Be Your First Priority

I found this post in a draft folder I wrote in 2016. My life has changed a lot since I wrote this originally, but I still need to heed this reminder in my life today. As you read this post, I challenge you to think about ways that you can make yourself a priority:

Life is demanding isn’t it?

So many things compete for our time and attention. Everyday is a struggle between tasks, passions, and priorities. Some days we win and find time to do something we love and other days we have to dig ourselves out of piles of expectations just to go to sleep at night. One of the biggest battles we face in this world is making decisions.

As Christians we understand the impact that each decision can have on our destiny and our lives, but sometimes we lose sight of that when it comes to the day-to-day. We get that God calls us to read our Bible, but that doesn’t always happen. We understand that God calls us to do great things for Him, but maybe we will start that tomorrow. We know that the passions God has placed on our hearts are for a purpose, but do we really pursue them as God intended?

In my personal quest to find balance in my life as a Christian, wife, mother, and full-time teacher I’ve come to recognize that the answer is to make time for ME. It may sound selfish, but if I am not taking time to listen to the heart of God and pursue the desires he  put in my heart then I am not fulfilling my purpose and I am left feeling empty. I could fill my schedule with every good intention, but unless I am able to take some time each day and focus on myself and who I am in God it is almost impossible to live in alignment with God’s Word.

Without that daily time for me I can end up just rushing through everything in life so that it can become an item checked-off the to-do list. I miss opportunities that God may be giving me each day to impact other’s for Him. Lately, I’ve been challenging myself to be my first priority. Before anything or anyone else I need to focus on me. I’ve been at it for a few years to find a pattern for myself that works. I’m not going to say that everyday I get it right, but I’ve made exponential progress in the area of reclaiming myself on the priority list. If you are like me and struggle to find that time to yourself everyday here are a few ideas for getting this time.

  1. Create a Prayer Journal– It’s really a two for one. You get to focus on you and your relationship with God. Some days I find myself willing to set apart time with God, but losing the focus of that time. My mind can start off in the right place, but wander toward other things if I’m not careful. One thing I’ve found to be helpful is keeping a prayer journal. Each morning I wake up and go to my quiet place in the house where I am out of reach from anyone else. I lose the distractions and I talk to God. For me, I also have a passion for writing and I am most focused when I am able to write to God so that’s what I do. Maybe you want to type to God, or sing to God, or maybe even dance. Whatever God has gifted you with do that for his glory. Find a consistent pattern for alone time and do what you do without distractions.
  2. Escape if you need to– Sometimes getting alone means getting out of the house. If that is necessary then do it. I have spent plenty of time alone at a coffee shop. It took me a while to realize that it was okay to do this. I’m not abandoning my family by leaving for an hour every week I’m just rediscovering me. If you need to, find a babysitter to take the kids periodically so that you can make this time work. Make it a priority. Schedule it in your planner. Own this time for you! And you will thank yourself later.
  3. Exercise– Sometimes exercise is the best mental health practice one can partake in. Not only does exercise make us feel better, but it increases our energy for the day. If we find time to exercise we feel more accomplished and the to-do lists lose some of their control over us. Also, while you are exercising it is a great time to be in communication with God. I enjoy strength training and running. While doing these workouts I listen to uplifting music which point me toward my relationship with God.  Although my heart rate is speeding up my thoughts are slowing down. I find exercise to be a great medicine for both the soul and body.

How else can you make yourself your first priority?

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Way: Five Minute Friday

Every Friday I like to join a band of inspired writers over at Five Minute Friday.com. There is a weekly link-up posted here with a prompt for a blog post. Click on the link to see what other members are writing. The goal is to write on the topic for an uninterrupted five minutes. This week the topic is way.

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Does anyone else feel like they are constantly in the way?

It’s an awkward feeling when you are trying to be helpful all the while your presence is a complicating factor. Maybe it’s the fact that I possess a bit of social anxiety. When I’m nervous I tend to talk. A lot. I will talk just to avoid silence and oftentimes that backfires. In an attempt to evade awkwardness I actually create it. There I am just in the way of things.

