How to Stay Motivated (When you just want to eat chocolate covered almonds)

Okay, so here it is the middle of September, back to school has happened and the kick-offs are all around us.  Get involved! Join this! We need volunteers for this! We want to serve this year!  *Sigh*  I don’t know about you, but today I just wanna crawl back into a hole and eat my secret stash of chocolate covered almonds.  The whole bag.  By myself.  I’m supposed to start teaching Sunday School this week.  Our study group begins again.  We want to serve others and engage with family this year.  The kids will soon be starting lessons and clubs and the minivan will be put into overdrive as workshops start up again for me.  It’s usually a time when my organizational skills flourish and I get all excited for new beginnings… but I just ain’t feeling it.  Can I get an amen?  Anyone else struggling with feeling motivated?  Are you a leader and trying to recruit some volunteers but get the same five people for every ministry?  Or are you like me and feeling like the apostle Paul in Romans 7?  You want to do the things you know you should do, but you just don’t do them.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, as they say.

Okie dokie then.  Shall we muse together on how to start that spiritual flame under our unmotivated, ummm, slightly “fleshy” behinds and move forward?  Are you with me?  It will be no easy task, my friends… chocolate covered almonds have a big pull for me…

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Did you know that if you google motivation, there are almost    940 000 000 results?!  Obviously we are not alone here.  This is a big issue… and “how to stay awake” is in the top 5.  Maybe people are simply just tired.  Our flesh is weak.  Literally.  Highly motivated people quickly burn out if we don’t get proper rest.  Late nights and too many chocolate covered almonds don’t make for good servants.  We know this.  However, it’s a good place to start.  A strung out new mom who is caring for a colicky newborn might not be the best one to ask to head up the children’s ministry.  Just sayin’.  So our number 1 must be:  take care of the physical you.  Rest well.

My number 2 is:  pray about it.  Life is hard sometimes.  Only God knows our future and our past.  He has given you the gifts to move forward, and can heal the hurts from before.  Tell Him your frustrations.  Ask others to surround you with prayers as well.  If need be, seek Godly wisdom and prayers from professionals who might need to help in practical ways you cannot provide for yourself alone.  Those prayers may also be the catalyst in sending others your way!  Who knows, maybe someone is praying about how to serve you!  This intimacy with God often gives us clarity and focus.  Perhaps you will add some quiet meditation or praise and worship music to re-align your focus on “things above” versus the many distractions we have “here below.”  I often end up praying about what to blog about — because my thoughts are not always the ones that need to be said… and it often surprises me the direction that my muses take!

One of my biggest obstacles is being overwhelmed with the task at hand.  I look at the space around me and think, nope, too big, not worth the effort, where are my almonds?  Oh man, I struggle with this one.  I am task oriented, so if the task is too big, I can’t wrap my brain around it and quickly become unmotivated.  This is where I have to heed the words a very wise friend once told me… just do the next thing.  Say you want to live simply and clear the clutter.  Thinking about the whole house might be overwhelming.  Start with one drawer, or one closet, and then… do the next thing.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

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That leads to the next big one… the plan. This is not new either, I am just reminding you (and me) that you have to plan for things to happen.  My husband and I often converse about this one… he hopes things will just fall into place, that his romantic gestures will sweep me off my feet and date night will spontaneously happen due to some great alignment of the universe.  But he knows that if he sets it up on the calendar, I am more likely to carve out that time with him to work on our relationship.  Some of us need this more than others.  Many volunteers quickly abandon their posts if there is no set plan.  Don’t forget that plans include your materials!  Some folks are overwhelmed with a disorganized, unkempt space.  Many are willing to cook at the pancake breakfast fundraiser… but if the kitchen is a disaster and there are no clean spatulas, it might be a no-go.

I Corinthians 15:58 reminds us that nothing we do is in vain.  The smallest efforts can lead to great things with God’s help.  However, I do think He wants us to set a distinct purpose behind our efforts.  Ever have your kids ask WHY?  Why do I have to go to school? Why do I have to clean my room?  Why do we have to go to church?  Why is the sky blue?  If we don’t know why we are doing something, then it often loses its lustre and we become frustrated with the effort it takes.  Or it is simply not needed.  Do you run a program just because there has always been one?  Is it necessary?  There is a story about a new housewife who always trimmed the ends off her roast before cooking it.  One day she asked her grandmother: why?  Was it some ancient technique for a fine Sunday dinner?  Her grandmother replied that it was the only way a large roast would fit in her small roasting pan.  Yup, sometimes it’s helpful to know the purpose behind the plan.

Occasionally, we get motivated by an event/learning experience.  If you are new to mittonmusings, you will quickly discover that I am always up for learning something new.  I am eager to draw information from others.  To glean insight from another perspective or someone else’s life experience.  I had the privilege of sitting under some very learned people this summer… and was able to fill my brain with a tonne of things to spark my musings.  Our little blips of time on this planet are not enough to cover all that is possible.  God’s great big world is full of opportunities!

Having said that, it is a good reminder to me (and you!) to never take anyone for granted.  Don’t be afraid to ask someone to help directly — but don’t leave them there all alone!  A servant who gives of their time should never be ignored.  Encourage those around you who have accomplished even the smallest task.  It is a big motivator in taking the next bite of the proverbial elephant. motivatehearts Our youngest son was often overwhelmed with anxieties when attempting new tasks.  We knew that slow (and often painfully time consuming!) encouragement to “just do the next thing” allowed him to overcome his fears and often flourish at the task at hand.   By learning things and being encouraged by others, we often strengthen our own efforts, and can focus in on the real purposes behind our motivations.

