Tuesday, July 31, 2012

R U Ready 4 a 2 z?

Yes, I can spell just fine...and I can even hold my own when it comes to texting.

Just a quick reminder that the a 2 z meme restarts next Tuesday, August 7th.  I'm really looking forward to it and have been watching for the makings of my letter A post.

That's one thing that I really like about this meme--it's a great post jump-starter for me and it almost always surprises me to see where it leads me and how well it fits into my life right then.


If you're looking for the suggested guidelines for participating in a 2 z, go here.  There's very few and it's oh-so simple. I'd love to have you join us!

Monday, July 30, 2012

School Work and Responsibility

It's hard to believe it's Back-to-School time for many of us.

My older daughter doing (home)school work. 2007
When we first started homeschooling, which was a year before my oldest was ready for school, I had one goal in mind: school at home. But it hasn't worked that way. Over the years my goal has changed and whether you homeschool your kids or go a more traditional route, you can have a similar goal.

When I'm done schooling my children, I want them to be self-learners. I don't want them dependent on others in order for them to learn.
My goal is to make them realize before they leave home that they are responsible for their own education. 
This also helps them accept and shoulder responsibility gradually, before it is all just dumped on them. Regardless of how children are schooled, this is something that all parents can do.

I'm sure we've all seen kids who are straight A students in high school, but when they hit college, they crumble into a million pieces and bring home Ds. Is it that college is so much harder? Sometimes, but more often than not it's because Mom and Dad are no longer standing over them telling them to do their schoolwork and checking it over before it's handed in. This doesn't build responsible self-learners. It creates kids dependent on an external supports to hold them up straight.

Thankfully, it doesn't have to be this way. It means a little more work at home at the beginning, but the results more than compensate the additional work.

Schoolwork is an excellent way to teach responsibility and create self-learners.


Ease them in. Try to work things so that by the time your child hits their Sophomore year of high school they are assuming many of the fine details of their schooling. I am NOT saying make them responsible for their schooling—just the fine details of it.

How does this look if you're homeschooling? Instead of having complete lesson plans for them, just give them a framework or a timetable to work within. Tell them you want the next section done by a certain date, and make sure you tell them your expectations of the work that's to be done.

My oldest taking a break from math. 2007
Key: Leave it up to them. Check with them occasionally to see if they're working on it, but don't nag them. Some kids will take it and run with it, others will wait until the last possible moment, and others will hang themselves. Whichever they do, it's a chance you have to take and then use as a learning tool for them.

If they don't reach the goal in the time they were given, make sure there are consequences that they feel. For some children, those consequences will have to last until they accomplish the next section on time and correctly. You know your child and you know what works for them.
Being soft on them now will not help them develop into mature adults who can shoulder responsibility without buckling under the pressure.

Those who don't homeschool can do the same thing with assignments and projects the teachers assign. You need to be in the know of what's going on at school and with their school work, but you need to raise them so they aren't dependent on you to get their schoolwork done.

Your job as mom changes from being a taskmaster to an accountability check and balance. 

When you do this, your children learn to accept responsibility for their education and become self-learners.


So tell me, how do you help your kids become self-learners?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Wade in!

There's a cow pond we pass on our way to church. The cows use it for more than just drinking in the summer. When they get too warm, they just wade right into the pond and stand there contentedly chewing their cud and watching life. I get such a kick out of seeing them in there. But you know, they're smart!

When life starts heating up I can do the same thing those cows do. I can wade right into the pond of Living Water and cool down. Just standing in that pond will keep me from over heating.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” ~Matthew 11:28

That's exactly what those cows are doing. They're going to the place they know they find relief from the heat of their lives.

The side note of my Bible says “Come to Me, all who work to exhaustion...” When I read that note, that's exactly what I was feeling—exhaustion. All I had to do was wade into the Living Water. No fancy dive and no big waves were required, simply wading in. Let me tell ya, I think I know how good that pond feels to the cows on hot days. Refreshed and content.

But you have to go to Jesus before you can receive relief. The rest that Jesus was talking about only comes once you have gone to Him. The passage doesn't end there...

