Love Your Struggles!

HAH-Blog-Hop-graphic-2 Today is the Third Thursday Blog Hop and our theme is Love Your Struggles.

Chemo Brain.

That’s my struggle.

It is evident because I FORGOT THAT TODAY WAS THE THIRD THURSDAY and I’m getting my post up late!

My apologies to all my fellow bloggers who link up during the hop and have been wondering where my post is!

This is my life right now.  As my husband put it the other day, I’m a 10 cylinder brain running on 8 cylinders.

I can either fight my struggles or embrace the reality of them.  I’m learning to embrace the reality of them. Accept them. Acknowledge my real life…my real season…even if it’s not what I want it to look like.

What I have learned is that we don’t have to love our circumstances, but we can love how God grows us through our circumstances.

This is truth we find in Romans 5:3-4, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope.”

There is no growth without struggle.

So I can love my struggles because I know they are strengthening my faith and maturing me in unique ways.  Right now, God is using my gaps to learn to give myself and others more grace.

How about you?  Can you love your struggles because you know it’s producing fruit in your life? 

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It’s a Chapter…Not the Book

465044903 Child #1: Mom, after I graduate, my friends and I are going to take a cross-country road trip.”

Me: Really?  That will cost a lot of money. You’ll have to pay for gas, food, and hotel or camping expenses.

Child #1: We’ll sleep in our car so we’ll keep the expense down.

Me: That will get old very soon.

TEN YEARS LATER

Child #5: Mom, after I graduate, my friends and I are going to take a cross-country road trip.”

Me: Really? Where would you like to go?

Child #5: From the east coast to the west coast.

Me: Now that would be a lot of fun!

Wisdom is gained in experience. In my early parenting years, I felt it was my job to give my kids a reality check.  Now with years under my belt, I realize that dreaming with my kids is just as important, if not more important, than setting them straight.

Just last week another mom of young adults and I were discussing parenting challenges and what we have learned through the years.  We both agreed that if we could offer one word of advice to younger mothers it would be, “Chill.”

Then she said something that captured my attention.  She said, “I have to remind myself that it’s a chapter, not the book.”  She went on to explain that when dealing with a tough time in our kids life, it’s good to remind yourself that this is a chapter in their life, not the whole book.

As I’ve thought about that saying, I would sometimes add that “it’s a page, not a chapter.” The conversation up above would qualify as a page.  No trips were being planned. No money was being saved for such a trip. No real effort was being made toward such a thing. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill, mama.

Whether your child is 2, 12, or 22, don’t hesitate to dream along with them.  Resist the urge to throw a wet blanket on their fire.

If your child is going through a hard time or is making poor choices, keep the big picture in mind as you wade through the process.

After all, it’s a chapter, not the book.

What about you?  When have you needed some big picture perspective in your parenting or even in your own life?  

Posted in Parenting | 6 Comments

Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic The greatest knowledge we can ever have is knowing God treasures us….The Holy Creator sees you as His glorious inheritance.”  

                                                                                                                                                                                        ~Francis Chan

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Progress…not perfection

When our kids are little and learning to walk, they take two steps and then fall down.  Back on their feet, they take three steps and tumble over.

Do we see that as failure?

Not at all.  We get excited at the effort they are making and we know those steps are the beginning of a new skill.  We celebrate their progress.

Why then, when our children are older, and they figuratively take two steps and fall down learning a new skill (how to manage their time, how to be responsible with their money, how to do their homework on their own) do we see that as failure?  Why are we impatient? Frustrated? Angry?

Why? Because the perfection infection in parenting has set in.

We compare them to other kids. Our expectations are unrealistic.  We don’t know what is a healthy expectation for their age. We are tired, low on grace, and even lower on patience.

Deep down, we want perfection rather than progress.

Granted, an older child’s “falls” carry more weight than a 1 year old learning to walk. There are grades at stake, integrity and character issues, and as they get older their choices affect college possibilities, jobs, and their future in general.

Yet, what if we kept our eye out for progress and celebrated it when we saw it…no matter how small the baby step might be?  What if our kids could count on us to be their biggest cheerleader, no matter how often they fall?  What if we saw “making mistakes” as the progress that it really is?

HAH2207 CLAP printable When we apply the antidotes to Perfection Infection Parenting, we accomplish just that. CLAP: Compassion, Love, Acceptance, and Perception; these antidotes make our home and family a safe place to be.