Above all, our motivation should continue to guide us forward towards Heaven.  Matthew 6 tells us that no matter what we do, no matter what the goal is, or what steps we take to get there, the motivation we have is always based on where our hearts are.  The treasures at the end of the journey will be reflections of where our hearts were at the beginning.  Want to motivate others?  Encourage their hearts.  Want to motivate yourself?  Spend some time letting God change you from within.  Oh… and a few chocolate covered almonds can’t hurt._Store up treasures in Heaven, for where your treasure is your heart will be also_

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Hoarding

forgetmenot2By the time you read this post, Mother’s Day (in Canada at least) will be over and the flower shops and restaurants will be filling their coffers with yet another year’s profits.  Teachers will be breathing a sigh of relief that their entire class of 27 six-year-olds managed not to kill off their forget-me-nots, which were sent home on Friday, delicately blooming in hand-painted pots destined for moms and grandmothers.  The “mommy-I made-it-all-by-myself breakfasts in bed” kitchens will once again be tidy and neat and the dose of antacid tablets will be taken to settle the fact that you actually ate that “mommy-I-made-it-all-by-myself” breakfast.  *gag*  The moms will smile and wink at the dads who managed a card and who dressed the kids for church and dinner so you could get two more full seconds of sleep on this “special day” (Trust me… little girl tights are not something dads should handle).  Oh… but friends, I promise you this:  We loved every minute of it!

Even now, as mom of two teens, a semi-adult, and an almost grown-up pre-teen, I still appreciate the grunt and nod of acknowledgement that is directed my way every once and awhile.  Come to think of it, I also still have to clean up the kitchen from the “mom-I-made-it-myself” messes.  Hmmn.  So, I muse:  Why?  Why do we, as moms, savour every glimmer of appreciation from our kids?  Why do we never forget a Mother’s Day, even as adults? I think because we were given this God given gift of connection the moment we weloveditheld those beloveds in our arms for the very first time.  According to some early-stage scientific research, we have things called “u-opioids” that are released in our brains when we are socially connected to someone… specifically our mothers.  It’s that whole bonding/proper imprinting thing that is exemplified by those little ducklings illustrated in classic children’s books.  Moms make us feel warm and fuzzy — so we connect — and are now willing to follow them into the water even though we have never swam with our newly hatched tail feathers before.  It’s already pre-wired in our brains.  (Reminds me of that post about chocolate.  In case you missed it, you can read about that here.)

I remember studying about Rhesus monkeys in animal behaviour — when removed from their mothers and isolated, the tiny monkeys clung to warm pieces of cloth in their cages… anything to help them feel safe.   Even the basic need for food was only used temporarily… the monkeys went back to the warm, safe feeling momma.

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It’s in our very nature to connect… especially to our moms. (Photo: via UoT research archives)

Not withstanding the controversies of animal research in the 1960’s, these studies certainly showed us something about our need for connection.  I’m sure it’s biological.  And spiritual. Or both.  How much more do complex humans struggle to connect and bond than our animal counterparts?  Our relationships are the key to our existence.  A God woven ticket into our complexities.  We are too fragile to exist without one another.  Every good Hollywood film or compelling book sets it’s protagonist in an entanglement of relationship woes — and we, as an audience, rejoice when they “live happily ever after”.

I don’t have any research to back it up, but I suspect that even moms who are not particularly close to their kids still hoard things that connect them to their children.  A picture, a note, a card.  Even estranged or adoption birth mothers reflect on the day of their child’s birth.  Just a little bit.  It’s really hard to ignore something that grew inside you for nine months.  I’m a die hard scrapbooker and have been since I was a child.  I collect every ticket stub, brochure and report card.  I have file folders for each one of my beloved offspring and a couple of random ones for the leftover stuff.  I am compelled to save these random trinkets — just in case.  Just in case I need to know that in grade 2 your sister got an 82 in English and was a “pleasure to have in our class”.  Seriously.  I have no idea why I keep these things.  I’m sure it has something to do with u-opioids.  Some inexplicable bond that keeps me connected to my kids and my kids to me — through random photos and sticky, wrinkled papers rescued from the bottoms of backpacks.  These things remind me of the experiences we have shared together — and so I hoard and pile them up as the kids grow into adulthood.

This was the first mother’s day without my sweet mother-in-law.  She was taken from us all too soon from the end stages of Alzheimer’s.  Even though her memories were clouded and her fragile body was fearful at times, the family rejoiced in glimmers of recognition at an old hymn, or at some pattern in the table that struck a chord with her somewhere back in the depths of her memories.  She loved to look at my family scrapbooks.  She’d point and smile, and you could tell something clicked.  This is why we keep these little bits of memorabilia.  Our humanness wants to connect.  We need to feel loved and nurtured.

So, if you are a young mom still struggling with sleepless nights and piles of laundry, I hate to tell you… not much changes.  We still have sleepless nights and laundry.  Only now we are awake because they are out past curfew.  And the laundry just stinks more.  But you learn to treasure the coloured mother’s day cards complete with sparkles that’s hoarded away in a folder.  Why?  Because they remind you of the times your little ones believed that you were all that mattered in the world, and they were willing to follow you into the pond water — no questions asked.  As they get older, your treasures become the Facebook likes on your posts,  or the “mom, how do you make that meatloaf I love?” texts. You even relish in the “Can you please wash these pants in time for tomorrow’s presentation?” just before midnight.  And when your mom needs to be the one who gets cared for, you rejoice that you have made the connection complete.  And you’ll smile when the time comes to clean out her closet after she is gone, and discover that she hoarded a few photos and mother’s day cards from you, too.

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