“Notice, and Do” | How I remain in peaceful forward motion

notice & do (3)

 

I’m not sure where I picked up this habit, but as a child, I couldn’t pass trash on the sidewalk without picking it up, and throwing it away. Crumpled up receipts, disposable cups, plastic water bottles, paper straw wrappers, basically anything that wasn’t wet, or sticky—it just wasn’t hard to bend over, pluck it up, and re-home it in the nearest garbage can. (Before you get the wrong idea, I was not this fastidious at home. Just in public. Weird, I know.) (Or typical?)

The habit that took root in me as a child persists to this day, but it’s grown and matured since then, and has spread out to cover all of the facets of my life. I have a vocabulary for it now. I call it “notice, and do.” It’s become an unofficial personal motto. It works like this:

  1. Notice what’s out of sorts
  2. Do something to put it right

Note: it’s not “notice and do everything.” Neither is it “notice and complain,” or “notice and criticize.” Just notice, and do. Something. Even a very small thing.

Some of us need to be liberated from the self-imposed burden to do everything—right all of the wrongs (I’m in this camp). Some of us need to be promoted from “noticing and complaining” to join the ranks of those who are “doing.” And many of us simply need eyes to see—to notice.

There are many potential barriers to noticing, but I’m only going to take a whack at the biggest one. The most common hinderance to our ability to notice the world around us is also the most challenging to overcome, because it’s totally ubiquitous: it’s our devices, and the cacophony of competing voices, narratives, and agendas that live inside them.

In exposing ourselves to the the noise and digital garbage of today’s world, we unintentionally place ourselves in a near-constant state of alarm, or outrage, leaving little energy to notice the quiet issues closer to home that are begging for attention. When our minds are cluttered, distracted or overwhelmed, we literally cannot see a great deal of what crosses our path, and it becomes impossible to discern where we should point our attention. (See: every car accident that involves someone on their cell phone.)

If we desire to become more attuned noticers (and more intentional doers), we must identify and weed out that which is cluttering our vision, and elect to point our attention at things we can personally do something about.

A good first step in training ourselves to notice? Take an agenda-free walk with your device deep down in your pocket or bag. Every time you think to reach for your device, look for a piece of trash on the ground, and throw it in the nearest garbage can.

If you’re trash-averse, then every time you think to reach for your phone, take a beat and notice how you’re feeling in that moment—name it. “I’m anxious. I just want to see if I have any new email.” “I’m frustrated. This exercise is stupid.” “I’m bored. I don’t even know what to think about.” The sooner we build a habit of checking in with ourselves, the sooner we’ll begin to naturally notice others around us, and the environment we’re walking through.

I’m sharing “notice and do” because it’s brought me great peace when so many things appear to be out of sorts, and it keeps me committed to continuing to play my small part in putting things right. As someone who can quickly feel overwhelmed with the enormity of everything that needs fixing, “notice, and do” has become a simple touchstone that I can return to season after season. It reminds me to train my attention on that which I can control or contribute to, and to continue to divest from the outrage-industrial complex.

A prayer for noticing:

Creator God, and my loving Father, attune my eyes to see that which you’ve placed in front of me. When I’m distracted by loud voices, remind me to turn my attention to you, and listen deep for your still small voice, which always points the way to truth, to grace, and to life. Move me to act in whatever way you’ve equipped me to, and when I do, may I do so in your power, and for your glory.

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Thrive in Summertime (Even) as an Introverted Mom

As an introvert, and a mother of two children under 8 years old, summertime used to stress me out, which in turn would trigger major mom-guilt. What kind of mom doesn’t love summer!? I would scold myself. (Note: practice kinder self-talk.)

Summer is supposed to be this joyful time of togetherness, memory-making and squealing children dancing in the sprinklers, but the idea of being constantly surrounded by people (even my own people), and frenetic summertime energy – honestly, it used to make me anxious.

If you’re in the same boat, or maybe this sounds like someone in your family, take comfort in knowing a couple of things:

  • You’re not alone. Somewhere between 30-50% of people identify as introverts. That means there are a whole lot of parents (and kids!) who need a less frenetic summer to feel rested and recharged.
  • It’s OK! We can honor and respect our natural disposition by creating space for our souls to thrive, even (and especially) when the season can become chaotic. (See also: Christmas time.)

Over the years, rather than scolding myself for my introverted nature, I’ve begun looking at the different facets of myself: body, mind and soul and asking a few guiding questions to help me determine what I need to thrive and feel nourished over the summer, and avoid social burnout and anxiety. Then, I take the answers to those questions, and make a plan that will protect the time and space I need to deliver on them to myself. (Hint: It helps to have your significant other on-board with the plan from the start. And it can be a really enriching exercise to go through this process together!)

Now, I want to make sure I’m being completely real here. Most of us can’t clock-out on some blissful, introvert summertime fantasy vacation (but if you can – Go get it, Girl!). But with some self-awareness, this summer can be one that nurtures your natural disposition, without dampening that of the extroverts in your family.

I hope these questions help guide you in creating the space you need to thrive, so that on the other side of this summer you feel like a nourished, renewed version of yourself. I included my answers to help articulate some possible responses.

