Start a journal!

So often we find that we are caught in the rat-race of life, even if you are a homemaker!  Days and weeks seem to pass in a blink of an eye, and so often we miss (or forget) the special moments in our lives.

One of the greatest pieces of advice I can give anybody is to start a journal.  It is a key tool in knowing yourself and a wonderful method of self-therapy.  Not only that, but it can also be your personal biography and a history book of your life.  I started my first journal as soon as I was able to write complete sentences, and I have been writing ever since.

How writing in a journal has helped me

1. Improved Handwriting

When I was younger, my handwriting wasn’t the best in the class.  When I started writing in journals, I wanted to keep it looking neat and tidy, so I put a lot of effort into writing neatly.  I was able to write slowly, unlike in a class environment where there is usually a limited time to perform the exercises.  Over time this improved my handwriting to the point where I am now told my handwriting looks like that of a primary school teachers.

2. Writing as a form of therapy

I have found that writing has become a form of therapy for myself.  Sometimes my mind is racing at 100 miles and hour on an oval track, meaning it is going in loops.  Through writing I am able to slow my mind down, organize my thoughts, make plans and work through any issues I am experiencing in my life.

Writing in a journal provides a way for you:

  • Organize your thoughts by writing down everything that is on your mind and make action plans.
  • To do an emotional check-in with yourself.  How do you feel?
  • Look at your problems from an outside perspective.  If you were reading a friend or your child’s journal, how would you advise them to handle the problem written down?
  • Notice destructive patterns by reading back over a month or a year, or longer!  I noticed that too much social time would cause me to become drained and the smallest things would frustrate me.  I also noticed that not enough social time puts me into a mild state of depression.  Whenever I am depressed, it is when I haven’t had enough time with friends or family.
  • Calm yourself when stressed, angry or crying.  Writing has an amazing calming effect because you can only write so fast, you have to slow down in order to write out everything that is on your mind.  By slowing down, you also calm down.

3.  Keep track of important events

When important things happen in your life, you can write them down in your journal.  My journals are a record of when I met certain people, when I found out I was pregnant, the first movements of our baby, finishing university and much more.  If I am not sure when something happened, I will go back and look through my journal until I find the date that I wrote about.  This is how I know that I met Mark in September 2008.  I also got to see my whole thought process and why I decided we should date each other at that time.

4. Place to keep special papers

Journals are also great places to keep newspaper articles, photographs, birthday cards, and report cards you are especially proud of.  I often stick birthday cards, or love letters from Mark into my journal.  It isn’t clutter and you can go back at any time to look at them.

5. Thankfulness

Thank you for my beautiful house.  Thank you that I am able to do what I love every day.  Thank you for my husband.  Thank you…

It is so important to be thankful for what you have. There are also some schools of thought that believe that the more thankful you are for what you have, then the more you will receive.  Even if you don’t believe that, I can guarantee that by going back and looking through the things that you have been thankful for over the past week you can change a negative day into a positive one .  I made a habit of writing at least two things I am thankful for in my journal each day.  By focusing on positives, a person remembers that it isn’t so bad.

6. Dreams

I’m not talking about the dreams you have while you are sleeping (although you can journal those too if you want), I am talking about the dreams you have for your life, and for the future.  A journal is a great place to write down your dreams.  What does your dream house look like?  What about your dream job?  What sort of impression do you want to leave on your children?  Over time a person’s dreams may change, others will stay the same.  It is amazing to look back at previous journals and notice which dreams have become reality and which ones seemed so important once upon a time.

7. Stuff I have learned

A big part of my journal became my research into my own personality.  I also used it to keep track gardening tips, recipes, notes on book-keeping, organizing, and ideas I want to explore further.  Sometimes my journal looks like a school notebook for a few pages!  When I write stuff down, I remember it better.

