My Favorite Stress Buster

Sometimes life can feel HEAVY. There are days I feel like a balloon that with each stress throughout the day I inflate a little more.  Can you relate?  I hope you can’t, but if you can…

 What if I told you that I found something that will decompress that stress within thirty seconds?

And the great news is it’s free and so fun.

Let me introduce you to a little thing called dancing. Hurray for dancing!!

Such a simple thing, but I am telling you it has the power to deflate stress, soften a hard countenance, mend a rift, lighten the mood, and make you feel great. Children absolutely love it. They were born to wiggle and bop to music, and they love doing it with their parents.

My two-year old is a dancer at heart. Which is not surprising to me at all because before we got pregnant with her, I prayed that we would have a girl, that she would look like me, and have my personality. I wasn’t even thinking about dance when I asked God for her to be like me, but He’s always into the details. I grew up dancing off and on, and to this day, I absolutely love to dance. I tell God that I will be the one dancing before His throne in Heaven.  I’ll have boundless energy, and I just may never stop!

My man also likes to dance. He’s a mean swing dancer and can toss me around the kitchen floor like a rag doll. He’s also not afraid to jump around in silly ways to make the kids laugh. So if Dad is home, we are all dancing.

We break out in dance parties almost every day at our house. Usually when we are making meals in the kitchen or doing dishes. I always have music playing in the house, but when we are congregating in the kitchen, it’s natural for someone to say to the Echo, “hey Alexa, play…”. Even our two-year old knows how to boss Alexa around.

The tunes start playing, someone turns it up, and we all start shaking our tail feathers.

It’s an AMAZING stress buster! All the things that were pressing on my mind…gone. Any tensions between me and another child…gone. The to-do list…gone. I’m telling you, it’s like medicine to our souls.  Yeah, some of those stresses come back, but at least I got a much needed break from them!

The most magical part is even conflicts between children begin to float away, like we’ve hit the reset button.

“But I don’t like to dance”, you say (gasp!). Well, I would encourage you to break out of your mold a bit. Try something new. It doesn’t matter how you dance, just move to the beat a little. Your kids may raise an eyebrow at you when you first start, but as you get going, they will probably jump in…maybe not some of the teenagers, but that’s okay. At least they are seeing you have fun.

Which leads me to another point…never underestimate the importance of your kids seeing you having fun.

No matter what age they are, they need to see Mom having fun. Bonus would be if they get to see Mom and Dad jumping around laughing together. Those memories leave deep impressions in their minds.

All you have to do is Google stats on how dancing effects health and you will see a long line of benefits including reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, while boosting body image, self-esteem, and overall confidence. Wahoo!

My heart behind this post is to encourage you to lighten the mood in your home.  Make your house a fun place to grow up in.

Dancing is a really easy way to make this happen.  You’ll not only bust some stress, you’ll burn some calories, and get a really good laugh while doing it too (and don’t even get me started on the benefits of laughter)!

If you are all alone at the house or live alone, well, there is no reason not to dance your heart out.  Making dinner and doing dishes is so much more fun with a little hip swaying.

I hope I’ve nudged you enough to begin bringing dance into your daily life.  To get you started, here are some of our favorite songs to dance to…

The soundtrack to “The Greatest Showman”. We are listening to this everyday right now. So good!

“Bulletproof” by Citizenway.  The lead singer/songwriter, Ben Calhoun and his wife introduced Kevin and I. Our kids would not exist without Ben and Alison!

“Happy Dance” by Mercy Me. Alison, my friend who married Ben is the lead dancer in the video, so another shout out to the Calhouns!

“Love With Your Life” by Hollyn

“Feel It” by Toby Mac. The music video has fun dancing in it too. My 12-year-old son loves all of Toby Mac’s music. He’s great in concert too!

“Backseat Driver” by Toby Mac & Hollyn  This has been my two-year olds favorite dance song for a year now!

