Author: Mary Ann Johnson

Sparks Bring Learning to Life!

What Are Sparks?

I have talked about children’s ‘SPARKS’ in numerous articles and in my book, Becoming A Present Parent. In fact, the issue of Sparks came up in last week’s comments – Can Children LOVE Learning?  What’s a Spark, you may ask? Well, a Spark is anything that a child says or does that lets you know they’re interested in something right now. Sparks are valuable regardless of how you choose to educate your children.

My daughter Kate is not a homeschooling mom. However, last year, due to Covid, she became one. It isn’t something she plans to continue doing. But she, like most moms, is interested in teaching her children about life, core values, people, events, and other worthwhile topics. This type of learning occurs well in the family and home. Recently, Kate shared a person of interest with her children, Tessa and Elliott – Lily Hevesh,  @hevesh5  a well-known domino artist. Elliott and Tessa have been in love with dominos for years. Tessa and Elliott were intrigued by this woman artist and what she had accomplished. For well over an hour, they worked on their own domino creations. My daughter sent me photos and included these words – ‘Light a spark and watch it burn!’ I loved it because those are my words. I didn’t even know she was paying attention to them. : )

If we keep our eyes open, we will notice what interests our children. We will see what is ‘sparking ‘them right now. That is the thing to hone in on and help your children with, whether it is getting materials they need,  teaching them about a famous person who also has that Spark, or giving them space to experiment and create a mess.

HOW TO SEE SPARKS

A. Be Present. Do you want to know the number one way to see and hear your child’s Sparks? BE PRESENT. When we’re Present in all the mundane moments of a family’s day, we will see and hear what we may have missed up until now.

It’s hard to see Sparks if your head is filled with your schedule or if you’re engrossed in your technology. It’s hard to ‘see’ if you’re trying to avoid becoming involved or prevent a mess. You can’t see if you’re so busy working that the Spark appears to be an irritation or problem.

B. Ask good questions. You can jump-start your ability to see your children’s Sparks by asking yourself questions:
• What activity do you have to make them stop doing to get them to eat or go to sleep?
• What activity are they doing when they seem most engaged and alive?
• When they get to choose what to do on a free afternoon, what activity do they choose?
• What did they love to do when they were three years old? Five years old?
• What are they currently doing that bugs you?
• What do they do that’s making a mess?
• What do they collect?

C. Have mini-conversations.
• Share your Sparks, and they may share theirs
• Say “You’re very good at this”
• Say “You seem interested in this”
• Say, “This appears to make you happy/excited.”
• Ask, “Have you ever thought of . . . .”
• Say, “I had a great day today.”
• At dinner, ask “What was the best part of your day?” and have each person share

Pay attention to what keeps coming up over and over again in their answers and their conversations.

When we are in tune with what interests our children now, we can watch them experience joy just as Kate watched it happen for her children. Let others know how to do it too. : )

Can Children LOVE Learning?

For many families, school has begun in earnest. Whether you are using the public system, a private system, or homeschooling, September usually means we are deep into it. Some years back, I wrote an article about how to help children remain lifelong learners, to become lovers of learning.

As I reread it, I was reminded of the value of helping our children love learning new things, to not be intimidated by what they do not already know. We don’t have total control if we use the public system or a private system to educate our kids. However, we always have control over what happens in our homes and between our children and us.

Homeschool parents are not immune to things that can take away a child’s love of learning. So often, there is the pressure to make sure our kids are up to par because parents may feel the need to prove they aren’t ‘ruining’ their kids. I have homeschooled, and I know that pressure!

I feel the information is as pertinent today as it was when I first wrote it. I hope you enjoy the read and that it gives you an idea or two that you can institute into your home to help your kids become lifelong learners by choice.

“But I must again repeat it, that the great secret of education lies in finding out the proper means of making young minds fall in love with useful researches…”
-George Turnbull, Observations upon Liberal Education, written in 1742

This is an interesting premise. If we can discern how to help children fall in love with learning, they can receive an excellent education because they want to.

I believe this love of learning comes naturally to children. I’m sure you have observed how children learn. Just watch a baby learning to use their hands. They are not discouraged by how long it takes to gain mastery over the hand. They just keep working at it. No one tries to help a baby learn to use their hands. We just watch them and encourage them and let them work it out. The same goes for learning to hold a spoon, walking, putting on a shirt, etc. We provide the spoon and the shirt and support and encouragement, but basically, let them work it out.

Watch an eight-year-old building a fort. They are dogged when it comes to a project like this and, if left to their own devices, will figure it out and enjoy every bit of the process. The finished product may leave a bit to be desired in our adult minds, but the child will be thrilled with his effort.

Herein lies part of the problem of maintaining a love of learning. The parent might comment on the unsafe condition of the floor or walls; how many nails they used, what of this or that could be better, the pile of accumulated debris. Then the comment, “Here, let me help you with this.” Both teachers and parents must be careful not to damage a child’s confidence in their efforts to help. They also need to be cautious about sending the ‘you didn’t really do a good job’ message.

Sometimes parents have a fear that their child might be left behind, in some way found wanting, or not be able to compete in the adult world effectively. Often, if children march to a different drummer, it makes us nervous. Occasionally a child doesn’t fit on the usual timeline for learning something, such as reading or math.

Our eagerness to help them can sometimes do more harm than good. If we are too energetic in our efforts, we can even cause a ‘hate of learning.’ We often fall into this trap regarding the ‘academic’ subjects or things that cause us inconvenience. School teachers are not immune to these same errors. Pushing too hard and criticism make loving a new skill or topic difficult for kids.

Ten Ways to Foster a Love of Learning

So, what are some ways that we can encourage learning in any subject, even academics, without squashing the child’s own natural desire to learn?

1. Provide a safe and loving atmosphere for learning, more support, less pressure. Safer support would have helped me when it came to math. I loved math, but I was terrible at it. The harder the adults pushed, the more challenging it was to learn. It seemed to slow down my brain. Later, as an adult, I realized that I had a learning difficulty. I wish I had felt supported and safe when it came to math but I, instead, felt judged.

2. Provide inspiring materials. Expose children to inspiring music, great art, good books, etc. When I was of middle school age and into high school, I was teased by my friends because I read all the wrong stuff. That is because my dad had so many great books. I couldn’t help myself. What my friends were reading seemed lame. : )

My mother sang beautifully. She didn’t sing opera, but she played it, and she sang songs from Broadway. I didn’t listen to the same music as my peers. Yes, they did think I was a bit odd, but I had been exposed to the beauty of literature, art, and music. It changed how I saw the world.

