Motivation Monday: The Comfort Zone

This is a pretty significant year for me. I turn 40 in June. I eased my way into my thirties and have, for the most part, enjoyed the time there. Sure, I experienced some pretty scary times over the last decade, but I somehow managed to maintain a confidence that I never had in my twenties.

For some reason though, I don’t seem to be as comfortable preparing for this birthday. I can’t pinpoint why. Two of my nieces are pregnant, each with their first child. A new generation will soon be entering our family. I have always felt youthful, but maybe now I’m finally starting to feel old? Or at least, feel my age. I am also coming to terms with my health. I’m seeing my body struggle. I can’t eat like I used to. I don’t heal as fast as I once did. And it certainly isn’t easy to stay get in shape. Ultimately, I think I’ve gotten a little too cozy over the past 10 years. The upcoming milestone birthday is acting like a giant neon sign for reality. I’m not getting any younger or healthier just sitting here.

A friend of mine recently shared this quote with me:

Boy, did that hit home! Instead of sitting around worrying about what this year (and/or the next decade) will hold… maybe it is time to stop being so complacent. Although I can’t physically get younger, I can still reverse the uneasiness of growing  “old and unhealthy” by pushing myself beyond my normal limits.

I made the first step out of my comfort zone this past weekend. I became a member of my local YWCA/YMCA network. I did it with anticipation of marking something off of my 2016 Bucket List: my first triathlon! I have to admit… this is scary! I’m extremely nervous about it. I’m afraid I will fail. I’m afraid I will give up. I’m afraid of knowing how uncomfortable I will be over the next six months. This journey will not be easy. I’m a mediocre runner. I love the water but it has been years since I’ve done any lap swimming. And I’m really not certain if my aging knees will even allow me to cycle. This could be the biggest disaster ever. Or, this could be just what I need to jump-start a healthier, 40-year old Jenn.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” is a great motivational quote that can apply to so many things. For me and my mission to be healthy, youthful, and confident in my 40s, I’m going to have to work hard for it. I’m going to have to acknowledge my comfort zone and push past it daily.

What is your mission for 2016? Is it health related? Or have you always wanted to learn to play the guitar? Maybe you have goals of traveling? How about starting your own business? Whatever it is that you have been wanting to do, let this quote motivate you to do it. The wait is over. It’s time to step out of your comfort zone. Let life begin today!

Momnesia

This morning while sitting at a stoplight I observed a funny (to me) sight.  A woman was at a veterinarian office and went in with a baby carrier but no pet.  It made me giggle a little out loud thinking, is she at the wrong place, did she leave her pet at home and bring her baby to the vet?  Having two children of my own I know how scatterbrained I can be about things and end up driving right past where I was supposed to be going or forget to go at all.  I blame it on my children and say the pregnancy depleted my  brain cells!  But have you ever wondered why some mothers are like this?  I mean, think about it… what really makes us moms put the cereal box in the fridge and the milk carton in the cabinet?  Our children didn’t really suck out brain cells out, making us stupid.  So what makes us like this?

According to WebMD  being pregnant doesn’t really make you stupid but it may affect how sharp you are mentally.  Some of the factors that lead us to not being so quick on our toes could be stress…..stress?! Really?! Who’s stressed with feedings, naps (or power naps if you have that kind of little angel), diaper changing, cleaning, cooking, and everything else that goes along with Motherhood!  Lack of sleep is another cause.  Yes those moms that tell you to nap when the baby naps and the laundry & dishes can wait aren’t just feeding you a bunch of bull!  Go to bed ladies!  When the kids are down for the night, DVR your favorite shows and get some sleep! You can watch them the next day. And hormones!  What?! A pregnant lady with hormones….Nooooo.  Yes, it is a fact that your body produces up to 40 times more progesterone & estrogen and those my dears affects your circuits!

So what can you do to help ease your Momnesia?  ASK FOR HELP!  Ask your spouse to take the baby so you can take a nap.  If your spouse is unavailable ask someone you trust so that you can relax and get a good nap.  Keep a notepad with you or in each room that you frequent.  Jot down things that you think of whether is what you need from the grocery store or things you remembered you need to do around the house.

If your Momnesia is getting to the point where you forget to put your clothes on or forgetting to take little Jimmy to daycare then you should probably consult with your doctor.  Otherwise get some rest, make your lists, and enjoy being a mother.  Oh and don’t forget write down some of your Momnesia moments to share…….if you can remember them!

Saying Goodbye

Dealing with death is seldom easy for anyone. It can be especially hard for children to understand.  Or so I thought!  Last week, I was up mentally and emotionally preparing myself to say goodbye to my grandpa.  He had been in the hospital with pneumonia several times, but this time he seemed to not be able to kick it and come off the ventilator.  Sometime around 2 am on Wednesday, September 5th, he passed away while the song “I’ll Fly Away” played on the radio.  My granny, my mom, and my stepdad were there to see him off.