“I Feel So Alive” by Capital Kings.  Honestly, any music by Capital Kings. My 12-year-old son plays their music whenever he’s on dish duty. It helps him move a lot faster, and have fun while he’s working!

“Count Your Rainbows” by 1 Girl Nation.  My 10-year-old daughter likes this band. They are a great example of female artists.

“The Cha-Cha Slide” by DJ Casper.  I’m sure you’ve danced to this at weddings. All my kids like to follow along to this one. He takes you through different dance instructions that are easy to follow, like “left foot stomp, right foot stomp”.

“Can’t Stop The Feeling” by Justin Timberlake. Pull up the music video if you want some dance inspiration!

Here’s some oldie but goodies that will be sure to get you moving.  Toddlers seems to love oldies music:

“Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & The Comets

“Great Balls Of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis

“All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley

“The Twist” by Chubby Checker

“Respect” by Aretha Franklin

“Chantilly Lace” by Big Bopper

“Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison

“Sherry” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  Our two-year old tells Alexa to play this multiple times a day. Even though it has a slower beat, she loves to dance to it.

And what about disco, 80’s, or show tunes? There are so many songs to choose from! Whatever gets you moving!

If you don’t own an Amazon Echo, I would highly recommend it. That is all we use for music in the house anymore. I can just say, “Alexa, play me “Bulletproof” by Citizenway”, and it starts playing! I can play radio stations, as well as ask her lots of different questions like “give me the news briefing”, “what’s the weather like outside?” or Kevin can ask “how long is my traffic commute today?”

But for music, it’s our go-to. If you don’t have one, you can buy one here…

So, what are you waiting for? Bring on the stress buster! Your kids will love it, and I guarantee, after 30 seconds of moving to some beats, you will too.

Juggling the yes and no of commitments

How do we know when we are doing too much?  I mean, is it just me or does it feel like there is pressure everywhere you turn to do more and be more? Put in more hours at work, make more money, volunteer more at church, keep your house more picked up, give your kids more opportunities, cook more healthy meals, exercise more, get more sleep, be more sexy, be more crafty, be more friendly, be more educated, be more engaged, be more thrifty…more, more, more.

I’m totally exhausted already. 

You know what I’m going to say here.  You’ve heard it before, but I’m here to gently remind you that you do not have to be everyone and do everything.  Let me rephrase…you can’t be everyone and do everything.  If God wanted it that way, He wouldn’t have made so many of us to color the world so creatively! 

The reason I am writing this post on the topic of do, do, do, more, more, more is because I am feeling poo, poo, pooped.  Yep, three poos there.  I’m Wiped with a capital W, cashed out, down for the count, want to crawl under blankets and sleep for a week pooped.

I was thinking today, why do I feel so exhausted?  As I recounted the last couple weeks, I was instantly reminded that I did too much.  Way too much.  Let me remind you that I have five children, three of which are homeschooled, a two-year old who could keep the world busy if given the chance, and a just turned one year old who still has me up some nights to nurse, and when awake is into everything. 

Now that sounds like enough right there to keep a person busy, right?

Well, on top of the ordinary everyday life, I had way over committed myself.  Over the past two weeks, we had a few evenings where couples were over that we mentor (we love doing this by the way), we also helped at a marriage class at our church (love doing this too), we hosted a soup night for our life group (love), Kevin had church meetings, and any extra mental energy I had was being poured into Kevin’s business because of some changes we are making.  Oh, and last but not least- drumroll please…Kevin was out of town on a business trip for 3 whole days (Peeps, that’s a lot for me.  Did not love this).  That does not include the lunches and dinners out with friends, or the classes I help with at the kids home school co-op, kids activities, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and the to-do list that never ever EVER ends.

Why am I telling you this?  To brag about how busy I am? (What a silly question, yet I do feel like our culture praises busyness, which I don’t get at all.)  NO!  To tell you that this. Is. Too. Much!  No one can do that much and do it well.

This is why I’m wiped.