If you want help exposing your kids to great art and literature, check out this excellent website. The Well Educated Heart (aka Libraries of Hope) is a restoration of stories from the golden age of children’s literature. Marlene Peterson has reconnected the modern generation of parents and children to the classic but forgotten stories that have instilled virtue and character in the hearts of generations past.

3. Read as a family on a regular, consistent basis. Reading as a family has great benefits. Even now, when my family consists of three people over seventy, I have written about the huge impact our family reading has had. This one thing will make a difference in your family and your children’s love of learning.

4. Inspire curiosity and then leave them to the wonder of experimentation and self-discovery. My grandson, Ben, loves this! Let them, experiment, fail, make a mess, etc. It leads to learning.

5. Leave plenty of time for thinking, playing, and being with family. Avoid too many lessons, clubs, and classes that adults manage. I have often written of the value of being at home, together, talking, reading, and playing. It takes effort to make this happen in our busy world of technology, but you will be well rewarded for the effort. Gotta put away the phone for at least a couple of hours each week. It takes dedication on a parent’s part, but you can do it. I’ve seen it.

6. Remember that play is the work of children. Encourage your kids to go outside and be in nature. Let them work stuff out together without adult supervision. Experiment with time off from technology. Organized sports and clubs don’t count. When kids are free to play and use their imagination, it does a body good.

7. Be patient with the learning process. I know I would have had a better outcome with math if those who taught me and those at home who felt responsible for my learning, would have been more patient with my timeline. I had a learning difficulty. Back in those days, we didn’t even know what that was. But there was such a push to move me along with everyone else that it became harder and harder to learn.

8. Learn to recognize and respond to Sparks. Sparks tell you what your child is interested in right now and may develop a passion for later. They are usually the things that bug you or make a mess. However, if you follow your child’s lead, you can both have a remarkable learning opportunity together.

9. Enjoy learning yourself. I read because my dad read and made books available. My mom read to us. She played all kinds of music and sang for us. My mom and dad taught themselves to run several brick-and-mortar businesses. They were always learning something new. It helped me be brave and willing to learn new things This example has served me well! Right now, at 71, I am learning Spanish!

10. Share what you are learning with your children. I would have loved to have more conversations with my mom and dad about what they were doing, reading, and learning. I know it would have helped me, but their example was all they could give at the time. So, give your children a bit more. Let them know what you are learning about.

When we safeguard this natural love of learning, we set the child on the road to success when they are ready for deeper levels of knowledge. They will be prepared to flourish in high school and college studies. They will do as George Turnbull suggests; they will seek out an excellent education.

Send these tips along to your friends who have to deal with the pressures of school, any type of school. They will thank you for it. : ) 

Is there a deeper truth?

How it all started!

Alzheimer’s is a challenging disease to deal with. The brain isn’t consistent. So today, my mom can remember something, and tomorrow she has no clue. It is a temptation to repeat things, hoping the information will somehow stick. The dog has to be in the middle of the pad. This is a porta-potty. Don’t use the garbage can. Don’t fold up your used underwear. It goes here.

The other day my mom ate three bowls of cereal before lunch. This isn’t the first time it has happened. We buy her favorite cereal, raisin bran. It must have sweetened flakes because mom cannot monitor her use of sugar, and we leave it in the refrigerator so she can find it when she gets up in the morning if one of us isn’t in sight.

Mom thinks she is hungry because one of the effects of her dementia is that she no longer recognizes thirst. So, whenever she needs water, she feels hungry. I was out in the garden, and Don was resting. We weren’t there to get her a drink and help her manage how she was feeling. That is why she ate three bowls of cereal in four hours.

When I came in to fix lunch, I was put out. I need mom’s weight to stay reasonable to manage baths and things that will come up down the road. I need mom to eat nutritious food. I don’t want her to become ill and end up in the hospital. These were my thoughts as I explained again why she shouldn’t eat three bowls of cereal before lunch for the dozenth time. She won’t recall any of the conversations. What she will remember is that she was in trouble.

Was there a deeper truth?

Later, I was telling my daughter Jodie what I had done. I was confessing because I realized that my motive for the conversation wasn’t as noble as I had supposed. Then Jodie shared a life-changing question with me. She had learned that it was helpful to ask this question when she felt upset – ‘Is there a deeper truth?’

Let’s look again at the situation with my mom. I want her to have a manageable weight. Is there a deeper truth? I want her to eat nutritious food. Is there a deeper truth? I want her to remain healthy, so she doesn’t end up in the hospital. Is there a deeper truth? Her greatest fear is having to be in a nursing home. I want to make sure she can stay here with us. Is there a deeper truth?

I hated to admit it, but there was a deeper truth. I am a woman of order. I like things my way. Her eating three bowls of cereal was out of order. Not being hungry enough to eat lunch with us was not part of how I envision a family lunch. You get up, eat breakfast, drink water, then have lunch. This is the proper order.

All those other things are true. I care about them, but when I was honest with myself, it wasn’t any of those things that had me so worked up. It was that my plan had been messed with. But, of course, I’m sure you won’t judge me too harshly. You do this. We all do this.

This question can help you to parent better

I can think back to my parenting and the times I got upset with one of my kids. Of course, after the fact, I could come up with lots of good reasons for my distress. However, if I had asked myself this question, I can assure you that often the truth would have been attached to my plans, feelings, desires, and sense of how it should be.

I don’t think we can avoid being upset over things that happen in a family—a mud ring left in the tub; the center cut out of an entire piece of construction paper; clothes stuffed under the bed. Homework lost or left undone, a child not coming home on time, the left-over roast being eaten when you had planned a meal around it. The list is endless.

But we can respond better if we will ask ourselves the question – ‘Is there a deeper truth’ until we get to the bottom of why we are really upset or distressed. Then we will be able to manage whatever the situation is with greater calm. We will be better able to teach. We will feel better about ourselves. We will leave our children feeling better about themselves.

I have numerous opportunities to practice asking myself this question every day. I am getting a bit better, and hopefully, I will become a master eventually. If you decide to begin asking yourself this question, I’ll bet you will also have many opportunities to practice. I hope you choose to ask yourself this question more often. It will bless you and your family.

