An If-Then Culture

An If-Then Culture

Have you ever caught yourself thinking that if you just do the right things, in the right way, for the right amount of time, then God will see fit to bless you with that thing you’ve been praying for? I know I’ve been guilty of this.

an if-then culture | alifeunleashed.com

In fact, I didn’t realize it right away, but I’ve been doing this (again) lately… thinking that I need to do this or that in order for God to answer my prayer in the way I want Him to. Trouble is, God doesn’t operate that way. He isn’t a genie who grants wishes. And thankfully, He is patient with me as I learn this. He also sends me gentle reminders to get me back on the right track — like this one.

Hop on over to Rosilind’s blog and read the post that God used as my reminder.

FEEL FREE TO SHARE, IN THE COMMENTS BELOW, ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES WITH THIS. I KNOW I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO DOES IT!

Journaling Prompt (12/14)

Journaling Prompt (12/14)

Every week, I will be sharing a journaling prompt for you to use. Feel free to do these privately, in your journal, OR share them on your blog and then come back and link up here!

Journaling Prompts | Life, Unleashed

PROMPT: Three good things.


Note: Prompts are mostly going to be courtesy of Elizabeth at Life of Lovely. She has free printables available. 

ROUND-UP: How to Start Journaling

ROUND-UP: How to Start Journaling

One of the things I’ve been told I do well is curating (gathering) information. Because I am constantly reading and researching, I tend to come across a lot of helpful information. But it’s not the most helpful if I keep it all to myself! So, I’d like to share what I’ve found by providing the occasional round-up posts where I link to others’ content.

roundup | how to start journaling | Life, Unleashed

For today’s round-up, I’m sharing others’ posts on HOW TO START JOURNALING:

 

journalingroutine-belletriste  journalistajournalingmythspin   journaling-tips-pinterest-1

 

And two (2) more, with one that’s more specifically about writing for healing:

How to Get Started Journaling (Elsie Road Magazine)

4 Ways to Write for Healing (Darcy Leech)

Journaling Prompt (12/07)

Journaling Prompt (12/07)

Every week, I will be sharing a journaling prompt for you to use. Feel free to do these privately, in your journal, OR share them on your blog and then come back and link up here!

Journaling Prompts | Life, Unleashed

PROMPT: How do you procrastinate?


Note: Prompts are mostly going to be courtesy of Elizabeth at Life of Lovely. She has free printables available. 

Looking Ahead to…2017

Looking Ahead to…2017

Every year, between September and December, I start thinking about the year to come, and all that I would like to accomplish (just like everyone else on the planet, I’m sure).

I used to start making my list of New Years’ Resolutions — which basically consisted of the same things I’d had on my list the previous year (and probably the year before that, too), but hadn’t managed to follow through with. A few years back, however, I gave up on making “resolutions” for the new year.

Looking Ahead to 2017 | Life, Unleashed

Instead, I took up the practice of choosing a single word to guide me throughout the year; a focus-word… something I feel God wants me to base the coming year’s decisions around.

In past years, I’ve had these as my “one word”:

  • 2014 – “FREE
  • 2015 – “CHOOSE
  • 2016 – “GREATER

For 2017, my word is “BECOME“… as in, who am I working towards becoming?

I read a quote, recently — more of a question, really — that said something to the effect of this:

If you could choose ONE word to sum up how you want to feel for the rest of your life, what would it be?

(That’s heavy, I know!) Personally, I believe that feelings are fickle and they’ll change. But, if I had to choose one word to describe who I wanted to become, or how I’d like to live out the rest of my life, then I would choose the word, “STRONG“.

For far too much of my life, I’ve been playing the “victim” — blaming everything and everyone around me for how my life has turned out, thus far.

What I am finally coming to realize, however, is that the only one who can change the direction of my life {other than God, of course}, is me. I am solely responsible for how my life turns out; God gave me free will. And, He also gave me the responsibility of being a good steward of the time, energy, and resources He’s blessed me with.

All that being said, the woman I desire to become is STRONG — not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, as well. 2 Timothy 1:7 says that “God has not given us a spirit of fear & timidity, but {a spirit} of POWER, love, and self-discipline“. He calls us “MORE THAN conquerors“! And He says that we can “do ALL THINGS” through Jesus, whose strength we rely and lean on. God promises to fight our battles for us, if we’ll surrender them to Him. But, what does it take to be able to surrender? It takes STRENGTH… and courage, and willingness, and knowing God well enough to entrust the battle to Him, knowing that He isn’t going to let us down.

#oneword365-2017 | Life, UnleashedSo, for 2017, I have been pondering which goals I’ll set for myself, in order to become that strong, confident woman that I know God is calling me (and has created me) to be.

