Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Habits to Make You Happier

I first read this post at Inc. and I bookmarked it because it was full of common sense ideas that we can easily pass on to children if we don't expect them to simply absorb them by watching us. I'll be blogging again starting next week; thanks for sticking with me during the break!

9 Daily Habits That Will Make You Happier 

Happiness is the only true measure of personal success. Making other people happy is the highest expression of success, but it's almost impossible to make others happy if you're not happy yourself.
With that in mind, here are nine small changes that you can make to your daily routine that, if you're like most people, will immediately increase the amount of happiness in your life:

1. Start each day with expectation.

If there's any big truth about life, it's that it usually lives up to (or down to) your expectations. Therefore, when you rise from bed, make your first thought: "something wonderful is going to happen today." Guess what? You're probably right.

2. Take time to plan and prioritize.

The most common source of stress is the perception that you've got too much work to do.  Rather than obsess about it, pick one thing that, if you get it done today, will move you closer to your highest goal and purpose in life. Then do that first.

3. Give a gift to everyone you meet.

I'm not talking about a formal, wrapped-up present. Your gift can be your smile, a word of thanks or encouragement, a gesture of politeness, even a friendly nod. And never pass beggars without leaving them something. Peace of mind is worth the spare change.

4. Deflect partisan conversations.

Arguments about politics and religion never have a "right" answer but they definitely get people all riled up over things they can't control. When such topics surface, bow out by saying something like: "Thinking about that stuff makes my head hurt."

5. Assume people have good intentions.

Since you can't read minds, you don't really know the "why" behind the "what" that people do. Imputing evil motives to other people's weird behaviors adds extra misery to life, while assuming good intentions leaves you open to reconciliation.

6. Eat high quality food slowly.

Sometimes we can't avoid scarfing something quick to keep us up and running. Even so, at least once a day try to eat something really delicious, like a small chunk of fine cheese or an imported chocolate. Focus on it; taste it; savor it.

7. Let go of your results.

The big enemy of happiness is worry, which comes from focusing on events that are outside your control. Once you've taken action, there's usually nothing more you can do. Focus on the job at hand rather than some weird fantasy of what might happen.

8. Turn off "background" TV.

Many households leave their TVs on as "background noise" while they're doing other things. The entire point of broadcast TV is to make you dissatisfied with your life so that you'll buy more stuff. Why subliminally program yourself to be a mindless consumer?

9. End each day with gratitude.

Just before you go to bed, write down at least one wonderful thing that happened. It might be something as small as a making a child laugh or something as huge as a million dollar deal. Whatever it is, be grateful for that day because it will never come again.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Scheduling Faith

The following is a re-post from blogger Freddae' at Coffee, God and Me. She's a Methodist pastor and a single parent. I like the way she applies the "method" to making sure she passes on the faith to her son. Enjoy!

     The other day I sat down to update my calendars to reflect the fall schedule.  I also penciled out a general sketch of a routine for my family/home.  I represent a single
parent family with one child, so I understand this may look different for others, but trust me, I need some structure even if it's just the two of us.

     In this routine, I made sure there was ample time for: a sit down dinner, homework, free play, teeth brushing and flossing, etc.  Then it occurred to me, nowhere in this daily itinerary was there any room for prayer or devotion.  I'm a firm believer that prayer should be never-ending; it should be this constant on-going conversation we have with God where we may set the receiver down for a little while, but we know the line is always hot.  That being said, I think it's important that we make sure that in our busy lives, "time with God" has as much a line in our date books as basketball practice, cub scouts, and yoga.  

     Every morning, my son and I share a devotion together out of his book Jesus Calling. (The children's version).  Then we pray together for our day.  This takes us a solid 10 minutes to do it right and not feel like we're rushing.  At dinner, we pray over
our meal, talk about our day, and discuss a short devotional thought.  This doesn't dominate our entire mealtime, but creates a great space for personal interaction that is spiritually focused.  At the end of the day, my son takes his last 15 minutes before bed to read scripture on his own in his room.  This disconnects him from the glowing screens of the TV and games systems (which studies have proven are causes of problems with sleep) and connects him with God...all the while tiring his eyes.  He chooses which scripture he wants to read.  Then when he's done, we take a minute or two to discuss what he read, pray together, and off to sleep he goes.

     My son has entered 2nd grade this year, which I think places him at a great age to start practicing spiritual disciplines.  If we're going to be attentive to developing healthy children in terms of eating habits, exercise routines, positive self-esteem - then we also need to nurture them spiritually.  As parents, we have been commissioned with the task to raise up our children in ways that honor and glorify God.  We're not always going to be successful at this and not everything we teach will stick.  Our children have their own journey's to trek and discoveries to make.  That being said, I believe that if we instill in them moral and spiritual compasses, they'll have a strong core and center for years to come.

     In order to lead this kind of household, you must also respond with conviction to living a devotional life as well.  John Wesley, theologian and general founder of Methodism, had three simple rules: 

1.  Do all the good that you can
2.  Do no harm
3.  Tend to the ordinances of God (spiritual disciplines)

     We are called to raise up our children in ways that open them to as much beauty in this life as possible.  The disciplines teach them patience, kindness, integrity, honesty, devotion, humility, love of neighbor, peace/stillness..Ex.just to name a few.  We can't be successful with this task unless we too are seeking to live such lives. 

