Posts in the Health category include physical, mental and emotional health topics. Written by freelance journalist and blogger, Stacey A. Shannon, these posts often include firsthand accounts of living life with chronic pain. While the posts are realistic, they also have a positive and uplifting viewpoint.
This blog post about how moms an get better sleep comes from Charlotte Walker of HomeSafetyHub.com. Charlotte has some great suggestions for exhausted moms who need more rest. She has been passionate about safety her whole life and enjoys writing about topics related to homes and home life.
As a mother, you know just how tough it is to get a good night’s sleep, even once your kids are typically sleeping through the night! If family life is making it hard for you to sleep soundly, it might be time to change up your routine. Resources from Families With Grace can help you find solace in Scripture during chaotic days. Plus, these sleeping tips like how to work some exercise into your day, find balance in regards to your screen time and even redesign your bedroom can help you get a good night sleep and wake up refreshed.
Exercise during the day for better sleep
Perhaps it’s been a while since you’ve exercised — you’re so busy caring for your children during the day that you don’t know how you would find the time! But by sneaking in some gentle physical activity with your kids, like a daily walk, you can move your body without rushing to the gym.
If your own neighborhood lacks sidewalks or safe walking routes, you might want to bring your children to an area with a walk score of 70 or higher in order to get your daily steps in.
Balance your screen time to get a good night sleep
Today, it’s tough for everyone to keep screen time in check. If you’re working from home, you might feel like you’re constantly staring at screens — either you’re sitting at your computer while you’re on the clock, or you’re using your smartphone and watching TV with your family when your workday is done.
This can make it tough for you to fall asleep at night. To ensure that you’re able to wind down in the evening, make sure to shut down your computer at a specific time each day, work in only one room of your house and avoid consuming caffeine late in the day.
Choose cozy bedding for better sleep quality
Turn your bedroom into a sanctuary! When your bedroom feels like your own personal oasis, you’ll look forward to going to sleep every night. You can upgrade your bedding by investing in a few duvet covers, which you can change up to reflect your mood. Try shopping for unique patterns designed by independent artists. Consider ordering duvet covers to be printed on demand, which allows you to customize your prints, so you’ll never have to deal with prints going out of stock.
Implement a consistent bedtime to wake up refreshed
If your children are different ages, figuring out the right bedtime for everyone can be tricky! But maintaining one bedtime for all of your kids will definitely make it easier for you to head to bed at a reasonable hour, too. Try selecting a bedtime based on the time your children need to be out of bed in the morning — simply count backwards from that hour to make sure they are getting adequate hours of sleep.
Stick to a relaxing routine to help you sleep
Once your children are in bed, you deserve to enjoy some time to yourself. It can be tempting to simply watch an episode of a TV show, but consider turning to an activity that doesn’t involve screen time. A Mother Far From Home recommends soaking in a bath with Epsom salts, picking up a good book, writing in a journal or even doing a crossword puzzle. You could also move through a gentle, evening yoga sequence.
Finally, take some time to chat with your spouse about your day. When you’re parents, it’s still crucial to make time for each other.
When you’re raising children, it’s not easy to prioritize your own needs. But if you’ve been pushing your sleep routine to the backburner, it might be time for some lifestyle changes. With these tips, you’ll be ready to invest in new bedroom décor, get your screen time under control and get more exercise throughout the day.
Tried and true nail wrap tips to keep your nails looking good longer!
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A couple of years ago, I tried nail wraps for the first time. While I really liked them, I also found them too pricey to be a regular thing. But a few months later, I found all sorts of all nail wrap brands that were much more affordable. Thus began my nail wrap journey. Now nail wraps are all that I wear. I LOVE them! I have also learned some nail wrap tips and tricks along the way I’m excited to share with you.
(Also,I have zero affiliation with any of the nail wrap companies or brands. Nada. My only affiliate links are for related products on Amazon. )
Nail wraps 101
Nail wraps are like stickers made of nail polish that you put on your fingernails and/or toenails in place of wet nail polish. They come in all sorts of colors, designs and themes. While I have used nail wraps that sell through representatives, I don’t like them as much. They’re too expensive, and they are flimsier than the other nails I find for MUCH cheaper.
I’ve got a few favorite nail wrap vendors that I love. The nails average around $3 per set, but there are some cheaper and a few more expensive. None are more than $6, though! Here are links to a few of my favorites that I highly recommend (none of these are affiliate links):
The Flamingo Lady Nails offers free shipping on orders over $20. Shipping otherwise is usually just a couple of dollars. The Flamingo Lady Nails usually sends an extra set or two of nails along with some other little treats like a plastic flamingo and stickers.
Lily and Fox Nails has free shipping to the United States and Canada regardless of order size. Lily and Fox also usually sends along an extra set of nails as well. Each order comes with a personalized note and origami fox.
Lovely Hello Nails includes free shipping for orders of $15 or more. They have colorful envelopes that are personalized and has a weekly wrap for $2.
Nails Mailed offers free shipping on all orders. Its nails are a bit pricier at usually $5.49 a set, but each week has three nails of the week on sale for $2.74. Since they do all free shipping, I have literally just ordered one set for $2.74 and had them sent.
Pink Raindrop Nails has free shipping for orders $25 or more. This site is a blend of prices. You can get sets for 99-cents. These sets don’t stay on quite as well, but with the right base coat, they last at least a few days. (More about that to come!) My favorites from this shop, though, are the pricier $3.49 to $4.99 sets that include pop culture themes such as superheroes, movies and video games!
Tip 1: Use nail polish remover on your nails before applying your nail wraps.
This nail wrap tip is one I discovered more recently. Even if you don’t have nail polish on your fingernails, swiping over your nails with nail polish remover takes off some of the natural oils. Honestly, I use an acetone nail polish remover. If you take your wraps off with nail polish remover, the acetone will work best. Either way, a swipe over your nails with nail polish remover helps prep them for the nail wraps. But you MUST wash your hands afterward.
Tip 2: Wash your hands with dish soap.
After you have cleaned your nails off with nail polish remover, try washing your hands with dish soap, especially Dawn dish soap. It’s good for everything from laundry to nails! My nails do fine washing them with regular hand soap, but my daughter’s nails have more natural oils on them. Washing with Dawn dish soap helps wraps stay on better for her. If you aren’t sure, give it a try. The worst that happens is you end up with extra Dawn for cleaning!
Tip 3: Buff your nails.
While I’ve loved doing my nails for years, I never buffed them. Then my husband ended up with extra buffing blocks from a project he was working on and gave me one. I gave it a try and now I use it often before putting on nail wraps. Gently buffing your nails is a good way to prep them for the wraps and helps remove some of the oils. I do a light buffing before applying the basecoat.
Tip 4: Use a basecoat.
When I first started using nail wraps, I didn’t think about combining wet polish with the wraps. Then I learned that a basecoat can not only help the wraps stay on longer but also protect your nails. I love the Orly Bonder Rubberized base coat. I apply it to my nails after they are cleaned and buffed then wait a couple of minutes before putting on the wraps.
