Category Archives: health

Living a healthy lifestyle is important to our personal growth and happiness.

why I'm more intentional with my spending habits

Buying Local

Why I’m Choosing to Be More Intentional with My Purchasing in 2022

Just this week, I sent my family text an article I’d read about the food shortage the world is experiencing.

According to food industry analyst Phil Lembert,

“Prices are going to continue to go up for a good year and a half.”

https://news.yahoo.com/havent-seen-anything-yet-food-082721652.html

Wildfires and other environmental crises, as well as bottle-necked ports and shortage of labor are to blame, the article said.

All this food uncertainty has gotten me thinking about my spending more seriously.

I’ve been telling my family for years now that it might be time to start purchasing locally, even if it means spending a few extra dollars.

When I first decided I might want to try favoring local, it was mainly because I noticed how many of my friends were small business owners and how they relied on locals to make it in business.

I’m not one of those snobs towards chains; I love a good Ross Dress for Less any day. And I’ve never been much of a shopper any way, other than groceries. Shopping is not for the indecisive.

And my own store, Monmil Goods , is online.

But I do think that when you have the ability to buy local you should, and my husband and I are blessed enough to do it.

James Melville on Twitter: "We are facing an enormous economic crisis  because of COVID-19. Local businesses desperately need our support. Let's  shop and buy local from our amazing local businesses whenever we

So I’ve been trying harder to buy local.

  • There’s a dairy here in town where we purchase our milk.
  • My co-teacher is running a farm solo, selling grass-fed cows that have been treated humanely.
  • We have a beautiful main street with a clothing store owned by a neighbor.
  • And right down the street is a little market that sells produce from local farms.

You’ll find that buying local keeps more tax dollars in your city.

It makes you feel good, too, knowing you’ve helped someone who lives nearby.

There are other purchasing thoughts I’ve considered lately, such as starting my own garden, something I’ve wanted to do for ages.

Working in my yard feels good for my soul. To see the literal fruits of that labor would be sweet.

My daughter has gone cruelty-free in her beauty products. Having fallen in love with animals, she says she can no longer support companies who test on them.

And I’ve been shopping more at thrift stores lately, hoping to cut down on purchasing cheap clothing.

All of this must be done in moderation, of course. So often we forget that we live in a society that runs on cash. If we all stopped buying, that would be just as bad as buying too much.

The Black/White, All/Nothing, No Gray Area that some people dwell within has such power to destroy.

We must treat our lives with balance.

You’ll still see me buy a dress from Ross. We recently purchased appliances from Home Depot. Sometimes, you have to do what works for your family.

Still, it’s good to make an effort to shop local.

It’s even better to think about what you’re buying and why. Your thoughts around consumption will drive your spending habits.

Be intentional about spending money.

Your future will thank you!

In what ways are you trying to save money? Do you think about the food shortage and what’s causing it? How are you changing your spending habits? I’d love to hear from you.

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what triggers you by monthtomilestones.com

What Your Triggers Tell You

Pay attention to what’s bothering you.

My anxiety rushed over me before I even knew to fret.

A friend had posted yet another picture of her perfect self with her perfect family, living their perfect life as perfect people.

I love this friend dearly. The two of us together, talking and laughing, our kids hanging out with one another, is one of my favorite activities in life.

And yet, here I was, envious…or so I thought.

For a long time, when I’d encounter women like her–peppy, put together, perfect–I would believe I was jealous of what they had. Hadn’t I always craved normalcy and never gotten it?

But what I eventually realized was that I actually was not envious. Deep down, I didn’t want the life my friend leads; if I did, I would have strived harder for it.

No, I was angry. Angry that this was the picture of what was “right” that was held before me, this belief that as a wife and a mother in the South I should want my children to dress a certain way, participate in certain activities and choose certain friend groups.

We should live in a certain type of house in a certain neighborhood.

I should look a certain way, work out a certain way, eat a certain way.

I hated the certains.

Even after discovering it was anger, not envy, driving my anxiety, I couldn’t seem to stop the feeling. I wanted to be able to scroll past and not care, but I couldn’t.

Because this whole “not having what I thought I was supposed to” deal had been stuck with me for quite some time, seeping into my life somewhere around the age of 12 and setting up home in my bitter heart.

It took the season from hell to force me to dig out issues that had embroiled my thoughts and held me captive for so long.

One of those issues was figuring out exactly what triggers me.

monmil goods logo for monthtomilestones.com with the words an open wound triggers pain. Heal it.