I needed this question. You probably need this question. Who else do you know
who would benefit from knowing this question?

How I feel about sleep and what I have learned

Recently, I was up until 12:30 a.m.

I usually go to bed between nine-thirty and ten. That is because I have experienced the value of going to bed early and rising early. I have learned that your body works better if you go to bed around the same time each night and wake around the same time each day.

I haven’t always known what I know now about good sleep. I used to be a night owl, and I was very resistant to believing that making these two changes in my life would really matter. But eventually, in desperation, I made the change. It was HARD! It was a whole year of HARD. There were times when I didn’t think I could make myself keep doing it, but I did, and it changed my life.

But things happen, and on this night, I chose to remain up. The next day, doing a simple, close-to-home errand, I had difficulty staying awake at the wheel. Although I had stayed up late, I had gotten up at my usual time, between 5:30 and 6:30. I was TIRED!

I am not a napper! Seriously, I have to be sick or very under the weather to take a nap, but I fell asleep in the chair on this day. When I woke up that morning, I felt worn out, stressed, and frankly, as the day wore on, a bit depressed. Not like me!! My tone of voice, from the get-go, was sharp. It didn’t take much to set me off. It wasn’t easy to get a handle on my responses, even as I worked on my stories and endeavored to think positively.

Now I want you to picture something in your mind.

What if I wasn’t seventy-one but was thirty-five. What if I had three or four little kids to care for. I can tell you what would happen because although I am seventy-one, I was thirty-five, and I did have lots of little kids. I have lived this!

On a day like this, I would yell more often. I might spank. I, for sure, would use time out and lectures in a loud voice. I would have difficulty being present, stopping what I was doing, and looking my children in the eye. Listening would be challenging. I would have many grouchy, angry moments. I would see my kids as naughty rather than as children who need me to pay attention.

Sleep Myths

Recently, I ran across a site which listed some myths about sleep. Because I have learned the truth the hard way, I knew that they were myths. However, maybe you are still feeling some resistance to the idea that staying up late to get some alone time is counterproductive. If so, I feel your pain. I was in that place for well over thirty years before I finally decided to put it to the test.

Here are some myths. You can get more in-depth information on them HERE. 

  • It matters more when you sleep than how long you sleep, as long as you sleep enough hours.
    When we sleep matters! There is no comparison to the efficacy of sleeping in the dark of night compared to early morning or afternoon sleep. Here again, I have put this to the test. All I can say is that in my experience, there is a vast difference in how you feel upon waking, and a considerable difference in how you manage your day.
  • Your body gets used to getting less sleep.
    NOPE, not true. You can train your body to go to bed late and get up early. I did that. However, it made a difference in my ability to respond well, to feel well, to care about the needs of others, noisy, busy kids, for example.
  • Many adults need five or fewer hours of sleep.
    Generally, this is NOT true! One of my oldest friends, Janice Johnson Stauffer, has a unique situation. In her family, some of the members have the ‘short sleep gene.’ They can’t sleep longer than five hours. She tried to force herself to sleep the seven to eight hours that most of us need for years. Then through some testing, the family discovered this gene. It has made it possible for her and others in her family to do what works for their bodies. However, there are members in her family who need seven to eight hours. You can read more about their family HERE. It is a CNN documentary. Advance sleep-phase syndrome is found most often in middle-aged to older adults, with an estimated prevalence of about 1 percent. I wish I had this gene. But it affects only about 1% of us. The truth is most of us, to manage well, need seven to eight hours of nighttime sleep. I, and you, most likely, will just have to suck it up! : )
  • How long you sleep is all that matters.
    Sleep duration matters but there are other, just as important, aspects to sleep. Quality of sleep matters. How do we get that – no blue light a few hours before bed, no food about three hours before bed, sleeping at night rather than in the day, fewer disruptions. I have to laugh at that last one. If you are my age, you may get up often to go to the bathroom. If you are in that twenty to forty-year-old range, it will be babies and kids waking you up. But hey, we can only do what we can do.:)
  • The ability to fall asleep anywhere and at any time means you’re a ‘Good sleeper.”
    NOPE! It is an indication of sleep problems. It could be that you are not getting good quality sleep, and you are just plain tired. It could also indicate sleep issues such as:
    -Insomnia
    -Sleep apnea
    -Circadian rhythm disorders
    -Narcolepsy and others.
  • Napping makes up for a lack of sleep at night.
    Remember that sleeping in the dark thing? It matters! When we have not gotten enough quality sleep, we sometimes try to make up for it with a nap. Unfortunately, the few times I have tried this, it throws my sleep schedule off, and I wake up sluggish and disoriented. Naps are not bad, but they won’t serve you well if you are trying to recover from late nights.

Here is the hard truth 

Most people need seven to eight hours of nighttime sleep with as few interruptions as possible. You will always struggle to parent well if you are perpetually tired. I’ve been living this new way for well over a decade now, and it’s been amazing. I enjoy going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. I can’t even believe it myself! My thinking is clearer. I have time to do things that make my day more productive—prayer, personal study, meditation. My whole day runs better. I remain calm more often. I have more patience, and I feel less stress.

It’s doable even if your kids get up at 5:30. You may not get the quiet morning routine that I have finally achieved. Your day will begin earlier. These are the hard facts. What will make this trade-off worthwhile is how you’ll feel during the day. You may have less alone time, but you’ll find it easier to be Present. You’ll find yourself feeling happier and responding like an adult more often. You’ll like yourself and your children better.

How to Begin

I recommend you begin going to bed at least 30 minutes earlier than you do now, an hour if you can commit to it. Don’t get on the computer or scroll your phone after 9 p.m. This will absolutely help you get to bed earlier!

Going to bed earlier will change your days! Nevertheless, some of you will resist. If you do resist, it will come up repeatedly until you finally get desperate for a way to feel better as a parent, to feel calmer, more in control, more patient, happier, and healthier. When that time comes, you’ll remember this counsel, and hopefully, you’ll take it. It won’t be easy, but if you remember that simple things, done consistently, over time, make big differences, you’ll be able to persevere as long as it takes to make this your new habit.

You CAN get more and better sleep. Just decide and then be consistent!

We All Need More Light

The other day when I went out to water the garden,

I had an interesting thing happen that reminded me that sometimes, we can be blind to what is right in front of us.

