Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

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This is one of those blog posts where I’m still trying to sort out my thoughts/feelings about an issue and hoping that writing will clarify things.

After a little prayer for guidance and clarity, here we go…

This week I realized I’d fallen into some of my “pre-awakening” habits recently.  Those habits being: giving my positive thoughts too much power and attention, looking ahead and having expectations or preconceived ideas on how the day, week, month, (life!) would unfold, and generally putting my trust in me (aka my thoughts) rather than in God.   In short, these are my tools for constructing a world where I can stay “happy” or feel in control of my life.

footprintsFortunately, after going through all of this growth, I can’t keep up this charade for long.

As I dug back into my trusty copy of The Happiness Trap and reread some of my old blog posts, I could easily identify where I was and how I’d gotten back there again.

Thoughts, according to Dr. Harris, are just words passing through your mind.  People typically give their thoughts way too much power.  Harris calls this chapter “The Great Storyteller” because our minds tell us stories all day long, and then we believe these stories and assume our thoughts are truth.   Actually, our thoughts are sometimes true (called “facts”) and sometimes false.  But, most of the thoughts that run through our minds are neither true nor false. Harris explains, “Most of them are either stories of how we see life (called “opinions,” “attitudes,” “judgments,” “ideals,” “beliefs,” “theories,” “morals,” etc.) or about what we want to do with it (called “plans,” “strategies,” “goals,” “wishes,” “values,” etc.).”

Basically I had given my positive judgments, thoughts, plans, etc. too much power in shaping my feelings about life. Believing my thoughts gave me a sense of control over life. I’d fused with many of my thoughts, again believing that my thoughts were truth.

Then when I started to have negative thoughts, I was already in a state of fusion and therefore couldn’t properly recognize that these thoughts were just words and not absolute truth.

I’m realizing how important it is to hold our thoughts lightly regardless of whether they’re “positive” or “negative”.  By believing my “happy” thoughts I was pulled away from direct connection with my life.  I’d pulled back from God and regular prayer.  This is one of the ways sin manifests itself in my life – pride and self-reliance.  It’s a slippery slope.

As I’ve been in a period of transition and defusion the past couple days, I have to remind myself that I’m never going to “have it all figured out.”  Even as I write that I hear how ridiculous it sounds.

Once again I’m reminded that a state of mindfulness and surrender to God is a much safer, more secure place to be than dependence on myself and my thoughts.

Growth, sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back.

One Year.

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Today is the one year birthday of Be Still and Know!

As I began embracing simplicity, choosing to take on this endeavor created a bit of a paradox – was adding this blog to my life something that would be enriching or would it become another task to clutter my thoughts and take time away from my family?

kidsI’m happy with the balance I’ve found. Writing a personal blog is a wonderful way for me to express my thoughts and feelings.  I often use the exercise of writing to help process how I’m feeling and bring clarity to my thoughts.  However, I haven’t let this blog become a source of anxiety by pressuring myself to write a certain amount of content each month.  In hindsight, I was much more prolific in the spring when the blog was new and I had so much built up material from my awakening.  Whereas in the busy fall months, I didn’t write as often when family, work, and church activities required more time and attention.  This is the balance I need to strike to keep this blog as a positive, joyful aspect of my life.

So, to recap the first year of Be Still and Know, I want to highlight my favorite post per month (okay, March has two because I couldn’t choose just one).  I hope you enjoy strolling down memory lane with me!

February – “Welcome to Be Still and Know!” dennis and me

March – “Why I’m Lutheran” and “Sentimentality and Truth”

April – “The Struggle Switch”

May – “Don’t Make it Law”

June – “Lost and Found”

July – “Cherishing the Highs and Accepting the Lows”clouds

August – “The Happiness Trap: Expansion”

September – “Be Perfect”

October – “50 Days”

November – “A Week of Family Fun and Milestones”

December – “Christmas on the Prado”

January – “Me and My Dad”

Thank you for your support and encouragement over the past year, and most of all, thank you for reading.

Love, Kelsey

Putting Family First

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Without a doubt, the most precious thing that “being in the moment” has improved is my presence and perspective on Dennis, Sienna, and Mateo.

When Dennis and Teo come home in the evenings, I greet them with “Hi boys!” and make a point to give hugs and kisses as soon as possible (often I’m up to my elbows in dinner preparation).

93 013I spend a lot more time looking closely at my kids – seeing the curve of their chin, their sweet eyes, and watching them break into smiles and giggles.  I often say little prayers of thanksgiving for the joy of being their mom.

Whereas there were times that I took my husband for granted or dismissed what he wanted to talk about – I now cherish the time we have together to talk about our day, cuddle, and often express gratitude at being married to a loving, caring, dedicated man.

Awhile ago, it struck me that – with all the fullness in our lives, all the things to do, responsibilities to fulfill, and relationships to nurture, when it’s all said and done – the most important people in my life are these three.  Choosing to make these relationships THE priority of my time and energy will yield abundant love and joy in life.