Compassion: I’m trying to feel what you’re feeling.
Love: I love you no matter what.
Acceptance: You belong to me and this family no matter what.
Perception: I see you and I’m in tune with what’s going on with you.

Apply these antidotes and you’re on your way to celebrate progress and leave the expectation of perfection behind!

Download your free printable of: Four Keys To Loving Your Child For Who They Are

What about you?  Of the four antidotes listed above, which one do you need to include more in your parenting? 

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic  ”Grace is the face God wears when He meets our imperfection, sin, weaknesses and failures.”

~Unknown

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What’s Your Magnifying Glass Focused On? 6 Steps To Better Relationships

magnifying One of the things I remember about being at my grandpa’s house was a magnifying glass that he kept on the table beside his chair.  It was a heavy duty lens and I loved positioning it over different items and looking at them in larger-than-life form.

When you look at something under magnification it looks bigger than it really is. The magnified image is no longer congruent to real life because you’re seeing one thing larger than the other things around it.  Magnifying something gives a warped sense of how something really is.

These results happen when we look at an object under the magnifying glass. They also happen when we look at relationships under a magnified lens.

The people we live with are imperfect human beings. They have faults. They make mistakes. They let us down on occasion.  Because we live so closely with other human beings, it becomes very easy to look at their faults through a magnifying glass.  I’ll even venture to say that someone–the god of this world–the enemy who wants to steal, divide, and destroy–helps to position the magnifying lens on the actions or attitudes that cause us the most hurt, disappointment, or rejection. (John 10:10 and I Peter 5:8)

Without realizing it, we move from believing the best about our spouse, our child, our relative, or our friend to believing the worst about them.  With their faults maximized and their strengths minimized, we slowly close off our heart to them.  Before we know it, a relational wall has been erected by our skewed perspective and unrealistic expectations (that they won’t make mistakes, that they should have made a different decision, etc).

That relational wall begins a process of separation in our heart and mind.  It divides our loyalties and moves us away from the relationship rather than towards the relationship that means so much to us.

It’s not the big things that kill relationships. It’s often the little things that accumulate over time. Looking at faults through a magnifying glass is a little thing that can do damage over the long haul unless we do something about it.

Here are six ways to see others in a more balanced way:

1) Move the magnifying glass.  Move your focus from what they do wrong to what they do right.  If you’re finding yourself critical of or angry or disgusted with your spouse, you’ve likely had tunnel vision on their imperfections.  Sit down and make a list of their strengths and what they contribute positively to the relationship.

2) Stay focused on what you love. What you focus on will expand. If you focus on what bothers you, all you will see are the things that tick you off. Keep your eyes on what you love so you fill your heart with love.

3) Resist the temptation. The enemy is cunning and will do his best to get your emotions tangled up and engaged. Once your emotions are engaged it becomes easier to see your spouse, your challenging child, your sister-in-law, or your friend as an enemy.  This is the first step of dividing and destroying. Don’t take the bait!

4) Believe the best about your loved one.  Resist the urge to make their mistake a personal offense towards you.  Beware of statements you might make to yourself like, “If he really loved me he wouldn’t have done that,” or “She did that just to tick me off.” These kinds of statements are fertilizer to negative emotions.

5) Get perspective. Are you making a mountain out of a molehill?  In the big scheme of things, is this really a big deal?  When you measure this imperfection, mistake, or disappointment against all the good things about the person, you’ll quickly see that this situation isn’t worth the energy you’re giving it. You need spiritual perspective as well. Remind yourself who the real enemy is (Satan) and what his agenda is (to divide and destroy).  Don’t let yourself get sucked into his distraction and deception.

6) Learn to move forward.  Sometimes we need to give grace, forgive, and let it go.  Sometimes we need to have a conversation with the person, but only after our emotions have calmed down. And sometimes we need to realize that our own pride or insecurity is the bigger issue here and its helpful to move the magnifying glass from our loved one to ourselves for a few convicting minutes.  Don’t let it sit there for too long or you’ll move from conviction to condemnation in no time.

NMPM cover with subtitle and correct colors That old magnifying glass of my grandpa’s had it’s place in this world. It helped him see things more clearly at times.

Magnifying glasses in relationships can do the same.