It’s a bit like my relationship with God.

So often I try to find my own way or “help God along” with things the way I think they ought to go. With my human efforts I work at solving problems all the while God is sitting back and watching as I step on His toes. So many times I’ve found myself doing the very things that God alone is meant to do. Nothing I could say or do can heal or produce the things of God.

Recently, someone I love dearly has experienced the pain of a broken relationship. They held onto something that wasn’t working and when things finally imploded it left them hurting and raw. I wished so badly that I could take that pain away. The only way I knew to do that was to offer advice. I texted them often and shared my own experiences. But one night as I prayed for that person I felt God nudging me to get out of the way.

I can picture Him watching me and saying, “Lauren, would you please get out of the way so I can heal this person? I applaud your motives, but this cannot be about you.”

I had to let go of my desire to fix everything myself and realize that I wasn’t equipped with the power to heal them. God alone has that level of might. Instead, my role was to pray for and encourage this person in their faith. God wanted me to continue to befriend this person, but instead of filling them with my wisdom He desired for me to get out of the way and just listen.

When people are hurting the best thing we can offer them is a listening ear. Sure, it feels good to be able to give out advice, but in the most vulnerable of moments God needs room to work on them. He desires for us to step back, listen, and pray. If I get out of the way I see God work through that act of obedience. He uses my presence not my words to minister to others.

The Ameri Brit Mom

England 2018: Week 1 Review

I cannot believe that we’ve been in the sunny UK for one week now. Packing a year worth of visits into one month really makes time fly. Watching the girls connect with their British family and heritage makes all of the hassle of travel worth it.

This first week was spent adjusting to the time difference and reacquainting our family with those we love in England. While here we stay with my father-in-law in the house where my husband grew up. Along with us for the week my sister-in-law and brother-in-law are also staying in the house. It’s a packed house, but we enjoy the company. We stay in Eastleigh which is a suburb of Southampton along the south coast of England.

A major difference between life in Eastleigh and our home in Ohio is that everything we could possibly need is within walking distance. We travel by foot as often as we can and we log well over 10,000 steps per day throughout our stays. It’s nice to have the option to travel by car, but with a metro center less than a mile from the house we take advantage of the opportunity to move our legs and get outside.

Life moves at a slower pace here. In America, life is packed so full. It’s the American way. But in England, most shops and venues close for the evening around 5pm. This encourages families to spend more time together in the home. We’ve done so much during the days while here, but our evenings are generally spent around the dinner table, playing games, and just hanging out with the people we love.

Some of the things we did during our first week:

-went to a new cinema in Southampton to catch the release of Uncle Drew (a basketball movie which was totally my husband’s choice)

-swam in the Fleming Park paddling pool

-signed Arianna up for her very own Eastleigh Library card

-swam at Romsey Rapids, an indoor water park

-participated in my first ever cycling class is Twyford

-met up with students and teachers from the school where I work. They are currently traveling abroad for a foreign language trip and part of their itinerary brought them to Portsmouth, a fifteen minute drive from Eastleigh. An added bonus, my cousin was on the trip!

-attended the Cheese Festival in Portsmouth and walked along the sea

-worshipped in the town square during the annual Eastleigh Churches Together service

-drove through the lovely New Forest to pick up my brother-in-law. (Side note: In the New Forest horses have free reign of the roads and town. Wild horses are beautiful!)

-shopped in Eastleigh’s Swan Center

-watched on television as England lost in the semi-finals of the World Cup

 

Some foods we’ve eaten:

-Cottage pie

-Fish’n’chips

-Traditional English Breakfast (fried egg, sausage, bacon, beans, chips)

-Paninis

-Lots of Costa coffee

-Traditional Roast Dinner

-Mac’n’Cheese waffle from the Cheese Festival

 

Milestones

My girls also had some big milestones during this first week. Arianna learned to ride a bike without training wheels. She enlisted the help of an elderly neighbor, but within thirty minutes she was off! I cannot believe how quickly she picked it up. Aleah started belly laughing and can now roll from her back to her belly. Aleah also splashed in the water at Romsey Rapids for the very first time.