If your plate looks similar to mine the last couple weeks, I think you and I need to learn to say that little word that so many of us have trouble saying.  No.  Try it with me…no.  No, thank you.  No, I will not be able to help with that.  No, I’m sorry, I think I will have to take a rain check.  No, I would love to, but I don’t think I will be able to make that possible.  Nope, nope, nope.  It doesn’t have to be said in a mean way, and it doesn’t have to be said to every invitation or expectation.  

On the flip side…you may have to learn to say no to yourself.

No to the extra hours at the office, no to starving yourself to be more skinny, no to the stress that you haven’t made all the crafts on Pinterest that you’ve pinned, no to the idea of having a perfectly picked up house, no to the temptation to be more for others.  If you resonate with any of this (umm, my hand is way in the air), you just may need to rest in who you are and in God’s peace for a while.  He is certainly not asking you to be more or do more.  You are putting that on yourself.

Jesus said “come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”, Matthew 11:28-29. 

What yoke are you putting on yourself?  Jesus wasn’t talking about taking the yellow part of his egg and sharing it with you (that’s spelled yolk, just in case you were wondering).  He was referencing the yoke placed on oxen when they work together to pull a heavy load.

He is saying that when you are attached to His work load, it’s an easy one.

We should have peace when we are that close to Him.  We should have peace when we are working with Jesus.  We should have peace when we are doing the things that He has asked us to do.

So I must ask you, are you doing the things He has asked you to do?  Or are you getting caught up in the “mores” of life instead of yoking yourself to Him?

As you ponder that, I do have good news for you, and that is to say YES to the best stuff.  Everything that we get invited and asked to do is good stuff.  Everything I would like to do more of is good stuff.  And I want to do it all!  But, how do we decide what is the BEST things to commit to?  Well, here is the check list I try to go through in my head before committing to something (…when I’m level-headed, unlike the last couple weeks)…

1.       Does God want me to be committing my time to this?  Ask Him before you say yes, and take a few days before giving an answer.

2.       Does this activity benefit the whole family?  This is our plumb line with kids activities.  If it doesn’t benefit family life, we aren’t doing it.  We have the kids in gymnastics classes and swimming classes at the same time so that I am not running children this way and that and screaming to get in the car all the time.  I don’t want to live that way, and I certainly don’t want my kids to remember me that way.

3.       Does your spouse think it’s a good idea?  It’s tempting to want to be involved in everything or have your kids involved in everything, but I think spouses can see the routine from an outside perspective and know if it’s going to be too much.  Kevin and I rely very heavily on each others opinion when it comes to commitments.  I know I am very grateful for the way we work together in making decisions. There have been many times that one of us wanted to commit to something, but the other didn’t think it would be our best yes, so we didn’t, and were very grateful afterward.

You may also want to set boundaries like only committing to two social events every weekend, or three evening commitments in a week.

Talk with your spouse and decide what you want your normal flow to be like, and revisit it often.  Kevin and I had a “two social events per weekend” rule for a while, but have found ourselves as of late having weekends where we are running from one event to the next.  That’s not how we want our weekends to look.  We want it to be full of restful and rejuvenating time to connect with the kids and each other before starting another week. So we talked, and committed to scaling back again. 

As I leave you with these thoughts, I ask you, are you weary or burdened?  Remember that Jesus said to attach yourself and your energies to Him, and He promises rest for your soul.  Doesn’t that sound wonderful? If your answer is yes, then your rest may start with saying no more often…or maybe it’s saying yes to only the best things.  Whatever your answer, know that many of us are doing this juggling act with you.  It’s a skill worth mastering, but for tonight what do you say we call an intermission and get some popcorn?  Yep…I think I’ll go for that too.