By no means are perfect posts on social media my only trigger. Male patriarchy (super controlling father), drinking mothers (cleaned my mom’s vomit off the floor), evangelical church (destroyed my family of origin), and sexual abuse (abused by men close to me), cut me to my core.

When I find myself up against stories, situations and scenarios where these triggers are present, I must employ three tactics to help me make it through:

  1. I STOP and breathe deep.

Closing my eyes, I breathe in through my nose and exhale out of my mouth. I do this two or three times and try to move more slowly each time.

2. I REMEMBER that whatever it was that caused this trigger has no power over me.

The past is over. And even in the present, the truth is, whatever happened to me only had the power to hurt me that I gave it. Is it okay to let something hurt you? Absolutely. But there comes a point at which the pain will take over if we don’t put it in its proper place. We have to remember that we have control of our own life.

3. I PRACTICE my reframing techniques:

I go back to the memory, put myself in the other person’s shoes (when possible–I don’t advocate this in situations of sexual abuse), and I tell myself that me, the person or the event that hurt me was human and fallen, too. Then, I imagine myself forgiving everyone in the situation.

The final trick up my sleeve is what I call the trick of Absurd Self-Esteem.

Self-esteem has gotten a bad rap as of late, but I think it’s foundational to understanding our value. We were created and bought at a high price (in my view) and the value of anything is the price someone was willing to pay for it.

Humans were created with a built in need for affirmation. We want to be wanted, loved and valued. So sometimes we have to choose this for ourselves–no one is going to do it for us.

My trick is to tell myself I’m living in the best of all possible worlds. What is happening in my life is exactly what is supposed to happen. I am creating the life I’ve chosen. This is the life I want. And if there’s anything I don’t want in my life that is in my ability to change, I change it immediately.

Practice! It takes time, but using these tactics has helped me tremendously on my journey to a best enough me.

Triggers help us figure out what’s still bothering us after all this time on earth.

What are your triggers?

I’d love to hear from you.

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Check out my monmilgoods store to find goodies to help you on your journey. Reward yourself!

working in my yard changed my life for the better monthtomilestones.com

Working in My Yard Changed My Life for the Better

*I’m a Jesus-follower. As such, my language is that of a “Christian,” although I haven’t called myself that in quite some time. Please feel free to insert the language of your religion, or the lack thereof, throughout my post.

Working in my yard is by far the best free therapy I’ll ever get.

a quote about working in the yard by monthtomilestones.com

Often I picture scenes from my life, as I work alone outside.

I remember sunny mornings helping my dad fix up our house.

He and my mom were going to live there for the rest of their married lives.

I travel to my grandma’s backyard and the brick patio where she kept beautifully potted plants and a little yellow bistro table.

She was going to pass it down to me some day.

Or the evenings I’d help my boyfriend scale fish after sitting out in a canoe all day doing absolutely nothing.

That boy and I were going to last forever.

I think about afternoons at the lake behind our college, kids jumping off the bridge after a six pack of beers and a super hard college algebra test.

All of us were invincible then.

There were days spent strolling my oldest son in his Jeep Cherokee stroller, all the young girls at the park stopping to ooh and ah over his precious dimples.

He would never grow up.

The lies I told myself back then weren’t lies when I was telling them.

I really thought my parents would stay married for good…until they divorced.

I wanted my grandmother’s table–and my grandmother–to stay young forever…until she died.

That boy and I were going to make it, come hell or highwater…until we broke up.

My college friends and I truly believed nothing bad could ever happen…until I lost two of them in a drunk driving accident.

And that little boy seemed to stay young for so long…until just like that, he was grown.

a quote that says, you don't mean to let it go, by monthtomilestones.com

You find yourself thinking of days gone by a little more each year, the older you get.

When I’m out in my yard, I think of old days even more.

I ponder questions about why this thing or that was allowed to happen.

I often ask God if life is as it’s meant to be.

I tell myself that maybe it’s okay not to have all the answers.

And then I ask the questions all over again.

I pull up the many vines in my yard. They choke the life out of the good things, the beautiful things, that I would like to see blossom and shine.

It’s true in life, too, isn’t it? How often we let those weeds suffocate all that is good.

Regret, envy, comparison, malice, greed, lust. Our hedonistic hearts want all the things, and we want them now.

we take pride in pursuit of perfection by monthtomilestones.com

We think the tender shoots of youth will last forever and the flowers will never fade.

But they do.

The winter comes. Oh yes, it always comes.

With it come long nights.

Then barren days with no growth in sight.

We wonder how long the cold could possibly last.

The first few months of sobriety feels like the cold of winter.