8. Knowing myself

In the end, keeping a journal has given me a better understanding of myself.  I have come to know how I think.  I know my likes and dislikes.  I can monitor my progress, my behavior patterns and how I have changed over the years.  By knowing myself, I am better able to live to my full potential.

Journal options

A journal can be as simple as a standard notebook bought at any stationery shop, or it can have a beautiful design that reflects your personality.  It doesn’t really matter which you choose, it just needs plenty of space for you to write your thoughts and occasionally stick a special birthday card, letter or newspaper article.

My first diary can be seen in the photograph to the left.  My mom bought it for me, and my first entry was about a friend that slept over that weekend!

I had many journals between the first one and the gorgeous one pictured to the right.  I spent a lot of money on that one, it is by far my favorite.  I bought it because it reminded me of a spell book and I was going through a Goth phase at the time.

Recently I have just been using standard hardcover notebooks and writing the dates down the spine.

It is always nice to have a pretty one as your first journal, so maybe go and spoil yourself by buying something special from Etsy that reflects your personality.

Next Actions

  • Buy a journal
  • Add “Write in Journal” to daily checklist

Journal Page Printable

Here is a template that you can use as a daily reminder for what to journal about, feel free to print and share!  Click on the image to make it bigger.

Journal reminders page | www.AuthenticallyAsh.com
Journal reminders page

A New You for 2015

“I can’t believe that he actually thought a baby would use 1 nappy a day!”

“Why am I the only one in this house that seems to do any cleaning around here?”

“My life is horrible, everyone is out to get me!  I’ll never have a happy Christmas!”

Would you like some cheese with that wine?  In all seriousness though, we all have our bad days where nothing seems to be going right.  It is okay to let it out every once in a while too.  But what you need to remember is that nobody enjoys being around a person who is negative all the time.

We all know that one person whose life seems to be one tragedy after another.  Maybe their life is genuinely traumatic.  They may have ill health, be in an unloving marriage or without work for over a year, but if you look carefully you will notice that there are actually two very different types of people in this world.  There are those who play the victim all their lives and their are those who say “Yes, it sucks, but I won’t let it get me down.”  My question is, which one are you?

Quit making excuses for yourself

I heard a story of twin brothers.  Their mother died when they were young and soon after that their father turned to alcohol.  These brothers were left to raise themselves.

The one made a choice to get involved in sports and won a scholarship to a prestigious college.  He graduated with a business degree and started his own business from scratch, with no bank funding whatsoever.  He actually worked two jobs, one at a corporate firm and the other running his own business for a couple of years.  This man went on to have a successful family life and got reasonably wealthy.

The other twin was failing at school and eventually dropped out.  His father’s drunkenness seemed to hit him much harder.  He had a string of low-level jobs, and eventually turned to theft and alcohol himself.

When these twins were interviewed they were asked the same questions “How did you get to where you are today?” both of them gave the credit to their father!

The first said “I didn’t want to end up like my dad.  I saw that the only way out was to get a sports scholarship, so I started sports.”

The second said “I saw what my dad had become, and I couldn’t handle it.  I had to get away so the first chance I got I left school and went out on my own.”

These boys grew up in the same environment with the same father and they had both seen what their dad had become.  The difference between them was that the first took stock of all his options and wisely chose the option that would take him furthest in life in the long term.  The second, took stock of all his options and chose the one that would benefit him in the moment.

The key is that both of these men gave their father the credit for the situation they were in today.

So often we say, “I wouldn’t be like this if… ” or “If only I had … then … wouldn’t have happened.”  We start throwing a pity party instead of looking for a way to get out of the situation.

You need to quit making excuses and shifting the blame.  Be like the first twin and create a plan to change the situation you are in.  You might not get it right the first time, but keep trying anyway.

I have also felt trapped in circumstances, like there was no way out.  I had bills to pay and had to work outside the home to pay them.  Eventually, after a long talk with Mark, we reviewed all our finances and one thing was clear… if we did without certain things, and were very careful with our money, we could live off a single income.  In a worst of the worst scenario we could move in with his parents and rent out our home.  Thankfully we haven’t needed to do that, God has provided.  We found a way out of our circumstances.

