Meditate: Like A Child

As a child, I meditated all the time.

Now, I wouldn’t have called it “meditation” at the time– rather, I named it “playing outdoors“. But in essence, meditating was exactly what I was doing.

Sure I was out there making forts, climbing trees, go-carting & snowmobiling with the neighbors boys, stomping through ponds, etc. But I also spent hours (I literally mean: HOURS daily & weekly) just sitting there… staring out into nature… listening to the birds… zoning out… day-dreaming… watching the breeze rustle the leaves & grass… catching snow flakes & analyzing their intricate designs… observing bugs on the move… thinking about life & everything & nothing…

And if I wasn’t sitting somewhere, then I was hiking through the woods or riding my bike… usually alone… observing… fantasizing… entranced… wondering… quiet… smelling… watching… taking everything in…
Shoot, I was even out there tasting things: like wild strawberries & raspberries & apples I found, nuts that dropped from the trees by the road, clover, etc. (Nothing poisonous! LOL)

Rain… snow… sleet… hot… cold… Weather never deterred me. The world and nature absolutely entranced me. And anytime I got a spare moment, I would try to be out in it, enjoying whatever beautiful moment it could give me. Just couldn’t live without it.

It brought me PEACE inside.

HAPPINESS. CALM. BALANCE. RELAXATION. JOY.

And ultimately, it played a role in my SALVATION story. I’d heard about God & Jesus & the Holy Spirit & the Bible all at church. And one day, in one of my contemplative/enjoying-nature moments, something clicked inside me:

God knew every blade of grass, every leaf that falls, every call & feather of a bird, every snowflake, every star & cloud… How? Because He created all of it! And if nature is so amazing and beautiful and mesmerizing and entrancing and enthralling… then how much more is GOD, the One who made it all?! I finally shifted from worshiping the created to worshiping the Creator. He became my God & I accepted Jesus as my Lord & Savior on a warm summer sunset on a grassy hillside across the street from my house.


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Even during my college years… I made it outdoors nearly every single day to “meditate” alone: walking, rollerblading, finding a quiet bench/nook of a campus building in which to sit & enjoy nature (or journal), walking around the local park & along the river, sitting in my car with the windows rolled down/feeling the breeze, etc.

Something happened though when I became an adult/mother: my “mediation practice” pretty much stopped. Sure I took my kids outside regularly, but they wanted me to play with them, or someone pooped & I had to change a diaper :-), or they wanted to show me a caterpillar, etc.– nature was no longer a time without distraction. Plus, I had a bazillion kids (ok, 7… but it feels like a bazillion– *wink*)– so I was no longer able to spend time alone in nature like I used to. A one mile walk with my kiddos was about as far as their little legs could carry them– so gone were my long hikes & bike rides. And as much as I love my little darlings, they talk A LOT (like non-stop)– so my experiences with nature were no longer quiet.

Oh, my dear hubby would totally give me time-off from the mothering gig, but then in that time of freedom all I wanted to do was sleep (LOL).

I didn’t realize how vitally important getting alone in the quiet was for me (esp out in nature).
I didn’t realize it would totally fill my energy tank (& help me to be a better wife/mom/person).

I *could* have made it a priority.
I *could* have made time & opportunity for it.
I just didn’t understand how vitally important it was for my sheer sanity!

Do something enough & it becomes a habit. Do a habit enough & it becomes a script that constantly runs in the background (causing you to act instinctively without thought or notice). The habit of not getting alone (outdoors) to “meditate” had unfortunately become my daily norm. My “stress reliever” was now gone.

You can bet it caused me an emotional break at some point.
And you can bet anxiety/panic has been a close (but hated) companion of mine for the past almost 6 years.

About a year ago, I’d had enough: I wanted relief, I wanted release and rest and peace and just plain HAPPINESS. Since then, I’ve undergone HUGE strides of spiritual, emotional, and interpersonal growth (which I will share in future posts). I’ve plead with the Lord to help me see. And He’s been so loving in the process of bringing awareness. No big bites I couldn’t chew. Just consistent little baby steps that I could totally handle.