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” ~Matthew 11:29-30

When we go to Jesus, we find rest—rest that we desperately need. But it's when we submit and obey and learn from Him that we find rest for our souls. We can have all the sleep our body needs and not be at rest—but when we obey God, that's when we rest in Him and in His sovereignty.

“For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes.” ~Jeremiah 31:25
We don't have to just sip the Living Water, we can wade right in! When we do that—that's when we really feel the relief and refreshment from the heat.

So, anyone want to go wading with me? We're sure to find refreshment in the pond of Living Water!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Confession

Tree Frog on my bay window.
Okay, time for a huge confession.
Hold on tight.

See, after four years of studying, applying and teaching about blogging, I'm still scratching my head as much as some of you. Truthfully? Probably lots more than many of you.

I KNOW the value and importance of knowing your focus and sticking with with it. The importance of knowing your readers and writing for them, giving them some kind of take-away value. The importance of all kinds of things... I know. I've taught it in workshops at a conference, online, and even here on my blog and a at least a zillion times in one-on-one contacts.

But.

But the truth of the matter is that after over 800 posts here on this site alone I'm still clueless.

Produce from my garden in one picking.
I don't know my niche. I don't know my focus. I don't even know my readers. Oh sure, I know some of you—but if the numbers are to be believed (and to be honest, I'm even doubting the numbers these days!!) I don't know who even a small fraction of my readers are. So how on earth am I supposed to write for you and offer some take-away value?!?

I've got a few ideas from the trial and error method I use and the feedback and comments I receive—both here on my blog, on Facebook and via emails, but there is no real rhyme or reason, let alone focus to what I do.

That's why, when I'm asked how I've built my site to what it is today, I'm clueless. I can only shrug and admit I don't know. Because I don't!!

During this break I took I thought seriously about posting a poll to find out who my readers are and what they're interested in—I want to be helpful and relevant. I talked about it with my husband, decided to do it, and then held back. There was just something that didn't feel right to me and I'm slowly, ever-so-slowly beginning to listen to that inner hesitancy. I'm glad I did. Here's why...

I started blogging out of obedience, not because I wanted to. It changed my life. And that's not an exaggeration. My blog has grown and changed with me over the years. If I had posted a poll to find out what you guys wanted to see on here, it could easily become me focusing on my readers (which is very good) to the exclusion of listening to God's quiet direction (which is bad).

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for hearing what you guys want to see on here. I really am. So if there are things you want to hear more about, please, please, please let me know! All of my series have grown out of questions people emailed and asked and I've had fun writing the posts and they've been helpful to many others (again, if the stats are to be believed).

Cookie, one of our newest additions to the family.
But I've also decided that I need to keep the focus I've had all along: writing what's on my heart. That means this site probably won't ever find a niche to fit and I won't have one single focus and that I'll have plenty of off-the-wall posts along the way.

Yes, I know I break most of the rules about blogging—well, about building successful blogs that make great platforms. But you know what? I wasn't called to build a successful blog. I was called to obedience.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

a 2 z Meme Returns!

Okay, I have to admit that one of my favorite things to do around here is the a 2 z meme (rhymes with cream).

What's a meme? A meme is when a group of people get together and post on a similar topic or theme. It's the blogger's version of a progressive dinner...or a potluck dinner. Full of variety and fun.

Why is the a 2 z meme one of my favorites?
So glad you asked. LoL.
Here's why...
  • Because a 2 z gives me the perfect excuse to just post on any random thing that happens to begin with the letter of the week. 
  • It often opens my eyes to things in my world that begin with that letter and lets me post on things I wouldn't normally post about. 
  • I take a lot of pictures and it's a fun outlet for them.
  • a 2 z is a great post jump-starter for me, often giving me just the spark of inspiration and creativity I need.

The a 2 z meme will be starting again the first Tuesday of August, which is August 7th. Anyone and everyone is welcome to join us. It's a come as you can thing--no commitment, just jump in and post on the week's letter as you can.