Change starts within yourself

How often have you heard the saying “You cannot change a man”?  The same is true with anybody.  Nobody is able to force another human being to change.  That is the joy of free will.

If you cannot change another person, then how can you expect anybody or anything to change you except yourself?  Yes, you can ask other people or God to help you change, but you have to be willing to change first.  If you are unwilling, then it cannot happen.

Once you have made the decision to change, then it takes support, perseverance and being willing to get back up again and try something else when you fail.

In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey explains the circle of influence.  In a nutshell, there are 3 areas:

  • Your Circle of Influence
  • Your Circle of Concern
  • No Concern

The Circle of Influence are the things that you can do something about.  Included in this is how you can influence yourself to change.  The more you work within your Circle of Influence, the larger it will get and you may find that when people notice the change within you, then they will start to change themselves too!  Live by example, your way of life is the best witness you can give.

How can I change myself to be more proactive?

Firstly, there is the word proactive.  That is what you use to describe people who “take the bull by the horns” or “make a plan and get stuff done”.

We all have different starting points, it all depends on where you are in your life journey as to where you will need to start the change.

The first thing we all need to do is to listen to the voices in our head.  What do you tell yourself on a regular basis?  Be aware of what you are thinking.  Look at it carefully, listen to it.

I noticed that my voice always said “I don’t feel like … ” or “I really don’t want to …” or “I am nervous about …”  For example, if I look at a messy kitchen sink the voice says “Ah, I really don’t feel like cleaning all this up right now.” or “This will take forever.” My problem is motivating myself to actually do the stuff on my checklists.

When I realized that this was my problem, then I started looking for ways to overcome that problem.  There is the timer method: Set a timer for 15 minutes and just get stuck in and do it, when the timer goes off then stop.  That one works well, but only when I am accountable to somebody or else I fall off the band wagon again.  I needed a person, or a group of people that I could talk to and brag to about what I had accomplished in a day.  That is when I joined the Homemakers Encouragement group on Facebook.  We play a game where we see how many things we can accomplish on a combined “Done List” in a day.  At the time of writing this, our record has been 156 items crossed off between a group of us!  Even though we are working in separate homes and countries, we are working together towards a common goal – beating our “high score!”

You need to ask yourself “What does my negative Nancy say to me?” and then you need to think of a way to either change it, or overcome it.

I still hear the voice in my head, but I have learned to overcome it (most of the time).

Conclusion

So, in conclusion, I think you should consider giving yourself and your family the gift of change this year.  Start noticing the problems within yourself instead of focusing on the problems in other people.  Then find a way to change or better yourself.  It may be a long term strategy, but you will notice that once you better yourself then more and more things will fall into place for you.

How to create a personal mission statement

 

The reason for this article

One of the biggest challenges that I faced on my journey was creating a personal mission statement to keep myself motivated on the “bad days”.  Many books and online articles preach the benefits of creating a personal mission statement, but most of the examples and exercises that I have found online have been directed at people who are in work-outside-the-home careers, or at people who are self-employed business owners.

After reading multiple articles and doing many exercises, I formed my own mission statement which can be found on my Mission Statement page.  This mission statement is vastly different from others that I have found online in examples, but it is Authentically Ash and that is what matters.

Below you can learn what a personal mission statement is, why it is a good idea to have one, some important guidelines for creating a mission statement, some exercises to help create a personal mission statement and how to maintain your mission statement.

I have taken care to create this in such a way that it is applicable to homemakers, but with some editing you can use these tips in any career choice. Continue reading “How to create a personal mission statement”

Keepers at Home: Titus 2:5 Study Notes

As promised last week, I will share my study of Titus 2:3-5.

Disclaimer: Please note that I have never attended a Bible College, or done any theology courses. This blog post is an organized version of the notes I made while researching Titus 2:3-5, specifically the part that the NIV Bible translates as “to be busy at home”.

