5 Ways to Organize Thoughts

Life runs a mile a minute with things we need to do and places we need to go. Somewhere in between it all, our souls are growing and maturing as life passes. As hard as life can be at times we are molded and strengthen with??every bump on the road creating a better version of ourselves as we go. With all that life and growth bring, I have used different ways of processing and organizing my thoughts that range from very private to very public. Each of them are used differently, but also builds upon the other. I will share 5 ways to organize your thoughts to capture the growth that happens in you, find the gift in the daily process and use those gifts to love and serve others. The most intimate way to organize your thoughts is through journaling. I am a wannabe journaler and wish that I did it more. I journal most often during pressing times in my life. You know, when certain thoughts keep you up at night with a quickened heartbeat? Yeah, those times. My journaled thoughts consist of personal fears, life questions and desperate prayer. The benefit I get in journaling, even as occasionally as I do, is that as I write my thoughts to God, it calms me down to gain some peace in the midst of a storm. Later,??I get to peak back into a part of me that was once hurting and see how those thoughts affected my actions and where I am today. Since I know my own journey pretty well, I know how to connect the dots between entries. Journaling is a gift I use to grow. Notes are another good way keep thoughts organized. I use notes for short tidbits of thoughts and memories I want to capture. I have a running note on my phone I call Mateo Moments that consist of all those funny and memorable things my son says or does. My goal for doing this is for remembrance and for passing on. The thoughts organized in notes are not as private {or lengthy} as thoughts written in a journal. Sometimes I find an answered prayer in??my notes that overlaps my journaling. The benefit I get in note taking is that I can look back at those captured thoughts and reminisce on sweet times because I dont often journal the happy or funny moments of life. I laugh at the silly things my son says and it makes me love and appreciate him more, a great thing to look at when weve had a rough day. Notes are a gift I use to capture growth and love. Printed quotes are a great way to keep positive thoughts of affirmation within regular eyeshot in the home or office. I have a few scriptures displayed around my home for this very purpose. Most of those thoughts are a direct result of things I have learned from praying and journaling. They are the thoughts that fill my […]

Walking Unexpected Paths

I’ve been back to blogging for about a month, and it is so nice to be back. In that time, much has changed—I went from being a stay-at-home mom to a work-at-home mom, we relocated to a different county, and soon I will be venturing off as an entrepreneur. With all that has changed, one thing has been constant: I’ve had to walk down unexpected paths. I’m certain you have, too. Life is full of change, yet when one comes along it still takes us by surprise. Whether its the changing seasons of raising kids, the ebb and flow of work, or maturing as a person, unexpected paths are inevitable. I’m here to help you walk down unexpected paths so you can get past fear, find courage, and discover joy in the journey. Fear of the unexpected We are creatures of habit, we like to know whats happening next so we can make preparations. But when something unexpected comes up, it shakes up our plans and were left at a crossroads. Whats going to happen? Who will this affect? Where will I go? Is this the right choice? The questions you ask when the unexpected arises will set you up for either success or failure. These knee-jerk reactions reveal your character and where you put your trust. Fear is natural, and its okay. Its what we do with that fear that really matters. Will the fear cripple you or will it drive you to persevere? I know this fear well. I went into an ultrasound appointment excited to know if we were going to have a boy or a girl, only to walk out of that appointment knowing we would never get to bring our baby home. Years later, when my husbands company offered him a position in San Diego, we feared being away from family and friends, losing my job, finding a good school, and adjusting to a higher cost of living. When you are at a crossroads, who you bring with you as you move forward is essential. Fear will only go as far as you allow. When you feel a storm brewing, where will you be anchored? At both of these major crossroads of my life, I went to the one thing that has remained constant in my life. The One that has had control of my life even when I felt out of control. I went to the LORD. The evening of that horrible appointment, in my despair and questioning, I read Gods Word. In my fear, this is what God had to say to me through Scripture. This is not a coincidence. Its what happens when you live by faith and pay attention. No matter the situation, you cannot stay in fear. You have to move forward. Right or wrong, left or right, you must choose a road and take a step. To take that step, you have to build up courage. Courage to take a step Unexpected roads are critical times in life when […]

