Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Sleep Challenge: Week One

First off, sorry if you're getting a headache from all the design changes to the blog...I'm having an early mid-blog-life crisis. I keep bouncing back and forth between too boring and too much going on.

Second, this extra sleep thing is AMAZING!!! I can honestly say I feel like I've been blessed for my obedience to that youtube video I posted. (You know, the one that scared Jeni...)

I have had a noticeable increase in my level of motivation since I began this goal at the beginning of the month. Mornings are still hard (I think mornings will always be hard for me) but I have found myself getting much more done during the day.

Ooh! That reminds me of the weird fall decorating spree I went on... I bought a cute little bucket and put a bunch of gourds in it and then Matt, Lilly, and I went for a leaf hunt to fill the vase I saved from our wedding. While we were out I noticed there were a lot of acorns lying around and I thought they might add a nice touch of over-the-top adorableness to my fall decoration plan. Here're the pics.

 I'm trying to decide between these two different looks. Any opinions? If you can't tell the difference, I'll give you a hint: look in the little tan vase and at the top of the clear vase. (It's like one of those "spot the differences" games in the Friend!)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Month Four: The Sleep Challenge

Best challenge ever. Right?

This is my inspiration:

For this month (starting tomorrow, October 1st) I am going to bed by 10:30 on weeknights and 11:00 on weekends. I am going to just count on Lilly waking me up early enough to count as "early." And, I'll make this clear right now: If she ever lets me sleep in, I am so jumping on that. Alright. I feel pretty good about this one even with the hectic schedule. Also, I will only blog as often as I have something interesting to report. Probably I'll shoot for at least once a week.

I'm back! (And an explanation of my absence)

Hi all of you faithful followers (in other words, "Hi Christina!")

I have officially had an epic fail of a perfect month. And you know what? I don't regret it one bit. After missing a few days of my perfect month of journaling I decided that I needed a break from blogging. I guess I had an unofficial perfect month (or two) of survival during my blog absence. I'm proud to say that I survived perfectly, though I definitely did not journal perfectly.

In the last couple of months I began my internship at Lutheran Social Services. I work out of the Janesville office doing outpatient substance abuse and mental health counseling. I'm loving it. But adding about 18 hours a week to my already busy schedule (with school, family, and church responsibilities) just about did me in. Luckily things are back on track enough that I think I can resume this blog. Of course, I am going to start with a month that will be relatively easy to achieve. My plan is that this month's goal is going to make balancing my responsibilities easier rather than adding yet another item to my "to-do" list. 

Also, we had family portraits taken this week, so I can't resist posting a few of my favorites.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Day 4 and 5: The Journal Challenge

The inevitable has happened: I had a day that 1)was boring and 2)left me with very little energy to write in my journal. I have the answer to this problem, but I did not use it. I was too tired. For future reference, I am going to attach a link that may be helpful for those of you who want to write but either don't know where to start, or just feel like life is not currently interesting enough to write about. I am right now assuming that a quick google search will get me what I'm assuming exists on the internet.

(Cross your fingers, here it goes!! Don't fail me, google!!!)

This one has some that are more geared toward creative writing, but also has many good ones.

This one is also pretty good

But really, I don't love either. I now commit to compiling my own list of journal topics and tips for keeping a good journal.

(Finally I have some idea of what the heck to write about with this Perfect Month!)

More to come.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Day 2 and 3: The Journal Challenge

On day two I wrote about Lillian's first and second days of day care. Today I spent the majority of my journaling time consolidating old typed entries into one file. My dad has a great word format that he's created for his journal and he sent me a copy of the format so I could use it. Funny how things like that make all the difference.

By the way, armed with this great method of journaling, I am decided. I am not ever going back to hand-writing my journal. This is just too much faster.

Always. And. Forever.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Day 1: The Journal Challenge

When I was five years old, my sister, Duz, scribed my first journal for me. She would ask me questions about my day and then write my answers down for me. I'm not sure how many full volumes of handwritten journals I have written since then, but there are lots.

So why am I doing journal writing as my third "Perfect Month?" Confession time. I have written a total of about seven journal entries in the last three years of my life. I guess getting married, graduating from college, having a baby, and moving across the country to Graduate school just didn't seem like worthwhile content. (Sigh).

I am seriously repentant about my lack of writing during these life-changing experiences. Coming back to keeping a journal after all those changes is a bit intimidating. I think that is what has continued to keep me from getting back into journal-keeping.

Want to know how I'm approaching it? Today I wrote about everything Lilly is doing now: the words she knows, her favorite things to do, her first day of day care, etc. I am making no attempt to catch up on three years of missed journaling. For me, this is the only way. It is far too overwhelming otherwise.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Month Three: The Journal Challenge

The Challenge:

Spend at least fifteen minutes writing in my journal every day for a month.