The backyard hose is attached to a faucet that uses groundwater. Then the hose snakes across the lawn, over a small fence, and into the garden where it connects to another faucet that waters the garden. When I water the garden, I do the same thing almost every day. First, I walk out to the back faucet and turn on the water. Then I go through the garden gate and turn on the second faucet which lets water into the garden.

On this day, Doug had unhooked the groundwater hose the day before to fill the swimming pool. He had connected it to the house faucet so that city water would be in the pool. I knew he was doing this. I saw the hose hanging over the side of the pool. Yet, I went over to the faucet, turned it on, and got a face full of water. What! I could see the hose wasn’t connected, but my brain did not switch gears from what I do almost every day to what was happening this day.

How can that even happen?

But this kind of thing does happen in everyone’s life. There are times when we don’t see what is right in front of us. We may behave in unhealthy or damaging ways to our family or ourselves and not even know it. We do what we have always done.

When we moved with Jodie’s family this last time, we had to build a kitchen for my family, where a storage room had been. Everyone tried to talk me out of the light I choose to go over the kitchen sink. After all, it was a bathroom fixture. I didn’t care, I loved how it looked, and it was so illuminating. Every time I use that light, I am amazed at how much better I can see. The odd thing is that I don’t always use this extra light. Sometimes I will be washing potatoes or doing dishes and think, “I have enough light.” And I do, sort of. Then I will have a change of heart and flip the switch that is right in front of me, and voila! I can see so much better. There are other times when I know that I need more light, and I hurriedly flip the switch. I am always shocked at how much better I can see and how much more efficiently I can do whatever job I am doing because the details are more apparent.

This happens in life, in parenting. Wouldn’t it be nice to have all the information and knowledge we need no matter what came up? But we don’t. Often it takes time for us to determine that we lack the knowledge we need to do a better job of whatever it is. It can take a great deal of time before we realize that something we are doing may be harmful or counterproductive. For example, it took me almost ten years to understand that raging wasn’t a great way to manage problems and another ten to find the resources and support I needed, the light, to make a permanent change.

Often, when we realize that we have a lack of knowledge or skill, we beat ourselves up. When we find that our behavior is harmful, we feel tremendous guilt and shame. That is as foolish as me berating myself because I didn’t turn on my sink light right away or because I didn’t ‘see’ that the hose had been disconnected. Beating ourselves up and wallowing in shame and guilt for not having needed knowledge and resources is counterproductive. Instead, we should search for whatever resource will help turn on the light and make the details for change clearer.

‘Seeing’ Clearly Can Make ALL the Difference!

In my life, there have been times when I have said, “I can see fine.” I would keep moving forward and struggling because the truth was, the hose was unhooked, but I didn’t see it. Sometimes we cannot see what is right there in plain sight. We need help. It isn’t that we are inadequate, or stupid, or uncaring. We lack the information we need. Eventually, I would reach out for help via a friend, a book, or other resources. Sometimes it would be a class. Then the details became more evident, I made changes, and life got better in that one thing.

When I finally understood that I should stop yelling I didn’t know how. I couldn’t just stop. I needed to ‘see’ what was causing me to rage and how I could make a change. The first resource came in the form of a neighbor who offered me a pamphlet on anger management. That was very embarrassing but was the first step in changing my life and the lives of my children and husband.

Now, when I realize that I have a weakness or am erring somehow, I rejoice. I do not allow guilt to crowd in. I do not wallow in shame. I do not beat myself up! After all, I can’t change what I cannot see. When I do finally ‘see,’ I reach out. I look for the switch I need so I will have more light. I begin with prayer. I ask for help, and resources always come.

When you find yourself in the dark or semi-dark, STOP feeling like a failure. Instead, look for the switch, which is never too far away, and flip on the light. If you find yourself with a face full of water, so to speak, look for the hose and get it connected.

We do not need to be sprayed in the face over and over again. We do not need to work in darkness where we cannot see the details. Light can be ours, and it will lead us to change and growth. Really!!

Help a friend to ‘see’ more clearly.

Share the light. : ) 

Choose to Let Go of Suffering

Today, August 6, 2021, I finished reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis for the second time. The first was when I was a young woman in my forties. Now I have read it as a much older woman. I have to admit that my life’s experiences have made it much more meaningful than when I first read it. After all, you can’t know till you get there. : )

I certainly haven’t passed away and entered Heaven or Hell, but I have had far more experience with what the people in the story experienced while on earth.

On the back of the book, it says, “… comes to some significant realizations about the nature of good and evil.” However, I was more moved by the knowledge that, yes, in this life, we often choose to suffer. Here are a few phrases from the book that confirmed that.

“There is always something they insist on keeping, even at the price of misery.”

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell choose it.”

“That’s what we all find when we reach this country. We’ve all been wrong! That’s the great joke. There’s no need to go on pretending one was right! After that, we begin living.”

Back in 2015, I wrote an article about this very topic. This book so moved me in that regard that I looked it up. I am re-sharing it here, updated, because understanding that I was free to choose to suffer or not has been life-changing for me. It will be so for you too. I will put 2021 in front of what I add to the original article. After all, it has been six years, and I will have learned more. : )

Choose to Let Go of Suffering

I have a friend who is very dissatisfied with parts of her life. She is filled with disappointment, dissatisfaction, resentment, and frustration. Some of her struggles are the same as mine, so I have shared how I have learned to be happy, even though life and people can be disappointing. Recently she said, “Well, you are just settling.” I have given this much thought, and here is what is true – I am choosing to let go of suffering. I am choosing to be happy by choosing how I will respond to my circumstances.

2021 – I know that I am 100% in control of how I respond. Knowing this has changed my life because it has moved me from being a victim to having personal power in how I look at things and react to situations.

Embracing Serenity

I love the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr. It hung in my childhood home for many years, and I read it often. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now.

The philosopher W.W. Bartley juxtaposes Niebuhr’s prayer with a Mother Goose rhyme (1695) expressing a similar sentiment:

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

Serenity is the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. How often have you longed for that state of mind? Did you know it is a choice and not the result of your circumstances?

Making the Choice to Let Go of Suffering!

My marriage has been a good one. I love my husband, and he loves me. But some things caused me to feel resentment, frustration, dissatisfaction, and disappointment. Too many things! Sometimes I suffered. I would hold on to those moments of suffering and bring them out whenever I needed to remind myself why I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be.