4 Ways Letting Technology Shop for You is a Gift (My Stitch Fix Experience)

Technology helps us to be more efficient in work and in life. Thanks to technology we can automate things like an email signature, keeping in touch with family and friends, and even syncing family calendars. But can technology automate shopping? Can technology shop for you and get it right? Im here to share with you 4 ways letting technology shop for you is a gift. In my younger days, the mall would be my go-to place. I could spend hours wandering the corridors, casually browsing as many stores as I could???then I became a mom. These days, going to the mall is a chore and rarely is it about shopping for myself. Call it old age or a season of life, but now I feel like malls are crowded. Shopping with kids is hard. Im constantly saying The store is not a playground! Even if my hubby kindly offers to let me venture a store alone, I know I wont have enough time to shop the way I like to, so either I dont even bother or I go in knowing that I can only look at certain sections. Im a picky shopper when it comes to my clothes and I need time to browse, try on clothes, and go through racks a second time. Here comes that collective mom-sigh again, ready? Sigh. Thats when I decided to give Stitch Fix a try. Stitch Fix is a subscription service that sends you select pieces to try on at home, pay for items you keep, and send back items you want to return. All without having to find parking, fight crowds, or tell your kid (again) why you will not rent a fire truck stroller. The best part about Stitch Fix is their app (yes, they have an app)! Their website is great, but their app takes their service up a notch. Heres a look at my Stitch Fix experience and the 4 reasons I enjoy it. 1 Personalization The key to allowing technology to shop for you is to help them to learn about your style. Stitch Fix does this with a personalized Style Profile. They ask very specific questions, some I wasnt sure how to answer, but it was a great way to get myself thinking about my own style. Visual aids of different styles really helped me to shape my style. Questions around fit, size, and price range all help Stitch Fix stylists get to know you and your taste. My favorite part about the Style Profile is it asks who you follow on social and what you pin. Finally! A way to let your pins work for you! Can you hear the choir sing? Aaaaaaaaah! Letting my pins do the talking helps my stylist pick pieces that I will love. Heres a peek into my Style board on Pinterest. 2 Customization If you want to tell your stylist more, there are several places to do that. First, is in the Style Profile. At first, I wasnt sure […]

How to Create a Social Media Strategy to Grow, Love and Serve Your Audience

Serious bloggers know the value of good content, it results in helping someone in their work or life. That’s why bloggers love to do what they do. Sometimes, that can be difficult to translate to a social media platform without duplicating your blog feed. There is a way to bring your blog to the world of social media without taking away from your blog. Everything I write here views topics through the lens of how to use information/technology to grow, love and serve. Social media strategy is no different. Social media is meant for connection. To connect and grow your following, your strategy should be to grow, love, and serve your audience. Social Media Strategy Most people are on social media to connect with people and brands that are significant to them. Even with the many different platforms, complex algorithms, and lack of time, you can apply a grow, love and serve strategy to social media. Grow Many publishers like BuzzFeed have found success on social media because they taught people something useful in a short amount of time. What can you teach your audience in a short amount of time in the form of a photo, video or short paragraph what will make them stop and react to your post? Love The primary reason people are on social media is to see how their family and friends are doing. Its to keep in touch with loved ones near and far. How can you show your audience what youre up to? How can you create conversations and discussion around your content? Serve Most social media shares come from content that is both useful and relevant. Strive to make your content useful, informative, and if possible evergreen. Are your posts social share worthy? Would you share it if you saw it in your feed? Noticing your own habits as a user can guide what you post on social media. Practical Applications Now that you have a strategy for what to post, its time to put go over how to do it. Another way to think of grow, love and serve is to teach, connect, and share. Be intentional Your social content should connect first, teach second, and share (your posts) last. If you continually add value to someones feed, they will be more likely to share when you have a new post. Social media is an engaging two-way conversation, not about blasting your latest post on all channels at the same time. intentional timing is also another thing to consider. Don’t feel like you have to post a grow, love and serve post every single day. Try to hit each category in a week. There are very few people I want to hear from more than once a day. Don’t get unfollowed for being too noisy. Just as important (if not more so) than timing is platform. Be intentional about the platforms in which you are active. This will cut down on a lot of wheel-spinning. Focus your time and attention […]