And FINALLY (like just here very recently!) I have become AWARE (thank You, Jesus!), have begun to peel back this layer of bad habit, and have been getting outside alone (yes even in these winter temps) to “meditate” in the quiet. And if it’s just too darn cold out, I’ve been MAKING the time to sit & do nothing indoors, to quiet my environment & mind, stare out a window, doodle in the frost on the windows, watch a candle flicker, listen to my fav calming music, stare at the ceiling, whatever! But it’s quiet… I’m alone… giving my mind a break… turning “off” for a bit.

It’s made me a better wife & mom. It’s made me a better homeschool teacher. It’s helped me become more patient and CHILL with disturbances. It’s helped calm me through stress & chaos that would normally undo me. It’s like I can finally breathe.

Meditation has deeply changed me. I SO wish I would have recognized the grand importance of maintaining my practice of “meditation” through all my early mothering years. Oh man, that would that have saved me a crap-ton of angst and turmoil and frustration and stress and just downright anger.

I’m finally so aware of it’s importance that I’ve been making it a daily practice for ALL (7) OF MY KIDS to meditate. No toys, no tech, no music, no writing/doodling, no nothing. Just go somewhere private & alone, either inside or out, and for 15-20 min daily they do NOTHING. No chores. No school. No conversations with their siblings. Seriously: nothing.

They say it’s the absolute BEST time of their day!!! They look SO forward to it. They even ASK me for it! “When can we meditate, mom?” ūüôā

I’m beginning to finally see just how vitally important meditation is for EVERYONE: even little babies/toddlers, teens, adults, elderly, & everything in-between.

Quiet your heart & mind for just a few minutes each day. Call it what you want (meditation, quiet time, taking a rest, a break, etc) but just DO IT. Turn “off”. Do nothing. Listen. Sleep (if you need it). Enjoy nature. Give your mind & body a break. Just for like 15-20 minutes daily. Believe me, you will deeply enjoy it– and it will so help you to be your best!!!

#liveawakened #livefullyalive #meditation #nature #getalone #turnoff #serenity #calmyourheartmindbody #itsthemostwonderfultimeoftheday #nevertoobusytomeditate

**And for all you Michiganders out there (that’s where I grew up!!!)… #puremichigan… you’ll enjoy this YouTube entry. Someone went down a dirt road/driveway somewhere in MI and recorded the local sounds of nature. BOY it took me back. It literally made me cry because THAT was my childhood. THAT was the background “music” of my childhood. I live in Indiana now and nature sounds a little differently– this was a total blast from my past– so thoroughly enjoyed it. I oftentimes actually listen to this tract when I’m alone & “meditating”. Enjoy!!! (esp if you’re from Michigan):

#yesmichiganthefeelingsforever #puremichigan

Adventure Awaits

One of the hallmarks of a really good movie/TV show or book is this: did it give you, the viewer or reader, a good thrill or adventure? Did it take you through emotional highs & lows? Did it really make you think? Did it take you to places you’d never been before? Was there suspense? Was there sacrifice? Did it leave you on the edge of your seat? Were you just dying to know what happens next? Did it draw you into another reality for a time? Were you upset to see it come to an end?

What I’ve come to realize is this: our lives, too, are an adventure to be experienced. Maybe not a full-on Indiana Jones/death-defying sort of adventure. (Though this *may* be some people’s reality.) But the human experience is for sure filled with emotional ups & downs, anxieties about what’s next, gains & losses, and unexpected twists & turns.

Now, I’m not a big fan of unnecessary drama, like what’s portrayed in the entertainment world. What I mean by “unnecessary” is the drama that’s produced through deceit, lies, secrets, & “oh, I just couldn’t tell so-&-so about that!” sort of thing. SO MUCH stupid drama can be reduced or eliminated in life through mere *communication*. Nope, not a fan of THAT kind of drama!

According to Google, drama can be defined as: an exciting, emotional, or unexpected series of events or set of circumstances. And adventure is defined as: engaging in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.¬†Ok,¬†let’s¬†drop¬†the¬†“hazardous”¬†part shall we? LOL. But seriously, I don’t want to live a boring life.