It did for me, anyway. White-knuckling my way through afternoons. Breathing heavy when my husband ordered drinks at dinner. Declining party invitations and beach trips because I wasn’t ready to give up, but I knew I wasn’t strong enough to say no.

And we just about give up during the dark days of winter, don’t we? Trust me, no judgment here.

Then, before we realize it, the trees start to bloom again, the days last a little longer, and all of a sudden, we’re shedding the heavy coat of winter and stepping out in the new.

The sadness of death gives way to the gladness of rebirth.

And all is new again.

Summer arrives, and with it, confidence, freedom, joy.

We savor the long days.

We watch the stars.

We float on the water and listen to God speak in the waves.

Soon enough, the first leaf falls, and a new season begins again.

this is the way quote by monthtomilestones.com

And like nature, the seasons of my life change the landscape of my heart, and I am still me, but new.

What have you discovered about yourself through nature? How does it speak to you? What are your favorite things to do outside? I’d love to hear from you!

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Visit my monmilgoods.com store, where you’ll find some goodies to help you celebrate your journey! And be on the lookout for my Month to Milestone bracelet, coming soon! 🙂

which mountain are you choosing monthtomilestones.com

Which Mountain Are You Climbing?

Choosing Authenticity over Popularity

“How is your daughter making it away from home?” the mother of one of my daughter’s high school friends asked me the other day.

“Well, she’s been staying with us,” I confessed, sheepishly at first, until I remembered that this was a decision my daughter and I had agreed on, along with my husband, after discovering the anxiety she was experiencing from staying in the dorms.

My daughter hadn’t been ready to leave home. The two years before graduation had been full of twists and turns, starting with my return to full-time employment and ending with her brother leaving home for a school nearly five hours away.

Between these life-changing bookends, Covid, deaths, suicide, and job loss had ravaged our family’s sense of stability. We’ve truly struggled the last couple of years, as have many families like ours.

Already an anxious child, what’s occurred made my daughter uncomfortable leaving home. And though we spent a small fortune on a dorm and decorations, we’re okay with her returning to her bedroom. (Our college is a mere five minutes down the road.)

Our daughter built up a lot of expectations for freshman year of college, and they all failed.

She’d scrolled through her college friends’ social media posts and had believed that she was supposed to want the very same things they did.

This was a theme that had played out over most of her life, and mine, too: wanting something because you think it’s what you’re supposed to want.

The truth is, nothing about college life has appealed to her so far. She thought she had to live the “college experience,” but for a girl who would rather be curled up on the couch watching a Hallmark movie with her family than she would be out dancing with a bunch of kids her age, the “college experience” left her nervous, anxious and confused about her wants.

Popularity Quotes: "Avoid popularity if you would have peace."

“Am I just not normal?” she’s asked me before, with tears in her eyes.

It’s a struggle to feel different in this world.

“You are totally normal,” I told her, “because there is no such thing.”

The mom from the beginning of my story, the one who was discussing our girls’ time at college, moved here because in her previous other town, she’d looked around and found that, in her words, “My children were going to be the have-nots.”

A town where most children go to the prestigious private prep school and live in multi-million dollar houses, this mother believed that their family would not achieve the status needed for her daughter to fit-in.

I knew this wasn’t true. Her daughter was beautiful inside and out, well-liked, very kind and funny, and a tremendous athlete.

Once they moved here, the family immediately became “well-known” in town, and the daughter was the epitome of queen-bee at our local high school–with the exception of the stereotypical meanness.

What I came to understand was that, in the other town, the one where you needed more to be more, it wasn’t that her daughter wouldn’t be liked, it was that she wouldn’t be liked to the standard her mother wanted.

Simply put, some mothers want their children to be worshiped.

Worship: to treat (someone or something) with the reverence and adoration appropriate to a deity.

Webster’s Dictionary

You might think worship is a strong word, and maybe it is.

But I’ve thought a lot about this through the years, seeing as how I was a teenager myself, have had four kids, teach high school and have witnessed everything you can imagine when it comes to teenagers, parents and school.

Why do we push the sort of activities on our children that we do? The select sports, the competitive cheer, etc.

Why do we make sure they have the right backpack, shoes, clothing, and even water bottle?

Why are we teaching our children to climb the popularity mountain when we should be teaching them to climb the authenticity mountain, or the integrity mountain, the kindness mountain, or whatever mountain they choose?

What about you?

What mountain are you climbing?

My parents always teetered just outside the edge of normal. They weren’t raised to go, be and do, and as a result, they didn’t raise my brother and me that way, either.

When I was young, it was obvious we were different, and I spent my entire time in public school just trying to fit in.