I am looking forward to all we have planned over the next few weeks. I will share weekly recaps so stay tuned to see what all we get up to while staying with family in England.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: A Book Review

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Author: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic Inc)

Copyright Date: 2016

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I finally ticked a book off of my to-read list in Goodreads that I’ve put off for two years!

Being a fan of the Harry Potter series and also being married to a man who grew up during the series’ prime I was keen to get a hold of this screenplay. For this book legendary author, J.K. Rowling, teamed up with writers from London’s West End theater to create a new installment in the Harry Potter story, this time nineteen years after the conclusion of the Hogwarts War.

Harry and Ginny Potter are parents to James, Albus, and Lily who are all pupils or soon to be at Hogwarts. Albus, the middle child, has always felt like a misfit in his own family. Growing up in the shadow of his father has Albus feeling like a constant failure. After being sorted into the house of Slytherin, Harry makes it even more clear that he has little in common with Albus. Luckily, Albus makes friends with another troubled child at school, Scorpius Malfoy. Together, the two boys set out to write their own destinies as opposed to accepting the one’s determined by their birthrights.

At the Ministry of Magic, Harry and Hermione uncover a time-turner which threatens all that they know to be truth. In the wrong hands, a time-turner can rewrite history. They go to great lengths to protect their world from the effects of time travel, but forces in their midst threaten that security. Albus and Scorpius learn of this magic and decide to use it to fulfill their own purposes. Caught in a web of the past, Albus and Scorpius must combat dark magic not unlike the quests of their fathers.

At first, I struggled with Harry Potter’s parenting techniques. His harsh demeanor toward the son he struggled to relate to seemed as though he had learned nothing from his own estranged upbringing. I hoped to find Harry fostering a relationship with his own children that opposed the treatment he received from his uncle. Nonetheless, I can imagine it to be a true struggle for parents when they don’t connect with their children easily. While reading I needed to reference earlier books (since it had been such a long time) when it came to some of the spells and magic used in this book. I also didn’t love the fact that this book is actually just a copy of the script for a stage performance. I found that stage directions and speaker switches threw off my immersion in the story. I know that much of that is necessary to perform a play, but I wanted to lose myself in this book the way I did the novels of my childhood.

All of us who love Harry Potter have waited a long time to return to the wizarding world. To be back in the halls of Hogwarts made me feel like a kid again. I have missed the moving staircases, enchanted portraits, and lively Quidditch matches. Being able to catch up on the lives of the characters I grew up alongside really made this tale nostalgic.

I would love to see J.K. Rowling write more about Albus Potter in the future!

The Ameri Brit Mom

Done: Five Minute Friday

I’m back at it!

Every Friday I like to join a band of inspired writers over at Five Minute Friday.com. There is a weekly link-up posted here with a prompt for a blog post. The goal is to write on the topic for an uninterrupted five minutes. This week the topic is done. Check out my break-up letter with Worry, a long-time companion and a disloyal friend of mine.

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Dear Worry,

I am so done with you. You’ve hung around too long battling my mind and injuring my soul. After the past six months I’ve realized that by letting you into my life I have only made things worse. When I thought you were the only thing I could control I clung to you like a cat on a limb. But you’ve let me down hard. The wounds barred into my skin threatening to scar.

You see, with every chance you had you inflicted fear. At times I was paralyzed and choosing a direction was impossible. In the thick of the battle, though, I heard the still, small voice of a God who never left me.

When darkness closed it’s grasp around my mind the light was never forsaken. When your weight sat upon my chest I was being held. When trouble came knocking and pain was agonizing there was a Healer in my midst.

Now I know that when I’m afraid you aren’t my only option.

There’s a God who is watching over me providing the way out. I don’t need to suffer any more. He is ready to offer me the peace I desperately need. His respite is mine for the taking.

So, Worry, this is my good-bye. We’ve grown rather close these past few months, but our relationship is an unhealthy one. It’s not me, it’s you. I’m calling it quits. This journey has been a lot of things, but most importantly it’s done!