It all depends on what you’re looking at.

What about you? Where have you had your relational magnifying glass pointed at the wrong things?  What are you making bigger than it needs to be? 

Posted in Marriage, Parenting | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Organic or Not?

153763376 As we’ve been changing our eating habits at the Savage household, one thing I’ve started to be more aware of is what produce I should be buying organic.

As a mom feeding seven hungry people, I usually disregarded organic options in the past because of cost. Our food budget was stretched pretty thin! Yet, I also understood that some fruits and vegetables absorb pesticides more than others and I certainly didn’t want to be feeding that to my family.

When I was introduced to the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15″ lists, it provided me with a balanced perspective of where it is valuable to spend the extra money for organic produce and where I can still choose non-organic and be safe.

If you’re not familiar with these lists, I’m including the 2014 list here. You can also find more information here.

Clean Fifteen — these are okay to buy non-organic

Asparagus
Avocados
Cabbage
178473099 Cantaloupe
Sweet Corn
Eggplant
Grapefruit
Kiwi
Mangoes
Mushrooms
Onions
Papayas
Pineapples
Sweet Peas
Sweet Potatoes

Dirty Dozen Plus–If you can, consider organic 

Apples
Celery
Cherry Tomatoes
Cucumbers
Grapes
Hot Peppers
Nectarines
178279243 Peaches
Potatoes
Spinach
Strawberries
Sweet Bell Peppers
Kale/Collard Greens
Summer Squash

It’s taking a little more effort as I change some of my purchasing practices, but I believe the health trade-off is worth it.

What about you?  Have you changed any of your eating or shopping practices in exchange for health benefits?

Posted in In The Kitchen | 9 Comments

Marriage Monday: You CAN Change Your Feelings!

download Today we’re hearing from a favorite 2013 Hearts at Home workshop speaker: Shaunti Feldhahn.

Shaunti’s newest book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, is a wonderful resource for couples.  This is an excerpt from the book!

*******************************************************************

shaunti pic Think back to a time when you did something out of overwhelming emotion and it ended badly. Everyone has one of these stories. Or twenty.

Maybe you were seething because your good friend was 30 minutes late to pick you up – again – and you gave into the temptation to say some really hurtful things.  It’s off your chest: but now your friend isn’t returning your calls.

Or maybe it’s even more serious: Maybe you battled a drinking problem in the past, and last week after a long, stressful day at work, you convinced yourself that you deserved “just one”…but now you’re struggling with your addiction again.

We all know what it’s like to follow our feelings, only to have them lead us astray.  Letting negative emotion rule how you respond to things can even have life-shattering consequences and produce far more painful feelings than you started with.

Well, thankfully, it works the other way around, too!  The Highly Happy couples I surveyed for my book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, were happy, in part, because they had learned to not simply “exercise control” over the nasty feelings – they had actually learned how to change those feelings and talk themselves out of being mad!

Don’t worry; this isn’t as complicated as it sounds! Let me give you an example.

Guys, say you’ve been working extra hours all week and you ask your wife to record the game for you so you can watch it over the weekend. Even though you asked her to record it several times, you arrive home only to discover that she completely forgot about it.

You’re angry – furious, if we’re being honest – but even as the smoke starts billowing out of your ears, you remember…this is the same woman who always cooks you dinner, makes sure the kids’ homework is done, stays on top of the laundry… And the more you think about it, the more you realize what a minor issue the game is. You actually have a pretty amazing wife.

That’s what I mean by “you can change your feelings.” And if you want to be happy in your marriage, learning this skill is vital.  When you get bothered, you can re-direct that negative train of thought.  In fact, unlike most other couples, two-thirds of the highly happy couples on my survey forced themselves to stop that sort of negative train of thought before they even got too bothered to begin with.  

The key was to stop focusing on and thinking about the things that annoyed or hurt them, and forcing themselves to remember and dwell on some positive things instead. Many of these couples said it didn’t come naturally at first – but once they got used to redirecting their feelings (and seeing the results!) it became as much of a habit as brushing their teeth in the morning.  And everyone benefitted.

It turns out that our feelings actually follow our actions, not the other way around! That is an encouraging thought because it means we are in charge, and not our crazy emotions. If we want to feel better about a situation, we can refuse to dwell on our negative feelings and rehearse the positive that is always there somewhere. (Even if the steam coming out of our ears makes it difficult to remember it sometimes!)

