were many small culture shock moments for both David and I. Davy learned playground Arabic throughout the year, but at the beginning of the year he couldn’t communicate with most of his class mates. Even trying Arabic, many of the kids just weren’t speaking as well as he could because they are learning 2 or 3 languages at a time. He thought kids didn’t want to play with him, and he struggled with the rough way they would act.

For me it was the unspoken rules that were expected. Even Lebanese parents were frustrated by things like that, but they felt used to it. For me it felt like I was in big trouble. For instance, I learned that muffins do not count as a breakfast sandwich. It has to be the sandwich they expected, one I had never made before.

By the end of the year I handled these moments much better, but still would have some amount of shock. For Davy’s school musical they asked us to buy “sandals”. What we didn’t know was that in Arabic there was a much more specific word, so the first ones we brought were considered “slippers”. The second time our language teacher approved them, and now he has great summer shoes, so it worked out well. Also, we were extremely proud of ourselves because we were able to get both pairs of new shoes for $10 (US Dollars).

The Growth

At the beginning of the year Davy could barely jump. Now he can jump, stand on one foot, and do a whole slew of exercises.

He was not able to color in the lines or draw anything on his own. His fine motor skills are awesome now, he stamps, cuts, draws, colors, paints, and doesn’t mind getting messy any more.

David hated singing even though our homeschool curriculum has a song of the week or two every week. David would just allow me to sing it, and if I tried to make him sing it with me he would shut down. Throughout the year his love of singing sprouted and blossomed, and he performed for us in three different presentations with mostly singing and dancing in front of large audiences.

Our shy little boy from the beginning of the year has found his comfort level and spent half an hour after church on Sunday greeting a team from Canada and showing off and telling them stories about his life and plans for summer.

There has been so much growth this year I can’t even begin to share it all, but these are the big pictures that came to my mind as I pondered the year. Thank you for sharing them with me.

If you are interested in an actual Power Point including videos of David’s various performances during the year,

Fill out the form below and I will send you the actual slideshow I created for myself. Busy Mom Scrapbook = Power Point to the rescue!

The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned About Blogging

My Most Important Blogging Lesson

We started our Lisses to Lebanon blog while we were fundraising before moving to Lebanon back in 2013. In the past 4 years of blogging I have learned so many things. The most important thing I have learned is not new or creative.

Know Your Audience

Know your audience. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that from English teachers in writing projects in my 30 years of life. I heard it so much I thought I knew what it meant.

Only recently have I realized that I don’t truly follow that wisdom. I don’t have a clearly defined audience to write for, so I often sit down to write and feel stuck.

What Will My Readers Say?

This thought is a plague that eats away at my writing, motivation, and will power. And when my husband says, “Who is “They”?” I just get annoyed. Of course he doesn’t understand, he isn’t trying to whip out 20,000 words a day about everything important in life!

This is a gross exaggeration, and I love my husband very much, but this is what lies do to us.

The lie is that I have thousands of people reading my every blog post and criticizing me as a person.

The truth is I have a smattering of friends and family and a few people brave enough to join the email list who don’t know me personally. These people read the posts that relate to them, just like I do with the blogs I follow.

And if someone doesn’t like a post they rarely criticize. Usually they just stop opening the emails.

The second lie is that I am trying to write so much!

The truth is that I am enjoying a life of being a mother. I am spending great lengths of time with my family, and I believe this is the correct and right thing for me to do.

Now That I’ve Stopped Taking Crazy Pills*

Overthinking what people will think of me keeps me from writing. When I sit down and pray about what God is telling me to write I usually end up with month long series posts or a challenge and my writing goes well.

I was reading through old posts and ran across one that blew me away. What’s Stopping You? This post was written with a joy and exuberance that I have inside of me but rarely share on the blog. I don’t think even my family knows that feeling is inside me most of the time. Don’t I want to share it with the world?

I may not become the next huge blogger. I may not do much more than continue to share my thoughts with you all and gather a small group of people who love me. For me, that would be enough.

*I don’t take pills other than my daily vitamins: C, Fish Oil, B, and Calcium/Magnesium/Zinc/D3.

Community

I am in the process of finding who God wants me to be, to belong in my own skin. And in this quest I am discovering a gaping hole in my life for community. This blog provides small doses of that. Anything I do to grow my audience will be with the goal of growing my community.

I hope you have good things to say in the future, and I hope the changes I make in my blogging life will bless and encourage you. I hope my joy can start to pour out onto the pages, and I hope you can share your own lives with me.

Do This One Thing To Get Rid of Digital Distraction in Your Life

In The Beginning

This blog was started because a nurse thought that I wouldn’t be able to read as a mom. Since that day my son was born until now I have been constantly reminded that we can accomplish something when we really put our minds and energies towards that one thing.

In an ongoing series about the Spiritual Life of Christians I shared about our Ideal, Paragon, and Focus. As we focus on goal setting we can often choose things that sound good, but aren’t things we ever intend on doing.

However, I meant to read because it gives me life. I enjoy it, find purpose in it, and it is a huge benefit to me.

How Do You Read So Much?

It is funny to me when people ask me this because reading is such a part of my life, and I love to do it. To me the answer is, “Of course I can find the time to read!”