As I got older and wiser, I wanted to ‘see differently’ what was happening or had happened. I began praying about the issue. Then, one day while driving to an appointment, I had this thought come into my mind – “You have suffered by choice.” I was stunned. What in the heck did that mean?

So, I asked out loud. “Heavenly Father, I don’t get that at all. Show me what that looks like,” and He did. I had a memory come clearly into my mind. I could see my husband’s actions and mine, and I saw that I chose to suffer. Yikes. I began from that moment to go back into my memory bank, to all the places where I had felt hurt, disappointed, etc., and examine them through this new lens. It became clear to me that I had chosen to suffer when I could have chosen peace instead. My response to what was happening made all the difference.

Not long ago, I read a fantastic book, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is…: A Season of Unlikely Happiness by Laura Munson. She went on a journey in letting go of resentment, frustration, and disappointment. Laura chose a path of happiness in the most challenging time of her life. It confirmed what I had learned for myself, that we can choose happiness even when we are sure we are being wronged. (WARNING: This book does use the F word a lot but was an excellent read.)

What Does Letting Go of Suffering Look Like?

Let me share some mundane examples of choosing to let go of suffering.

All my life I have wanted a bed with beautiful bed pillows. It wasn’t possible for me to have this in my family of origin for many reasons. When I was newly married, it wasn’t a real option either. However, I did come to a place where I could finally have them. But my husband doesn’t want to move a big pillow to take a nap, rest after work, or when he goes to bed. He can’t see the point. Mostly, he isn’t aware whether they are on the bed or not. He doesn’t see them. They aren’t even part of his thinking.

It has been a huge irritation to me for quite a few years. I always get up earlier than Don. He will make the bed but never puts the bed pillows on. When I come into the room, I put them on, and when I come in next, his pillow has been removed so that he can rest or nap. As I look at the gap where the bed pillow should be, I feel resentment and frustration build up. It is disappointing!!! If he loved me, he would put those pillows on the bed, right! Grrrr. You all know exactly how this feels!

So here is what I decided to do. I decided to stop suffering. When I get up in the morning, while Don is still sleeping, I make my side of the bed, putting my wonderfully beautiful bed pillow in place. When Don gets up, he makes his side of the bed, and his bed pillow stays propped against the wall. Every time I walk into the bedroom now, I feel happy. There is the bed pillow I always wanted right where I want it, on my side of the bed. I know that some of you are saying to yourselves, “How tacky is that. She is settling!” I get it, but I have decided not to suffer. I am in control of my response. I am happy with my bed pillow, and it feels great!

2021 – This year, I gave these beautiful pillows away to my daughter, who loves them. I didn’t need them anymore. I have moved to a new place. I am grateful that I haven’t spent the last six years angry and frustrated at Don over a pillow. That would have been a terrible waste of energy, and it would have been hard on our relationship. Having a kinder, more profound connection with Don has always been more important to me than bed pillows, no matter how lovely. I am grateful that six years ago, I made a choice to put my relationship above them. It has made ALL the difference.

I have also always wanted beautiful towels in the bathroom that never get used. They just hang there and look beautiful. Raising seven children and growing up the oldest of nine, you know that there were NEVER unused towels in the bathroom.

So, when all our children left home, I thought, “Now is the time.” Wrong! My husband just can’t understand the idea of unused towels in the bathroom or taking the extra steps to use the hook on the bathroom door. So here is how our bathroom towel rack looks – one used towel, unfolded, drying. Very convenient and very “not decorative”!

I have to say this caused no small amount of disappointment and frustration in me for a long time. First, I resented that I couldn’t have what I wanted because my husband stood in my way! Then, when I went into the bathroom, I would see that towel rack with its unfolded towel and remember that I never got nice decorative towels, and then I would feel disappointment and frustration. I wasn’t happy!

When I decided to stop suffering, this is what I did. I acquired a small shelf which I put in my bathroom. I got it from my mom. I trifold the towels and keep them color-coordinated, and it looks terrific. When I am in the bathroom doing whatever, I look at the towel rack, and it feels so lovely. It is perfect. I don’t mind Don’s unfolded towel or the fact that my color-coordinated towels aren’t hanging up. When I go into the bathroom, I see that I have this orderly, beautiful rack of towels. It feels satisfying to me.

2021 – Since writing this, we have moved again. In our tiny bathroom, there is NO towel rack. None. We have two hooks on the wall. My beautiful green towels are hanging there, drying or awaiting the next shower. I am so glad I didn’t live with frustration over having towels hang a certain way to feel content. If I had, I might not feel as good now when I have no towel rack at all. I still have this small antique shelf which looks very near the same today as it did in 2015. And looking at it still brings me a feeling of contentment.

2021 – I had another experience with letting go of suffering in 2016. It was such a clear example of how we burden our most important relationships when we choose to suffer over things we think matter but which, in reality, are not truly important.

Don is a gadget-man. He bought a new stovetop grill at the county fair and was excited to use it. The
following day was Sunday, and we needed to get to an important reception right after church. I said, “Honey, there isn’t time to grill chicken today and make it to the reception. You’ll have to do
it tomorrow.”

After church, Don was nowhere to be seen. I knew he had left early to go home and grill chicken! Sure enough, when I got home, the grill was on, and he was cooking. When we got to the reception, they were cleaning up. The bride and groom had left. We ate at a table alone while others cleaned up around us. I was so angry!

I chose to feel angry because I decided that his grilling was either because he didn’t listen to what I had said or he didn’t care. I held onto this upset feeling as we drove to the reception and ate in silence. I held on to my ill feelings as we went home and for a chunk of the evening.

Finally, I grew tired of my self-inflicted unhappiness. I asked Don, “Remember when I said
there wasn’t time to grill chicken today. I can think of two reasons why you went ahead and did it. Either you didn’t hear what I said this morning, or you didn’t care what I wanted. But I know you, and you
love me. You’re not insensitive. So, there must be a reason I haven’t thought of.”

He looked at me with a stricken face and replied, “Gosh Mary, I thought I could do it in time. I thought the whole thing would take thirty minutes. I didn’t know it would take so long.”

I had to laugh because I could tell from his poor face, he had believed it would only take thirty minutes and was shocked to find out it took longer.

At that moment, I wished I had chosen to let go of suffering earlier. We could have felt better as we drove to and from the reception. We could have had more genuine enjoyment talking to the bride and groom’s family and sending our love to the newlyweds through their families. We could have enjoyed that cake as we spoke with those of our friends clearing up. So, you see, it could have turned out better despite our lateness if I had chosen to let go of suffering.