I was blessed with this husband and these precious children.  It’s not just my privilege but my calling to love and care for them.

My daily calendar gave me this sweet reminder today:

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“A Happy Family is Heaven on Earth.”

Spare a Rose, Save a Child

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Since many of my readers know me personally, you likely already know that I have Type 1 Diabetes (or T1D, as it’s hip to call it nowadays).  You may not know that I blogged in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) for several years.  (Also, diabetics like acronyms!)  After having my own blog for a short time, I started blogging for HealthCentral’s diabetes page when I was pregnant with Sienna.  That arrangement lasted the better part of 6 years.  It was cool to share my pregnancies, challenges, and triumphs with diabetes during that time of life.

A couple years back I realized that, for me, blogging about diabetes had run it’s course. I wanted to write about other topics – hence this blog!  But, I’m still a peripheral member of the DOC and follow a few blogs very faithfully, including Six Until Me – my personal favorite.

Right now there’s a very cool campaign running in the DOC, one that I wanted to share with my readers (i.e. family and friends!).  It’s called Spare a Rose, Save a Child and is run by an organization called Partnering for Diabetes Change.  This group was founded my several members of the DOC, including Kerri from Six Until Me and another online friend, Scott Johnson. Hi Scott!

What is Spare a Rose, Save a Child?  From their FAQs:

“Spare a Rose, Save a Child is an online effort that raises money and awareness for IDF’s Life for a Child program, which provides life-saving diabetes supplies to children in developing countries. Initiated by a group of members from the Diabetes Online Community in 2013, the idea behind this effort is simple: people are encouraged take the typical “dozen roses,” so popular on Valentine’s Day, and donate the value of one rose to spare the life of a child.”

roseFor the cost of one rose ($5) – the International Diabetes Federation is able to provide a one month supply of insulin or blood glucose monitoring supplies to a needy child.  Insulin is truly lifesaving for children with diabetes.  In America we complain about the cost of this necessary drug, but in many parts of the world, children are dying for lack of insulin.

We just made a donation to this worthy cause and Dennis promised not to buy me roses for Valentine’s Day this year. 🙂

Please consider donating to Spare a Rose, Save a Child.

Thank you!

The Hills are Alive…

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… with the sound of music!

I can’t get this song out of my head after watching The Sound of Music this week.  I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that this was my first viewing of this iconic film musical.  I may have seen part of it, once when I was pretty young, but I didn’t remember it at all.

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A couple years ago, friends from church gave us a collectible gift set of the DVD along with two books with history of the musical and film (thank you, Cecils!).  But, between life being busy and Sienna too young to appreciate it, we had yet to watch it.  This week Sienna has been home sick from school, so yesterday afternoon we started it.

Oh my gosh.  I love it!!  We only got through a little over an hour of the film before we had to start dinner.  Then the  boys didn’t share our enthusiasm for the musical when they got home that evening. I went to bed wondering when I’d carve out time to watch the rest. We only have one TV in the house, which is my preference, but that means I rarely get to pick what we watch. My exclamations of “It’s so amazing!  You’ll love it, Babe!” weren’t making much of an impact on Dennis.

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Luckily, the kids awoke really early and Sienna’s coughing was keeping her from going back to sleep.  Around 5:30 a.m. I conspiratorially asked her, “Are you asleep?  Do you want to go watch the rest of The Sound of Music?”  She did so we crept out of her bed, got our robes on, started the coffee, and were settled in to enjoy the film in the cozy morning darkness.

Could the scene between Maria and Captain Von Trapp be any more romantic?!

I skipped through much of my day humming songs from the film.  And now I want to watch everything Julie Andrews ever did.  Mary Poppins is next, which is another film I cannot recall ever seeing before.  What’s my problem?

Are you like this?  Do you want to research and learn everything you can about a film, play, musical, author, etc. after seeing or reading something amazing?   I sure do.  In that spirit, here are a few fun facts about The Sound of Music:

1. Because the youngest child actors were growing during filming, shoe lifts kept their relative heights consistent, and false teeth were available to replace baby teeth lost during the shoot.

2. Julie Andrews sang “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” to the children in the cast to entertain them between shooting. Since Mary Poppins (1964) hadn’t yet been released, they just thought she’d made up the song for them.

3. When Maria is running through the courtyard to the Von Trapp house in “I Have Confidence”, she trips. This was an accident; however, director Robert Wise liked this so much that he kept it in the movie. He felt it added to the nervousness of the song and of the character.

Are you a fan of The Sound of Music?  I’d love to hear from others who love this film!