In it for good

This post is to bring you a quick note of encouragement if you are feeling weary. This morning I was feeling this way. Kevin and I stayed up late last night because, hey, it was Friday night. Our evening ritual lately has been to sit in our hot tub that is out on our deck because it has been below zero here for too long. It’s magical to sit out there and look at the stars and sit in the quiet, crisp (freezing) night, but still feel toasty warm. We sit out there and chat and catch each other up on our day for about an hour. By the time we got out last night, it was 10:00, but I wasn’t ready to go to bed, so we watched a movie. Midnight came around fast, and as we turned off the lights and collapsed in bed, we kissed each other goodnight and immediately Jude received the memo that Mom and Dad were about to fall asleep and he needed to wake them up. It’s a weird phenomenon, but if you have children, more than likely you know what I’m talking about. I don’t know how babies do it, but somehow they know right when mom and dad are going to go to sleep, or when they are getting in bed to do something else, if you’re catching my drift. Children give us never ending opportunities to grow in patience, don’t they?

So, we brought him in bed with us to nurse, and the three of us slept together until he started stirring around 1:30, and then I tapped Kevin (not totally accurate, actually looks more like jabbing him with my elbow over and over again until he wakes up) to carry him back to his crib. We’ve always done that with our babies. He goes to their room and gets them, brings them to me in bed, I nurse them, and then he brings them back to their room. He’s a trooper with a capital T. All that to say, I didn’t really fall into a deep sleep until after 1:30, and then the morning nursing session came all too fast. So, I was feeling weary this morning. Tired always equals not good things for me. I am very sensitive to needing enough sleep, so when I don’t get enough, it’s hard for me to function. I blame it on the fact that I’m Swedish. I’m not sure what being Swedish has to do with needing sleep, but my brother-in-law is actually from Sweden and he’s the same way, so I’ve deduced it to the fact that all Swedes must be this way….right?

After I woke up, I really wanted to exercise but didn’t have the time go to the gym before the kids had to leave for swim lessons, so I went in the basement and did a DVD workout. Over time, little ones trickled downstairs, and for the last ten minutes, I was actually doing crunches on the exercise ball with Jude on my belly because otherwise he was sitting next to me crying. Janelle was also next to me with resistance bands on her head and around her neck, “Mommy, I’m exercising!”.  “Yep”, I grunted out, but what I was really thinking was, “stay out of my way-I just want to work out!”.  Total honesty here, people.  I finished up and quickly ran the two upstairs and suctioned out Jude’s snotty nose because he’s teething and has boogies running down into his mouth, took Janelle to use the potty, changed Jude’s diaper (all the while he’s been crying for like ten minutes-ahhh!), and then put a movie on for Janelle so I could run Jude up for a nap.  I was sitting on the rocking chair in his room nursing him and I sighed to the Lord, “God, I’m weary. How do you expect us to do this? It requires so much of me.” Immediately he reminded me of Galations 6:9 which says “let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up”.  He has reminded me of this verse more times than I can recall, and I’ve purposely meditated on it many times over because it really helps me in moments like these.  Children can make us feel weary.  I don’t care if it’s the physical drain that babies and toddlers take, or the emotional and mental drain the older ones take.  Some days, it can feel like someone has walked up to me, stuck a straw in my head, and sucked the wonderful life right out of me. But God knows we get weary.  He made us.  And He always has an answer for us.  As He answered me today, I was reminded of how I am doing good to my children and my husband by the mundane little (and big) overlooked ways that I serve. Sometimes it all feels like nonsense…but it’s not. We are doing good to those around us. You are doing good to those little ones that look up to you all day long. You may feel like no one sees it, but let me tell you, they see it, and they are little mirrors. They will become how you treat them. Many times, our harvest is reaped in our children.

If you are in the empty nest season, then don’t grow weary in doing good to your husband by being a loving, kind, supportive wife.  And if you are single, don’t grow weary of doing good to your co-workers, friends, neighbors and family members. Everyone needs more good in their lives, and that is a free gift you can bring others, and the return will be a harvest of peace, joy, and goodness.  There are days, like today, that it’s sooo not easy, I know.  That’s why God has to remind us to not give up! So let’s not give up friends.  Sometimes we want to throw in the towel (or throw a tantrum), but let’s take a deep breath together instead, and keep sowing goodness.

In it with you…