Another bonus I’ve found with the basecoat is that they protect my nails well enough that I can peel off my wraps slowly and carefully when I’m ready to change them without them hurting my nails.
Tip 5: Use a topcoat.
If one of my nail wrap tips is to use a basecoat, you probably aren’t surprised that another one is to use a topcoat! Once your wraps are applied and filed, swipe over them with a topcoat. I love Zoya Armor topcoat, but pretty much any topcoat will work. Basically the topcoat just helps seal the wraps and they stay on longer.
Tip 6: Buy a glass nail file.
For years, I heard about how great glass nail files were. But I didn’t try one until a couple of months ago. It was worth the hype, you guys. I ordered a pack of three glass nail files on Amazon. They are different than cardboard or metal nail files in that they file more gently. (I know that sounds weird!) What’s nice is that the gentler file edge works to help you get rid of the excess nail wraps without tearing the nail wrap. I’d definitely recommend giving them a try!
Tip 7: Place the nail wrap above your cuticle.
When you’re placing your nail wraps, place them slightly above your cuticle. You want the wrap to adhere directly to your nail itself. To help with this, I push back and remove excess cuticles before doing my wraps. I do this just before applying the basecoat.
You also want to make sure the wrap isn’t hanging over onto your skin. If it is, trim it with nail scissors. A tiny bit hanging over isn’t such a big deal, but I still make sure to push it down as much as I can so that it isn’t on my skin. This also gets easier the more you use nail wraps and figure out what size works best for each of your nails.
Tip 8: Use nail scissors or clippers for trimming the wraps.
After I put the nail wraps on my nails, I trim them with nail scissors or nail clippers before filing them down. I don’t try to trim them right to the end of my nail. I don’t think that would work. But I trim them down so I have just a small amount to file off. I prefer nail scissors for my fingers and nail clippers for my toes.
Tip 9: Apply your wraps at night.
This is one of my very top nail wrap tips. Nail wraps do best when they have time to “cure.” If you apply them at night before going to bed, then you’re going to go hours without getting them wet or doing anything else to do them. They have more time to set and adhere. I promise this works!
I do my nail wraps after the kids are in their rooms for bedtime and before I go to bed. Usually I sit on the couch with my lap desk and do them while my husband and I watch something on TV. Then I only need to wash my hands once after I use the restroom before bed. They have all night to set.
Tip 10: Don’t put lotion on your hands afterward.
While I would wait and do my nails before bed, I noticed that if I put lotion on my hands before going to bed, as I often so, it affects my wraps. So I wait about putting lotion on my hands until at least 12 hours after putting on new nail wraps.
I recently had a conversation with a loved one about anxiety and faith. We talked about whether Christians can struggle with anxiety. What does that look like? What does that say about our faith? We weren’t the first people to discuss this, and I know we surely won’t be the last. But, it did get me thinking about a message many Christians need to hear: You aren’t alone in your anxiety. Being anxious doesn’t mean you love God any less.
If you’ve been in church for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve heard sermons and lessons on how worrying is a sin. Being anxious is a sin. Anxiety means we aren’t trusting God fully. I know what the Bible says about anxiety, but I also know that it remains a struggle for so many of us.
So, can you be a Christian and have anxiety at the same time? The short answer is absolutely! But I think we need to go a bit deeper. I don’t have all the answers or any sort of theological degree. I can only share my experiences, struggles and feelings.
The physical component of anxiety
Having some anxiety is normal and helpful. It’s helped keep humans alive for so many years because we respond to danger and take less risk. However, some of us get stuck in that mode even when no threat is apparent. That’s when we shift to an anxiety disorder.
Like other mental health conditions, anxiety often needs more intervention than just trite advice. And anxiety disorders are rampant. Statistically speaking, about 30% of adults are dealing with an anxiety disorder at any given time. That’s up nearly 10% from 20 years ago.
Statistics on how the Christian population compares to the general population in regards to anxiety disorders isn’t available. But, let’s say the Christian population does have less anxiety, we’re still talking about a minimum of 20% of adults. Meaning if you are at a church with 300 attendees on a Sunday morning, then 60 people around you are dealing with an anxiety disorder. So, quite literally, all congregations have members dealing with anxiety disorders.
However, we also must remember the physical component to anxiety. Certain health conditions can cause anxiety, including diabetes, chronic pain, heart disease and thyroid problems. Outside of other health conditions, anxiety can come from a chemical imbalance in our brains, a traumatic experience, ongoing stress or being genetically predisposed. None of those things can be controlled.
I also want to acknowledge the healing power of God here. I have seen Him do miraculous things and heal people. My firm belief is we can pray for and receive healing from anxiety. However, I also know God’s will isn’t always healing on earth. God isn’t any less faithful for not healing someone of anxiety. And it doesn’t reflect his or her faith in any way. Through my years of dealing with various chronic health conditions, I’ve learned these lessons the hard way.
What anxiety and faith look like together
A few years ago, my husband and I were discussing a difficult situation that worried us. My husband is incredibly great at compartmentalizing. He also does well with leaving his worries with God. We were talking about how we handled our worry differently. He mentioned that he trusted God would take care of the situation. I realized I didn’t completely believe that.
Let me explain. I prayed about the same situation and knew that God would work in and through it. However, I didn’t believe it would necessarily work out positively. My husband’s faith was in God’s work to resolve the problem. My faith was that no matter what happened with the outcome, God would be with me. Neither of us were wrong, but my approach certainly leaves room for anxiety.
I like to think I was just being realistic. But, I think more than anything, my perspective came from my anxiety struggles. While my husband could list off all the things that could go wrong, he was able to not fret about them because they hadn’t happened (and might never happen). On the other hand, my mind can get an a runaway anxiety train thinking of all the possible outcomes while still trusting God won’t leave me.
Logically, I know God is in control, but anxiety isn’t logical. One of my worst times of anxiety was right around when my oldest daughter was born. We went on vacation and took her with us onto a large dock with a floating restaurant. I was nearly paralyzed with anxiety because I could just see her stroller going off the dock and into the lake. In my head, that’d just be it. She’d drown. In reality, we had her nowhere near the edge. And had the stroller somehow gone in, my husband or I would have been in the water right afterward to get her to safety. But reality doesn’t often factor into anxiety.
Moving forward in faith with anxiety
Since anxiety disorders are like any other health issue, if we aren’t healed of them, then we need to figure out how to manage them and move forward in spite of them. We can move forward in both practical and spiritual ways.
Everything should start with prayer, even managing anxiety and faith. You can definitely pray for healing (and I encourage you to), but you can also pray for help handling your anxiety. I do this quite often. I ask God to help me stop thinking about something I’m dwelling on. Or I pray that He helps me to know if a worry is something I need to act on or just have peace about. For example, when it’s the middle of the night and I hear a slight noise that gets my mind reeling with all the bad things it could be.
We have Biblical instruction for doing this very thing, and what I love most is that God promises us peace. While I’ve had my fair share of anxious moments that get my heart racing, I have also felt the peace of God come over and still me in the midst of it.