{Gifts You Use} Back To School Survival Tips

I am happy to have Kacey from Next Level Mama here today to share some great tips for surviving back to school. With back to school now in full swing, these tips will help carry you through the rest of the school year {or at least until winter break}. Take it away, Kacey! Its hard to believe its been almost a month since my oldest child started kindergarten. As excited as I was for Samuel to start school, Im learning quickly that having a child in school is a lot of work..for the parents. Im already wondering how its going to be with all three kids in school, but thankfully were three years away from this happening. In the meantime, here are the school survival tips Ive picked up so far. Get on the Teachers Good Side Help your childs teacher out by donating a few extra school supplies for the class. You can either buy off your childs school supply list or check with the teacher to see what items he or she needs. Leave Extra Medicine with the School Nurse If your child takes medicine on a regular basis and the school allows it, you might consider leaving some with the school nurse. This way if your child has any medical issues, the nurse can respond to them immediately. Read School Folders and Notes Before Putting the Kids to Bed Nothing is worse than realizing your child was supposed to do homework the night before as youre packing everyone up to leave for school. Make it a habit to check their folders and school notes as soon as you get home. Ask Questions Your child may not talk much about school at first, but keep asking them questions about what they learned, their new friends, the teacher, etc. Before too long, youll find your child willingly telling you about the day. Prepare the Night Before It can be hard enough getting the kids out the bed. Take some stress out of your mornings by preparing lunches and picking out clothes the night before. Check Your Child’s Lunch Account A couple of friends wised me up to this one. If you use an online account to pay for your childs meals at school, check the account frequently. Its a good way to make sure your child isnt spending their money frivolously. Dont count on the school staff to do this for you. Label Everything Kids seem to have a knack for losing things. Not only that, but no matter how unique you think your childs backpack, lunchbox, pencil-case or whatever is, another student is bound to have the same thing. Im loving these Mabels Labels Write Away labels. Theyre perfect if you have multiple kids because you can write in your kids names as needed. Give Your Child Room to Grow Starting kindergarten means new learning opportunities and independence for you child. While it can be hard as a parent to let go, resist the urge to be the […]

How to Create a Routine for Moms and Why it Matters

Moms wear a lot of different hats. Moms are housekeepers, cooks, nurses, teachers, wives, drivers, and even employees. Because of this, its important to stay organized. One major problem that all moms face is time. Everyone has only 24 hours in a day to do it all for all the family. More often than not, we neglect ourselves because time just seems to slip through our dishpan hands. There is a way to take care of everything and everyone, even yourself. The solution is routines. Creating routines in your day will make you more efficient. One of my strengths is Maximizing, and Ill share how routines have maximized my days and weeks. Some of you may feel like routines are boring and restrictive, you may have even rolled your eyes at the thought of adding routines to your day. Well, bring those eyes back, ladies, because theres a reason why routines work. Routines work because once you get them down, youll be on autopilot (in a good way). Having routines doesnt mean you go through your days as a robot, but it means that you make space for doing whats important to you and your family. If mommas not happy, nobodys happy. Do you ever get time for yourself anymore? Try creating a morning routine. Cant ever seem to clean the house? Create a tidy up routine in the evening. See where this is going? Here are the keys to create a routine that matters so moms can take care of themselves and their family. Creating Space Most moms have a to-do list a mile long, and thats just for things to do around the house and school, were not even talking about work or social obligations. Create space by spreading out your tasks across your entire week. Ive shared about my ideal week in this post, I still use and update it every quarter. Spreading out your tasks across your whole week will take pressure off your days, so you dont feel like you have to clean the entire house in one day while thinking about drop-off and pick-up. Wait, were you supposed to go to the dentist today? Sigh. Give yourself a week (and a break) to accomplish what needs to get done. The Best times for routines The best way to avoid feeling like a robot is to select key times for routines. Selecting key times of day for routines provides structure for your family because they know what to expect. Routines also help you commit to whats important to you personally. For the mom who has no time to herself, I want to challenge you to create a morning routine. Your morning routine will be just for you. Read, pray, journal, exercise, have a quiet cup of coffee. Fill yourself up before the rest of the house wakes up and youll be ready to take on the day. For extra credit, you could also create an evening routine that includes quiet time with your husband and […]