I'll be posting a blog hop linky so each of you can have the linky gadget on your sites. It's more user friendly that way. =)

Here's the deal for a 2 z:

  • Anyone can play. Some of us will be returning a 2 z-ers, but any one can join us and we would LOVE to have you along! The more the merrier! Grab a friend and join us!!
  • Anything goes. If you're pressed for time, pressed for brain cells (a common ailment of mine), stumped, whatever... a simple list will work! Or a picture or a verse—anything to get a post up. Seriously. Just make sure it ties in with the week’s letter. It can also be as focused or even a complicated post about a word that starts with that letter. Anything goes, related to the letter.
  • One letter a week. We'll start with A and finish by the February 12th--we'll take Christmas and New Year's off.
  • Tuesday's the day. Posting day is Tuesday. Or Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. ROFL. If you're like me, you might not remember on Tuesday, so any day works. I don't care, but that brings me to...
  • Let's link together! Part of the fun of a meme is linking together so we can encourage each other on. I'll put a linky up on my site each Tuesday, shortly after midnight so you can link up.
  • Guilt-free participation!  Time is precious commodity for all of us. If you participate, all I ask is that you take a few moments and visit and comment on TWO other participants' sites. No need to visit everyone, but a couple is very appreciated.


Want to know more about memes and why you'd want to participate? Check out Making the Most of Memes for more information.

Grab the button and join in the fun!



Button code for 200px wide image:
Patterings. a 2 z meme


Don't forget, a 2 z starts back up on August 7th. Hope to see you!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bench Time

For the first time in over two years, I'm not teaching Bible study. I really needed the break. My husband knew it. My bff knew it. My study group probably knew it. But I was in denial. I didn't want to accept that I needed the break. When my husband asked me to take the summer off, I did, and I'm glad.

But I'm ready for the summer to be over! LoL.


Here's some things I've learned while sitting on the bench this summer...


The bench is a good place to rest and regroup. 

I played basketball in high school so I knew that from experience—but I needed to experience it again. I was worn out emotionally, spiritually, and physically from trying to keep up with all I was doing.

Room needed to be made for other work and other things I needed to focus on. My priorities were way out of balance and this summer on the bench has helped me get them closer to how they need to be. We've also had things come up that I couldn't have handled if I wasn't on the bench. God knew that and sidelined me for my own good. Not only did I not teach Bible study this summer (and part of this coming fall) but I went mostly offline. I've been absent from here on my blog, from Facebook, and even from some of the loops I'm a part of. And it's been sooooo good for me.

Whining will land you on the bench. 

More than just for resting and regrouping, I landed on the bench for discipline and instruction.

I had begun to whine about everything important. Seriously whine—not the tongue-in-cheek whining we often do as we laugh about something. My perspective was skewed and it affected my attitude and my service. More about how God brought this home to me later.

When God gives you a spiritual gift, you better use it. 

If you don't, you'll feel unfulfilled, frustrated, and even miserable at times.

Never in my life would I guess how much I've come to love teaching. I still don't like being in front of people, but I've accepted and learned to deal with the fact that it's par for the course if I'm going to teach. That's where stepping into my persona has come in handy.

Recently I've hit the point where if I don't get to teach something soon I feel like I'm going to explode—and it still cracks me up. Who'd a thunk? But still, I needed this time on the bench, and not just because life overwhelmed me.

In many ways, it's not been an easy summer. May was an emotional tsunami for me. June slammed into me with family... stuff. July brought big changes in my routine and life. Not bad, but enough to leave me standing in the middle of my kitchen staring at buckets and trying to remember how to do things I used to do all the time, all the while juggling my “new” life. It's been interesting! God knew all this was coming and He prepared me for it—even though I didn't necessarily like how He did it at the time.

Being benched isn't fun, but it's necessary sometimes. And I've learned to be thankful for the bench.

So tell me, how do you use the time when you're on the bench?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Said the Toilet to the Tub

I have to admit, I don't have a cleaning schedule for my bathroom anymore. I used to, but it's kind of fallen by the wayside. But that's not to say that my bathroom doesn't get cleaned because it does! *grin* It's just on an as-needed basis.