Related Bible verse: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
2. Find a Bible verse to comfort you.
The Bible has so many verses about the peace and comfort of God. It reminds us of His presence in our lives. Find a verse that speaks to and calms your heart. (If you don’t have one, ask God to help you find one.) Memorize it and repeat it as often as needed.
For me, that verse is Isaiah 41:10 (see below). I learned the first part of it in third grade and it has stuck with me. I’ve repeated it to myself so many times through the years in different situations and at different times. I’ve used the second part of the verse as a breath prayer. God’s Word is powerful. It truly can cast out fear!
Related Bible verse: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)
3. Listen to encouraging music.
Music can minister to us in so many ways. God has spoken to me so many times through songs, even songs I’ve heard and sung for years. Christian music is a part of my life. While it can encourage and uplift me, it also stays in my head. Sometimes a song stuck in my head is just what I need to hear at just the right moment. My anxiety and faith battle in song lyrics!
Recently, I was having a difficult time and kept thinking, “I’ve never felt more alone than I do right now.” Every single time I thought that, “Jireh” from Elevation Worship and Maverick City popped into my head with, “I’ve never been more loved than I am right now.” It helped me turn my focus around to God and the truth, which I definitely needed to do.
Related Bible verse: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” – Colossians 3:16 (NIV)
4. Monitor what you watch.
I’ve learned to be careful what I watch. Watching TV news only increases my anxiety. It’s so negative and so dismal. It can add a variety of thoughts to my head that I don’t need. But so can fictional television shows and movies. I’m a sensitive person and always have been. I remember watching a scary movie in fourth grade at a slumber party and can still recall scenes from that movie to this day.
I am not into the murder shows, police shows, medical dramas and so many other things because they only increase my anxiety. And it turns out that God knew this way before I was born. His Word admonishes us to be careful what we watch for a reason!
Related Bible verse: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
5. Think through worst-case scenarios.
This one totally sounds counterintuitive. I sometimes get easily sidetracked and anxious thinking of all the worst-case scenarios. But, years ago my husband challenged me to think of the worst-case scenario of my worries. Then, he said, come up with the solution. Often that helps ease my anxiety because I have a plan. And I love having a plan!
If I come up with the worst-case scenario (and my brain is good at that), I think of what would happen if that scenario came to pass. This works also because it makes me start thinking more practically and realistically – the opposite of how anxiety makes me think.
Related Bible verse: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” – Luke 14:28 (NIV)
6. Talk about it.
Anxiety is good at lying to us. It can make problems seem so much bigger than they are. When I have trouble dealing with something or moving on from it, it helps to talk about it with someone I trust. For me, that’s my husband. Often just saying the words out loud help my anxiety and faith meet as I realize what I’m worried about isn’t such a big deal.
We weren’t made to bear our burdens alone. Along with being able to go to God, we also need to have people who we can turn to and trust when our burdens weigh us down. Saying a worry out loud removes at least some of its power.
Related Bible verse: “If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” – Ecclesiastes 4:10a (NIV)
7. Distract yourself.
I’m not advocating for denial here, but distracting yourself from your thoughts is a good way to help manage your anxiety. Find healthy ways to distract yourself or ground yourself in the moment. I have a coloring app on my phone that I find soothing and often use to unwind and relax.
I’ve also tried some mindfulness and grounding techniques when my anxiety starts to get away from me. For me, this is just stopping my thoughts and shifting my focus to what I can see, feel and hear. It’s beyond just acknowledging those things but really paying attention to them. (Find more relaxation tips and strategies in this article I wrote for the IC Network.) Sometimes what we need most is just a break from our anxious thoughts.
Related Bible verse: “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God.” – Ecclesiastes 2:24 (NIV)
8. Believe you CAN improve.
A major lie anxiety likes to tell us is that we will always feel this way. We don’t have hope for the future and have no reason to try and do better. I’ve been down that path both with anxiety and my other health issues; I get it. I still have days where I think this is the best it gets. But I am continuing to learn that a bad day, week or even month doesn’t mean it will always be bad.
The first step toward making progress is allowing yourself to believe –truly believe– that you can improve. And then you must remind yourself that you are worth the work. I’ve learned that I need to embrace these two concepts when I get stuck and need to move forward. I’m thankful for my husband who also gently pushes me to not just accept “this is how things are.” Even if your anxiety isn’t healed or isn’t just a phase, you can always learn new ways to help manage it. Try new things. Seek professional help. Take medication. Don’t stop trying.
Let me reassure you that God made you. You are worthwhile. He doesn’t make junk, my friend. You are worth the effort needed to improve. Tiny baby steps forward are still steps forward. God has plans to give you a future and a hope!
Related Bible verse: “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
9. Get professional help.
A negative way anxiety and faith can overlap is by trying to convince you that since you have faith you don’t need help. Go back and read the section about the physical component of anxiety. You can try helping yourself. Sometimes that works! But, sometimes it doesn’t because you need more help than you can give yourself.
Think of it like treating yourself when you’re sick. When you first start feeling a scratchy throat, you might drink more liquids and go to bed early. However, if you wake up the next day with a swollen throat and a fever, you know you need to see your doctor and be checked for strep throat. Treat your anxiety the same way. Try things to help yourself, but if it stays the same or gets worse, seek help. There is no shame in seeking help from a medical professional or counselor. God has given us knowledge and resources. We should not be ashamed to use those resources!
Related Bible verse: “Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance.” – Proverbs 20:18 (NIV) (Additional note: I left in this entire verse, because we are waging a war on anxiety. It applies!)
10. Focus on who God Is.
When we’re dealing with anxiety, we can feel like everything is shifting. Everything is murky, and nothing makes sense. That’s all the more reason to focus on who God is. He is unchanging, faithful and true. That’s incredibly comforting with or without anxiety.
I remember distinctly a Sunday morning during a really bad time in my life. I’m not sure what the sermon was about that morning. I was too distracted first by my worries but then by the cross at the front of the sanctuary. God spoke into my heart and reminded me the He loves me and sent His Son to die for me. When you aren’t able to cling to anything else, you can cling to God’s love. Shift your focus onto who He is and allow His presence and comfort to flow into you.
Related Bible verses: “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” – Psalms 18:30 (NIV)
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” – 1 John 4:9 (NIV)
What if you saw yourself like your loved ones see you?
I was putting my son to bed recently, and he was having a difficult time. His 8-year-old self was upset with a mistake he had made. It was a very small mistake. He didn’t get in trouble for it. Nobody was upset, hurt or angry. But he was treating himself as if he had physically harmed someone else. He looked at me and asked whether I think he’s too hard on himself.
I know he knows the answer, because we’ve told him this many times. However, maybe he needed to hear it again. So I said yes, I do think he is too hard on himself. Then he asked where he gets it from. He knows the answer to this as well. Both my husband and I have shared with him a few times that I am the same way with myself. Yet, again I answered.
In all sincerity, he looked at me and asked incredulously, “Why are you hard on yourself?”
He said it in a way that he truly didn’t understand why I’d be hard on myself. He is my son, my baby boy, who adores me. From the beginning of his life, he’s been my sidekick. He has quite literally chosen to be with me instead of friends quite a few times during his life thus far.
