Thursday, October 23, 2014

Own It: Rock Your Tribe

This week's theme, in my Five Habits of Creative Teachers class, is "tribe." The word tribe connotes closeness and loyalty to me. My definition of tribe is a close-knit group of people who can count on one another through the ups and downs of life.

My favorite exercise in this module was the creation of a "Life Ring." Here are the instructions for the exercise, as provided:

Focus on roughly 5-9 major life arenas where you will invest your time, with self, family, work, and community (SFWC). Put your “master in the middle”; this is the primary driving force behind all your decisions – and in every life, there can only be one master. If you try to have more than one master, eventually your Life will intersect events so that you have an “identity quake”, and must choose your primary master. Under each arena bubble, list those most important habits that you will commit to each day or each week. This is not simply a “to do list”, but a list of habits. When the Life Ring has a clear “master in the middle”, 5-9 arenas, and a short list of habits under each arena, it is complete. (Credit for LIfe Ring Exercise to CIC course (Links to an external site.) from U of Pennsylvania)

And here is the Life Ring I created:

The reason I liked this exercise, to be honest, is that I've been feeling discouraged over a few of the major life arenas I've identified, above, and the exercise helped me remember that Jesus is, or should be, at the center of everything I do. I'm a visual learner (and person), and I really appreciate the opportunity to think about not only what's most important to me, but also how to tie everything back to Jesus.

The outcome of the exercise is neither surprising nor expected, but I will say it's clarifying. The biggest insight I got from doing this exercise is that--even though I feel overwhelmed, sometimes, by my life--I can easily make little changes to not only improve each life arena but also center myself more consistently in Jesus. I'm supposed to tell you something that didn't work out for me, and initially, that something was sharing on Google +. I got a notification that I needed to receive an invitation to join the class community. Somehow, though (I have no idea how!), I got in without an invitation, in the end.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Own It: Build Your Own Playground

For my Five Habits of Highly Creative Teachers class, I built my own playground. My instructors encouraged me consider Dr. Stuart Brown's principles for play: purposeless, voluntary, inherently attractive, allowing freedom from time, giving a diminished consciousness of self, having improvisational potential, and having a continuation desire.

My playground includes a lake because I'm a water bug from way back. I prefer fresh water over salt and love to swim and canoe. I also love the mystery and shade of the woods, especially on horseback, and I wanted to show that horses are available for riding just outside the frame. I included a library (front and center); a giant shoe in which to cook, bathe, and rest; and some swings, of course: my favorite ride.

My instructors asked how often I'll be visiting my playground (I'm thinking I'll just move there?) and whom I'll allow to join me. I'll have many visitors (living and dead), but not at the same time, and they'll visit by invitation only. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Jay, Charleigh drew your name from a hat, this morning. You win Pure Eyes, Clean Heart by Jen and Craig Ferguson! Congratulations!

Meghan, Clementine drew your name from a hat, this morning. You win Playdates with God by Laura Boggess! Congratulations!

If each of you will please send me your address as a pm on facebook, I'll get your book to you. Thank you both, and happy reading!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Own It: Curiosity Mystery Solved

I need to preface what I'm about to write with an explanation, of sorts. I'm taking three online classes, right now, through Canvas Network: Laura Ingalls Wilder: Exploring Her Work and Writing Life; Teaching Online: Reflections on Practice; and Five Habits of Highly Creative Teachers. I'd never heard of Canvas Network until my bloggy friend Amanda, who knew I was reading the Little House series to the girls, mentioned the class on Wilder.

Canvas Network is a center for open online learning. The three classes I'm taking? Free. The Wilder class is out of Missouri State; the teaching-online class is out of Kirkwood Community College; and the creative-teacher class is from the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services. Will I get credit? No, but I'll earn certificates of completion, and more importantly, I'll learn things. Canvas Network: check it out.

Anyway, the following will fulfill a requirement for Five Habits of Highly Creative Teachers.


Part 1: In your journal, reflect about yourself as an (.) person, a (!) person and a (?) person. In other words, the passive and indifferent you, the dogmatic and inflexible you and the inquisitive and curious you. 
  • Does one describe you more than the others?
  • Does it depend on context? If so, when are you most (.) (!) and (?)
I see myself as a (?) person. I'm rarely passive and indifferent about anything outside of other people's business. If I'm to be found dogmatic and inflexible, it's generally because I feel like someone is taking a heavy-handed approach in trying to change my way of thinking; I'm more than happy to dialogue with those who have different viewpoints, but I shut down when I feel bullied or patronized. 

