Empty Nest, Abundant Life

Nag Less, Pray More

Category: Growing as a Person (page 1 of 5)

A Retreat for One

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already reached the final days of January.   One month ago today, I left home for hours to go on my 2nd annual one-woman, one-afternoon retreat.   I do it on the last Friday afternoon of the year, but you can anytime you have at least three hours in a row and enough energy to do some deep thinking.

In the past, when I thought of retreats, I imagined driving with a van full of ladies to a rustic setting in the mountains for a weekend of fun, worship, and teaching.   I have been to many retreats like this, and they required preregistration, paying around $100, packing, picking just the right time to ask my husband if he could watch the kids, and gearing up my introverted self for a lot of “together” time.   Don’t get me wrong;  I have enjoyed, learned from, made great memories, and even taught at some of these experiences, but I was looking for something different.

In December of 2016, I listened to a podcast by one of my favorite nonfiction authors, Sally Clarkson.  She explained the benefits of getting away alone for a yearly reflection.  She also referred to materials from an author whose name I had never heard before, Lara Casey.  I went to both Sally and Lara’s websites and read all they had to say about this event,  put their suggestions into two Microsoft Word documents, and made plans to take my retreat at ….. Starbucks.   Much less money and planning!

I took the following things with me:

  1. My Bible
  2. A ton of notebook paper in a folder
  3. An assortment of brightly colored pens
  4. Inspirational stickers
  5. Highlighters
  6. Posterboard
  7. A Sharpie
  8. Kleenex

I found myself experiencing the entire spectrum of emotions as I sat nestled in a booth sipping on my mocha, thinking about all the wonderful events of the past year and setting goals for the following one.  Because I was alone, I could think objectively about my marriage, my children, and my own life, evaluating the good, the bad, and the ugly, and praying how to work on the difficulties.  I came home refreshed and ready to implement my plans.

Do I achieve every goal I set?  Definitely not, but I like having a direction I am choosing to travel in my life and page after page written in my own handwriting.  I would highly recommend this activity to you and can’t wait to see what God shows you about your life!

What in the World is a Vision Board?

I resisted creating a vision board for many years, giving random excuses like, “I’m not artistic,”  “That’s too trendy for me,”   and “I have no idea how to start!”   An email at the end of 2016 changed my perspective and gave me the initiative I needed, and now I wish I would have started doing this exercise years earlier than I did.

For the past two years, I have participated in fitness challenges at https://www.jennyhadfield.com/.   It provided me with motivation, camaraderie, and expert advice for very little money, and I highly recommend it.  In the particularly dangerous weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, I would receive email with weekly challenges, and the last one in December contained these words.  “Visualization is one of the most powerful exercises you can do for your mind. Professional athletes use visualization to perform at their peak, and when they do, research shows that the their brain activates in a very similar fashion, just like when they train or race.

According to peak performance expert, Jack Canfield, “your brain will work tirelessly to achieve the statements you give your subconscious mind. And when those statements are the affirmations and images of your goals, you are destined to achieve them! Because your mind responds strongly to visual stimulation-by representing your goals with pictures and images – you will actually strengthen and stimulate your emotions…and your emotions are the vibrational energy that activates the Law of Attraction. The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words,” certainly holds true here.

Creating a vision board is one of the most valuable visualization tools available to you. This powerful tool serves as your image of the future – a tangible representation of where you are going. It represents your dreams, your goals, and your ideal life.”

How to Create your 2017 Vision Board

  • Keep it simple and include things you want to achieve, as well as how you want to feel. You can start very simply by writing down words on a blank piece of paper or on your phone.
  • When inspiration strikes, create your board with your words, notes, and things you want to happen in 2017.
  • It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can cut pictures from a magazine, color, use photos, stickers, or images off the web – or simply make it a word-based vision board.

Your board doesn’t need to be constructed this week. Start the process by writing down how you want to feel (calm, present, successful, fit, healthy) and include your goals, and let your visions come to you. Then look for images and ways to express these visually. For years my vision board was just words or numbers on a gigantic white board in my office. It can be as simple or as fancy as it makes sense for you.”

These instructions gave me the direction and confidence to undertake the task.  While I was on my one-woman, one-afternoon retreat at the end of 2016, I used stickers, markers, and pictures to make the following board:

Just before I went on my one-woman, one-afternoon retreat a couple of weeks ago, I looked over 2017’s vision board and cheered as I realized that I had accomplished each goal I had written on the board.   This fact motivated me to create one for this year.  This is what I came up with:

I have heard that if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.  Planning to make a vision board can make 2018 so much more productive!  It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to follow a particular format.  Please comment if you have any questions or if you would like to share a picture of your vision board.


New Year, New Word

The new year always brings a flurry of thoughts about how this year will be different from all the ones in the past.    It causes us to analyze how we can be more effective and make resolutions to change habits as a result.    I struggled to harness these strong feelings of resolve and to fine tune them, and I have found success in doing this for the past five years.