I have a dear friend who reads far more than I do. As I look at the two of us, natural readers, reading a part of our DNA, I know that it is because we make it a priority. If you hear me say that and think you want reading to be a priority, but you still don’t check a book out from the library, it is possible you are merely trying to compare yourself to me or other readers you admire.

If I compared myself to my friend it would seem like I am not a reader after all. However, I am not reading for her, or for you, but for myself and to better my relationship with God.

Why Do You Read So Much?

Reading quiets down my soul and mind and gives me a place to vent internally, in notes, and in prayer; a way to escape; a place to say I don’t know and seek help; and a place to process all that is going on in life. For many people that isn’t their experience reading. I don’t want to tell you what experience you should have reading, or even to tell you to read.

We live in a time of social media and technology running huge chunks of our lives.

I was listening to a webinar today about multitasking and was so proud of myself for not being the person he was describing.

As I said before, this is natural for me, so my experience is not going to be your experience. Most likely if you are following my blog you have some level of technology access, so on some level there is some point at which you are distracted.

I am easily waylaid from my projects by multitasking. I used to think I was so amazing because I could “multitask”. Now I know that what I perceived as multitasking was really and truly getting high on adrenaline.

I Don’t Multitask

That is my secret ingredient for successful days. It is my secret ingredient for being able to read or cross stitch or homeschool or clean.

Now truly, there are distractions, there are alarms, and I am a mom.

But when I decide that we are going to homeschool, I don’t try to pick up a book while David works. I prep for the next activity, or I turn on their homeschool songs so we can sing and work. I stay on topic.

If I decide to read, I choose to do it when everyone else is also doing a quiet activity. I have trained my kids to have quiet times in their rooms, and I read during those times. I read during naps. I read while waiting for the bus. I read while Louis works on the computer after the kids go to bed.

If I decide to clean, I split my task in two. 1. Chores the kids can help with. These are chores that will require my oversight, so I can’t go dig in on a task I need to focus on while hoping they work. During cleaning times they have to stop playing and tidy up, wipe up spots, etc. 2. I put the kids in their rooms to play while I work on dishes or deep cleaning.

For me it is easy to focus with single mindedness, so this strategy works well to get me accomplishing what I want and need to do throughout the day.

My Weight Gain & Loss Journey

Let Me Summarize My Weight Loss Journey So Far

I was reading encouraging stories from Bikini Body Mommy participants, and I realized I haven’t shared with you the full story of when my body was a wreck and how I turned it all around.

The Weight Gain

I started gaining weight as soon as high school ended. All throughout elementary, junior high, and high school I had PE to keep me active. In college I just sat around. When I became a teacher I stress ate and was still rather stationary. Then, I got pregnant.

As everyone knows, having babies has huge effects on a woman’s body. Not only is there a person growing inside, but organs literally are shoved out of the way to make room for that little person.

With my first pregnancy, I lost weight. Hard to believe, but after I had Davy I was around 15 pounds below where I started. This was exciting after the fact, but during my pregnancy it was stressful. I was overweight enough to begin with that it didn’t endanger David, but every time I went to the doctor she would tell me to eat more. But I just couldn’t keep anything down.

I continued to lose weight when we arrived in Lebanon due to lack of a vehicle which forced us to walk everywhere, no elevator in our apartment, and healthier food being far easier to get. However, it isn’t all about nutrition.

With Kyrie, I ate all the time. I gained weight, but within the levels my doctor said were okay. After she was born, nursing made me so hungry, and there was the added stress of her needing surgery and my having mommy blues. So, I gained a lot of weight.

The Breaking Point

My breaking point happened sometime during my pregnancy with Kyrie when I stepped on the scale and weighed 300 pounds! Yes, indeed. The same as a baby hippo. “It’s not going to bring me down,” I thought. “My baby is healthier with me eating and I just need to maintain.” I figured that after she was born I would weight less than 300 and had nothing to worry about.

When we found out Kyrie needed surgery because of an imperforate hymen, my world stopped. I was in a tailspin of out of control hormones on top of the aggravation of untrustworthy insurance companies. I didn’t pay attention to my weight, and it was hard to just get through the day. After nine months we returned to Lebanon and I knew I had to just start moving.

Just Start

I wanted an exercise routine I could do from home without any fancy equipment. I used jugs of water as dumbbells and began Bikini Body Mommy 1.0. I was hooked on Bikini Body Mommy immediately. Briana Christine is a mom, so she understands what parts of the body are in recovery after birth and she is able to provide insight on ways to adapt around those sensitive areas. Most of the challenges are filmed during her own baby weight loss periods after having her children.

The key to this program is that it is a part of my life constantly. There is so much content on Briana’s website that there is no reason for me to ever go stagnant again. I love working out because I love the way it makes the rest of my day feel.

I love cooking every night because I love knowing that all four of us are eating something that is nutritious and spending time together to eat it.

I also enjoy the alone time provided by both activities, which has been a major motivator for me. The second and even better motivator to keep working out is that I do not get coffee unless I do my workout first.

Have you had a low point with your health and wellness that you overcame? Let me know about your own journeys. We are here on this earth journeying together.

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.