I'm in a really good place, right now, in terms of following my curiosity, traveling outside of my comfort zone, and growing. My enrollment in this class, along with several other things, proves this.

Part 2:  Let's take it one step further. We're going to build a five by five strategy to implement curiosity in our lives.
  • Brainstorm for a few minutes about some times or things in which you would like to be more (?)
  • Select 5 of those that you would really like to follow up on.
  • For each of those 5 come up with a list of practical strategies that will enable you put them into action.
Brainstorming: earning, marketing, branding, WordPress, niche, SEO, publishing, histogram, fill flash, RAW, filters, Pixlr, Photoshop, Lightroom, piano, art projects for the girls, Charlotte Mason, Virginia history, weight loss, healthy eating, exercise 

I really don't want to narrow these down because I see them as falling into five distinct categories:
  • Marketing
  • Blogging/Writing
  • Photography
  • Homeschooling
  • Physical Well-being
The biggest challenge I face in exploring new ideas/things is in finding the time. I've come to realize that I can't neglect my physical health any longer: even if I have to let something(s) else go. I plan to start exercising daily, even if that just means taking a walk with the kids. My other strategies pertain to all the categories: spend less "wasted" time on the Internet and a set amount of time per day--even if just thirty minutes--learning something about one of the brainstormed topics, above.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Book Review/Giveaway: Playdates with God

I met Laura Boggess in the blogosphere and consider her a friend. She reminds me of home, and when I say that I mean East Tennessee. Laura is actually a native of West Virginia, but I guess I'm not enough of a Tennessean to be able to tell much difference; she's felt kindred to me from the outset, and I'm blessed to have received a copy of her new book Playdates with God in exchange for an honest review.

I started reading Playdates with God as I was reading several other things, and that was a mistake. If you're familiar with Laura's blog, you know there's not a lot of bang-clash to her written voice. Thank God. I get tired of bang-clash, and Laura's voice travels like fog, like mist, like dappled sunlight, like the tinkle of piano keys from some unseen place up the hollow. There's a poetic, ethereal, almost haunting quality to it. It isn't the kind of voice that will assert itself or rise easily above the din. It's a lot like our Father's: still, small.

I say all that to say: you'll want to carve out space and time for this book. Inasmuch as I do not think it's best read when one is reading ten other things, I do not think it's best read in one sitting, or when one is in a hurry. It reminds me a bit of Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts in that it includes a million little profundities-- examinations of scripture, quotations from great thinkers, grains of truth, nuggets of wisdom--that are impossible to digest quickly. I do find Laura's writing tighter and more succinct than Voskamp's.

Each chapter of Playdates with God can be enjoyed independently of the others, and the book can very nearly be considered a collection of essays on a similar theme: seek God through the rediscovery of your childlike (or newlywed!) heart.

I do recommend this book and plan to reread it in the ways I've suggested, above. More than that, though, I recommend your continued attention to this author. She can write anything (essays, research, fiction, poetry, etc.), and she can write it well. If I were to prophesy a bit, I'd tell you her best work is yet to come and that it will deliver a quiet punch unlike any we've experienced since Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle.

Laura Boggess' Playdates with God is available at Amazon (paperback and kindle). I'll be sending one blessed someone a copy directly from Amazon. If you'd like to enter my giveaway, comment below. The winner will be chosen/announced in one week on October 14th, 2014, so be sure to check back; I'll need an address!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Review/Giveaway: Pure Eyes, Clean Heart

I've been blessed to cross paths with Jen Ferguson in the blogosphere, where she facilitates a community called the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood. Jen's husband Craig is recovering from an addiction to pornography, and Jen is recovering from an addiction to control. Together, they made the incredibly brave decision to write Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple's Journey to Freedom from Pornography. They blessed me with an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

Honestly, I don't know that I've ever been more touched by a work of nonfiction. This book is God-breathed. Anointed! Reading it, I felt washed over by the prayer that went into it.

I LOVE the way it's put together (her perspective, his perspective, gentle suggestions about how one might, with the help of the Lord, approach a specific challenge).