However, I am also re-thinking the concept of goals, now, too, thanks to an article I read via James Clear’s website. In it, he talks about Goals vs. Systems. And his main point was this: It’s better to create systems that you use on a regular (or daily) basis, and focus on those, rather than just setting goals and looking to attain them. Why? Well, what happens once you reach your goal? You’ve completed what you set out to do, and now you have to set yet another goal. You’re always in pursuit… always chasing something. Once you hit your goal, you can also experience a sort of let-down… Sure, it’s great to have accomplished something — but, now what? Your systems, on the other hand, don’t stop just because you reach a certain point.

Take weight loss, for example. We all know, or have heard, that weight loss is not about hitting some goal, but that it’s all about making lifestyle changes that will help you lose the weight and maintain that loss. So you can think of “systems” as those lifestyle changes you’re putting into practice, day in and day out, in order to lose the excess weight, but also to maintain that loss and become healthier, overall. Make sense?

So, here is how this would look for me, taking my goals for 2017, and creating “systems” for each:

GOAL: Read at least 1 fiction book (for pleasure), and 1 nonfiction book (for study), each month.

SYSTEM: Shut off my computer by 8 p.m. every night, so that I can have 1-2 hours for reading, before bed.

GOAL: Be able to do 25 consecutive push-ups, and 25 consecutive pull-ups, and be able to do a 3-mile walk.

SYSTEM: Do strength-training exercises at the gym 2x/week, focusing on my “push” and “pull” muscles, as well as my core. And do once-a-week cardio for 45-60 minutes, to build up my endurance and be able to do that 3-mile walk.

GOAL: Release the excess weight, and reach my ideal size (I have about 60-65 lbs to get rid of).

SYSTEM: Practice mindfulness at every meal, listening for my hunger & satisfaction cues; be careful not to eat unless my stomach is empty and I need to refuel; use visual cues and reminders, if necessary.

GOAL: Reduce our processed-food intake, and eat more real, whole, and healthy foods.

SYSTEM: Plan out each week’s menu on the weekends (Saturdays), and grocery-shop accordingly; do meal-prep on Sunday afternoons to make it easier throughout the week to stick to my plan; and try 1-2 new, healthier recipes each week, to build up our repertoire.

{Note: I have other goals/systems for 2017, as well, but for the sake of time, I’m not sharing them all in this post}.

Basically, creating “systems” is just asking yourself what goals you hope to achieve (or who you would like to become), then figuring out what steps you can take — what you can practice on a daily basis — in order to take you toward those results.

your turn to comment | Life, Unleashed

HAVE YOU EVER IMPLEMENTED SYSTEMS INTO YOUR REGULAR ROUTINES IN ORDER TO REACH NEW GOALS? DO YOU STILL SET NEW YEARS’ RESOLUTIONS? HAVE YOU CHOSEN ONE GUIDING WORD FOR YOUR YEAR AND, IF SO, WHAT IS IT?

Losing My (Fake) Identity

Losing My (Fake) Identity

From about 2002 to 2012, I was immersed in the book blogging world. It started with a Yahoo! group I’d joined, called “Book-a-Week”. Its participants aimed to read 52 books per year (a “book-a-week”). One of the Book-a-Week group’s rules was that you had to keep a record of the books you’d read. So, I’d started keeping a book journal then, but only a paper version. In 2005, I decided to start keeping an online –blog– version, as well.

Losing My (Fake) ID | Life, Unleashed

For the majority of my book blogging years, I was a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). As such, I had plenty of time to read and blogging became my place to connect with other adults.

As for the book-a-week goal, I managed to hit it almost every year. And then I started to exceed it. I talked books, read books, researched books, collected books. My collection grew from approximately 300 books to over 1400 books!

Because I’d started several book memes that my readers came, weekly, to play along in (on my blog), I was becoming known in the book blogosphere. I’d taken on the alias of “Mizbooks”, which my readers shortened to “MizB” — something I was fine with. Friends and family even came to know me as “Mizbooks”, and called me “the crazy book lately”.

And so, that’s who I was — who I became. My identity was caught up in my love of books and reading.

Then came the 5 years of being back out in the working world. When I landed a busy, full-time job, my time (and mental capacity) for reading greatly diminished. All-of-a-sudden, I found myself in a sort of identity crisis. If I couldn’t read, then who was I? I’d been the “avid reader”, “MizB”, for so long… now I felt lost.

And I felt ashamed …like I was betraying my blog readers by no longer being this woman who read 80 books per year.

Fast-forward five more years. My reading has dwindled to about 12-15 books read per year. My book blog is barely hanging on, with just two memes left, and about 1/3 of the readership.