My secret?  Choose a word!  Just one word.   A word that you want to aspire to learn more about and one that you will come to resemble more and more as the year goes by.

I read a great book on the topic, One Perfect Word, by Debbie Macomber, at the end of 2013, and I was inspired.    On January 1, 2014, I dared to write down my word for the year and pray it each day for myself.  The word terrified me; my word for the year 2014 was Surrender.  I wanted to surrender my plans, hopes, dreams, and agenda to God, who had an even better plan for my life.  I had no idea how strongly this word would play out until I found myself in ICU not able to breathe on my own in June of that year.

By the end of 2014, I had not only gained my strength back but had also learned far more about surrender than I ever imagined possible.  I was hooked on choosing a word, now not only for myself but for each member of my immediate family.  My word for the year 2015 was Rejoicing.   I wanted to learn to rejoice not only when circumstances were going my way but also in the deepest disappointments.  It was a worthwhile journey.  The words I chose for my family were endurance, maturity, and trust.

When 2016 rolled around, I couldn’t wait to do this exercise again.  My word for the year 2016 was Renewal, as I looked at my new life with children moving away and going on the international mission field.  My words for my husband and children were balance, faith, and courage, as they all were learning huge lessons of their own.

By December of 2016, I even took myself on a one-woman, one-afternoon retreat to evaluate my life, set priorities, and, most importantly, determine my word.  My word for the year 2017 was Freedom as I sought to be released my own self-doubt, others’ expectations and opinions of me, and the limits I had placed on myself due to fear.  I experienced my best year yet, achieving more than ever and daring to do activities I never expected that I would.  My words for my family were fortitude, security, and maturity.

This year is no different.  I have chosen my word.  It’s another scary one because I know that there are many lessons I need to learn about this subject.  My word for this year is Humility.    True freedom only comes when I choose to humble myself before God and trust Him completely for my future.   The words I have selected for those closest to me are direction, leadership, and abiding.

I have found a great website that has also helped me in this journey:  www.oneword365.com.  It’s a wonderful community of people who have also chosen one word for the year so we can support one another as we live out our word for the year.

What will be your word for the year?

Stay tuned to my blog for posts about one-woman retreats and vision boards!

Taking the Back Seat

My husband and I took a road trip with my son and his girlfriend over Thanksgiving break.  We traveled over 400 miles each way to spend the holiday at my husband’s aunt’s house.   It was an excellent opportunity to spend time getting to know David’s girlfriend, Mariana, and a chance to get away and have some fun.

My skills as a car passenger lack subtlety.  I overreact to each car that comes to close, each sudden movement, and each time the driver does something that I have deemed to risky for my taste.  It’s caused many tense moments between my husband and myself, since he is the most frequent driver in the household.

As usual, Darren drove most of the miles of this trip, but he did allow David to drive the longest that he ever has on this annual Thanksgiving trek.  On the way home, David drove for over three hours.  As the four of us switched spots and I moved to the back seat, I felt myself tense up.   Would I be a Nervous Nellie backseat driver?  I had brought many activities in my backpack that I had hoped to complete on this trip that I hadn’t even begun.   I tentatively pulled out my Bible Study lesson and started to fill in the answers.  As the miles continued, I felt my shoulders ease and my nerves settle.  I was able to read a book I had wanted to finish, prepare for Bible Study, read a magazine, listen to the music, and engage in conversation.

This is a metaphor for my relationship with my children.  Darren and I are no longer the “drivers” of their lives.  We taught them the rules of the road and watched them become proficient and licensed drivers.  Instead of gripping the door handles with white knuckles or feverishly pushing my imaginary brake pedal, it’s time to trust their abilities, sit back, and enjoy the ride.

Growing in Gratefulness

On days like today, when life does not particularly go my way, it is harder to show gratitude.  I tend to focus my attention on what is going wrong instead of being thankful for what is going right, yet when I resolve to look for blessings and show appreciation for them, I find my attitude making a change for the better, a smile spreading across my face, and my mind fixed on the Giver of All Good Gifts.  I even find myself thankful for the challenges and obstacles in my life because they cause me to grow in patience, learn humility, and rely on God more than ever!

My Five Project Gratitude Thankful Things for Today

  1. The Soft Fur on my Cats
  2. Stimulating Conversation with a Table Full of Women who Point me to Jesus
  3. Beautiful Rays of Sun Poking Through the Clouds.  (I pulled over to the side of the road and snapped the above picture while driving through town today.)
  4. The Refreshment of Ice Water After a Workout
  5. A Phone Call from my Married Daughter Just to Chat.

What are you thankful for today?