My son sees me in a different light than I see myself. He sees good things. I’m thankful for that. It left me wondering, though, why am I so hard on myself? More importantly, how can I start being kinder to me and teach my son to do the same?
What being hard on yourself looks like
I can’t speak for everyone; I can only tell you what being hard on yourself looks like for me. Unfortunately I see my son doing some of these same things, and it breaks my heart. He is a chip off the old block, so to speak.
Being hard on myself means that when I make a small mistake, I chastise myself as if I have committed a grave error that will affect the rest of humanity for the rest of known time. I ruminate on the mistake. My inner voice says really mean things to myself about me. While I consider myself an encourager to others, I am far from encouraging to myself. In fact, I think I often speak words of encouragement to others because I so constantly need them. Yet when someone does compliment or encourage me, I struggle to believe them.
For me, being hard on yourself means that no matter what you do, it’s never enough. I always find myself wanting. I struggle to acknowledge the good things I’ve done and focus instead on the negative things. While I might accomplish many things in a day, I focus instead on where I failed and the tasks I didn’t get to.
Another way I’m hard on myself is in taking responsibility for when things go wrong or others are upset — even when there is no possible way I’m the cause. I remember doing this even as a child. When I came home from school and my mom had had a bad day at work, I felt like I was responsible. (And I have an incredibly sweet mother who has always been a positive influence in my life. She didn’t take her bad days out on me in any way. I could just sense her feelings and somehow felt I was at fault.)
The truth behind being hard on yourself
I won’t pretend to know the truth on why all people are hard on themselves. I don’t even fully understand why for myself. Instead, I suspect a lot of it (for me, at least) stems from two things: being a people pleaser and a perfectionist.
While I think I’m not a people pleaser so much these days, the truth is I am. I don’t like conflict. As someone who is sensitive to others, I don’t like negative emotions. (Who does?! But, I often quite literally feel what those near me are feeling.) I don’t care what people think about things like what I’m wearing or doing. I’m comfortable in my own skin. However, I really don’t want to upset people around me. I avoid conflict like the plague. So, I guess you could say that I am a people pleaser, even though I don’t want to admit that.
Then there’s the perfectionist side of me, which goes along with people pleasing. I want things to be just so. More than anything, I want to be the person I expect me to be. Sometimes that person conflicts with who I actually am. I’m a quiet introvert. Sometimes I’d love to be gregarious extrovert who confidently walks into a room and chats kindly with everyone they see. Even though I know that isn’t me, I’m often hard on myself when I do just the opposite. As I slump into a room, hope nobody notices me, find a friend I can latch on to and then count the time until I can escape, I am simultaneously mad at myself for not being different.
My perfectionism usually has way less to do with physical attributes and things as much as it does with myself. I want to be perfect, but I am not. I fail and come up short. So then I’m hard on myself.
Learning to be kinder to yourself
I am a work in progress. I certainly haven’t conquered being hard on myself. But I am working on it. I noticed how I was being hard on myself even more after having children. Then I really paid attention when I saw my kiddos being the same way. My daughter has been hard on herself for sure, but my son amps up to my level of being hard on himself.
Like so many things, my desire to improve myself stems from seeing the same struggle in my child and wanting to be better for him. So, I’m working on it.
Doing the best that I can
A few things have helped me give old Stacey a break and not be so stinking hard on her all the time. The first is reminding myself that I’m doing the best that I can. Overall, I really am doing the best that I can at any given time. Yes, there are times I could probably put in more effort, but most of the time I have given my all and that has to be enough. Because it’s all that I have to give. Often I repeat to myself when I start getting mean inside my head: “I’m doing the best that I can.”
I tell my son the same thing. As a dyslexic, he can be very hard on himself about reading and spelling. He wants to always have perfect scores on assignments and tests. I can only begin to imagine how frustrating it is when words are everywhere and everyone else reads them with ease while you struggle. I remind him often that his dad, teachers and I only expect him to do his best. His best is good enough. He is doing his best, and that’s all that matters.
Letting go of perfection
The other thing that I strive to remind myself is that I’m not perfect. While I know I’m not perfect, I often behave and treat myself in the opposite fashion. I need to cut myself some slack.
I’ve also realized the good that comes from not being perfect and shared that with my son the other night. I told him that he isn’t perfect. And neither am I. None of us are. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need Jesus. He hadn’t thought of it that way before.
I don’t want to go through this life without Jesus. He has seen me through so many things and loves me in ways I don’t understand. If I were perfect, I wouldn’t need Him. I don’t want to imagine what that would be like. Truly, I don’t. So not being perfect really is OK. His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Seeing you as others do
Finally, I’ve been thinking about what if I saw myself the way my son does. What if he saw himself the way I do? How would that change our opinions of ourselves? I don’t think I’d be as hard on myself; neither would he.
When I look at my baby boy, I saw a young man who is persistent, kind, empathetic, caring, sweet, hilarious, thoughtful and so much more. He can solve problems and come up with solutions better than anyone I know. He thinks outside of the box. I often refer to him as “my little man with a plan,” because of how his mind works. There is no way I’d trade him for any other son. He is just right!
I can’t tell you exactly how he sees me. But, I hope my family sees that I love them and am trying every single day to do my best for them. I want to be their support system and soft place to fall. My desire is to encourage them and uplift them. Hopefully, they see my sensitivity, my empathy and my love for Jesus. Perhaps they see the strength I’ve used to overcome various challenges. I have good qualities. I need to do is focus on those more often.
Can you imagine how much my attitude would change if I allowed myself to peak at the good things God sees in me? He truly knows me. Even in my relationship with Him, I can imagine Him shaking His head at my faults. But He knows we aren’t perfect. He sent His Son to die because of how much He knows this! He is a loving Father who sees us as a whole person. Just like I see the struggles and faults my kids have, I also see much more the goodness and strengths they have.
Next time you are being hard on yourself, remember that you are doing the best you can and you aren’t perfect. Then take a moment to step back and look at yourself the way those who love you — including your heavenly Father — do. I’m going to do the same thing!
This year has brought challenges that most of us didn’t expect when we rang in the new year on January 1. My blog post published on January 2 talked about how I wanted to make sure I kept focused on the things that really matter in life like making memories with my family. I had no idea those memories would include months and months of being at home and helping my kids virtual school full-time.
Of course 2020 has been collectively a difficult and challenging year. Its challenges aren’t going to go away any time soon either. But, like all of us, I’ve had other difficult years. I’ve lived through years I thought really, truly might break me.
I recently went back and read something I wrote at the end of 2013. Even now seven years later, my husband and I still say the only good thing that came out of that year was the birth of our son — and that happened at the end of January.
The rest of the year included all sorts of difficult struggles. It was a year during which we survived. We certainly didn’t thrive. We dragged ourselves to Dec. 31, 2013 with hopes 2014 would be better.
Some years are like that. This year has been like that for many folks. We’ve survived the year, but we haven’t done a lot of thriving. I don’t think anyone is going to hate seeing 2020 finally come to an end.