I LOVE the humble tone. The bravery, honestly, and of these people makes me want to curl up and cry. There is not one iota of pretentiousness or bossiness, and I know--as one who's very sensitive to tone, as one who CANNOT be told (by another human) what to do and how to think--that's why the message affected me so very deeply.

I LOVE the applicability of this book. I believe wholeheartedly that it will help EVERY married person, ESPECIALLY if (s)he's a Christian. If (s)he's NOT a Christian, this book may very well lead him or her TO Christ. There is so much, here, about love...forgiveness...honesty...authenticity...grace...surrender (I could go on and on!): the most basic and necessary ingredients for healthy marriage.

I'd promised to lend my copy to a friend when I finished reading, and I don't know: I'm going to have to buy her a copy or something, because I just can't. I need to go back and reread certain things...underline them...sit with them awhile...maybe write them up my arm with a Sharpie.

Trust me: even if pornography has never been an issue in your marriage, you will be blessed by this book. You will learn from this book. You will be inspired by this book. You will start praying for this couple to make a video series out of this book, for your small group Bible study. You will wish you had the money to buy a copy of this book for every married couple you know and every church library in your county.

For a chance to win a copy of Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple's Journey to Freedom from Pornography, just leave a comment, below. The winner will be announced in one week, on October 13th. 

You can purchase a hard copy of the Fergusons' book here, or the Kindle Edition here. I am confident that you'll have no regrets.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The God-sized Void

So. I'd chunked up a bit, but I wasn't particularly bothered until my fingers swelled up like hotdogs. My feet swelled, too, and I could barely squeeze them into a pair of shoes that--I kid you not--used to flop off my heels. I felt fatigued and thirsty often, dizzy sometimes, and after a couple weeks, I decided to see someone.

I didn't have a doctor but found a physician assistant who could see me within a couple of days. She ran a bunch of blood work and, a week later, assured me I was fine: cholesterol a wee bit elevated, she said, but not enough for her to recommend a course of treatment. She advised my losing twenty pounds and taking it easy on the sodium.

I'd been planning since mid-August to enter a Daniel fast on the date of the follow-up and received the PA's words as a sign. I'm thankful for my lab results (and pleasantly surprised, in particular, by the ones related to my blood sugar) but know I'm pushing it. I know I'm too heavy. I know I'm too sedentary. I know I'm too tired, too often, and I know I struggle in holding my eyes open after I eat dessert.

I know this isn't God's best for me. I know I'm not my best, for God.

I love the cleansing aspect of the Daniel fast but the spiritual aspect, even more. I know God sees me. I can hear His voice more clearly when I'm fasting, and over the last couple weeks, He's used the words of others--Lysa TerKeurst, Jen and Craig Ferguson (more about their book, Monday), Seth Haines, Laura Boggess, and my own Pastor David--to reveal to me: all my life, I've looked to man, food, or both to fill a void only the Lord can fill.

I've asked God to heal me: to help me turn to Him--no one and nothing else--for approval, comfort, and love. He is so faithful. I know He will continue to work in, through, and with me.

I have eight days more to go with the Daniel fast. I appreciate its three-week time frame because it takes three weeks, supposedly, to break a habit. I've written that before. I've also written before: I hope to continue making healthy food choices after coming off the fast. I'd like to continue avoiding dairy, gluten, sugar, and sugar substitutes for the most part.

I appreciate Lysa TerKeurst's strategy with sugar/dessert, which is to consume it only according to a long-range plan: never spur-of-the-moment. I've thought about what that might look like for me. What desserts do I know I'll want before the end of the year? I can think of three: an apple cider doughnut on Carter Mountain,  a Nutter Butter ghostie at halloween (a tradition), and a slice of my mama's pumpkin pie over the holidays. What if I were able to commit to eating only those three desserts between now and the end of the year? What if I were able to commit to one sandwich per week (on wheat bread) bowl of cereal per week...Diet Coke only when we go to the movies or eat in a sit-down restaurant? These are the sorts of questions I'm asking prayerfully.

Will you pray for me? Will you ask God to make my hunger for Him, only? I'm tired and tired of being tired, and more than that, I'm tired of feeling desperate. I know God alone is the source of the peace I've sought in so many misguided ways.