     So far, my son and I are on day 2, and though its been a little challenging to kick-start, it's already reaping tremendous rewards...for both a 7 year old and a 32 year old. 

    I challenge you...pencil the Holy into your family calendar and dare to see what God will do.

Friday, September 13, 2013

How does it look from where you sit?

I've discovered UpWorthy - a vlog (video blog) of positive stuff that I really appreciate. Here's a quick re-post while I'm in between homes:

'One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others' Shouldn't Have Come To Mind When I Viewed A Class Photo

I'm positive that the photographer who took the original photo wasn't an unkind person who intentionally separated a child in his class photo. But the original picture made one little boy who so clearly wanted to be a part of his class look (and maybe feel) like he was alone. And, just as bad, it sent a message to his peers that it's OK to exclude children with disabilities.

My original thought was that if all the kids just moved closer, the problem would be solved. But a friend who has a child with a disability helped me to understand that wouldn't have been a solution, either, because he'd still be separated.

Although it took a little pressure, the photography company retook the class picture, and the new one is perfect. Let's learn from this mistake. Small adjustments in our daily actions can make everyone feel included, important, and valued.

Laura Willard

Original photo:

Photo retake, with the student seated with his peers (next to his aide):

Isn't that amazing? Inclusion is a value to instill in our children. It's an act of loving kindness that reflects the loving kindness of our Great Creator and enriches life for everyone. My thanks to Laura Willard for this amazing education in two pictures!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again

I've been distracted this summer. Looking for work, taking advantage of time off to be with friends and family, reading books I haven't had time for in a long time, and now sorting and packing. However, school has started, and I should get back to the blog but now I'm busy moving, so for the next couple of weeks I want to introduce you to some of the best blogs I read. This week I want to share the sweetest blog from one of my favorites: The Actual Pastor, Steve Wiens.

To Isaac, on Your First Day of First Grade

Dear Isaac,
Even though you insist you’ve been a first grader ever since the last day of Kindergarten, today is the day it officially begins. So on your first day of first grade, I want you to know a few things, straight from your dad:
You are brave. Remember the time that you accidentally locked mommy out of the house while the hot water was filling up in the sink to heat up your brother’s bottles? Remember how you got the chair, turned off the water, and opened the door all by yourself, even though you were only three? Even though you were crying the whole time? You did it. At school, there will be times when you have to do things even when you’re not sure how to do them, and you may feel like crying. You may even cry! And that’s okay. I want you to know that I have seen you be brave, over and over again. So even when you don’t feel brave, your daddy says that you are brave.
You are kind. You probably won’t believe this, Isaac, but I was shy in first grade. I stuttered really badly. That means it was hard for me to start talking, and even when I got started, my words got all jumbled up; they got stuck somewhere in between my mind and my mouth. It was hard for me to be confident when I started new things, like school or sports. It was especially hard when people made fun of me because I stuttered. Isaac, I’ve seen you be such a good friend to Emmaus, Cai, and especially your brothers. Would you look out for kids who stutter, or who look a little different, or who seem like they’re having a hard time making friends? Would you be kind to them? You don’t have to try really hard; just be you, and that will be enough.
There is no outside of inside. Isaac, you are in my heart, and there is nothing you will ever say, think, or do that will change that. I’m sure you will do fine at school all day, but when you get home, you might get a little cranky. Or maybe even a lot cranky. Let me tell you a secret: that’s what we all do. It’s hard out there. Home is where we can be ourselves after trying hard out there all day. We get cranky around the people who love us the most because home is where we feel safe. I want you to know that when you are with me, you are home. You are safe. You can show up how you actually are, cranky and all. I love you, end of story. And because there’s no outside of inside, even when you’re not with me, you’re still home, because you are in my heart.
There are lots of kinds of smart. Isaac, when I was a kid, I wasn’t that great at school. There were lots of kids who did better than me on tests. I wasn’t the first person to learn how to read. I still remember the lump in my throat when I didn’t do well, even though I tried hard. So let me be the one to tell you, Isaac: there are lots of kinds of smart. Some kids are really smart at numbers. Some are smart at words. Some are smart at solving problems. Some are smart at friendship. Some are smart at helping people. And some are smart at creating things, like paintings or pottery. You are smart, Isaac, and we’re going to help you figure out what kind of smart you are.
And the last one is a tough one. But here it is: My job is not to protect you from hard things, it’s to launch you out into this great big world, so that you can play your part in great Big Story. This means that sometimes, you’ll make mistakes. You might not make the team. You might try to make friends with people who reject you. When those things happen, I hope I’m the first person you want to talk to. I’ll cry with you. Isaac, this is so hard for me. I’d much rather do anything and everything to make sure you don’t fail or get hurt. But you need to fail, and even get hurt sometimes, because that’s how you’ll learn how to be a person who brings great things to this world. Only those of us who have suffered a little know how to really help.
So, Isaac, my beautiful, strong son: have a great first day of first grade. I’ll be waiting for you when you get home.
Your Daddy.