Finding the good in the midst of bad
However, 2020 wasn’t only bad. Whenever I have a bad year, that’s what I’ve learned I must remember. Each year has both good and bad parts. For the years with more bad than good, we struggle to remember the good stuff sometimes.
Back at the end of 2013, I remember sitting down to write about it and deleting half of what I first typed. I didn’t want to focus on the negative. I wasn’t sure the positive would take many words. But I surprised myself with how many good memories I had from the year.
That’s the challenge for 2020. I know you have good memories from this year. I do. As we close out this year and say good riddance to it, what have been some of your best moments of the year? What are you thankful for?
I can’t speak collectively for all of us. Some moments this year were good for some and not for others. But I can speak for myself.
Good moments of 2020
My children have an early spring break, so we were able to have a spring break trip this year before things went completely sideways. We spent a couple of days at an indoor water park and then they went on a short trip with my parents. Those water park memories were good, but they are even better when viewed with the perspective of the rest of the year!
Being at home more, we did more fun things like playing games together.
We got creative in celebrating Easter this year and ate tacos for Easter dinner.
At the end of June, we spent a week at the lake with my parents and a few days with my brother and his family. My son caught his first fish. I delighted in watching my kids go tubing for their first time. My daughter and I pretended to be otters floating in the lake, completely relaxed. It was a restorative time and a bit of a break from reality. (We still only got food as take-out and made bathroom trips incredibly fast and masked up on the way there and back.)
My husband and I got to be a bigger part of our kids’ first day of school than usual, because we set up for school at home from the start of this school year.
We watched lots of movies and shows together at home.
Our family has laughed and come up with more inside jokes than usual.
We’ve had some great conversations as a family around the table and anywhere we are.
The puppy got in on the action with even more snuggles than usual, which has made all of us happy.
We’ve read through numerous books as a family and not only had more time to read them but also to talk about them.
We got creative for Halloween and hosted a party and Halloween hunt for our parents in lieu of trick-or-treating. We had such fun coming up with snacks and making decorations and games.
I played hostess for Thanksgiving this year with my parents and in-laws. We all contributed food and enjoyed each other’s company. Being together was a blessing!
The list could continue on of the good memories from this year!
Thankfulness in 2020
Along with good memories, the year has many things for which to be thankful. The first thing that pops into my head is that I’m thankful to end this year with a healthy family. My loved ones whom I have most been concerned for have had some other health issues not related to the pandemic, but we are all healthy overall.
I am also thankful for the strength God has given me to get through the year. We started out the pandemic with my husband completely incapacitated after having rotator cuff repair surgery. The first few weeks of quarantine and virtual school were quite intense.
This year I’ve become even more thankful for our new home and the space we have now to spread out for things like virtual schooling.
I’m thankful for our puppy as well. We celebrated his first birthday in May. He brought us lots of love, laughter and cuddles throughout everything this year has held.
I am very grateful for pick-up at stores. While I appreciated grocery pick-up before, I REALLY appreciate it now. I haven’t been inside a store to shop in months. I completed all my Christmas shopping online and had items delivered to me or picked them up without getting out of my car.
Above all, I am thankful for God. He has been faithful, as always, through every moment of this year. God wasn’t surprised or caught off-guard by anything in 2020. He remains faithful and good through every single moment.
Acknowledge the challenge
Looking back at a difficult year to find the positive doesn’t mean that we aren’t acknowledging the negative. This year has also held heart-wrenching moments. We do have to acknowledge those.
As we are doing so, though, we must also take note of what we learned and how we grew through those difficulties. I’ve learned some of the most important lessons of my life through hard times and difficulties. I’m thankful for those lessons, because they serve me well the next time a hard time comes around.
This year may also require mourning for what we lost. I am not even speaking of the loss of life. That is a whole other level of mourning and grief that doesn’t even compare to anything else. I know that. I pray for those who have lost loved ones this year whether because of COVID or because of other reasons.
What I mean by mourning in this instance is acknowledging what we missed out on this year. I think of family events that were canceled. Graduations that were different. Proms that weren’t held. I think of fun at recess that’s been missed. And school programs that were canceled. There were church services held online instead of in person.
So many things were challenging about this year. We had to change our way of life — and that doesn’t come without growing pains.
What I’ve learned, though, is that while we must acknowledge the hard times, we don’t want to get stuck there. Getting stuck in the hard stuff for too long is the problem. And that’s when we go back around to remember the good parts of the year. That’s when we start going through what we’re grateful for.
So let’s process what we went through in 2020 and look forward to what another year will bring.
A swimwear lesson I wish I’d have learned years ago
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I can’t remember the last time I was excited to go shopping for swimwear for myself. Maybe when I was a young child? But at least from high school on, shopping for swimwear has been a nightmare. I’d daresay my feelings are shared by the majority of women.
If ever there were a time to be self conscious about your body, wearing a swimsuit is one of them. Swimwear isn’t as forgiving as clothes. It is certainly much more exposed. The whole thing is stressful to me.
But, here’s the rub: I like swimming. I always have loved the water and feel at peace in and near the water. I grew up swimming constantly during warm weather. Even though I sometimes get sun poisoning (a rash from sun exposure), I still love swimming. On family vacations to the ocean, I’d often wear a long-sleeved T-shirt or my aunt would take me to the indoor pool.
And that’s also in spite of being sensitive to chlorine thanks to my bladder. You’d think with all of that going on PLUS being uncomfortable in a swimsuit that I wouldn’t like swimming. Yet, I do.
Not a sideline mom
Even more importantly these days, I want to enjoy water activities with my children. I don’t want to have to sit on the sidelines unless absolutely necessary. I’ve had times that I’ve had to sit on the sidelines because of chlorine, but I don’t want to do so just because of my body issues. And, let’s be honest here, getting older combined with having two babies hasn’t improved my phsyique.
However, I determined when my daughter was a preschooler and first asked to go to a community pool and splash pad that we often drove by that I wouldn’t be stuck on the sideline. I decided to put on my swimsuit (a one piece that was probably a decade old since I hadn’t been swimming so much) and just have fun with my kiddo. The last thing I wanted was to have her end up feeling self conscious in a bathing suit as well.
The other moms around me wore all sorts of swimwear styles. I could pick out those who were also uncomfortable but were trying to just enjoy the time with their kids. I decided then and there that I didn’t want to have any discomfort about being in a swimsuit. Everyone else was too busy with their own body issues to worry about my body, and even more importantly, their opinions don’t matter to me. What matters to me is my kiddos. I won’t get this time back with them!
A swimwear update
After that day at the community pool, I decided to update my suit. So I did some shopping. I hadn’t had a two-piece bathing suit for myself since I was a preschooler myself. But, I found that tankinis were popular but also nice for if you need to make a bathroom break and such. I also liked that with a black bottom I could have different tops and have more options.
So I got my first two-piece bathing suit as an adult and liked it. I found another tankini top on clearance at Target at the end of summer and picked it up. However, I found that I still didn’t feel so great even in the new swimwear. I was still more exposed than I was comfortable with.