Will You Let The Thieves of Joy Into Your Home?

Bed pillows, bath towels, and receptions are not very important. But this principle of choosing happiness, of choosing to let go of suffering, of changing what you can and accepting with grace what you can’t, works in things that do matter. It comes up over and over in my mentoring; the need to be correct, to prove that we have been inconvenienced, the need to let others know we have been wronged, wanting to make sure others know how we have sacrificed for them, to name a few. Disappointment, resentment, dissatisfaction, and frustration are the thieves of joy! You can let these thieves into your home or not. It is your choice.

I have given you some examples of the mundane. But I have used this knowledge in the vitally important. I have healed my feelings about old wrongs, embarrassing moments, out and out rudeness and unkindness, out of sorts relationships, and even abuse.

One of my favorite books, as a 16-year-old, was by Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning. It has multiple lessons on its pages, but one of the biggest is that you have a choice in every circumstance. It all comes down to your response. There are two quotes that I can still remember now, almost 50 years later.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Taking responsibility for our happiness is wonderfully empowering. When we know that we control our satisfaction, we can choose our response more consistently. We can act and not be acted upon!

I can fight with my husband over bed pillows and towels or not. I can feel resentment and disappointment every time I go into the bedroom/bathroom or not. It is up to me. And frankly, I choose to take responsibility for my response; I choose to let go of suffering. I choose peace!

I hope you will do the same. : )

I Am a Pathmaker and So are You!

I was afraid of everything!

I had few boundaries! There were good reasons that I found myself in this place as a mother; sexual abuse, controlling adults, fear brought on by the cold war, and the upheaval of civil unrest, a belief that I shouldn’t have been born. Life and the future felt uncertain. I had no way to make sense of what was happening in my world and the larger world, no one to talk to about it, and it added to the fear I had held inside since I was a toddler.

Although I was a good driver, I was too afraid to drive myself to college in Utah and home again to Colorado. I hired friends to drive. I worried about getting a ticket because I was afraid of getting in trouble. My experience had taught me that getting in trouble on any scale brought painful consequences.

Because of fear and boundary issues, it was challenging to advocate for my children in school and elsewhere. In addition, it was hard to discipline correctly. I believe this was one reason I raged. Anger helped mask the fear so that I could stand up for myself and my rules.

I had never felt like an adult. I couldn’t call any adult by their first name, even if I was older than they were. I had no confidence in myself, which was a tragedy of sorts because I was quite an extraordinary person.

That was a boatload of stuff to carry

into parenting.

How does a person parent when they are carrying so much baggage? Well, you do your best, and you run away a lot. I did that by becoming an excellent cake decorator, I taught community classes, I was president of the Band Parents and other groups, I served on boards, and I traveled the state teaching for the Girl Scouts. These activities masked my sense of worthlessness, but my emotionally running away wasn’t healthy for my family. As my children entered their teens, they were also wounded. We all suffered.

Recently, Don and I were having a conversation about my college years and the challenges of being so afraid and lacking any belief in my ability to make good choices. He said, “Well, you are more than over that now.” Truer words were never spoken.

How did I heal? How did I begin to understand boundaries and put them into my life? How did I stop raging? How did I cast off victimhood and begin to believe in myself?

I prayed a lot! I sought resources, and help came. I read books, lots of them, and attended classes. I looked for friends who were healthier than I, who had healed. I practiced what I learned. I was consistent in my efforts. I began speaking to and about myself with charity. I made a list of all those who had ever hurt me, and I forgave them, even my abuser. I asked them to forgive me for holding on to the pain for so long. I stopped being a victim in my mind. I began to believe that I was 100% in control of my responses. I’ll never forget the day that this truth finally sank into my heart. It made ALL the difference. The day I knew this was true, I had my power back.

While Reading Isaiah, the Light Came On

One day, early in my healing, I was studying Isaiah in the Christian Holy Bible. At the time, I was very new to the idea that I could heal, that I wasn’t a victim, that I had worth, that I was the mother of my children by design and not by accident, and as imperfect as I was, it would be enough. I read these verses – “And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. Isaiah 58: 11-12

These words burned into my heart and soul – this was my mission in life – to heal myself and help others heal. I was a pathmaker. This knowledge was life-changing for me, and I stopped feeling bitter; I stopped feeling angry. I stopped being a victim, and I began my search for healing in earnest.

Some years later, when things got tough in our family, and I felt as if we would fly apart at the seams, I had a dream. I was flying over a beautiful valley. I was dressed in white, and my skirt was flowing in the breeze. My hair was blowing back, and I felt free and happy. Eventually, I noticed that boxes, bags, satchels, and trunks were falling to the earth from my body. Then I awoke.

I immediately knew the interpretation of this dream. I was being reminded that I was a pathmaker. I was healing myself with the help of Christ, and it would heal my family going forward and backward. I knew this with every fiber of my soul. It didn’t make the journey easier, but it kept me on the journey. I had my license plates changed to say Pathmaker.

Each day I recite these words – The Savior is healing me as I release old wounds and baggage. He softens my heart. As I heal, I am healing generations. I feel blessed to be helping free my family, myself, and others.

A year ago, I met a relative I didn’t know existed. She is a painter, and I told her about my dream. She painted it for me, and it hangs on my office wall. Every day I repeat the above words out loud, and I look at my painting.

I have made enormous progress. I am no longer afraid; I am brave; I can stand up for myself and others. I have boundaries, and I keep them. I know when to sacrifice and when to walk away. I know who I am and my value in the world. I trust myself to make good choices and to help others do the same.

We can change anything!

I am living proof of this.

Pray for guidance to healing. Let go of victimhood. Seek good resources, and they will come. Practice what you learn. Speak kindly to yourself, and about yourself. Forgive others. Believe that you are 100% in control of how you respond. There is no timeline for healing. It will take what it takes. For me, this healing and change took decades. Change didn’t come easily or quickly, but it came just the same.

I am now 71. Am I done? No. Healing and helping others is like an onion. There is always a new layer. Find joy in this journey. You can do it. You can be whole!

What about your family, those who suffer because you have baggage

Well, as I see in real-time, they will do the same. Your children will follow your example, and they will heal faster than you.