Reference Zone for the Home Office

Our home office is great for keeping all my projects in order and filing paperwork. I find that we also get a lot of rotating information that comes our way, like monthly calendars from school or our community that is pertinent for only a short period of time. For this reason, I have created a reference zone in our home office to keep important rotating information at our fingertips when we need it and toss it when it becomes obsolete. What is kept in a reference zone? Typically a reference zone would be used to store periodicals like magazines and catalogs that can be referenced when information or inspiration is needed. This zone is essential for every home office because we all have mountains of rotating information flying at us constantly. Just take a look inside your mailbox, theres the newest magazine, coupons, invitations, newsletters and more.?? Ill show you ways to begin your own reference zone so you can keep all that paper in order. What houses rotating information in a reference zone? What you use to house your rotating information will vary depending on your space and the media that you have to store. Here is a look at some options to get your own reference zone started. For a smaller space, you can keep your rotating information in an accordion file similar to this one. If you dont have a spare accordion file handy, theres always the cheap and easy binder with folders. Typically a magazine file is used to store magazines and catalogs, and it is what I use in my home office. You can go big and fancy with it or you can go cheap and find cardboard files for as little as $1. As you can see in my reference zone above, I have combined both the heavier duty magazine files with a couple of fun cardboard magazine files I snagged at the dollar spot at Target. My tickler file for rotating information To meet our familys need to tame rotating information, I created a reference file to house all those calendars, newsletters and other time sensitive news in one designated spot, I will refer to it as a??tickler file. True to its name, you can tickle through papers that need to be referenced often and find it easily. A tickler file is best used for rotating information that is not needed for long-term filing. In my tickler file I used one of my cardboard magazine files and paired it with my favorite new office find. Martha Stewart came out with vertical file folders and I about jumped for joy when I saw them. Then I scratched my head when deciding what I would use them for. It didnt take long to realize the brilliance of vertical file folders in a magazine file to organize my tickler file. With some simple labels I can now keep all my monthly and seasonal information handy and out of sight when not in use.??I recommend using broadly […]

The Best Way to Create a Strong Password That You’ll Remember

Have you noticed that sites are putting more restrictions on passwords you create? They have to include numbers, capital letters, symbols, I’ve even seen some that don’t allow your password to be a dictionary word. Then, you cant use a password you’ve used in the past. Ugh! What do these people want from us!?! Well, they want to keep our information safe, and that’s a gift. Passwords are there for your security and sites want to make it hard for hackers, not you. Since much of our information is moving from paper to server, keeping our information safe from thieves and hackers is important. We shouldn’t view passwords as a nuisance, but as a welcome barrier, like a lock on your front door. Its true, there are many restrictions for passwords these days. It can be hard to come up with a password thats not a dictionary word or that has numbers and symbols. I have a solution that will make your password creation seamless, leaving you with peace of mind. Here are the keys to create a strong password that youll remember. Personalize It The strongest passwords cannot be guessed easily. This means that password is not a password. If this is your password, change it as soon as you finish reading this post. Password generators are fine, but not memorable because they’re not meaningful. Choosing a password that is meaningful and personal to you will be tough to forget. To share this on Instagram, save the image and post using #GROWLoveServe The first step is to choose a meaningful string of words and numbers. It can be an address or a phrase. For example, lets use a street address like 123 Main Street City, State 98765. Another example for a meaningful phrase is a Bible reference like, Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you 1 Peter 5:7. It could even be a special someones birthday like John January 1, 2000. Do you have your string or phrase in mind? Great. Now lets take that phrase and digitize it. Digitize It Using your meaningful string/phrase, take the first letter of each word (or the whole word if your phrase is short), and turn it into a non-word password using capital letters as they are or mix capitals and lower-case. Then, use the numbers as they are. Finally, take symbols that go along with your phrase and insert them accordingly. Lets use the examples I mentioned earlier. 123 Main Street City, State 98765 becomes 123msc,ST98765 Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you 1 Peter 5:7 becomes cayaoHbHcfy1P5:7 John January 1, 2000 becomes JohnJ1,2000 When you see 123msc,ST98765, cayaoHbHcfy1P5:7, or JohnJ1,2000 on their own, they look completely random, but to you, they have meaning. Bonus gift: this is a great way to memorize Bible verses. Yay! Memorize It Now that you know the formula to creating a strong password that youll remember, its time to keep those strong passwords safe. There are a […]