The next summer on a beach trip, I got a sunburn on my chest in spite of all the sunscreen I lathered on. That skin wasn’t usually in the sun. But, I kept the same suits for a couple of years. After all, they were better than what I’d had before. I didn’t love them, but they were OK.
Then last summer, I found my daughter a swimsuit that came with a rash guard (T-shirt style top) instead of a tank top for the first time in a few years. While I have sensitive, fair skin, my redheaded daughter has even paler skin. I loved that the more coverage of the rash guard meant less skin to worry about slathering in SPF 50. My son has always liked wearing rash guards instead of going shirtless and I like the benefit of sun protection for him.
Somehow for the first time last summer, I realized I could also look for a rash guard for myself. I knew locally I had never seen any, but now I lived in the age of online shopping. I could change my way of thinking.
A new swimwear perspective
I did some searching on Amazon and found a women’s rash guard I liked. So, I ordered it. It arrived the day I was packing up my kids to go swimming at my cousin’s pool. I put it on over my bathing suit top and LOVED it! The rash guard gave me more coverage for sun protection and was a T-shirt style, more like my usual clothes. (I don’t even wear tank tops.)
When a family friend stopped by to chat, I was comfortable to just stand there and talk without feeling the need to quickly grab my cover-up. I felt well-covered with my modest swimwear.
Being able to wear a T-shirt and shorts to go swimming made me relax. Even the new tankini top was great because I didn’t have more chest exposed than I was comfortable with. I was able to relax more. The more modest swimwear was great for me.
Modesty doesn’t mean shame
What I learned throughout this process is that wearing modest swimwear, just like in my regular clothes, doesn’t mean I’m ashamed of my body. My body doesn’t look like I want it to. I have some extra pounds, but it’s the body that carried my babies. And it is what it is. If someone is appalled by it, they don’t have to look at it. I’m too old and have too many memories to make with my family to worry about the opinions of others.
I also, though, don’t buy into the popular thought that I have to prove I’m OK with my body type by showing it off. I have nothing to prove to anyone. I’m happy in my more modest swimwear because that’s what makes me more comfortable. Am I judging other moms in bikinis and more revealing swimwear? Nope. I just know what I feel good about for myself.
Honestly, my next swimwear purchase will be longer swim short bottoms that are more longer swim shorts, which is the length I wear for my regular clothes anyway.
The age of the Internet is a great one for giving us different options. I still haven’t see any of the modest swimwear I most like for sale in-person around where I live. But, I’m happy to have the option to order it online and feel better about what I’m wearing for water fun. I only wish I’d have done this sooner!
Why you need to rest and ideas on how to make it happen!
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Exodus 20:8
Talk to any mom of little kids about finding time to rest — let alone take a whole day of rest — and she is most likely going to laugh in your face and roll her eyes. I remember the days of being in the thick of it with babies and toddlers who need something nearly every single minute of the day. It was utterly exhausting. While my kiddos are a bit older now, I still struggle to find time to rest.
There are always so many things we
moms juggle. Clothes always need washed. Dishes multiple by the hour. Food
needs to be prepared. Groceries need bought. Toilets need scrubbed. Trash needs
to be taken out. On and on and on the list goes.
However, we weren’t designed to work all the time. That isn’t how God made us. He has commanded us to have a Sabbath Day and keep it holy. In fact, the word “Sabbath” is used 145 times in the NIV Bible. That tells me God was serious about it, and we should be, too. And that also tells me that God wouldn’t command us to do something impossible.
ways to rest, no matter what phase of life you’re in, is crucial and can be
done with a bit of creativity and change of mindset.
1. Define what rest is to you
– right now.
In my head, rest means sitting in my recliner with my feet up reading a book and taking naps with no one bothering me. (I should also mention that I’m an introvert, and the best way for me to recharge my batteries is through alone time.)
While that scenario isn’t unholy or wrong, it also isn’t very feasible. I remember days when I was young and could spend a whole day lazing around reading a book. Nowadays that could be a possibility maybe once every two years.
So, I need to redefine rest. Think about what rest looks like in this phase of your life. For me, sometimes rest looks like ordering pizza or making frozen food and sitting in my living room for dinner and a movie with my husband and kids. Other times it has meant locking myself in the bathroom for five minutes to regroup!
2. Define your time to rest.
Most of us don’t have an entire day to devote to complete rest, but we do have five minutes here and there. Maybe even an hour or two. Looking at smaller chunks of time as rest time can be helpful. While most of us can’t usually manage to have a whole day free of all responsibility, we can find small pockets of time to refuel and regroup. We can be intentional about what we do with our downtime.
For example, I’ve found that if I have an extra 10 minutes alone in the car while I’m waiting to pick up my kids, I feel more refreshed and refueled if I spend that time reading a book or an article instead of mindlessly perusing social media, which can sometimes make me feel more drained.
3. Prioritize rest.
My to-do list never ends. Right now, I can easily spout off 10 things that I need to do without even pausing. However, sometimes chores and to-do lists just need to wait, so we can rest instead. I know. It’s sort of earth-shattering to realize this. I’ve been aided in this thought by having chronic health issues that force me to rest, but even with that, I still have to prioritize my day.
Today, for example, we have activities in the evening, which means I need to have energy left after dinnertime. To make that happen, I will take 30 minutes before I pick up my kids from school to sit and read or watch a favorite television show. And that’s OK. Yes, I have work I could do. Yes, I have laundry I could fold. Yes, I have bathrooms I could clean. Yes, I have a list of 100 other things that could use my attention, but rest has to be a priority as well.
Give yourself grace to let things go sometimes so that you can rest, just like God commanded you to!
4. Find a way to do something
just because you want to.
Sometimes rest is also about just being able to relax and enjoy something. Mamas tend to put everyone and everything else first. That’s OK. It’s noble. It’s necessary. But, sometimes we need to do something just for ourselves to rest and rejuvenate our brains.
Maybe it’s spending 15 minutes after your kids are in bed painting your toenails bright red. Maybe it’s stopping by Starbucks for your favorite drink. Maybe it’s sitting on your front porch listening watching the sun set. Whatever it is, find ways to do something just because you want to and take a respite from obligations.
5. Pray about it.
I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to make a change and start with my own ideas. Usually once I realize my ideas aren’t working, I sigh, roll my eyes and wonder why in the world I didn’t start out with prayer. Because, seriously, shouldn’t we start everything with prayer? And if we are trying to follow a command God has given us, we can trust Him that He will help us follow it.
God can open our eyes to habits we have that are interfering with our rest and downtime. He doesn’t want us to struggle against how we were created. God didn’t command everyone to take a Sabbath except for mothers. His command has no exceptions, which tells us He will help us find rest if we are just willing to go to Him and keep an open heart and mind to His leading.
I was 3 when my bladder issues first started. Though they waxed and waned through different parts of my childhood, they came back with a vengeance when I was 23 and have stuck around ever since. A few years ago, they added their friend fibromyalgia into the mix.
I am a different patient today than I was 17 years ago. I’ve learned lesson after lesson throughout all the different journeys my health has taken me on.