One day, one of my sweet daughters, who was also sexually abused, talked about the healing process she was going through. She was barely in her 30’s. I was in my 50’s and all my children were gone from home. I wailed, “How did you do it. Why did it take me so long? Why couldn’t I get better faster, so you were safer?” I felt such grief. Then she said, “Mom, I am healing faster because you were healing first. It has made my way easier.”

So let go of your worry. Do the best you can. Trust yourself and God that you can be whole. Trust your children that they will also do the work we all have to do. Then keep changing and growing. Healing and growing are each of our ultimate missions.

Choose one thing to start with, just one.
•Pray for direction
•Seek useful resources, whether a person, a book, a class, etc. Then practice what you learn. Be consistent in your efforts.
•Practice speaking to and about yourself with charity.
•Forgive one person who has harmed you, and then ask them to forgive you for holding on to the hurt. (This process is not done in person with others. If this is the step you choose, reach out to me, and I will send you a free PDF giving you directions.)
•Accept 100% responsibility for your responses to whatever is happening. When you feel like a victim or lose control, and you will, forgive yourself and begin again.

It doesn’t matter which thing you begin with. Just choose one and begin. Then stay the course no matter how long it takes. When you feel more confident, not perfect but more confident, in that one thing, choose another. If I can heal, you can heal. If you can heal, your children and family can heal. Healing and growth are lifelong processes that we all have, no matter the extent of our wounds.

So, begin!

Grandparents Can Be Great Mentors

I saw two grandpas’ walking with their grandchildren in my neighborhood. Both were interested in what their grandchildren were showing them. Both were smiling broadly and enjoying every minute. The children were holding a much larger finger, tugging them along. It was as if they couldn’t wait to get to the next interesting thing to show grandpa. There was a great deal of trust and love.

There is a wonderful dynamic between grandparents and their grandchildren. I have often thought that this stage of life is God’s blessing for the first stage – raising our children! Because children LOVE their grandparents, we are in a unique position to be their mentors.

Why Grandparents Are Natural Mentors

Grandparents seem to have conquered busyness, even those who are still working. As a result, we are more inclined to let go of our preoccupation with stuff and focus on a child. We seem to love more unconditionally. We hug, kiss, and smile with greater abandon. We look at our grands, and we see them, really see them. We listen, and we hear, really hear, not just what is spoken but what is felt behind the words. Possibly this happens for grandparents because we have raised our children and have learned, finally, what really matters.

Because of the deep love we feel for our grands, grandparenting is when we can have significant influence for good on a new generation. We have grown and changed; we are improved. We are wiser, kinder, happier, and freer. Because of this, we can help shape character, teach core values, and inspire our grandchildren.

I have been experiencing this for almost three decades now, and the longer I grandparent, the more I understand this truth. It doesn’t matter if my grands live in the same home, as some do, or are far away. Through letters, videos, and yearly get-togethers, my grands know me. They know what kind of person I am. They are observant, and they see how I grow. So, if you quizzed them on how I would respond in any number of situations, they could tell you what grandma would do.

Living my life the best I can, and constantly making changes and improving, well, that is how I mentor my grands. It is a legacy that I will leave when I am gone. Sometimes I think that grandparenting is a gift for the challenges of parenting and also a gift to keep us growing and improving.

The very act of living as well as we can, makes a grandparent a good mentor. It isn’t about perfection; it’s about doing our best.

What life lessons have you shown your grands? How are you blessing their lives? I’d love to hear.

How Does Reading as a Family Impact Adults?

I am a BIG proponent of family reading because of its many benefits. When our kids were living at home, we read together. I wasn’t consistent, but we did manage to do it often enough that one of my daughters would say years later, “Mom, it was so great how you always read to us.” However, I wasn’t prepared for the HUGE impact reading together has had on our household of three, all of us over seventy.

Some time back, I published an article called I’ve Got the Tone. For many years, I have had a tone in my voice of irritation, frustration, annoyance. Over the years, it became a habit. Since we have been reading together, about a year now, that tone has dissipated quite a bit. The truth is I feel less irritated, annoyed, and frustrated. The feeling in our home is one of more charity, less contention, and a greater desire to connect and be cooperative. I think reading together will directly impact our health.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Don bought me a bag of veggie chips. I love veggie chips, but we don’t buy them often. I made yummy sandwiches for lunch. I thought about getting the veggie chips, but I didn’t. After the blessing, Don went into the garage where all the chips are kept and got some of the veggie chips for himself. When he came back to the table, I smiled and said, “Hey, I thought those were mine. You should have brought some for all of us”—end of conversation. However, the comment kept coming to my mind as I was reading to Don and my mom. My tone of voice had not been irritated, just matter of fact. But I worried that I might have made him feel bad.

So, I told him that what I had said wasn’t kind, and I should have said, “Good idea,” instead. He looked sheepish and replied, “I was trying to be sneaky.” Don isn’t supposed to have chips. I laughed and said, “Honey, you got them and then came back to the table with them. You aren’t very sneaky.” He replied, “I know; that’s what my meds do to my thinking.” I smiled and said, “I knew that’s what was happening. That’s why I should have said ‘Great idea’ instead of what I said.” We both smiled. It was a totally different feeling from what would have happened a year ago. The feeling was conversational rather than confrontive, even when my first comments weren’t as well thought out as they could have been. There was a sense of connection.

One of my warmest memories is of my mother reading to us. She didn’t read to us often, but when she did, it was magical for me! As I think back on those reading moments with my mom, I know what made them so special. I knew my mom loved us. This same feeling of love and concern has come from the reading we have been doing in our family. I knew this was the case for kids, but I wasn’t prepared for how impactful it would be for a family of adults. Reading together has established an intimate experience filled with feelings of warmth and belonging.