How to Create Christmas Cards Using PicMonkey

The holidays can get pretty expensive and I try to do what I can to save money where its possible by DIYing. Being the techy me that I am, my DIY adventures happen on the computer. Each year we take family photos and use them to make our annual Christmas cards to send to family and friends. The cost of taking professional photos, buying professionally designed Christmas Cards, postage and printer ink for our annual newsletter can really take a bite out of our budget. For the last couple of years I have created our family Christmas cards on PicMonkey, then printed them at our local 1 hour photo place. It turns a $50-$75 purchase for fancy cards into a $15 purchase for prints and they say Merry Christmas the same way. Thats a lot of savings! Today, Im gifting you with a tutorial on how to create Christmas Cards using PicMonkey once youve gotten those fantastic looking family photos. Create a Collage The first step in creating your holiday masterpiece is to go to PicMonkey.com and click Create a Collage. Then choose the best 7 shots from your family photos by clicking Open Photos. They can be more or less, but I like to tell a story with my card, so having 7 options to choose from is a good start. Select a Christmas card layout from the Card options. I use the 57 size and pick the layout with one large photo in the center surrounded with smaller photos on either side. I make my cards in a landscape orientation {wide, not tall}, so I rotate the collage by clicking the rotate button at the bottom. Then I change the resolution to 2100 by 1400 pixels because I print my photos in 46 and click the lock button to make sure it stays that size. Experience has taught me to check this and change the size before uploading it to my photo centers website. If you want a 57 print, keep the size the same. Next place your photos where ever you like and pan/zoom if needed. Because my family and friends have yet to receive our cards, I am giving you all sneak peek, so shhh dont tell! Add a Christmas Touch Once youve got the collage sized the way you like, its time to add a touch of Christmas. I do this by adding a texture provided by PicMonkey.??When youve selected a texture, add it to the collage by clicking and dragging it onto the collage until you see a blue bar that adds it to your current layout. Once you add the texture, youll have to re-size the new additions by dragging the border to your desired size. Then go to the other photos and the re-size if its needed.

How Discovering Your Strengths Can Help You Grow, Love, and Serve

We all have things that we know how to do, but more often than not, we don’t always get to do what we want to do for much of our day. Whats even harder is not being in tune with our strengths in the first place. How can I be of service to others when I don’t even fully understand myself?   Do you ever feel like you can make a difference, but you’re not sure where to start? Or do you think you have a good grasp on what you’re good at, but not sure how to use your strengths to make an impact? Gifts We Use is a place that helps you grow, so you can love and serve others well. Heres a resource that is an oldie but a goodie when it comes to knowing your strengths (aka gifts). Now, Discover Your Strengths Each of us has a unique set of talents and abilities. The happiest people know what their gifts are and use them on a consistent basis to help others. Key members of the highly respected Gallup Organization sought to change the way the business world works and start what they call a strengths revolution. Their work in surveying hundreds of thousands of employees culminated in the book that has helped so many (including me), Now, Discover Your Strengths. Many organizations have implemented this as part of their team building, but it is great for individuals and families too. The book can be found at most bookstores and also from Amazon. The links in this post are my affiliate links, and when you use them, you support what I do here. Learn more about my recommendations here. Knowing My Strengths Helped My Relationships Knowing my strengths has helped me more than any other personality test that I have taken before. The difference with the StrengthsFinder is that my strengths do not tend to change over time like other tests that try to explain your personality. These actually find the strengths you use consistently, not your latest affinity. I discovered my strengths years ago and have come back to them again and again to center myself when I need to reconnect with who I am and how I work best. Here are my top five strengths: Positivity Connectedness Developer Individualization Maximizer Knowing my strengths explained much of my tendencies and helped me to use them in work and in life. For example, My top strength was a given for me. I am definitely a positive person and much of how I view things sees the bright side. Developer was something I only vaguely knew about myself. When I began working using my strengths, it changed the way I work. When I began developing processes or plans, the work was so much more rewarding to me. The StrengthsFinder also gave me great insight into how I relate to others. This is where individuals and families can benefit. Knowing my husbands strengths has helped me to understand him better. […]