Although journaling has been on my mind for a long time (we're talking at least three years) I have managed to put it off over and over. This time, there is no escape for journaling. It's. Going. DOWN. Booyah.

The challenge starts tomorrow (August 6, 2012) and ends September 6, 2012. Anyone want to join me on this one?

Days 26-31: The Scripture Challenge

It's time for the wrap up, already!

This month was the "Perfect Month" of scripture study. I studied my scriptures for 30 minutes every day for a month and it was wonderful.

I learned a few important lessons through this process.

1. For me, 30 minutes of reading is not the same as 30 minutes of studying. Whenever I spent the entire 30 minutes reading, my study was inferior and I came away with fewer insights and less spiritual uplift. What seemed to work best for me was to read, pray, and ponder as the spirit prompted me. At times, this meant reading a line and spending the next ten minutes writing my thoughts. At other times, it meant praying to God about something that came to mind while I read, whether it seemed directly connected or not. Often I found that by following my thoughts wherever they took me, I learned what my Heavenly Father wanted me to.

2. Discussing what you study whether in a blog post or with my husband or friend served as a good way for me to review the points that stuck with me and try to gain a better understanding of why they stuck.

3. Paying attention to the big picture helps you see glimpses into God's plan for you. Having this blog as I went through the month made it easier for me to see the Lord's lesson plan. As I reviewed what I'd learned from beginning to end I watched the whole month's insights come full circle into a complete and beautiful lesson that the Lord prepared specifically for me and according to my current needs.

I'd like to share a bit of what I learned from point three. When I began this month  I felt like my faith was at a weak point so I began my study by focusing on the topic of faith. As I let the spirit guide my reading over the next few days I was led to study love. I learned that I am extremely selective about the people I choose for heroes and I learned that I need not be. People everywhere are worthy of the title "hero." It takes a heart full of love to discover in what way each person in your life deserves that title. 

I have always wondered why the scriptures often connect faith, hope, and charity. Faith and hope seem clearly related but I wondered what charity had to do with the other two. As the Lord has worked His miracles in my life this month, I found that learning to love as Christ does automatically builds hope and faith. My faith is no longer a concern to me and I finally understand the connection between the three. This is by far the greatest blessing and lesson that I have taken from this month.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Days 23-25: Scripture Study

Confession time. Though I have still studied 30 minutes a day, I haven't done great with keeping study notes for the last few days. That's why I am supposed to set goals with minimal parameters. Whoops. Since I broke that parameter, I'm gonna go ahead and change my definition of perfection for the month. The new definition is studying for 30 minutes every day. There. See how easy it is to have a perfect month?

Having said that, I am still going to make an effort to keep study notes because even in the last couple of days of not keeping notes I have noticed a difference. The spirit speaks to me much more when I am doing what it takes to have a focused mind. (And taking notes is what it takes for me).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day 22: Scripture Challenge

It's interesting how the Lord has led me this month. In the beginning, I had only a vague plan of what and how I was going to fill the thirty minutes each day. Before long, I felt a need to study faith. As I studied faith, I was naturally led to love. I am still stuck on love, though each time I study I feel like I am being given another hint at what my Father in Heaven would like me to change. The best part is that the longer I go on this path, the more God changes me. It is not overwhelming because God is in control. As the spirit takes charge of my studies, I am learning at the pace that is appropriate for me. Almost without my noticing or making specific goals (which for me can sometimes become contrived) my heart is changing.

And now I remember why true study of God's word is worth the time.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day 21: Scripture Challenge

Today I read "Love Takes Time," by Marvin J. Ashton, a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

This talk is based on the idea that words are not enough to show our love. Ongoing actions over time are what bless others and ourselves and what define true love.

As I've thought about the nudge God has given me toward love, I've considered the various applications of this inspiration. Does He want me to work on the way I show Matt love? Should I improve my relationships with family members? Friends? Do I need to learn to love everyone? Any one of these could be a serious and time-consuming project for personal growth. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) He think I means all of the above.

While I could easily make a ridiculously detailed and ambitious list of goals out of any one of the above-mentioned applications of this inspiration, I don't think I need to. When I was on my mission I spent several months studying and trying to develop the Christ-like attributes mentioned in Preach My Gospel. As I did this, I noticed that they were all interrelated and as I worked to develop one attribute, I automatically improved in the rest. I am beginning to believe that this has application to many gospel topics.

I'm still studying love and allowing the spirit to guide me toward the application that God would like me to focus on, but I believe the others will naturally improve as I work on one.

Spoiler: I think I'm being led toward loving those I have a difficult time loving, or loving everyone. I am beginning to change the way I think about people and trying to discover people's gifts rather than their faults.

Day 20: Scripture Challenge

 July 20, 2012

Yesterday was the 20th day of this month. I can't say that I have done a great job of making the most of this challenge. I know that I benefit most from scripture study when I do it earlier in the day, for example, and most of this challenge I have been studying from 11:30-midnight give or take a half hour.