In fact, let’s be honest with ourselves.  Either direction our thoughts go (dwelling on the negative or the positive) is a choice, right?  And there’s a great passage in the Bible – in the letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to the ancient city of Philippi — that tells us which choice to make:  “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.… And the God of peace will be with you.”

God isn’t just trying to distract us from the annoyances of life. He created us with the ability to change our feelings by willfully changing our minds. So, the next time you’re frustrated with your mate, refuse to let those feelings control you and think about whatever is praiseworthy about your spouse instead.  You’ll be amazed at how your feelings change!

If you want a few more practical marriage tips from Shaunti, check out this video she made just for Hearts at Home! (If you receive my blog via email, you can find the video here!)

Highly Happy Marriage Secrets for Hearts at Home Moms from Shaunti Feldhahn from Shaunti Feldhahn on Vimeo.

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic “What you see depends mainly on what you look for.”

                                                                    ~John Lubbock

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The Value of Nose Hair and Other Things You Might Not Know About Cancer Treatment

20140220-jillsavage0177 copy I had the privilege of being the emcee at the Moms Night Out session of the recent Hearts at Home conference.

I announced that evening that I was declaring the day “National Appreciate Your Nose Hair Day.”  Why?  Because when you go through chemotherapy you lose hair everywhere and that means nose hairs too!  Do you know that your nose hairs keep your nose from running?  I carry a tissue everywhere I go because my nose is always running these days.

If you haven’t thanked God for your nose hairs lately (or ever!) do so today. They are important!

All humor aside, we often don’t know what we don’t need to know.  Yet, it’s likely that every one of us will likely have a friend, relative, or acquaintance who walks the cancer journey at some point in time.

Today I will share a list of things I didn’t know about cancer before I had cancer.  You might never face cancer, but these would be helpful to know if you walk through cancer with someone you care about.

1) While there are standard treatments, everyone’s treatment is unique based upon the type of cancer, the stage of cancer, and their own body.  No two cancers are the same and neither are the experiences that surround them.

2) Stage of cancer indicates how much the cancer has spread.  The earlier cancer is discovered the better chance that treatment will work.

3) When you lose your hair, you lose your hair everywhere—yes….even there (can you say Brazilian wax without the pain?)  Some people lose eyebrows…so far mine have stayed.  I have, however, lost about half of my eye lashes. I have friends who lost all of their eyelashes.

4) When you lose your hair, it doesn’t always completely leave you bald.  I initially shaved my head with an electric razor because the hair was coming out in handfuls and making a mess.  Eventually I shaved my head with a regular razor to get the completely bald head. I was more comfortable with a smooth head rather than a stubble head with bald spots.

5) Some chemotherapy drugs cause mouth sores.  If you drink a very icy drink while receiving the chemo (like a slushy) it shrinks the blood vessels in your mouth which helps keeps mouth sores from forming. (A nice gesture for a friend in chemo is to ask if you can bring him/her their favorite smoothie or frappuccino during their treatment!)

6) Chemotherapy can throw a woman into menopause….sometimes it’s a temporary menopause and sometimes it’s permanent (personally, at 50, I’m hoping for permanent!) However, the hot flashes have been terrible.  They are a part of the menopause.  They hit fast and if I’m home, I’m ripping off whatever layers I can.  They are miserable…quite miserable when they hit!

6) Ginger Beer has been my best defense against chemo nausea. It’s non-alcoholic like root beer, but made with ginger.  Other ginger products like Ginger Chews candy, and Ginger Tea are also helpful.  If you want to give a thoughtful gift to a friend going through treatments that will likely cause nausea, a basket of a variety of ginger products is very helpful!

7) The American Cancer Society provides a free wig to anyone with hair loss due to cancer treatment.  Usually there is a wig bank where you can go and try on donated wigs.  I initially got a wig through the local wig bank that is located at Fox and Hounds Studio here in Bloomington, IL.  However, I made the decision to purchase a wig to better match my hair color and style.  Most health insurance companies cover wigs if the doctor writes a prescription for a “cranial prosthesis.”

8) A dietitian, found at most cancer centers, is one of the best kept secrets for dealing with side effects and general nutrition.  After Mark and I met with the dietitian, I made changes in my diet and saw an improvement in how I felt. While the service is free at my cancer center, I had to seek out an appointment and I’m so glad I did.