My attention was brought to Titus 2:3-5 through a few blog posts* I read regarding Godly Womanhood. I had heard this verse before, and I had done a brief study on it, but I had never felt God leading me to it like He did while doing the Funeral Visualization Exercise.

I mostly use the NIV Bible, so this is how I first read it:

Titus 2:3-5 (NIV)
“3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

I went back and read the whole of Titus 1 and 2 so I could get the verses in context. The book of Titus is actually a letter that Paul wrote to Titus, giving him instructions.

For some reason, that I cannot explain, I pulled out all the different translations of Bibles I had in my home. What I found was that each of the versions I own translated the phrase “to be busy at home” in Titus 2:5 differently.

Revised Standard Version (1952): “to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be discredited.”

New Living Translation: “to live wisely and be pure, to take care of their homes, to do good, and be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.”

God’s Word: “to use good judgement and to be moraly pure. Also, tell them to teach young women to be homemakers, to be kind, and to place themselves under their husband’s authority. Then no one can speak evil of God’s word.”

While I noticed that all 4 of these versions translated the phrase differently, another part was very similar in all versions and caught my attention… women were to be taught these things so that nobody could malign / bring shame on / discredit / speak evil of the word of God. To me, this indicated that it wasn’t simply instruction for the times, but rather instruction for all time.

I couldn’t get over how each version was translating “to be busy at home” differently. So I went online to search for more translations of the passage and see what they say… (Comparison of Various Bible Translations)

I found that more translations used the phrase “keepers at home” or “workers at home” than any other phrase. So I decided to go deeper and I looked up the original greek word and its meaning.

οἰκουργούς is the greek word that I found to mean “keepers at home” or “workers at home” (Reference)

What I realized was that regardless of how a person interprets the phrase, the one part is clear: it is a woman’s responsibility to care for their homes.

The extreme of this viewpoint is to say that a woman must not work outside the home because her duty is within the home. Some people may feel that God has led them to this conclusion. After much prayer and careful consideration, I did not arrive at the same conclusion.

But, I feel that this verse does indicate that a woman should be the primary carer for her home.  If she is capable of caring for her home and holding a job outside the home there is nothing stopping her from doing so.

Perhaps God has led you to a different conclusion. Your perspective may be different from mine, and that is OK… it would be an awfully boring planet if everybody thought the same. I would love to hear your perspective in a comment below.


 

* I really wish I still had the links to some of the articles and blog posts that started me on this study. I like hearing other people’s opinions, from all angles. Unfortunately I used my mobile phone for browsing, and it seems like my history was cleared sometime in the past month. So I won’t be quoting or referencing the blog posts and articles that led me down this path.

Housewife and Homemaker – the unacceptable career choice

My previous 2 posts where a buildup to this one.  For those who haven’t read them, I am working through “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey.  The first few chapters lead me to think about Character Traits and My Purpose in Life.

My purpose in life, as I discovered, is to be a Housewife and Homemaker.  The strange part is this is something I have always known, but I didn’t want to acknowledge.  Housewife and Homemaker isn’t exactly the career your guidance counselor wants you to strive towards in High School.

Arguments against being a HOUSEWIFE

The arguments against it bombard a young mind from all angles.  Some of the ones I have heard are:

  • What if you never get married?  You can’t rely on your parents forever.
  • What if you get divorced, or your husband dies or becomes disabled?  You need a career that you can fall back on if you are forced to become the breadwinner.
  • In today’s economy, it is impossible to live off a single salary.  Being a housewife is unrealistic in the modern world.
  • What about the fight for equality between the sexes?  How can you give up what so many women have fought so long and hard for?
  • It is a waste of your God-given talents and skills!  You should be looking at ways to use them to support your family and further the kingdom of God.