In fact… when I graduated college and moved to the town I now live, the all-consuming theme of my prayers were: “God, give me an adventure!” Starting off with a clean slate, new beginnings– let’s rock this adult thing! Of course by “adventure” I thought that meant working as an addictions counselor, attaining my Masters in Counseling, taking part in behavioral research projects, getting my professional works published, public speaking, world travel, moving to a big city with a fancy-pants office…

Yeah, my idea of “adventure” wasn’t exactly the same as God’s. ha ha ha

In fact, God’s “adventure” took a crazy turn in a very opposite direction.

One week after graduating college/moving: I met my future husband. A whirlwind courtship ensued. From first date to marriage: 10 months time. To add to the crazy, we brought home a little honeymoon souvenir, aka our first-born child. We crunched numbers & prayed for direction– but it made no financial sense for me to go back to work after our baby was born– it would be better for me to stay home & raise our baby. My plans/dreams to pursue a career “adventure” came tumbling down with that one positive pregnancy test.

Don’t get me wrong… I did NOT resent my baby one iota! She was one of the most amazing gifts I could have ever received! But with her birth brought a sort of dying to myself… a surrendering of my will to God’s… a giving up process that took me years to really get a grip on.

But now that I’m 16 years out and can see God’s hand in everything a little more clearly, I’m ever so thankful that I gave God the reigns of my life completely. I’d NEVER have painted a canvas like He did. And my life is SO VERY different than I’d ever have imagined. But it is good. And God is good.

I truly believe this adventure He carved out for me FAR surpasses anything I could have created on my own. He knew what I really needed and wanted deep down. He knew that being married young & having (7) children & raising them in the name & power of Jesus His Son was exactly what was going to be the most fulfilling adventure I could have ever been on.

So many twists & turns. So many “what’s around the corner?” ‘s. So many super high ups and super low lows. Being a wife & mom has tried me, stretched me, developed me, & truly made me a better person. All made possible because I surrendered. I gave God my everything. And in giving up my life, I actually found it.

If you’re struggling to give God your everything, may I be a voice of encouragement to you today: He won’t let you down. He will never leave you or forsake you (esp in those dark days). He will show you & lead you down a life path that will not only WOW you but you’ll finally be fulfilled and have joy (not just circumstantial happiness). You will feel a peace that surpasses all understanding. You’ll be riveted. You’ll finally be able to breathe because you’ll be fulfilling what you were put on this planet to do. There will no longer be the lingering thought that “there’s gotta be more to life.” You’ll no longer dread Monday’s & you’ll no longer live for the weekends & holidays. You’ll truly love your life. Even when those hard days come, you’ll see God working and moving. You’ll see Him there with you every step of the way.

In living a surrendered life, we also will walk through the darkness 100% with God. He grieves when we grieve. He keeps a record of our sorrows & tears (Ps. 56:8). He comforts us. He helps us through all our struggles. He grows us & strengthens us & matures us. We are never alone. There are new mercies every morning. And when we go through hell & back, then we can be there for others when they go through the fire. We can comfort them with the comfort we received from God.

May I encourage you to open your white-knuckled hands and allow God the full reigns to your life. Maybe nothing drastic will happen. Then again, maybe God has a complete life transformation in store. Who knows?! All I know is that in following God (even if that looks drastically different than you thought) you will have a peace & joy & fulfillment & a true inner congruence to your soul. I want that for you!!!

#liveawakened #livefullyalive #surrender #loseyourlifetofindit #trustGodfully #lifeisanadventure #hangonfortheride #bebrave

Weekend Smiles

1) Early AM quiet time with the Lord. There’s just nothing like it.

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2) This gorgeous car was parked outside my house today while it’s owners went to get some ice cream at the nearby ice cream shop. I hope they don’t mind I was ogling/drooling over it.

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3) Salted caramels. Be still my heart.

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4) When my kids make hot breakfast’s for everyone.