The Ameri Brit Mom

Flight to the UK

One of the perks of marrying into a British family–annual trips to England.

Each summer since 2008 I have made the journey to England to visit with my husband’s family. This year the trip will last an entire month. We have a lot planned and I’m really excited to share with you some of our adventures during this stay.

Aleah made her first voyage on an airplane and she did so well. The flight attendants and other passengers were amazed at her contentedness throughout the journey. Our seats were in the very last row so as people queued up to use the toilets Aleah made sure everyone received a smile.

Arianna is now a perfect age for traveling. Five might be my favorite age yet! She was able to help with the baby and be independent when necessary. In years past she whined and cried the majority of the flight, but this time around she slept, watched movies, and ate as she should have.

Leading up to our flight I was a nervous wreck. Back in March, I was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in my lung) and that was a very scary time. Long flights are a risk factor for blood clots for everyone, but even more so for someone who has experienced them before. The night before we left I hardly slept. I worried about how my body would respond and I prayed constantly for peace and protection. My doctor advised me to take an aspirin, wear compression socks, and to get up and stretch hourly throughout the flight. Heeding his advice I did all of those things and I even prepared exercises that I could do in aisle ways and restrooms. That being said, I didn’t sleep at all during the flight. I focused on keeping my blood flowing and I got my family involved and active periodically as well.

And the result–I feel great!

Having stayed active throughout the flight helped me to beat the usual jet lag that accompanies such a long journey. Also, my anxiety seems to have diminished. For months I have dreaded making that flight because I knew the risks, but now that it’s done I feel relieved.

For the next month I’ll be blogging from England where life is beautiful and simple. If there is something in particular you are curious about and would like me to share please let me know. My husband and I tried to calculate on the plane ride how much of my life I have actually spent in the UK and it’s crazy, but I’m just shy of one year lived in England. (11 months)

I love that coming over here I don’t feel like a tourist. We stay with his parents and so I’ve experienced true English culture. So please, let me know what you want to see or read about as it pertains to life in England.

I’m looking forward to sharing!

 

The Ameri Brit Mom

2018 Bullet Journal

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In January of 2017 I started keeping a bullet journal. A bullet journal is a self-created planner and organizer. I love bullet journals because they are created and customized by their creator. When you buy a planner from a store there are always features that don’t fit every planning style.

Not only does bullet journaling help to keep me organized, but it also helps me to expel some creative energy.  I’ve enjoyed building up my art supplies this year and dabbling in the use of washi tapes, watercolors, Tombow brushpens, stickers, and all sorts of paper crafting goods.

I used to give updates on my early progress with bullet journaling. If you are interested check out these posts:

One Month of Bullet Journaling

Bullet Journal Updates

March Updates

Bullet Journal February Updates

I want to give you a peek at what I’ve been working on so far this year in my newest bullet journal. As you can see above, I decorated the outside of my Leuchtturm 1917 notebook with Cricut vinyl cut using my new Cricut Explore Air 2 machine. I used to own a Cricut about ten years ago, but they have come a long way and the extent of its uses is now unfathomable. Since I received it in June I have made tshirts, cards, wall art, and magnets with my new machine.

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Collections

Bullet journal Collections are pages that are ongoing throughout the time you use a particular notebook. There are so many ideas on Pinterest of things to track in your journal. I’ve chosen to track things like book lists, home improvement ideas, sports statistics for my daughter, blog schedules, Netflix shows I’m watching, a future log, and movies I’ve watched this year.

Creatives

Creative pages are ones in which I play around with creative techniques. This year I’ve been focusing on hand-lettering and calligraphy. I’ve started quite the collection of Tombow brushpens, Mildliner pens and washi tapes. I use these pages to work on skills and play around with ideas.

Monthlies

Something I started this year is using a monthly theme. Every month I start with a title page that introduces the theme and then I include those ideas in my habit trackers and anxiety trackers for each month.

Weeklies

Every week I use a similar layout to the one below. The weekly pages are where I break down my daily tasks and oftentimes I journal on these pages as well.

