Life’s What You Make It

After letting over 100 arrows fly into the lake, tonight I landed a carp. Sports are not my forte, so it was a big deal to score this first success at bow fishing. I’m so thankful for the ones who patiently instructed me.

Success is empowering.

I believe in going after success in what I care about. My dad has one line he always says when we have a career-related question: “If you do what you love, you will get energy from doing it.” I’m a fan of synergy, so I’ve tried to follow this sage advice.

I have very few assets and my life is far from “in order”,  but can you guess what people say to me every week? “You have such a great life.” “I wish I had your life.” I did absolutely nothing to win this life. I just followed my interests and left the rest up to Jesus.

Leaving the rest up to Jesus is a fantastic way to de-stress, did you know that? There’s a place in the Bible where He says, “Don’t worry about what you will say when you are called onto the witness stand. I will give you my words to say.” I think that goes for living your life as well. If the Creator of the world is really the creator of the world, He does not need earthly help to accomplish his plans.

I’ve been transforming my life recently. My culture has a strong flavor of affluence, technology, social norms and workaholism but I’ve decided this is not normal. If it was normal, it would leave us feeling at rest. But we are not at rest.

So I am identifying stress in my life and weeding it out.

First to go? Anything I have not used in 3 years. I have too much stuff! I don’t need it. I don’t use it. “Goodbye to you….”

Also, it isn’t normal to communicate on 7 different platforms. This is something that has been birthed in the last three decades. How has something so young become more normal than the face-to-face communication that worked so well for the past several millenniums? It stresses me out to check multiple places for messages about weekend plans! For me it enough to have three mainstream options: phone, text and email. I don’t have social media messaging on my phone. It feels good to be uninterrupted by notification signals. I’m not apologetic, because you know, my front door is always open!

Next, over-commitment. It is not normal to race from place to place. It destroys focus. I cannot have a meaningful conversation if I’m worried I’ll be late for the next meeting. I am practicing saying “I would love to, but no.” I’ve set aside one day of the week as “family day.” It feels good to have no question about what I will do on that specific day.

Simplicity is a good way to fight stress.

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So what about doing what I love? It’s a challenging goal, but I’m trying. I’m self-employed in multiple  fields, which suits my personality. I’m growing ever closer to my goal of moving into a tiny space. I’m making an effort to carve regular space for myself to create art.  There’s one thing money can never buy, and that’s time.

In order to make the most of time, I need energy. And in order to get energy… you guessed it, I’m choosing to do what I love. I’m choosing to identify social norms that are not normal, and weed them out.

I’m choosing to celebrate the good people in this nation who are making a difference by doing what they love. Success is empowering.

Joy is contagious.

And the catfish from our fishing expedition has finally stopped flopping in the sink, so I’m gonna go filet it and bread it with  Cheez-It Grooves crumbs and fry it in a big round pan. Don’t worry, I watched a YouTube video about how to use a filet knife, so it will be perfectly safe.

In the meantime, you could check out this article about a handful of men who opened a restaurant which employs ex-cons. They believe in change.   

Hollywood Restaurant Giving Ex-Cons A Chance At Redemption

The 8 Easiest (& Cheapest) Christmas Presents Ever

One of the things I’ve learned about Christmas giving is that Christmas is about loving, not making sure the retail value of the presents you give match the retail value of the ones you receive. Come on, that’s just craziness!

Here are some of my favorite simple Christmas presents.

1. WRITE A CARD.

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Adults usually have the means to buy more or less whatever they want, but sometimes love isn’t so easy to come by.

The very simplest present you can give is to write a honest blessing to someone. Make a list of what you appreciate about them! Tell them you love them! If it’s someone you don’t know (or…. quite honestly, cannot stand….) write a blessing for them from scripture. An honest word endures forever.

2. ARTWORK

If you have kids, have them draw pictures for their grandparents, aunts and uncles, or family friends. To take things up a notch, mount their painting behind a frame (yes, those dusty old frames from the attic can be painted, stained and/or sparkled and re-used). Or, attach their tiny masterpieces to a magnet!

If your kids are too young to actually draw something, go modern-artsy with paint! Grab an old canvas (re-paint it a solid color) and let them smear and sprinkle to their heart’s content.

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Got lots of broken crayons? Google melted crayon art for fun ideas of how to use them up!

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Or mount a piece of your child’s origami….

3. FOOD

Guys like food. Girls do too. You really cant go wrong! And even though we all know they could afford to make or buy their own, admit it…. everyone gets tired of the same old same old. AND you are saving them grocery store/cooking time!

For families: homemade bread.

Kids: cereal bars (mix their favorite cereal with melted marshmallows, form into bars, let cool, decorate and package festively.)

Health nuts: Make your own trail mix and package it in pretty single-serve bags.

Athletes: Cliff bars, fruit leather or fruit.

Office friends: Chocolate covered pretzels (white chocolate w/ crushed candy canes  sprinkled on top, milk chocolate with peanut-butter chip drizzle, dark chocolate w/ craisins…. the flavor combos are endless.)

4. A PLANT

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We don’t want to think about it now but…. (winter is gonna get dreary and depressing at some point.) Who can help but smile at the sight of a little cactus on the windowsill?

You can score tiny plants for less than $5.00 at most greenhouses.

Tip: Read the tags. Plants that tolerate dry soil and low light, and succulent plants like aloe or burro’s tail will survive the caretaking attempts of those less-green-thumbed among us the best.

5. EXPERIENCES

My nieces are very young, but when they receive a coupon for an adventure with their aunt, they are thrilled! I think that’s because memories are timeless gifts.

So go ahead, think it through, then write out that Adventure Coupon. Plan a slumber party with the grand-kids, teach your co-worker to snowboard, sign your sister up to join a cooking club, take your uncle to see that museum he always talks about or help your friend overcome their fear of water.

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TIP: to be sure it actually happens, set a date!

6. HELP

While we’re on the subject of coupons, why not write one out for a night of babysitting, or to fix your neighbor’s gutter, or to help your grandfather split that humongous pile of firewood he’s always working at? Trust me, they will most definitely cash it in!

7. REFURBISH IT!

If you’re at the bottom of your piggy bank, and still want to surprise someone with an extraordinary gift, why not re-make a thrift store find, or something you already own?

For gals: If you can sew it into a scarf or dip it in chalkboard paint, it’s sure to be a success. Also, anything of organizational use.

For guys: Four words: Wood, metal & window panes. If it has at least one of those ingredients, you can paint, stain, weather, sand or re-arrange it into contemporary trendiness.

You can also find some amazing furniture steals online and through local thrift shops if you know what to look for! My favorite haunt is our local Re-Store, a partner with Habitat for Humanity.

8. VISIT

Even if you only have 10 minutes, one of the very best gifts you can give is your time! Drop a latte off at your friend’s workplace, actually schedule that Skype call, and make the trip to your great-aunt’s house that you’ve been promising her all year. You won’t regret it!

 

You’ll NEVER regret giving the gift of love.

HAPPY GIFTING!