I tried different social groups, and I sought to blend in. I finally found that being as fake as possible–hiding all my wants and wishes, scars and stories–would help me fit in.

I went to college and completely broke loose, but being judged left me feeling even worse than before.

When I met my husband, I found that his lifestyle gave me a sense of superiority, as if I’d finally found someone who could not only fix me, but make me look good, too.

Forget the nagging sense I had inside me that nothing about his desires lined up with mine.

He was a golf course guy; I liked the country. He was a firm Southern Baptist; I’d always told myself I’d return to my Catholic roots. His bent was towards popularity; I’d tried that, found it lacking, and just wanted to stick my kids in a bubble on a farm somewhere and raise some chickens and cows.

You can imagine what won out, but I have to say, my husband hasn’t been nearly as hard up for the popularity as I thought he would be.

He’s very supportive of our children just being who they are, and I love him for that.

If I’m being honest, it’s me who’s had the harder time letting them be who they are.

I’ve lived my whole life judging myself on the short twelve-sixteen years I was liked or not liked by others.

And as parents, we want to rescue our children from other people’s opinions, don’t we?

But we can’t. That’s a sad fact.

I forced my olders to be people they weren’t. I pushed them into all the bes, and dos and goes.

I moved inside their friends’ parents’ circles. I was going to be and do and go, too. Fake worked when I was young, and fake would work again.

But it didn’t work, not anymore. Because I knew who I was, and I finally knew what I wanted.

Exhausted at being someone I wasn’t, I climbed down that mountain, and I took my children with me.

And I’ve tried really hard not to push my littles up the Go, Be, Do Mountain.

Instead, we’re walking the mountain of Audacious Authenticity.

It’s not an easy mountain. There are lonely trails and rocky paths.

There are high peaks and deep valleys.

But I believe when they reach the top, they’ll feel the greatest sense of peace.

Because authenticity leads to the peace that only comes from knowing exactly who you are.

In what ways are you trying to be more authentic? How are you teaching your kids to navigate the road of popularity? I’d love to hear from you.

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our need for approval is a natural instinct from monthtomilestones.com
the profound act of simple inclusion

The Profound Act of Simple Inclusion

The Science Behind Why We All Want to Be Accepted

Look around. It’s no secret that many people are vying for attention.

Colored hair. Piercings. Expensive clothing. A totally muscular body.

Tattoos or a luxury car. A huge home, kids who are worshipped.

There are all kinds of ways we get others to say, “Look at me!”

Even this, just a blog, innocent though it may be, is a way to grab attention:

It whispers, I have something to say, and I want you to listen.

I want you to…

hear me,

see me,

know me,

like me,

accept me.

All humans want to be accepted.

They don’t want to be abused.

They don’t want to be ignored.

They don’t even want to be tolerated.

Deep down, what we all want is true love, the real kind, the good kind.

The kind of love that says, I see that you’re what the world calls different, and I love you just the same.

The kind of love that says, you’re normal, and I know there’s really no such thing.

The kind of love that says, I will stick by you come hell or highwater, and we will make it through.

The kind of love that says, I created you, came down for you, and gave up all my glory just for you.

The kind of love that says, skin is skin and circumstances are circumstances, but your soul is what I see.

What’s funny is, when we know that something isn’t for us, it’s hard for us to accept that kind of love, isn’t it?

When we’re hurting someone else by our words or actions, it’s hard to accept that love.

When we’re choosing to malign our own souls, it’s hard to accept that love.

When we’ve been so low that we see nothing but darkness–or when we’ve been so high the pedestal is waiting to topple–it’s hard to accept that love.

Humans aren’t meant for the high highs or the low lows. There’s a reason we were told not to eat from the proverbial tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

We’re not meant to be beaten down.

But we’re not meant to be worshipped, either.

It’s why the severely abused and the psychotically adored tend to behave the same.

We’re meant to meander through the gray area, the color that makes us think.

It’s in the gray that we look up.

It’s in the gray that we lean on others.

And that’s where we find our peace, in the looking up and the looking around, the reaching high and the reaching out, the singing and the serving.

Science tells us this is so:

Recent research suggests yet another way our well-being can benefit from practicing pro-social behavior: helping others regulate their emotions helps us regulate our own emotions, decreases symptoms of depression and ultimately, improves our emotional well-being.

psychologytoday.com, “In Helping Others, You Help Yourself”

What I’ve found in my own life is that empathy is the path to inclusion.

When I place my feet in the shoes of another–rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight, religious, non-religious–I’m better able to understand who they are.