Having said that, I would like to acknowledge some of the blessings I've gotten from setting aside 30 minutes every day for scripture study and pondering.

Although my study has not been at the ideal time of day and despite my failure to develop a clear study plan or objective, Heavenly Father has used this opportunity to teach me something that I need to know at this moment in my life. He wants me to love His children and He wants me to be grateful and happy for the blessings he's given me. Lucky for me, once He pointed this out to me, I realized that I want these things for myself as well. I want them desperately and I would probably have continued for a long time without realizing that hunger had I not allowed Him to teach me.

Gratitude log for July 20, 2012:
  • I got to go Visiting Teaching twice, once in the morning and once in the evening
  • In the morning, my VT companion shared a message about love and testified that if we ask Heavenly Father to increase our love, He will
  • Matt made dinner and it was delicous
  • It was a cooler day (it poured the night before!)
  • Lillian learned the word "hug"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pause for Pictures

I have read for 30 minutes every day still, though on a couple of occasions when I did not have a clock visible I had to estimate the time.

Obviously my blogging has lagged and I don't want this month's posts to be pure study guide notes, anyway, so instead of giving you the daily details of days 14-18 I'll give the impressions and the impact that they have made on me.

First, I need to give a shout out to Christina who flew out to spend a whole week with Matt, me, and Lilly. We had a blast and we're all experiencing major Teena withdrawals. Here're some pictures of the good times we had:

Cuddling on the bus

Girl time in the sandbox

Lilly loves Allie!

Digger Wasp carrying a dead bug. Google it.

We intended to use this, but when I climbed down to make sure the water was deep enough we were glad I checked. We went for a nice swim, but probably would have died if we'd tried to enter via rope swing...

Hi guys!

Peek a boo!

Best buds

Pointing at the lake

Cuddling lions--this was pretty awesome in person

Lilly's not quite a gibbon yet

Three monkey pals

Lilly's deciding what to order.

The next five pictures tell a story. I call this series: "Treat please"

Entering the lake (Lilly's second time swimming)

Friendly ducks

Day 19: Scripture Challenge

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
1 John 4:7-8

Days 14-18: Scripture Challenge

Over the last several days my studies have not seemed particularly spiritual or enlightening. Admittedly most of them have begun around 11:00 at night. Despite my occasional lack of focus and direction in studying, I have been blessed for my efforts.

Day 11 marked the beginning of a week of revelation. Though it didn't feel like a scripture study any different from the rest, Heavenly Father gave me a hint of what He wants me to change about myself. In the days following day 11, I have had "love" come to my mind several times. I began to study it under's gospel topics tab. (I'm starting to love that, by the way!)

I don't feel like I have necessarily learned anything new about love besides the fact that I have been struggling with it and the Lord would like me to address that issue.

Though I am a person who generally deals well with change, certain aspects of my move to Madison have been difficult. I left behind friends who I love with all my heart. People who have changed me forever and who have been with me during pivotal moments in my life. Consequently, I have a high expectation of my friends now. It's kind of like dating again after you found (and broke up with) the perfect man.

My problem is that I have been expecting the same quality of relationships in people who I have only met in the last year. To be honest, I have used a very fine strainer to decide who has potential to be my next bestie. Perhaps as a side effect of that attitude, I have begun to look for the flaws instead of the gifts that people have, and it has not been working for me.

I did not realize I was doing this until the Lord gave me several subtle impressions during my study and pondering time.

I am grateful for the opportunity that is created by studying my scriptures. As I've taken time to PONDER in addition to reading, I have felt my mind guided to those things that the Lord wants me to know.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Day 13: Scripture Challenge

July 13, 2012

Because I've spent the last few days getting caught up on blogging my scripture studies, I have had little time left to really get into anything new. I guess this is a testament to the value of balance. For me, I have a difficult time getting much from my study unless the balance of reading, pondering, praying, and writing is just right.

Looking back on my notes, though, from July 13th, I am interested in 1 Nephi 10:17 where Nephi teaches that the Holy Ghost is "the gift of God unto all that diligently seek it." It made me wonder what this gift entails exactly. When I was a kid, I thought that receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost would make me feel happy and warm and fuzzy all the time. While the Holy Ghost certainly can make me feel this way, I think it can be with us without our feeling those things. What do you think?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 12: Scripture Challenge

July 12, 2012

On this day I spent all of my scripture study time getting caught up on blogging scripture studies. This was a good experience in that the entire study was spent pondering. I haven't done that before. It was a straight thirty minutes of thinking about the things I'd studied. I hope, however, to not do it again. My best scripture study sessions have included a flexible mixture of study, pondering, and praying.

Here are some pictures from day twelve. Happy day!