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5) Please pardon the language in the title of this Podcast, but golly, this lady’s got some really good stuff in her podcasts concerning boundaries (and no, they are *not* filled with colorful language- she’s actually a very professional counselor.¬†). Listened to this gem today. So so good.

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 https://beyondbitchy.com/podcast/8-celebrate-the-no/

6) Also listened to this podcast as well. Really hope they post the other sessions!

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https://chipjudd.com/2018/02/02/boundries-ch-1-audio-recording/

7) Fires with my family!

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8) Bright colored clothing. Can’t it just ALWAYS be summer?!

 

Live awakened. Live fully alive.

Stop Waiting

Stop waiting. Make something of the moment you're in right now

Because of the Fall of man and the effects of sin on the earth, there’s always gonna be decay, failure, let downs, problems, sadness, and death this side of heaven. And quite frankly, I kinda think that because of sin, our brains may be hard-wired to immediately see the darkness around us. I think this because ‘seeing the good & the positive’ seems a skill that most of us struggle to naturally have and develop. It doesn’t seem innate to most.

Scripture says,

“… brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”
~Philippians 4:8

“Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.”
~Proverbs 4:23

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, be be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
~Romans 12:2

It matters what we meditate on in our hearts and minds.

If a negative thought comes into our minds, it matters what we do with it. Do we run with it? Imagine intentions of other people? Think worst case scenario? Ruminate over it? Meditate on it?

What we’re doing is creating mental ruts and grooves. And quite literally, we are creating neural pathways of negativity in our brains. The more we think negatively, the more ingrained that line of thinking becomes!

We must counter this with positive thinking. Not in a New Age-y way. But in a Biblical way! Focus on what is right and true and praiseworthy. Focus on the good that is all around us. Focus on the blessings of God. Focus on what Christ did on the cross for us.

Having a hard time doing this mentally? Just get out a notebook & pen or sit down with a blank Word document and just start writing. Even if it’s simple things like: the sun is shining and the weather is nice today, it’s Friday and I’m getting paid, no one’s sick in my family right now, we went grocery shopping and have a full fridge/pantry of food, etc. It doesn’t have to be anything huge and amazing. But what you’ll see is that there is a TON of things in our lives that are going RIGHT. We just need to be paying attention/looking for it. It’s there, I promise.

On learning to take a positive spin on events & circumstances…
An example: this Thursday (7/19/18) AM, I had a varicose vein procedure. I had my alarm set for 4:30a so I’d have ample time to get ready and drive to my appointment. Well, I forgot to turn that alarm off. So come the next morning (Friday), my alarm goes off at 4:30a. Besides scaring me out of a nice dream, my next immediate thought was “grrrrr… this upsets me… I want to sleep!” But I forced myself to take a positive spin: though I don’t like waking up at 4:30a when I don’t need to & I was awoken out of a deep sleep: I am now awake enough to take the Ibuprophen I have on my bed stand. Now, when I wake up at normal time, I won’t be in pain. Yay!

Though “yay” wasn’t my initial response, it’s the one I rolled over/fell back asleep to. I was genuinely happy and slept like a baby like a husband. ūüôā I knew I’d wake up with less pain in a few hours AND the Ibu would allow me a couple more hours of good, pain-free sleep. I successfully took a positive spin on that experience.

Note: I will NOT be accidentally be waking up at 4:30a on Saturday as I successfully deleted that alarm. ūüôā

But no matter our situation or lot in life, there is ALWAYS something positive to focus on that can bring a smile to our face. There’s ALWAYS a silver lining. Look for it. Seek it. Search for it. Don’t “wait for it to happen”. MAKE it happen. It seriously starts in the mind and how we perceive the things that happen to us and that are said to us. Happiness starts within us. It’s not an outward thing that happens to us.

Let’s make it happen.
Let’s look for something good to savor today.
Let’s choose now to be happy!

Live awakened. Live fully alive.

#lookforthegood   #bepositive   #livefree   #choosehappiness   #happinessstartswithin   #becarefullittlemindwhatyouthink   #smile   #behappy   #liveawakened   #livefullyalive

Am I resisting Happiness?