1. I have to be my own advocate.
The two health issues I have, interstitial cystitis and fibromyalgia, aren’t always well known, even in the medical community. In fact, there are still doctors who don’t believe either condition exists. I learned early on that sometimes I have to push for what I need. I have to be the proverbial squeaky wheel to get some grease. At the end of the day, the receptionist, nurse or physician isn’t the one who is going home and living with the pain and issues that I have. As a quiet person, this was something that I struggled with in the beginning, especially because when I’m not feeling well or in pain I get even quieter. I have learned to speak up for myself, respectfully, and push to get the help I need.
Part of that also includes doing my own research. I have brought in research to my doctor before and asked to try different medications or treatments. I have found research for self-help strategies that really have made a difference in my pain, like figuring out all of my dietary triggers for IC. (I highly recommend Confident Choices for IC diet help!)
2. Doctors don’t know everything.
Doctors are in a position of authority. And they are usually smart folks who know more about health issues than the average person. But they don’t know everything. I have seen good doctors, great doctors and awful doctors. In being my own advocate, I learned that if a doctor didn’t have good enough answers for me that it was OK to move on to someone else. I have done so.
A couple of years ago, I was having increased pain in my pelvis. My local gynecologist determined the problem, but he was too afraid to help me because of my vast pelvic history. He sent me to a specialist an hour away. It was one of the worst doctor’s appointments I’ve ever been to — and that’s saying a lot. He insisted it was quite impossible for me to be feeling pain and if I was then I should just go to a pain clinic because I have chronic pain conditions. I knew something was wrong and needed fixed.
I reached out to a doctor I’d seen a couple of years before who is a leading IC expert for a recommendation. He suggested I see his colleague. It was a four-hour drive that was well worth it. He operated, and I’ve spent the last year and a half since feeling much better. I certainly have no regrets for getting an additional opinion.
3. If you have an insurance coverage question, get the procedure code before calling.
Part of managing a chronic illness and advocating for yourself is dealing with health insurance. I have learned to call for major procedures and double-check my coverage, even when a doctor’s staff told me they had checked. The best way to get the most accurate coverage information is to get the procedure code from the doctor’s office. Once I didn’t do that and what I thought was going to be a $25 co-pay ended up being $500! Since then, I always ask the doctor’s office for the code when I need to call the insurance and check on my coverage. When in doubt, check it out!
4. Don’t rely on doctors to have your files or send them to other doctors.
Usually having a chronic illness means you are seeing a couple of different doctors. In addition to my general practitioner, I see some specialists. I have found it’s a good idea to get copies of my records when I really need another doctor to have them because the records don’t always end up where they are supposed to be, especially if it is a quick turnaround time.
This is especially important if you are seeing a doctor away from the city where you live. My most recent surgery was with the specialist that is four hours away from me. While I stayed up in the area a couple of days post-op, I made sure to have copies of my surgery notes with me when we left to drive back home in case I had a complication and needed to see a doctor locally.
5. Keep a list of medications and surgeries.
I have been through phases where my list of medications changed almost monthly. Keeping my list up to date is important so if I have another appointment or a medical emergency, I can list what I’m taking and how much. I keep it in a Word document on my computer that I update as needed.
I found that keeping a list of surgeries and their dates (and even doctors and location) is also helpful. Any time you go to a new doctor for any reason, you have to list all of that information, so having it handy in a document that you can update is just helpful. If you keep copies of your medical records (I do for my pelvic history since I’ve had a few surgeries, all by different doctors), you could easily print out your med and surgery list to keep with them. Then everything is in one handy location.
6. Other patients can be so helpful along the way.
I am not sure I can fully put into words what connecting with other patients has meant to me. I have made some very good friends this way. I have connected with people with whom my path would never have crossed otherwise, and I am thankful for that. When I was going through a rough time of dealing with my bladder issues as a 13-year-old, I didn’t know anyone else who had the same struggle. A decade later, the Internet was around, and I found a patient group online that was eye-opening to me. Things I thought were just different about me turned out to be common in other IC patients. The IC Network has an incredibly helpful and moderated patient forum. That forum has given me so much encouragement and self-help ideas for which I’m beyond grateful.
And all that said, you do have to be cautious in patient groups when it comes to medical advice. People who are dealing with pain are often grasping at anything to help them feel better but not all advice from other patients is good or even helpful. Definitely do your own research!
7. God is always faithful, even when He doesn’t heal you.
As a Christian, healing has come up for me. I have battled with it. I have wrestled with it. I have prayed for it. I have had others pray for it. Once I went into remission, which I took as an answer to prayer for healing. I was shaken when my symptoms came screaming back into my life a few years later as a young woman.
While this really, truly could be a whole other post and one day will be, I can tell you that I have found God to be faithful and good every single step of the way even when I didn’t understand why I hurt. He has been faithful to me even though I am not healed. I can tell you that after I wrestled with this for a few years, I felt God telling me that I will be healed in heaven. And then I began to pray for healing from my need to be healed. God was faithful to help me with that need.
I would love to be healed — don’t get me wrong — but it doesn’t define me or run obsessively through my mind. I have learned that no matter how hard the mountain gets to climb that God is always there, carrying me up the mountain. He’s never left me on my own. There were times I put my hope in doctors and in treatments until the day God reminded me He is my only hope. So while I may wish that a treatment would work and try different things, I have learned that whether the treatment works or fails, God is always there and will be with me.
8. Don’t be angry with people who don’t understand.
No matter what your struggle is in life, it’s hard for people to understand it precisely because they haven’t lived it. I’ve had people try to be helpful and tell me about the latest treatment idea they’ve come across. Not once has that actually been helpful. In fact, usually the very suggestions being made would actually make me feel worse instead of better. I have learned to instead just change the topic.
The fact of the matter is, most people aren’t going to understand your life and your struggles — no matter what kind of struggles you have. Even now in my life being open about my health struggles, my husband is the only person who comes closest to knowing what I really deal with on a daily basis. If you see me in person, chances are I won’t even tell you about my health struggles or daily battles I fight. So I really can’t get angry when someone doesn’t understand.
9. I am more than my health condition.
Living with a chronic health condition is a daily issue. There are no vacations or breaks. There is no escaping it. There may be good days or weeks. But it’s always there lurking. However, I am so much more than interstitial cystitis and fibromyalgia. I am a mom, a wife, a daughter, a journalist, a friend and more. I have more to talk about and think about than my health.
If I let it, my health issues can consume my thoughts. That’s not healthy in any way. When I feel myself slipping into that, I pray for help and I work to focus on what I have. Because my health issues haven’t taken everything from me. I have way more blessings than I do health issues. And that’s what I have to remember on the hard days.
10. I have to let other people be sick, too.
This sounds so silly. I know it does, but it’s something I’ve worked on. I still work on it a bit, to be honest with you. I hear people talking about an acute pain or sickness and I want to roll my eyes sometimes. I want to say, “Imagine living like that every day! Imagine if you felt like you had the flu, five pulled muscles and a UTI all at the same time every single day. Then talk to me about it!”