Tucked behind the toilet I've stashed a toilet brush and Comet, and when I see the pot needs cleaning, I just do 'er up right then. No muss, no fuss and no scuzzie toilet bowl. Well, as I was swishing away recently I overheard a conversation between the toilet and the tub. Really. Here's how it went:

Toilet:
(preening) See, I get cleaned when I need it. It's better than waiting for a scheduled cleaning day to arrive.

Tub: Humph. You're a toilet. Of course she cleans you more! You need it!

Toilet: Ha!

Toilet brush: You ought to handle sin the same way. Just deal with it on an as-needed basis so it doesn't build up and make your life scuzzie. Just scrub, swish and flush it right away as soon as you spot it.

Toilet: Yeah! That's how you do it! Hey, scrub a little harder in there and don't forget the top part.

Tub: Now wait just a minute there! There's nothing wrong with scheduled cleaning—for dirt and sin! It's the only way to make sure everything gets cleaned well, especially places that aren't in the main flow of things.

Toilet: Ooooooooh. Very good point.

Toilet brush: Did she skip her cleaning date with you again, Tub?

Tub: *sigh* Yeah, she did. I hope she notices the gray grungies soon. This is getting embarrassing.

Toilet brush: hehe. I'll remind her with a quick spray to the face. Maybe that'll make her see things better...

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. ~Isaiah 59:2

LoL—Patty here again. Aren't you glad you don't hear things talking inside your head? I giggled as I scrubbed...and remembered my neglected tub. There's a lot to be said for scheduled cleaning—and scheduled time spent alone with God searching, cleaning and confessing things.

I'm going to go grab my cleaning bucket and doing some praying while I'm scrubbing that poor tub. What's your tub saying to you?

Monday, July 09, 2012

How to Use Labels to Make Blog Navigation Tabs

Blogging Tips and Tricks at Ordinary Lives

Organization keeps your archives available
instead of being lost in the dust bunnies.

To use labels for you navbar tabs:

  • First, make sure that the layout you’re using supports a navbar. To do this go to Layout (Design in the Old Interface) and see if there's a navbar above or below the header. If there isn't one, look for "Add a Gadget" in the header area. Either of those options will work. 
  • Decide what you want for labels. Normally you can do 6-8. It all depends on the width of your work area.
  • Make sure you have posts labeled with the labels you want to use for your tabs.

Instructions for using labels to make blog tabs for navigation:

Click on the pictures to see them better.
  1. Go to a published post with a label you want to use for a tab.
  2. Click the particular label you want to us.
  3. Copy the url for that label.
  4. Go to your Dashboard (open it in a separate browser window to make it easier) then Layout (Design in the Old Interface).
  5. In the header area, click Add a Gadget.
  6. Select a Link List Gadget.
  7. Paste in the url of that label and then name it.
  8. If you have more tabs you’d like to make, click “Add Link” and repeat steps 2, 3 and 7.
  9. When you’re done, click Save.
  10. On the Layout/Page Elements page (New/Old Interface), make sure the Link List is either above or below the header and click Save.
  11. Check your work.
By using your labels as topics, you can organize your site so it’s functional with info that’s easily accessible all the time. Careful use of labels will save your sanity. Really. I’m a co-owner of a site where the labels are totally out of control. There’s no hope of organization nor or having the archives accessible, which is really too bad.

Another idea for labels is to use them for buttons/links in the sidebar like I’ve done at the Book Loft.  The buttons allow for easy searching, with our readers in mind—they help us become a resource, something you want to be.

Here are instructions on how to label your posts, in bulk on your Dashboard.
Labeling posts can be done from your Dashboard, either the Updated or Old Interface, but if you want to remove labels, it's easier to move back to the Old Interface of the Dashboard and do it from there.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Cuttings

I love my house plants. What can I say? I water them, talk to them and play Mozart for them and they love me for it—sure, they like the nice sunny house Jim built, but it's the Mozart they thrive on—much to my kids' dismay.

When my parents visited one time, my bamboo got a hair cut and I salvaged the cuttings by sticking them in a pretty little vase, figuring I had nothing to lose. Every so often I'd peer in, checking for signs of growth and finally I saw root nubbins. I was elated. I eyed the narrow neck of my vase and knew their life in there was limited...then life got busy. Guess who forgot about finding a new home for my bamboo cuttings? Yup. Me.