On my personal Facebook profile awhile back, I posed the following question:

If fear & failure weren’t an issue, what would you do/pursue/invest in that you’re currently not? Just curious. Let’s dream a bit.

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I received several amazing answers like “creating resources for at-risk youth”, “teaching baking”,”being a stunt woman”, “being a politician”, “starting a restaurant”, “being a mortician”, “starting an apple orchard/cidery”, etc.

Fantastic, very eclectic responses! Got some big dreamers out there!

So, this was *my* response:

Me? I’d get serious about writing. Instead of dreaming (cluttering my head) and having thousands of half-written documents (cluttering my filing cabinet & computer & flat surfaces) I’d put myself out there and blog, write (for myself and other writers/bloggers), get articles and books published, etc.¬†Every time I think about getting consistent with my blog I keep thinking things like “someone’s already said this before… probably better” or “what if this offends someone?” or “can I deal with potential ridicule or critique?” etc.¬†Or the infamous “you can’t make money blogging… besides, who’d read your stuff anyway?” ugh

A friend of mine commented on this thought and said,

I once heard someone say that instead of self doubt they would think “why not me? If they can do it – why not me?”. Why not you? You don’t have to be the first to say it – if you say it well, someone out there hasn’t heard it! If that wasn’t true pastors and teachers would be out of a job¬†

Her words struck a chord.

Why NOT me?…

So what if someone’s said something similar to what I’m saying? I will word things differently. And I will reach a different audience.

And how often do we hear the same thing over and over, but it’s the repetition that finally makes it stick for someone?

Or someone words it JUST the way we needed to read it/hear it at that moment… it spoke to us in a language or tone that really jives with us.

And maybe it’s not even about being repetitious. Maybe it’s just, “hey, that person lives a very different lifestyle. They do things very differently.” Maybe that different perspective and view would be helpful, insightful, or encouraging to someone else.

Anyways, no longer am I going to let fear dictate my actions. Even if I’m not the best or most eloquent writer… that’s OK. I know with my words that I have stuff to contribute to society.

So what about you? Is there anything that you’re hesitant to do or start? Are you stopped in your tracks with self-doubt? Do you hear voices that say “I’m not good enough”… “would people even be interested in what I could contribute?”… “other people are already doing this/what I have to give isn’t anything new”… “would I even get followers/viewers?”… “I could never ______”… “who am I to do _______?”… “what I want to be and do is so big but I’m so small/I’m just a _______”…

Stop it! Just stop listening to those voices! Don’t give them anymore space in your brain!

What you think eventually becomes action (or inaction). Scripture says multiple times to guard your mind and heart and to only think on things that are lovely, excellent, praiseworthy, and right. We now have the science to understand that our thoughts can actually change our brains, cells, and genes. The brain/body connection is something I’ve been getting into lately and it’s an absolutely fascinating read! We’ve only begun to scratch the surface on how powerful the human brain is. But God knows because He created it. And He knows that what we think is ridiculously powerful– so guard it. What we think dictates what we do. Think right–> do right.

Let’s start taking charge of our thinking right now, today! Believe that God wants us to live fearlessly and fully for Him. He imparts upon us dreams and drives and passions. Certain things will energize us. Each of us has a unique take. A special creative spark is ours and ours alone and God desperately wants you to share it with the world. He made you for a plan and a purpose. Don’t miss out on it because of fear. Tell fear where to stuff it.

Do something today, even if it’s ever so small, to step out in faith and begin pursuing your passions and desires. God gave them to you for a reason. They’re yours alone. Let’s be faithful and use our gifts and talents for the Lord. He’s rooting for us.

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Live fully alive! Live awakened.

 

#livefullyalive   #fullyalive   #liveawakened   #stepintoyourfreedom   #useyourGodgivenpassion    #thinkright   #thinkpositively   #stepoutinfaith   #bebold   #befearless   #whyNOTyou

 

Your Love Awakens Me

This past January, my family and I began attending a new church in our community. One of the very first songs we learned was “Your Love Awakens Me” by Phil Wickam. You can listen to it here:

With as many times as I’ve heard and sung this song, I still love it. In fact, this past Sunday they sang it again and the church totally rocked it.