Fortunately, I bite my tongue. Because my suffering doesn’t make their suffering any less. They are still suffering. God has worked on me to help me become more sympathetic and empathetic. I can often spot someone in pain before anyone else. I know the signs of living like a “normal person” with pain. I can have compassion when someone is hurt because I know what pain feels like. I may have more of it, but I also know how debilitating and disheartening it can be to live with pain, whether acute or chronic. I know what I want people to say to me. The truth is, none of us wants to hear about anyone else’s difficulties when we are struggling. So I keep those to myself and offer encouragement and prayer instead.
Last week I was in my son’s kindergarten classroom at the end of the day to bring in cookies to celebrate his birthday with his classmates. He’s my second kiddo in this kindergarten class, so I’ve been in and out of it quite a few times.
But last week I heard something I hadn’t heard before. It was the end of the day and the teacher was having all the students gather their belongings. As they were settled in and waiting for dismissal, she asked them to use sign language to say a few things. Sign language isn’t new. Both of my kids have learned it in kindergarten, and I love that it’s part of their curriculum. The sign language wasn’t what got me, though. It was what she had them say.
I am important.
I am special.
I am smart.
Then, in true kindergarten teacher fashion, she said to them, “Boys and girls, remember that you are important, special and smart.”
I found myself overwhelmed in that moment. What a wonderful moment! (And what a wonderful reminder of how much I love their school!) Can you imagine what the world would be like if each of us not only heard but believed those affirmations every day?
I don’t know if all the kindergarteners go home to hear those kind of things. I know that we try to speak positively in our house, but I doubt I say those things so clearly to my children as often as I should.
The wonderful thing about 5- and 6-year-olds is that they believe these words without feeling embarrassed. They don’t feel a need to explain themselves. They accept them without downplaying them. They listen to them without hearing an inner voice saying that they aren’t these things.
Can you imagine if every day of your life you heard those words and believed them? What if boys in upper elementary struggling with their aggression heard these words every day? What if girls in middle school struggling with body image heard these words every day? What if teenagers facing peer pressure heard these words every day? What if college students struggling to make their way in the world heard these words every day? What if young mamas doubting their momming skills heard these words every day? What if husbands and fathers stressing over providing for their families heard these words every day? What if retirees working to redefine themselves heard these words every day? What if YOU heard these words every day?
You are important.
You are special.
You are smart.
What a difference we would see in our world. I can imagine the change starting in each of us. Having a reminder that we are important, special and smart shifts our attitudes just enough to make a difference. Suddenly we have enough confidence to try new things and not shy away from challenges. Suddenly we understand we are worth taking care of and start living more healthy lifestyles. Suddenly we are free to love others more fully and stop beating ourselves up.
We can easily look at our children and see these truths, but we often miss them when we look in the mirror. I can tell my children they are important, special and smart and believe it 100 percent.
However, when I think of saying them to or about myself I start to fade. It’s hard to believe them about ourselves. But God created us. He made us important, special and smart. As I tell my kids, God doesn’t make junk. If our Father thinks these things about us, then who am I to question the Creator of the universe?!
I have to believe that I’m not the only person who needs to hear these words. And I have to believe my son’s class aren’t the only ones who need to hear them either. Maybe what we need to do is learn a lesson from kindergarten and tell ourselves these things every single day. Isn’t it at least worth a try? I sure think so!
Today is World Introvert Day! Usually at least one or two of my friends will share this information with me each January 2, because it’s no secret that I’m an introvert. I’d guess most of us introverts are excited to celebrate today individually in our own homes. (Ha!)
While information about introverts abounds way more these days than ever before (seriously, as a kid and teenager I had no clue why I behaved the way I did and why many others didn’t understand me), people still get confused about introversion. We still get mistaken as being people who are shy and quiet. And sometimes we are. Most times, we just come across that way to other people (usually extroverts). We are really just people who re-energize with time alone and quiet rather than with other people and talking. We can get worn out, irritable and moody when we are with people too long.
But what does introversion look like? I can’t speak for every introvert, but I can speak for myself. One of my best examples of introversion happened the past two summers. An amusement park a couple of hours away offers a package for families of four to camp in their park overnight. Campers arrive just before closing, have some time to do things after hours, sleep in their own tents and are served breakfast before the park opens. We did this in both 2017 and 2018 and had fun.
Amusement parks are noisy and crowded. They’re an environment in which I can get easily overwhelmed and overloaded. In fact, at events like these I usually end up exhausted with a headache after a few hours. Both years, I felt a bit stressed as we arrived, lugged all of our stuff to the area where we could camp (right in the center of the amusement park!) and kept track of the kiddos. After we decide where we’re pitching our tent, we get it set up and I head into it to get the beds all made up and ready. Both times going into the tent gave me a strong sense of relief, and my stress began to dissipate.
And that’s because inside the tent, I can still hear all of the noise outside. I can still hear people talking as they walk by and other campers setting up their camp sites, but I am out of sight of them, and they are out of sight from me. I get to be in my own little bubble of sorts with my family, and it’s wonderful. I immediately relax.
That’s introversion. We don’t want to shy away from experiences or other people. Introverts don’t want to always be quiet and aren’t anti-social, but we do relax best and become our true selves when we are in our own space. We replenish our energy by being alone. If I could take a tent with me to every large event or gathering, I would. (But I’m not trying to be a freak, I promise!) I wouldn’t stay in it the whole time; I don’t at the amusement park either. But I would go in when I just needed a few moments alone to decompress.
I can’t take a tent in places, but I have found other
escapes. When we go to a gaming convention in a nearby city each year and are
exploring the exhibit hall packed with booths, vendors and other gamers, I get
on overload. I have learned to avoid a headache and utter exhaustion, my best
bet is to take about 20 minutes here and there to sit out. My husband will keep
going through the booths and I’ll go sit on the side of the convention hall
(most often on the floor) and just close my eyes. I don’t usually fall all the
way asleep (though I totally did the year we went and I was eight months
pregnant). I just have my eyes closed and am able to be in my own head space
for just a while. I can still hear the noise, but it gives me a chance to
regroup and go inside of myself rather than be totally involved with all that
is going on around me.
Other times I can’t sit on the sidelines with my eyes
closed without seeming like a crazy, anti-social person, so I find other ways
to regroup. Sometimes it just means going to the bathroom and staying in there
an extra two minutes alone. (This is where having bladder problems comes in
handy, because I really do have to go to the bathroom a lot!)
And this is life as an introvert. It’s not bad. It isn’t
weird. It’s just how I’m wired, and it’s not all that different or unique.
There are quite a few of us around. We tend to understand extroverts perhaps a
bit more than they understand us, but that also may be because we tend to be
quieter and listen more. It could also be because our world and culture are
geared very strongly toward extroverts as the norm.
So when your introvert friends say that they just need a few minutes away or when they head to the bathroom at a party and don’t return for five minutes, just leave them be and know they are going into their own tent, their own bubble to regroup. They don’t want to be away from you or not be part of the group. They just need a minute of downtime to process information and relax. It’s not shy or weird. It’s OK. That’s just how they’re wired.
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