Now, I had already told my girls, who are four and eight years old, that Sam [which is what we called my grandpa] was sick and in the hospital. The next day I prepared myself to tell them that he had passed.  I actually Googled it so I had the right words and didn’t get into too much.  I found a very helpful article on babycenter.com that gave me some great tips and verbiage. There were actually two articles that I came across on their site that broke it down by age groups: preschoolers and school-age.  I sat them both down and told them that Sam had died.  My oldest’s response was, “Awe…..can I have a snack?”  My youngest wanted to know, “Who is Granny gonna have now?” (She meant who would live with Granny.) I told her that Granny has Scooter, her dog, that we would visit, and that Granny has friends too. And that was it. There were no questions after that. They handled that part well. I decided not to take them to the funeral home because I didn’t think the youngest would handle it well. My husband stayed home with them while I went.

The next day was the graveside service and we took them with us.  It wasn’t graveside actually… it was a service held in the mausoleum. On the way there, I explained what they would see. I told them about the casket being kind of like a big pretty box and that Sam was in that box but they wouldn’t see him.  I told them about the pallbearers and how they would roll the casket in the room, and someone would say a prayer and talk about Sam a little, and then they would pray again.  I also told them that they may see Granny and other people crying, and that was ok because Granny was sad.  We arrived at the graveyard and started walking towards the mausoleum. They were getting ready to pull the casket out of the hearse.  We stopped while they finished that part.  My husband was holding our oldest daughter’s hand and he said that she squeezed his hand at that point.  He was worried about them getting upset during the service.  He loves his girls more than anything!  We proceeded down to the family and stood outside while they prepared for the last viewing.  After that was done, we were led into the room.  The girls sat quietly. My youngest checked out all of the flowers that were on the walls and was amazed at how they got them all up so high.  While walking out, she looked up at me with her beautiful blue eyes and said, “I’m sure gonna miss Sam.”  I lost it there for a minute!

The rest of the day was filled with laughter and memories!  The girls know that Sam is in Heaven and have dealt with it well.

Hanging Out on the Bottom

We often call the good times in our lives “mountain top” experiences.  Those are the times we can take a deep breath and survey what we had to go through to get to the victory zone.  We can see where we came from, maybe even excuse away poor choices or actions because we have now arrived.  Let’s take a little closer look at how a mountain is shaped though.

The lowest area between mountains is usually considered a valley.  Valleys cover a larger area than a mountaintop.  It is predictable to say that we will spend a greater amount of time in the valleys of our lives.

Usually we equate a valley with difficult times, but in reality it is often a lush area with a water source.  Think about it, when it rains, all the water flows down the sides of the mountain to fertilize the valley.  Think of all the miners who have found precious gems while panning in river waters.  Those same rivers flow through mountain ranges.  That life source pushes through soil, rock, trees, whatever it has too.

If we change our perspective about experiences in the valleys we can live a much more abundant life.  We can thrive in that fertile area, digging our toes into mineral laden soil in the river bed.  This can be a time where we can open our hearts to God for direction.  The last thing any of us needs to do is run towards a mountain to climb it without a plan of action.  Supplies and equipment are needed.  Every mountain is different than the previous one.  Chances are we are not returning to this particular valley either.  Once we get to the top, we will descend into another valley.  A different valley with new flowers, unexplored terrain…breathtaking views.  With a climb and hiking ahead of us, we must learn to pack light.  We are not designed to carry guilt, jealousy, bitterness, or depression on our shoulders.  God has made His backpack to custom fit each of us.

For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good–not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne (Matthew 11:30).
We can easily get comfortable in the valley and get stuck.  Even the best moments have an ending but they are always the beginning of another moment yet to be lived out.

Taking the Pressure Off

The Bible has to be the most amazing book ever written.  It is so incredible how you can read passages and feel a new connection to them.  I recently experienced this while reading to my son at bedtime.  We were reading in Matthew about Jesus’ death and resurrection.  In chapter 27:51-53 it reads:

At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces. What’s more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. (After Jesus’ resurrection, they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.)

I think we have all heard sermons, read books and seen movies about the crucifixion.  I am 36 years old and I unashamedly admit that I have never noticed the portion about believers being resurrected at the time of Christ’s death.  The death of Christ was such a powerful happening that it affected nature, religious traditions and immediately conquered death for believers in that area.  There is no information about how many people this affected.  We don’t even know how long any of these individuals had been deceased.  We are only told that they were brought back to life and appeared to many.

Can you imagine having a loved one come back to life after being dead for a few weeks or even a couple of years?  How would that change life for you?  Would you try harder to spend time with them?  Would you have a greater concept of the fragility of life?  What if you had been one of those people?  How would you spend your days going forward after being given a second chance?