I think I’ll always love it.

One line from this song really stands out to me: Your love awakens me.

When we can begin to really grasp the width and breadth and depth of LOVE God has for us… when we finally realize that He is FOR us (and always have been)… when we can finally see He’s our biggest fan and wants the absolute best for us (He’s got plans to prosper us… to give us a hope and a future)… and when we can finally wrap our minds around the truth that any and all condemnation that was once on us because of sin was completely taken away at the moment of salvation…

… in a very real sense, we have been awakened

Walls between us and God are broken.
We’re no longer bound by the chains of sin.
We’re covered in grace and LOVE.
We’re brought out of the darkness and into the light.
We’re fully alive (abundantly… eternally).
Death has been conquered for us.

In a word, we are free.

So as believers in Christ, let’s live FREE and FULLY ALIVE!

Live Awakened.  Live fully alive.

#Yourloveawakens   #liveawakened   #Godsloveforus   #nomorecondemnation   #livefullyalive    #freedom   #livefree

Today’s musings

1. I SO want these made for my birthday!

Flamingos are my absolute FAVORITE bird. In fact, during the warmer months, YES, I have a few plastic pink flamingos decorating my front yard. They are just adorable. They make me smile. ūüôā Wonder if my little 11 year old baker daughter could make these… hmm…

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2. This article: http://life.ca/blog/mindful-learning/

Though I don’t adhere completely to the Unschooling movement, I do agree with many of the ideas they promote. Mindful learning. Life learning. Relax. Enjoy kids where they are developmentally right now. Lots of learning is in fact occurring during play. As a parent, model being a “lover of learning”– kids will follow suit. Learning happens as a by-product of living. Don’t over-commit to activities (either for ourselves or the kids). Look after/make time for ourselves in order to avoid burnout.

Just a really good article.

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3. Silly pranks.

We had friends over for the evening yesterday and our oldest daughter made brownies for dessert. Get it? Brown-E’s? LOL. They seemed to appreciate our humor.

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4. Drawings from a child in the Sunday morning class I teach at church.

The church we attend recently opened. It has been an incredible blessing to our entire family!!! A couple times a month I help teach the elementary grades class. One of the first weeks we were open, this adorable little Kindergarten girl came into my classroom. She was super quiet and reserved. Hardly said a word. She was wearing a pink t-shirt with the Eiffel Tower on it. Being a Francophile, I began telling her how much I loved her shirt. She still didn’t say much. But as the Sunday’s keep rolling by and I keep spending time with her in class, she has truly come out of her shell and has been kinda like my little buddy. This past Sunday, she gave these pictures for me to “take home and hang in your kitchen”. Melt.my.heart. She is just the sweetest thing. And you can bet these two pics are hanging in my kitchen right now! It’s just such an encouragement. I love being able to make an impact for Christ with these precious little kids!

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5. I love chocolate. Yes, yes I do!

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6. On the topic of chocolate…

We didn’t have real brownies for dessert (LOL), but we did have chocolate cake with homemade chocolate frosting. Be still my heart. My 11 year old daughter who loves to bake make these for us and our company. It was wonderful.

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7. My homemade chili… aka “Mezzo Farte”.

For anyone with music training, you’ll appreciate the name of my chili. ūüôā Back when I was in High School, our choir had a chili cook-off competition. I won 3rd place for my chili, Mezzo Farte, with many a snicker to boot. It’s a family favorite and super easy to make. We always love our chili poured over rice, basmati is best. Try it and let me know what you think!

Mezza Farte Chili
-saute one onion in a drizzle of olive oil, until golden brown
-add 1/2 lb of ground beef, cook well, drain any excess oil
-add the following: 1 large can (46 oz) of tomato juice, 2 (16 oz) cans of kidney beans (drained), 1 T + 2 t chili powder, 1 t salt, & 1/2 t ground black pepper
-stir well, bring to a boil, drop to a simmer for 1-2 hrs or until thick, stir occasionally
-doubles perfectly!

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Savoring the ordinary, enjoying the here and now…

~Momma Duck