Weeks later I peered into my pretty little vase again. My elation was mixed with dread because there was a mass of roots—roots that wouldn't easily slip through that narrow neck. Rather than take care of it right away, like I should have, I put it off. Again. After awhile I noticed a start of a big main root and knew I'd waited too long.

I tried to be gentle. Truly I did. But I could hear the roots groaning as I wiggled the shoots, jockeying them into position to slide them out one at a time. The roots flexed and as I eased one shoot out, the second one fell into place and slid right out, almost painlessly. I heaved a sigh of relief as I set them in a water glass and checked out my vase. Only a few root hairs were in there, so maybe, just maybe, I didn't tear out too many roots and set the bamboo back too much.

There have been times God's given me a hair cut and gotten rid of things that were out of balance for where I was at that time in my life. Just like that bamboo was top heavy and needed trimming. When God trims me, us, back, He sometimes picks out choice cuttings to put in a vase so they can develop roots of their own in order to eventually be transplanted into their own pots where they grow and flourish.
"For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." ~Jeremiah 29:5 NAS
Nurture those cuttings as God sets them in vases—don't just cry over the trimming He gave you. Rejoice in it because those trim jobs allow you to become fuller and more beautiful—well rooted and not top heavy. He's the Master Gardner and He knows what's best. Allow Him full access and He'll grow you and shape you into a plant that flourishes for His glory. And that's the key: for His glory!

Happy growing!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Me, Aligned and Available

Having a persona has made it so I could align my internal life and my online person (which are a close fit) with who people see in person—IF I’ve stepped into character.

A while back my husband and I were out on a date and we stopped by the dance hall where our two oldest were working. Are you gasping yet? I still do! LoL. But it’s an alcohol-free, smokeless, family environment country ballroom dance hall where grandparents often bring their grandkids—but I’m a missionary kid and dancing was taboo, and dance halls weren’t even mentioned. It all added up to massive overload and it caught me unprepared.

Shortly after arriving at the dance hall we were pulled out of the kitchen, where the kids were, to the corner of the dance floor by our outgoing hosts (who love my kids) so they could teach us a simple dance. Everyone there decided to watch, much to my horror. I made it through the dance steps, moved to the side and TOTALLY shut down emotionally. If someone had touched me I would’ve shattered.

It was bad.

Afterward, on the way home I fell apart, but as I thought and cried, I knew exactly what happened and how to fix it. Any time I find myself in a similar situation, I need to step into character and let Peejers handle things.

I’ve used my persona to teach a children's class at church, lead a womens’ Bible study, reach out to people, and teach at a small writing conference. All things I couldn’t do before because I didn’t have a persona readily available. I couldn't even join in the Sunday School discussion without almost passing out due to the thundering my heart was doing. It’s still a struggle for me and sometimes leaves me exhausted, but I know I CAN do this and I no longer have to be trapped inside, wishing for a keyboard to communicate.

Yes, I’m a certified wall flower, but at least now I can step into character when I need to. It’s been like I was given a pass to an amusement park I had only peeked through the fence at, wishing I could enter. A place I can go now when I want, or need, to.

Photo courtesy of FanPop
Remember
  • people want you to do well.
  • We are not called to success. We are called to obedience. God's job is to take care of the rest.
  • "If God is in it, God will do it." This takes the pressure off me and frees me to be me and present what I believe God is doing, with my emphasis on Him and not myself. ~Jen Slattery
  • Have smile, will travel.
  • Smile and wave, girls, smile and wave.
  • It's not about me but others and helping them.

On a Gaither program, someone asked Linda Randle. "How did you get with the Gaithers? How did you get established in gospel music?"

She said, "You get with God and God will hook you up where He wants you to be." She said she doesn't care if she is considered the best southern gospel singer but now she just cares if she things she is centered in God's will, whatever that is.

I believe it was Terry Burns who said...
It's not that we're pretending to be something we aren't. We're projecting what it would look like if we bring out the more outgoing side of our nature.

So tell me, what does the more outgoing side of you look like?

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