9) Chemotherapy causes terrible dry mouth symptoms.  Biotene toothpaste and Biotene Mouthwash were lifesavers for me. That’s another nice touch to put in a gift bag for someone going through chemo.

10) If someone has had a lymph node removal, they have limitations on repetitive actions like vacuuming and on lifting.  Offering to help carry something could be helpful. (My family teasingly reminds me that I can still vacuum with my left arm!)  This is because of the possibility of lymphedema which can happen even years after surgery.  Next week I will be fitted for a compression sleeve. This will be especially helpful for me to wear when I return to more intensive exercise, work in the garden, or return to flying for my speaking engagements.

11) Neuropathy is a painful side effect of chemotherapy.  In my case, the balls of my feet and my finger tips started feeling like I had hundreds of splinters in them. I also deal with a terrible case of twitching eyelids–both top and bottom. Sometimes it’s so bad it affects my eyesight. In my friend Christene’s case, her hands hurt so bad that she couldn’t hold a hair brush sometimes.  Unfortunately, neuropathy symptoms can continue for months or even years after treatment.

12) Some people lose their fingernails and toenails from chemo treatment.  Thankfully I haven’t, but I was aware that it was entirely possible.

13) Fatigue is a side effect most cancer patients deal with.  I found the fatigue increased with every chemo treatment. I’m told that I may continue to experience an increase of fatigue with my radiation treatments which will start around the 3rd week of April.  This is why providing meals and helping with kids, laundry, or cleaning can be such a gift to a friend going through treatment.  (It’s also helpful to know about www.CleaningForAReason.org where they will pair cancer patients up with cleaning companies who will clean for free while they are going through treatment.) 

14) The last thing someone going through treatment wants to do is exercise, but modified exercise is important (not on the days you really don’t feel well, but definitely on the tired days). I found my fatigue decreased when I got on the treadmill or went for a walk. It didn’t go away…but it did decrease.

15) Our dietitian shared with us that women who have breast cancer and chemotherapy tend to gain weight during chemo but women who have other kinds of cancer and chemotherapy tend to lose weight.  I have found that to be true for sure.  I literally put on 12 pounds in about 10 days after my first treatment.  They say it’s likely hormonal but they are not sure why the response is so different based upon different kinds of cancers.

16) While I wasn’t initially a fan of Obamacare, I am grateful that it took away the pre-existing condition issue with new insurance.  We had to change insurance in the middle of my treatment.  Neither Mark nor I have insurance through our employers so we had to purchase it through the marketplace.  I was so grateful that having a pre-existing condition did not keep me from securing health insurance.

17) More than 30% of cancer could be prevented, mainly by not using tobacco, having a healthy diet, being physically active and moderating the use of alcohol. (Source WHO) While I don’t know that my cancer could have been prevented, we’ve been changing our diets here at the Savage household to include more whole foods, more fruits and vegetables, no artificial sweeteners, less refined sugar, and reducing gluten.

18) Radiation can cause severe burns (like a bad sunburn) by the end of treatment.  Also radiation treatment of the left breast has to take into consideration risk to the heart. (My cancer was in the right breast.)

19) There is a law (The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act) that health insurance is required to provide coverage for reconstruction surgery for any woman who has had a mastectomy (and sometimes a lumpectomy) even at a later date.

20) Most cancer patients face fear after they are “cured.”  Every ache and pain causes you to wonder if this is a recurrence, or a new cancer.  This is why having faith and the ability to stand on the firm, unchanging foundation of Jesus Christ is so important, because life is always changing and shifting under our feet.

Finally, early detection increases survival rates…hugely! Be vigilant about checking your skin for moles that don’t look right. Don’t be afraid to go to the doctor. Get an annual physical.  Once you hit 50, schedule a colonoscopy. Ladies do a monthly breast exam and once you are 40 an annual mammogram (earlier if breast cancer runs in your family). Men, do a breast exam as well and talk to your doctor about getting a baseline PSA test in your 40′s to test for Prostrate Cancer.  You’re knowledge and care of your body is very important!

What about you? Have you or someone you love walked the cancer journey? What else would you add to this list? 

Posted in Taking Care of Me | 22 Comments