Most of my readers still have kids at home. It doesn’t matter whether you have a bunch of littles or a group of teens. Both teens and littles like to read as a family. From Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report, we learn only 17 percent of parents of kids aged 9–11 read aloud to their children. Yet 83 percent of kids aged 6–17 say being read to is something they either loved or liked a lot (Scholastic Inc. and YouGov 2014). There are excellent reasons to read together.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ AS A FAMILY

A. Physical closeness—Reading aloud allows you and your children to achieve physical closeness. Small children enjoy sitting on your lap or draping themselves across your body. You may snuggle less with older children, but this is not a given. If you’re open to having older children sit next to you or lay a head on your shoulder, the chances are it will happen often. That has been my experience.
B. A sense of security—Gathering together as a family and reading create a sense of security and safety—a feeling of ‘all is right’ with the world. When children feel secure and safe, they function better out in the world. Love is essential to a child, but feeling safe is crucial and often even more critical.
C. A sense of belonging—There’s a sense of belonging which comes from everyone being in the same room, snuggling and listening to the same story, having a shared experience. This sense of belonging can be beneficial as our children begin to mature. They’re trying to figure themselves out as well as figure out where they fit in the world. This process of personal growth can bring a sense of isolation. Reading as a family is one of the ways parents can create a sense of belonging.
D. A chance to tackle complex subjects—Reading as a family allows you to introduce difficult topics to your children and have safe discussions. I’ve read books to my children dealing with honesty, integrity, kindness, bullying, God, social issues, beliefs, and feelings. It made it possible to bring up ideas and thoughts I wanted my children to consider and ponder. It was a safe and comfortable way to experience essential life lessons.
E. A shared language and a sense of intimacy—When families read together, they often create a unique language. It can provide inside jokes. I read an article that described the experience of a family who loved the Mercy Watson books. In their family, they frequently heard the call at breakfast for “Mercy Watson toast, please!” (Johnson, “Why You Should Read Aloud to Older Kids”) It is fun and bonding when families share a phrase from a good book that means something to all of them. It creates a sense of intimacy.
F. It can strengthen struggling children and youth—When one of my daughters was fifteen, she made unwise choices. She knew it, but she was struggling to make changes. At the time, the youngest two children read with me. We read in the middle of my bed before lights out. Although my daughter wasn’t usually home, I noticed that when she was, she would come to my bedroom door, lean against it, and listen, no matter what the book was. This time together did not resolve her issues, and she had a tough road, but I’m confident it helped her stay connected to our family in a way that was vital to her eventual success. If you’re struggling with any of your children, for any reason, the closeness generated by reading together can go a long way to keeping you connected while issues are worked out.

If you are hesitant to read as a family, give it a try. Be patient. In my book Becoming a Present Parent, chapter Four covers touchpoints. Touchpoint 7 is reading together. You can read that chapter free. Touchpoint 7 shares a real-life experience of a troubled family, how they made family reading work, and their eventual success. There is a section called Making Family Reading Work. With the tips found there, you can read together, and it can be successful.

Share the reasons that you read with your family. If you don’t yet read as a family, why not?

Intentional Systems Make All the Difference!

When I mentor moms, I hear about all the things that aren’t working. That is what they come to me for – for perspective, to see with new eyes. I enjoy this process of sorting it out. We often begin with family systems, so things start to work better.

I have had this type of conversation hundreds of times:
Mom – I can’t stand dinner time. It is always rushed, and then everyone goes and does their thing, and I am stuck in the kitchen with a big mess.
Me – Well, tell me about your system for getting dinner done.
Mom – We don’t have a system.
Me – Yes, you do. You figure out what to fix at the last minute. You cook the meal. You set the table; you serve dinner. You clean up. You are filled with resentment. It isn’t an intentional system, but it is your system. There is usually shocked silence on the other end of the phone.

Here is another example.

I worked with a mom who hated her bedroom. Her bed was always covered by unfolded laundry. What she wanted was a retreat but what she had was resentment.

When I asked her what her system was for the clean laundry, she told me she didn’t have one. But of course, she did. Here is what it looked like. She would do the laundry, and then the clean laundry would be piled on her bed. She would coax the kids to fold their stuff and put it away. It often didn’t get done before the end of a busy day, and then mom would move the laundry to the window seat. It might stay there a few days while she felt cheated because she couldn’t sit in her room, in the window seat.

When she explained what happened on laundry day, I pointed out that she did have a system. It wasn’t a system that got her what she wanted, it made her feel resentful, but it was her system. We talked about how she could better manage her laundry to stay out of her room and be taken care of by all the family. It worked. She got her private space back, and her children became more responsible. Everyone was happier.

The women I talk to are always astonished to realize that they have a system by default, and it stinks. Then we talk through what she would like to have happen, what could reasonably happen, and then come up with an experiment designed to intentionally set up a system that accomplishes what she wants. We talk about getting the family to buy in because when people buy in, they take ownership, and things work better.

Here is an example of a default system in my life that whacked me out for months!

I am a very orderly person. I am also very self-directed. However, for many reasons, I found myself in a mess. I wasn’t getting up on time; I wasn’t getting my studying done; I forgot to pray; I was distracted. After nine months of suffering, I did what I should have done far sooner. I prayed and then thought through what was not working. What did my current system for managing these things look like?

I realized that the system I had used in the past had fallen apart. I didn’t have a morning routine. I sat down, thought through what I needed, then wrote it down and taped the paper to the bathroom wall. This experiment was better, but I was still distracted and not getting these important things done daily. I know that consistency is essential, so I went back to the drawing board and prayed again. I was missing something.

I have kept my morning routine quite simple for a long time because I am a full-time caregiver. I get up at 6:15 on many days, dress, feed, and groom my 15-year-old special needs granddaughter. Then I get the other three off to school. In the summer, I am on deck with these kids for a few hours most days. By nine Don and possibly my mom are up and want breakfast. Mom needs her hair done, and twice a week, she needs to bathe before I can move on to anything else. Noon would come and I wouldn’t have gotten what set me on a solid path for the day completed. The time would rush on from there and frequently late evening would come, and I never got to my ‘stuff.’ The question was how I do the things that matter to me and still take care of all these people.

When the answer came, it was so simple as answers from God often are.

I had the thought to put my scriptures and affirmations in the bathroom, in my reading basket, and hang my clothes for the next day on a hook the evening before. Then each morning, I would get up, go into the bathroom, dress, and prepare for the day. I would sit on the toilet and read my scriptures and say my affirmations. Then I knelt and prayed. I know God forgives me for praying at the side of the toilet. : ) The whole thing takes 20 minutes, then I am out in the fray, but the things that matter to me and my well-being are complete. The system for my mornings that I have intentionally designed is working well!

Systems matter. If there is a place in your life that feels out of order or things aren’t happening, look closely at your system. What is it? What does it lack that would feel better or help you manage better? If you don’t think you have a system, and that is why it isn’t working, think again. You do; it just stinks. Come up with an experiment. Try something new with intention. You will be surprised at what a difference it can make.

Got a great ‘systems’ story. Please share. : )