I no longer feel as bad for my lack of reading time; but I do still wish I could (would?) read more. Really, it’s now more an issue of time-management and priorities.

warrior woman | Life, UnleashedThe book blog… well, I’d been questioning that aspect, and I’ve decided that I’m not going to keep going with it after the new year (2017). I plan to either hand my two memes over to other bloggers or just let them go, entirely. Part of me doesn’t want to do either, as they feel like my “babies”. But another part of me knows it will be a relief to let them go.

Regardless, this whole “crisis” has taught me something. And that’s that we shouldn’t place our identity in what we do, or in the roles we play. Our truest identity (if we’ve accepted Jesus as Savior) is as daughters (and sons) of the King of Kings, and all that that entails. It’s the only thing that will not change. We’ve been adopted into God’s family, so we’re now set apart and He calls us His own.

I’m still learning to accept myself as who God says I am. But already, it has been both peace-giving and empowering.

So, who do you say that you are? Do you know yourself as a child of God? What do you need in order to make that mental shift?

 

Journaling Prompt: New Feature (11/30)

Journaling Prompt: New Feature (11/30)

Today I’m introducing a new feature, here at Life, Unleashed. Every week, I will be sharing a journaling prompt for you to use. Feel free to do these privately, in your journal, OR share them on your blog and then come back and link up here!

Journaling Prompts | Life, Unleashed

 

PROMPT: What is the best gift you could receive?


Note: Prompts are mostly going to be courtesy of Elizabeth at Life of Lovely. She has free printables available. 

Lessons From a Sea Sponge

Lessons From a Sea Sponge

I’ve always referred to myself as a “sponge” when it comes to learning things. Reason being, I tend to soak up a lot of information on an almost constant basis.

sponge lessons | Life, Unleashed

I love to learn! In fact, while researching some things for this post, I also learned some things about sponges that I didn’t know before! For example:

  • Once cut, a sea sponge will re-grow within a few years, often to become bigger & healthier than it was originally.
  • Sea sponges have a life span of a few months to 20+ years.
  • Even the tiniest fragments of the original sponge can be used to regenerate & grow new sponges.
  • Sea Sponges are capable of regulating the amount of water that flows through their bodies by the constriction of various openings.
  • Sea Sponges are capable of drawing in and out 20,000 times their own volume of water in a single 24-hour period.
  • Sponges survive by anchoring themselves permanently to other solid objects on the ocean floor (eg. coral, rocks, shell beds, etc).
  • Sea Sponges are composed perfectly for their environment by means of the hole-ridden structures, and could not survive without their unique design.
  • While sea sponges are technically “animals,” for all practical purposes, they grow, reproduce, and survive as plants

And, also…

sea-sponges | Life, Unleashed

Fascinating, right? At least, I thought so.

Originally, this post was going to be about using what you’ve learned. I tend to consume so much information in one sitting, sometimes, that it’s almost impossible to put any of it into practice {Input is one of my StrengthsFinder “top 5”, after all}. For example, I can get on a site like JamesClear.com (which I absolutely LOVE), and follow the links, reading article, after article, after article — because it’s all so good! But, even though I agree with what he’s written, and think, “Man, these are amazing & simple ideas — I should implement this stuff!“, I have already consumed so much that I get overwhelmed with where to start, and then choose what is easiest… which is doing nothing at all; meaning all of the information I consumed is practically useless. After all, if we don’t practice what we learn, then what’s the point?

But, in researching sponges, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to our Christian walk. So, here are a few lessons I believe we can learn from the Sea Sponge:

PERMANENTLY ANCHORED

The Sea Sponges permanently anchor themselves to the ocean floor by attaching to something that doesn’t move. This is how they survive. Likewise, God is our unmoving and unchanging “anchor”. When we attach ourselves to Him, He becomes our unshakeable hope, and the way that we can stay grounded, despite the turmoil in our lives.

We have this hope as an anchor for our souls, firm & secure.
 — Hebrews 6:19 

 

SELF-REGULATING

Sea Sponges regulate the amount of water that moves in and out of their bodies. In similar fashion, we need to monitor what we put into us, whether that’s food, or information. Too much of anything is not good for us. As evidenced by my own information overload, it’s more helpful to consume things in moderate or bite-sized amounts, and then use that up, or practice it for a while, first, before taking in more. That way, our intake is actually useful and doesn’t go to waste (or to waist!).

BETTER THAN BEFORE

God likes to prune us, removing anything that doesn’t help us live the life He has planned for us. This pruning can often be painful. But, like the Sea Sponge after being harvested, we, too, can then grow to be “bigger” (with a deeper, stronger faith and character) and healthier than before.