Points 1 and 2 – What if…

The first two I will acknowledge are valid points.  It is a wise decision for a woman to find something that she is good at and enjoys doing in addition to being a housewife/homemaker.  That way she has a backup plan in case she stays single or is forced into being the breadwinner.

Somebody I know mentioned that she feels that the ideal backup career for a woman is an K-12 school teacher (pick the age group you love the most).  She explained how Schools normally don’t hold it against you if you have left the workforce to raise children, unlike other career options.  She also mentioned how if you are trained with the younger children, you can start a daycare from the comfort of your own home if your children are still young.

Point 3 – Economy

When it comes to the third point, about the economy, I see that this one is only valid if your spouse is on minimum wage (or close to minimum wage).  But living off a single, average income, is doable.  It just means that you can’t be materialistic.  Accept that you will be living with less, your children won’t be going to private schools (you may decide to homeschool them if the public schools in your area are a problem), and that you will have to make do with second-hand whenever possible.

I did the maths regarding this when Mark and I were looking at me leaving my job and working with him in his business.  Due to the savings on fuel and food/snacks for lunch, and add into that how I am home to better plan our meals, and do our budgeting/bookkeeping properly each month, we have successfully moved from a double income to a single income and are currently still making a “profit” each month.  I should also mention that the salary we gave up was the greater of the two salaries.

Point 4 – Equality

To me, this is scratching the bottom of the barrel.  It is only a problem if you are trying to force other women to make the same choice that you made.  In my mind, I feel that women should have a choice either way.  It should be equally acceptable for a woman to have a career outside their home, or a career inside their home.  I know women who would go absolutely crazy if they had to stay at home all day, I also know women who are on the edge of going crazy because they have to leave their homes each day to go to work.  It goes both ways, therefore both options should be acceptable.

Point 5 – God

This is just plain nonsense.  Who are you to judge what God has lead the woman to do with the skills he has given her?  The skills you see each day might only be the ones that are relevant to her career, or what she studied.  How would you know if she was a superb mother, a frugal homemaker or a wonderful hostess and cook if you only see her in her job as a secretary or scientist?  For all we know, God might have put it on this intelligent woman’s heart to be a housewife/homemaker/stay-at-home-mother, because only a woman of her intelligence would be able to teach the child he had planned for her and raise him/her to be the person who will change the world in some way or another.

Ultimately, I am saying that a woman can use her talents by supporting her family emotionally and furthering the kingdom of God by starting in her own home.

Extract from my diary

This is an extract from my diary.  I wrote it without the intention of ever publishing it, but I feel that it is necessary to give my reader a full view of what was going through my mind and heart while struggling with the work part of the funeral visualization from my previous blog post.

I got stuck with the funeral visualization yesterday and haven’t completed it yet.  The next one I was meant to visualize was Work.  I am struggling with that one.  I have never been able to visualize myself in a career.  Each one that I think of I get the feeling of “that would be nice, but there is no excitement there.”

The only place that I really love being is at home.  Internally I am struggling between wanting to say “My home and family are my work” and something else that says “That isn’t a real career.”

After this I spent some time looking up blogs and opinion articles online.  I had heard of Titus 2:3-5 before, but I really did an in depth study of it this time.  More of this in next week’s post.  The end result was that I realized that God was leading me down this path.

Another extract from my diary (after all my research):

My heart is struggling.  Something in me wants to say that women were designed to be homemakers and this is God’s plan for me.  Something else is saying that it isn’t applicable to the modern culture, that I am looking for something to justify wanting to stay at home and be a housewife.

I spent more time thinking about this, and the conflicting emotions.  My main thought is “Why has it become so unacceptable to be a wife, mother and homemaker when just 60-70 years before it was perfectly acceptable?”

I haven’t found the conclusion to this question yet, and I think that this will involve a lot more research in the coming months.  It has definitely become a topic of interest to me.

If you have any thoughts, books, articles or blogs I can read on this topic , I would greatly appreciate a comment with the details.