Curiosity and the Unknowningness of Life

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Each weekday I read a daily devotion from the Lutheran’s Hour Ministries.  Yesterday’s devotion was based on this verse from James: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

This verse brings home a point that has been running through my mind and comforting my heart lately.  I don’t know what each day will bring.  I don’t know, but God does.  This not knowing (the very thing that caused me anxiety and drove me to plan and attempt to control my daily life for years), is actually what makes life interesting and delightful.  In hindsight, I can see that the difference between being terrified and embracing the unknowingness of life is simply trusting in God to bring about his perfect will.

openessA few months ago, this realization hit me: when I’m open and willing to embrace that I don’t know what that day holds, I experience a lot more peace.  Instead of expending my mental energy on planning or pretending that I somehow control my world, my mind is quiet and receptive to the lessons and experiences God puts in my path.  This allows me to be present, responsive, and engaging with the people around me.  In my still slightly A-type way, I added an item to my task list at work to remind me of this state of mind.  It simply says: “Openness and curiosity – What does God want me to learn today?”

Looking back on challenging situations in my life, I can see that those experiences taught me lessons that prepared me for the future.  What seemed like purposeless frustration and pain was actually a process of growth and loving guidance from God.  In this light, I can embrace whatever the future holds, knowing that I’m being refined and molded for a purpose.

Being open and curious is particularly delightful while raising kids!  Sienna and Mateo are at a really fun and engaging age.  They have all sorts of ideas on things to do, questions about life, and interesting games to play.  Letting their ideas shape our activities or getting lost in their stories opens up a whole world of possibilities and opportunities for “teachable moments” that I could never come up with on my own.

curiousWhen I maintain a disposition of openness and curiosity, I eagerly read books and watch films that I would have otherwise avoided for fear of the emotions they’d invoke.  You know those books and films that haunt you for days afterwards?  When I tried to maintain my “happiness” through staying emotionally controlled, I’d refuse to watch certain films or shy away from books that looked “intense” or “heavy.”  Now, I say, “Bring ’em on!”  I look at each book as a way to grow.  The stories, ideas, and emotions that we experience increase our knowledge of the world and ability to connect with other people.  Sure, you may cry and experience sadness, melancholy, or be disturbed for awhile.  But, those feelings pass and there may be an important lesson in those feelings.

This pairing of “openness and curiosity” was sparked by The Happiness Trap.  In it, Dr. Harris talks about exploring your feelings with curiosity, like a scientist studying a phenomenon.  He advises stepping back from yourself and seeing your emotions as something that’s happening in the moment.  This distinction between being “in your mind” and being aware of what’s going on in your body and mind is significant.  It’s in tapping into our awareness that we’re able to be open, connect with others, and grow.  Likewise, Dr. Harris defines the somewhat confusing term of mindfulness: “…means consciously bringing awareness to your here-and-now experience, with openness, receptiveness, and interest.”  With this perspective, everyday life becomes much more interesting!  Every experience, human interaction, or situation is an opportunity to learn and grow.

Curiosity is an appealing trait – it invokes childlike wonder.  It makes me feel like I’m reconnecting with my younger self.  My parents tell me that, as a toddler, I incessantly asked, “What’s that?!”  The way my dad imitates it is especially endearing.  When life feels challenging or I’m experiencing growing pains, I find great comfort in reminding myself that, in relation to God, I’m still a child with a lot to learn.

Thirty-five.

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Today I turn thirty-five years old.

This birthday feels different.  It feels like a milestone. Somehow more than 30 did.  I think I know why.

candlesBeing present, staying in the moment, and connecting with the people and experiences around me has changed me more than I can express.  In any given day, week, month, or year there are ups and downs, moments of joyful bliss and utter frustration. Feeling these emotions and being open to the world around me has made everything feel more real.

The past couple months have brought particular growing experiences, some more painful than others. I feel, deep down to my toes, that the huge changes I’ve been through the past couple years have allowed me to navigate these recent situations with grace, openness, and trust in God. I’m regularly thanking God for seeing me through all of these lessons so I can be used by him to serve those around me.

Remaining focused on my neediness for Christ has turned out to be such a liberating state of mind.  Imagine, rather than trying to do everything perfectly, I can let go of that impossibility and instead pray that God will direct my paths and teach me how to better serve him and love my neighbors.

I’m so grateful for all of the blessings that have brought me to this age and place in life.  My husband is my best friend and I cherish our relationship more each day.  Sienna and Mateo are the lights of my life – their simple smiles, conversations, and cuddles bring me immense joy.  My extended family – Mom, aka Gaga, Dad, Moni, Sarsies, Case, Rob, Leah, and my nephews enrich my life so much.  I love our close friends and church family!  Grace Lutheran is a second home to us and I adore it so.  My work continues to be interesting and challenging. I look forward to going to the office and seeing what difference I can make each day.  After over 21 years of diabetes, I am healthy, relatively fit, and know how to eat and manage this disease without too much trouble.

Ultimately, I am a citizen of Christ’s kingdom and am learning what that means for my life more each day.  Thank you for your support and encouragement as I share my lessons here.