The individuals brought back to life are described as “believers”.  They are not named by their accomplishments on earth.  There is no list of their heritage, possessions, social status, income level, education or all the good deeds they performed.  Bottom line…they were “believers”.  What a great thought for today.  When all is stripped away, what is at our core?  What really matters?  Despite all the legalism man has abundantly created, regardless of what denomination you associate with, no matter the circumstances of your life…the one and only question that matters is “are you a believer”?  We complicate a relationship with the Lord so much by trying to earn it, by trying to be good enough, by thinking we have to fix ourselves first before He will accept us.  Today is the day to take off the pressure cooker lid.  Like a friend of mine said, “this was a fixed fight”.  Jesus already won the battle for our sins; all we have to do is let Him love us.

My Name is Jenn, and This is My Ah-ha Moment.

What an honor it was last month to receive an invitation to participate in Mutual of Omaha’s Ah-ha Moment campaign. What a surprise to find out the campaign’s tour would be scheduled in Winston Salem on June 10th, my 35th birthday. Without hesitation, I quickly accepted the offer with both gratitude and enthusiasm. This would certainly help make my day memorable.

What exactly is an Ah-ha Moment?
Mutual of Omaha describes it as:

It’s a moment of clarity, a defining moment where you gain real wisdom – wisdom you can use to change your life.

Whether big or small, funny or sad, they can be surprising and inspiring. Each one is unique, deeply personal, and we think, worth sharing.

Mutual of Omaha celebrates and honors these moments and the people who act upon them. We’re proud to have the products and services that can help people insure their possibilities.

A few weeks after accepting the invitation, it started to sink in that this was really going to happen! I needed to prepare. I researched the campaign, and debated which of my life’s many ah-ha moments would I choose to share. The more I anticipated this somewhat surreal situation, the more nervous I became. Am I really worthy of this invitation? What IS my ah-ha moment? Does anything I say or do really inspiring others? Finally remembering that I also had to renew my license on June 10, I considered contacting Mutual of Omaha and gracefully stepping down.

How many invitations were given out? Would backing down from this opportunity be a huge mistake? I continued to review my life, searching for something that would be meaningful. I knew that I had many moments of clarity in my life, but one alone just didn’t seem to hold the value of all of them put together. Then it hit me. There is something pretty amazing about my journey. It is like a giant puzzle. Could this realization be the ultimate in ah-has?

I started to make note of my time line:

  • At age 4, I decided I wanted to be an artist.
  • Age 18, I entered art school.
  • Age 22, I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
  • Age 24, I was victim to my first layoff.
  • Age 26, I fell victim again.
  • At age 30, I was burnt out. Tired of ‘corporate America’, I desired a job that meant something. I wanted a job that made a difference. I looked to the medical field for a solution, and enrolled in nursing & coding courses. In September of that same year, I had officially retired from Graphic Design and was employed in a medical office.
  • At age 32, I realized that even a job in medicine doesn’t always make your life fulfilling. That, and I really missed being creative. I looked for opportunities to freelance, but I still sought something more. I dove into volunteer work with well-known charities. Although I gained a lot of knowledge working with these nonprofits, I was heartbroken at how some ran their organization like a corporation. Yes, a corporation – the same thing I fled from two short years before.

 

I had spent the better part of the past three years fine-tuning my freelance business into JennB.Creative. I wanted my creativity to be used to a maximum, while assisting nonprofits and start-up businesses. I wasn’t in it to become rich; I just knew the struggle of wanting to get a business off the ground. I aspired to give them the opportunity to have professional marketing material on their budget. I did all of this while working full-time for a local hospital and searching for the right nonprofit that best suited my beliefs.

As you read last month, my search is over. I am now happily involved with Invest Hope, a faith-based mission seeking to end poverty in Haiti by providing means for Haitian businesses to get off the ground. I never saw the entire correlation between my life’s desires and Invest Hope until I was forced to search for my perfect ah-ha moment. I think it’s pretty awesome to see things come full circle. It reminds me that there IS a purpose to my life, and it is unfolding at just the right speed.

Today, after renewing my license, I pulled up to a Silver Stream travel trailer parked outside of the Old Salem Visitors Center. Still a bit nervous, I walked up to a petite blonde sitting under a canopy, and introduced myself. It was time to share my moment with the world. I was still very nervous… okay, beyond nervous. Even with words of assurance from the Mutual of Omaha crew, I could feel my chest turning red with anxiety. I was escorted to a bar stool in the front of the travel trailer, and prompted to tell my story. I was probably too enthusiastic about it, but the emotion overwhelmed me. Anxiety turned to appreciation, and I was overcome with happiness. This experience was, in fact, my biggest eye-opening moment. Ah-ha!

I was told the video should be posted on Mutual of Omaha’s YouTube channel in roughly 14 days. Although I’m a bit embarrassed to see my video, I am really looking forward to it, checking out the other videos taped in Winston Salem, and to see where the tour stops next. I am forever indebted to have had this experience. Happy 35th to me!