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How I Use It

Every night before bed I open up my bullet journal and update the weekly page with tasks and journaling. Then, I record in my habit tracker what I was able to accomplish that day. Finally, I evaluate my anxiety level for the day and track that appropriately. Doing this at night leads me to self-reflection on a daily basis. This practice has helped keep me focused and organized.

Any other bullet journalers out there? I’d love to see your pages!

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

Catching You Up to Speed: Part 2

I took a year hiatus from blogging for many reasons. The major reason behind my break was because I was pregnant and exhausted. And as any parent knows, the months that lead up to and follow the birth of new little one are tiring. I didn’t have the energy or drive to write on most days and much of what I did write during that time was private prayers and thoughts for my daughters.

Earlier this week I shared some photos with you from my pregnancy (Catching You Up to Speed: Part 1). You saw my oldest daughter, Arianna, preparing to be a big sister and I finished that post with the first picture of our baby girl, Aleah Isobel. So here is a look at the second part of my hiatus-the time since she was born four months ago. I hope you can handle all this cuteness 🙂

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And now you are pretty much caught up to speed. It’s been a great year in many ways, but it has also been extremely hard in others. But one thing I know: I am one blessed Mama.

I’m returning to this blog because when I started it back in 2015 it helped me through a really hard time in my life. I’ve always been a writer, but the action of publishing my thoughts and creating a network of other bloggers really helped me to push past some of the anxiety I was facing at the time.

At some point I plan to share with you my testimony, but for now suffice it to say that I’ve been battling with anxiety yet again. I had a very traumatic event occur shortly after Aleah’s birth and although I’ve been very happy I’ve also struggled a lot with anxious thought patterns and PTSD. Writing has always been a calming outlet for me as is prayer. So it is for that reason that I’m returning to this blog. It’s a therapy that blessed me before and if it can be used to bless another person too I will be even more grateful. I’m excited to jump back in to the encouraging community that this blog once created and I look forward to sharing with you all once again.

So, here’s to moving forward.

Here’s to blessing and encouragement.

Thanks for checking in.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Happy Fourth of July

“…where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17b

I am so blessed to be an American.

Living under the freedom of the Red, White, and Blue is one of the greatest places in this world to dwell. As I reflect on my freedom today I am thankful for any and everybody responsible for securing that freedom for me and my family. If you are reading this and you are one of those people who risked everything so that our country could continue to thrive on personal freedoms please know that I am grateful for the sacrifices you made. I know that serving our nation is a privilege, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. I applaud you and I pray blessing over you.

Our nation’s freedom is one of the many reasons that we celebrate Independence Day. We also celebrate the fact that when people gather together for a cause that they can accomplish the impossible. That victory was secured by the power of Christ that surrounded those who originally fought for our nation. And in their victory our country was established on the principles of Christianity.

Today, let us not only remember what it took for America to come to be, but let us also remember how God has been faithful to the country. In a time where it is so easy to see the ways in which our country has strayed from it’s Christian roots let us also see the ways that God is still present. I choose to see His hand on our country’s safety and His blessing over the people instead of the division that is highlighted by the media. I choose to be joyful and patriotic instead of negative. I choose to stand up for those who cannot stand themselves and to love those with whom I disagree.

It is with gratitude this week that I was blessed to be able to celebrate with my small town. On Sunday, my church family joined others in the community and held a worship service in the park. On Monday, my oldest daughter participated in a Little Miss Fourth of July pageant, and on Tuesday we celebrated with family while watching a firework display in Columbus. We are a blessed people.

Happy Fourth of July!

The Ameri Brit Mom

Catching You Up to Speed: Part 1

I’ve been absent for a year for many reasons. To start with…our family has grown by one, beautiful baby girl. Pregnancy made me sick and exhausted and to be honest I just didn’t have the energy to keep up with the blog. I still wrote on a somewhat consistent basis, but blogging was less of a priority while I grew a little human. So I want to catch you up on all of the big moments from the past year…

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The Ameri Brit Mom