UNIQUELY DESIGNED

The Sea Sponge’s unique design — with all of its pores and adjoining channels — helps it to be able to survive and grow.

For example, look at its hard outer layer and soft interior. We, God’s children, aren’t called to be timid, but to be strong & courageous, bold, shrewd, and discerning! This is our “outer layer”. At the same time, we are called to be quiet & gentle, kind and compassionate, and innocent as doves … our hearts are to be soft, and not “hardened” with unbelief.

But, the most important aspect of the Sponge’s design is its ability to let massive amounts of water flow through its body. This makes me think of Jesus, and how He describes Himself as “Living Water“. When we have this –when we have Him– we have everything we need.

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

So, there you have it. Lessons from the Sea Sponge. Bet you didn’t realize you could learn something about God from something you use when you take a bath! Ha!

You Always Have a Choice

You Always Have a Choice

There are two individuals who come to my mind when I think about choices in life. Both of these people are in a spot where they’ve been beaten down in life — their choices have gotten the better of them. This has made these individuals very pessimistic. They don’t feel that life will ever get any better… like they’ve just had bad luck, and that that luck isn’t ever likely to change.

You Always Have a Choice | Life, Unleashed

What both of these individuals fail to realize, however, is that, if they could be open to the possibilities, they could begin to see that it’s all very much about choices, mindset, perspective, and practice.

They can CHOOSE to see things differently. They can CHOOSE to work on their mindset. They can CHOOSE to work on finding a way to either (a) escape their current less-than-ideal circumstances, or (b) make their circumstances more bearable. It’s all a matter of CHOICE.

God gave each one of us free will. And it hasn’t been revoked just because we got ourselves stuck in some “mud”. We can choose to continue playing the woe-is-me “victim” and settle for the mediocre life we’re in. OR, we can choose to make changes!

It absolutely breaks my heart to see people giving up and settling for a life that is so much LESS THAN what is available for us!

Trust me, I’m not always the optimist. Goodness knows, I’ve gone through a lot of stuff in my own life that could have left me hopeless (and just about did!). Heck, I’m still dealing with circumstances that are far from ideal! But, I also know that it could be worse… and it’s not (which I thank the Lord for).

I just keep leaning on the Lord for my strength. He has given me hope to see that my current circumstances are not my final destination, and that “it can be well with my soul, even when it’s not with my circumstances”. God has used my less-than-perfect situation to teach me that life really is all about choices, mindset, perspective, and practice.

What I truly hope is that I can help others realize that only they are responsible for what their life turns out like. It’s YOUR choice. If you don’t like your life, make a change. {Start here}.

Your Choice: Victim or Victor? | Life, Unleashed

Stealing Christmas

Stealing Christmas

I used to love the Christmas holiday. Truthfully, part of me still does. But I also feel that Christmas is being “ruined”, in a way, by commercialism.

stealing-christmas

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday — the family get-togethers, the fires in the fireplace making a home feel cozy, the traditions passed down through the years.

However, with the recent trend of stores, and even individuals, starting to decorate or put out Christmas paraphernalia sometimes even BEFORE Halloween has come & gone, it’s practically “ruining” Christmas! It steals that “magical” feeling that Christmas has always brought — the 2-3 days of celebrating the real reason for the season: Jesus’ birth. When the focus skews toward making sure you buy your presents early, and get your decorations up before everyone else, you lose that “magic”, and you lose sight of what’s really important.

Christmas isn’t about the presents or the decorations. It’s supposed to be a time of celebrating the fact that Jesus came to earth in human form, in order that He might show us how He can relate to all of our human struggles & joys… because now He’s experienced them, too. He came “to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray” — and we shouldn’t forget this.

Perhaps you think that having only a couple of days, or a couple of weeks, to celebrate Christmas just isn’t enough time. But then you have to ask yourself, WHY is that? What has caused your life to be such that you can’t take 2-3 days to rest, and to truly enjoy the time with family? Is it the hectic schedule of running from one get-together to the next? Is it that you work so much, and Christmas is your only time off? Is it that you’ve said ‘yes’ to more than you should?

I, personally, hate the way that the season has become so commercialized. It’s now all about decorating, and what you can/should buy. This is why, despite the fact that the neighbors have their Christmas lights up already (some even had their Christmas trees up as early as the first week in November!), and despite the fact that all around me, people are “prepping” for the season, I will continue to wait until it’s closer to the actual date. I normally don’t put up my Christmas lights (on the house) until after December 1st. And my tree won’t go up until 2 weeks before Christmas.

Join me, won’t you? Let’s bring back the real meaning for this holiday season. Let’s remember to rest, and be thankful for our Savior.