  • What can I look forward to this summer that will give me a sense of ease and enjoyment in my physical body? Is there something unique about the summer that my body enjoys?
    Sunshine! I love laying on a beach towel in the sun, usually with a good book, or sometimes just to nap. I can do this a few times a week while the baby naps.
  • What can I look forward to that will nurture my mind? Is there an issue or idea that I’ve wanted to explore? What books or podcasts come to mind?
    I can’t wait to read more about the 9 Enneagram types, and how they interact in relationships. Book: “The Path Between Us,” by Suzanne Stabile, Podcast: Ian Cron’s “Typology.” I can listen to these while I’m doing housework, or while I’m laying out in the sunshine.
  • What can I look forward to that will nourish my soul? Who are the people who leave me feeling refreshed, or with whom I feel a sense of sisterhood?
    Spending time with people who leave me feeling refreshed and a sense of sisterhood. I’m planning to see more of Kelly (who I met at MOPS!) and Krista. Since Kelly and Krista have littles, we can do play dates during the day, and since Krista is artsy-fartsy like me, we can make it a point to go to at least one “Art-After-Dark” event in my town.

If you’re like most moms, you’ve spent a considerable amount of time planning various camps and classes and trips for your children over the summer. How could this summer be different for you, if you approached your summertime with similar intentionality? Consider making the time to ponder these guiding questions, and jot down some notes on whatever is close at hand: on the back of a receipt or the notes app on your phone. It doesn’t have to look perfect, or be on just the right paper – just get the thoughts down. Then make a plan.

No, this practice won’t magically transport you to the perfect introvert-paradise, but the simple knowledge that you have something to look forward to that nurtures your natural disposition can be enough to propel you through the next high-energy summer activity, and give you the sense of peace you need to enjoy it.

Originally posted on The MOPS Blog

Begin with Vision | Transition into Summer with intention and heart

BEGIN WITH VISION

If you have school-aged children, the looming summer vacation can trigger so many feelings and anticipations. Transition of any kind can do that, but I find Summer to be particularly daunting, because it bears the weight of so much expectation.

NOW is the time to make lifelong memories with your children!

…but don’t over-schedule—make sure they have the opportunity to get bored and use their imagination.

Take this chance to explore your hometown! Take a day-trip a town over!

…but also, make space for your family to find their inner homebody.

Tackle those big projects! ORGANIZE YOUR GARAGE!

…but take a chill-pill, lady. Summer is the time to slooooow down, and go with the flow.

Are you feeling me here? Lots of tension. Lots of expectations. And if you’re like me, carrying all that around can squash the joy right out of whatever is coming next.

In an effort to nip this transitional anxiety in the bud, I’ve started incorporating a reflective practice into the beginning of new things of significance (like a specific project, or a season of life). I take 10 or 15 minutes to respond to the questions I’ve pulled together, and then I use that information to structure (to the extent that I can) the project or season I’m moving into.

If having a bit of a vision might give you the clarity and confidence you need to move forward with ease (and maybe even loosen up the space you need to feel joy), then I’m including this guided reflective practice as a free download for you. If the idea of beginning with reflection is new to you, I’m certain you’re going to get a lot out of it, and my hope for you is that this (or something like it) becomes a lifelong habit. (The link to download is in the middle of this post. You can’t miss it.)

My intention is for this is to support you in purposefully slowing down and finding your bearings as we transition from the drum-beat of the school year, to the wide-open summer—but this guided reflection is good for every new beginning, so hang onto it, and re-use it at the beginning of the school year, a new job, a new volunteer gig, you get the idea.

Why reflect?

Whether we’re looking forward at a specific event, or a season of life, personal reflection is valuable tool for anticipating what’s to come—the stuff that comes with ease, and the stuff that’s more challenging. When we have a vision for what’s to come, we see the hurdles in front of us, and we can prepare ourselves in advance for what we’re likely to experience.

When I don’t make the time to pause and consider what’s coming, it’s like I’m running an obstacle course with a blindfold on. Maybe I’ve seen this course enough to sort of anticipate the hurdles and pits, but unless I’ve run this exact course 10,000 times, I will certainly run headlong into most of the obstacles in my path, and if I clear any of them, it will be mostly by sheer luck.

Why would any of us do this to ourselves? Yet we DO do it. Summer after summer. Endeavor after endeavor. And we wonder why day-to-day life can leave us feeling so bruised and weary at the end of the day.

 

Below, I’ve included the guiding questions I ask myself at the beginning of a project or season. If you like to write things down by hand (which I do), there’s also a printable for you to enjoy. You can print these guiding questions out and tuck them in your journal to refer to, or you can print as many sheets as you need if you’d like to do this activity with a group.

Guiding reflection for beginning with intention

 

Click here to download the Guided Reflection for Beginning with Intention

 

Final thoughts

(This is related to the previous post I wrote about “Finishing Well: Reflections for Parents at the End of the School Year.” Click over for the reading, and a free guided reflection download.)

The idea of a reflective practice is common, so I don’t want to give the impression that I invented it. I’ve cobbled together elements from a lot of different sources into a practice that works for me. You’ll have your own preferences so I expect that you’ll make alterations that will afford you some ease in adopting this new practice.

Let me know what you think! You can comment below, send me an email, or PM me on Instagram.

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