Project Gratitude

It is easy to get so distracted by the hurried pace of this world and everything that is going wrong in our lives that we take our eyes and hearts off the One who has richly blessed us.  When we focus on all the blessings we experience in this life, our hearts fill with gratitude toward God and we feel stronger to face the obstacles and complexity of this life.  November, the month of Thanksgiving, is a perfect month to express thankfulness and gratitude for all we have.  I am challenging myself to find five things to thank God for each day during this month.  Who else would like to join me?

My 5 Project Gratitude Thankful Things for Today

  1. The Smell of Coffee Brewing
  2. A Warm Shower
  3. The Privilege of Teaching Children the Promises of God
  4. Autumn Walks and Talks with Friends
  5. Guacamole

What are you thankful for today?

New Month, New Outlook

I’ve always loved the first day of a new month.  It’s a day for changing calendars, for looking ahead to all the fun that the month promises, for receiving special “first of the month” coupons and emails, and for wiping the slate clean from last month.  I especially love November because I can say, “Thanksgiving is coming later this month,” and  “Next month is my birthday and Christmas.”   When I encounter a flawless, new month, I am empowered to forge ahead instead of paralyzed with embarrassment over the mistakes I’ve made or overwhelmed with too much to do.

May we all greet November with a spirit of adventure and gratitude!

Conclusion to Embracing Fifty

Before I began this series, I approached my 50th birthday with much hesitancy.  As I spent the entire month evaluating how I wanted to live my life in my fifties, my excitement grew.  The more I thought and wrote, the more my anxiety waned and my anticipation soared.   Now I can’t wait to leap into this new decade of my life.

The task of determining my values was not an easy one.  It took a lot of soul searching and frank honesty within myself.  I laughed and cried at my computer keyboard as I reflected on what I valued most and how I wanted to rest of my life to look.  I would highly recommend this activity to anyone who wants to be more intentional with how they live each day of the rest of their life.

Thank you so much for reading my 31 day series.  I hope it inspired you to consider how you choose to live the remaining days of your life.  I’d love to talk to you more about it and will answer all comments.   I wish each of you an amazing life!

This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!

Loving Others Well

I can’t think of a single better way to use the rest of my life than loving others well.   Before my eyes are even fully open in the morning, I have already mumbled “I love you” to my husband and scratched one of the cats.  Before I get out of bed, I express my love to God by reading His Word, applying it to my life, worshiping Him, and praying for over 100 people.  When I spend this time with God, I find that He fills me to overflowing with love so I can’t help but look for opportunities to love others all day, from those closest to me to those I have not yet met.

Love can be expressed in so many ways.  We often thing of it as physical affection, but that is just one way to show love.  We can make time to spend with others in deep conversation.  We can do something kind for others.  We can encourage one another with our words.  We can let someone know we are thinking of them with a text message, phone call, or a gift.  Even a smile to the grocery checker or the person in the car next to you in a traffic jam can ease a burden and make someone feel special.

The current rhythm of modern American life is becoming so fast-paced and impersonal that stopping to unselfishly invest in another’s happiness seems unnatural.  So many days I fail at loving others well.  I get caught up in the rush of life and my own agenda that I view others as obstacles to what I need to do instead of high priorities.  It is only when I go to God to get refreshed in His love that I have enough to give others.

When I am no longer on this earth, I want to be remembered as someone who loved others well!

This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!

Savoring Each Moment

Our lives are moving at a quicker pace than they ever have.  We have our to-do lists, our cell phone notifications, and overpacked schedules to keep us busy from the time the alarm sounds in the dark hours of the morning until late at night.  We are constantly thinking towards the next thing.

It’s hard to slow down and appreciate the little things in life, yet this is exactly what is necessary for a healthy and balanced life.  When we look at life as an experience instead of a destination, we can enjoy the journey so much more.

When I participated in the Eugene Half Marathon this Spring, I’m sure I would have had a much faster finishing time if I totally focused on pushing my body as hard as I could and didn’t look around to savor the atmosphere.  I met a friend with a similar pace, and as we passed something interesting, I would say under my breath, “I always want to remember this.”   She looked at me with an odd expression until I told her of my quest to enjoy the memories I was making step by step along race.  She soon joined my glee as we witnessed someone playing a didgeridoo to cheer us on, a live pet duck sitting on its owner’s lap at the curb, the bright signs on poster board that encouraged us, and the beautiful Willamette River flowing under us as we crossed multiple bridges.  By the time I  entered the stadium that housed the legendary Hayward Field, where many Track and Field World Championships have occurred, tears escaped my eyes at the glory of the crowds cheering, the brisk wind, the blue sky, the worship music playing in my headphones, and the finish line stretched out before me.  I savored it!

One of my favorite verses in the Bible takes place during the telling of Christ’s birth in Luke 2.  In the midst of the birth of the Messiah, the angels’ chorus, the shepherds’ visit, and the animals in the stable, Mary took the time to savor the moment.  She must have been exhausted from having her first child out of town in a stable with many visitors, but Luke 2:19 says,  “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Let’s be like Mary and treasure and ponder in our hearts!

This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!

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