Understanding who they are always seems to lead me back to my Creator.

And the road to my Creator leads me right back home to my heart, where He dwells within.

How are you finding ways to include others? In this crazy world, it’s nice to feel wanted and loved.

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empathy is the path to inclusion monthtomilestones.com

Who Is Telling Your Story?

“In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth. Each of you is an original. Each of you has a distinctive voice. When you find it, your story will be told. You will be heard.” – John Grisham

My father is staying with us this week because my grandfather is in the hospital nearby.

Dad’s been spending long days tending to Radio Joe at the hospital so that he won’t be alone.

The time he’s been here has taught me a number of lessons, and I’ve been taking notes in my journal of what I’ve learned.

Care more about the future. Make a plan. Start saving more money for retirement and long term care.

Be grateful. Life is short. Time flies. Enjoy the days more.

Stop being negative. Stop pitying yourself. Stop being so critical and depressed. You sound just like your father.

I sound just like my father.

It’s amazing what a child picks up in the short time it spends at home.

I’m sure some of what we learn isn’t really learned at all; it’s simply the genetic code we’ve been given at birth.

But I think more of what we learn is really learned. We watch our parents and can’t help but to imitate them.

My fear of money; it’s always existed, it seemed. There has only been one time in my life that I’ve truly not had food to eat or clothes to wear, but even then, I managed. And there has been plenty of abundance, and yet, I’m constantly anxious about money, how much we have and how much we don’t have.

My critical spirit, not just of others, but also of myself. I think I’m the worst of everyone and do the worst of everything, and so, oftentimes, I won’t even try to do the best I can because, what’s the point?

My need to be right. I will find a way to prove myself right time and time again. Like a nagging voice, shouting to be heard, I want to be right! If I’m not right, I feel worthless.

My desire to control and my deep fear of control. I not only want to know every moment of the future, I’m terrified of it and escape as much as possible to avoid it.

All of these parts of my personality come directly from my parents, including my substance use disorders.

How do you change what’s so deeply embedded within you?

Well, some people never will. Some people never become aware enough about what’s happening within them to make a conscious effort to change.

Which is why I thank God for the last two years.

After a rough season in my early thirties, I really settled into my late thirties, and was getting by fine, but growing- dare I say- restless.

I wasn’t working outside of the home, other than a part-time preschool teaching job and a freelance writing gig here or there.

I didn’t really know where I was headed. Did I want to get back into full-time teaching? I hadn’t liked it too much when I’d been there, all that grading and parent involvement and dealing with other people’s children.

And yet, it was a steady job, and at the time, I’d been wanting to move my children to a private school that was Christian and more traditional in learning style (or so I thought).

I claimed my reasons were pure, but the truth was, I wanted money for myself and I wanted to move my children so that in a smaller school they’d feel better about themselves.

That thinking, me and my wants, were what had dictated so many moves I’d made in life, long before the decisions I made two years ago.

What I chose to do, going back to work, moving the kids, was a mistake that had been given a clear no by God. He’d all but shouted; I hadn’t listened.

And though He’s blessed me anyway because that’s how He works–He’s a blesser, not a punisher–I know for sure I didn’t make the right decision and haven’t been making the right decisions for quite some time.

The hardest pill to swallow is understanding that human time is linear and there is no going back to fix what’s been broken.

My voice broke some time ago, way back in my past, and instead of trying desperately to get it back, to speak again, I’ve jumped from person to person, place to place, position to position, trying to go and be and do.

I can’t tell you the years I’ve wasted. If such a thing were possible, wasting years. I tend to think God can and will use anything, especially sin.

The last two years have ended up teaching me so much. I’ve dealt with the realization of my age, a friend’s betrayal, job loss, deconversion from the only beliefs I’ve ever known, suicide, death, illness, my children leaving home for college, my first dog dying.

You name it, and over the last two years, I’ve probably lived it.

But I’m learning to find my voice. And I’m learning to speak up with confidence.

I’m rediscovering my value, that I’m worth the price someone paid to set me free, an ultimate price, at a cost of uncloaking divinity to take on my flesh.

On Sundays, I reflect.

I’ll take a drive through the backroads of our town, sit on my deck and watch the hummingbirds, think about life near the calm waters of the lake at our town park.

I found this written in the pages of my planner last Sunday.

a list of what I want by monthtomilestones.com

I found it fitting that the highlighted line underneath tells me to head to my favorite place on earth. I’ve long been a beach girl. It’s where I feel closest to God.

And though I think it was metaphorical, the whole beach and shell thing, it’s exactly what I plan to do.

I’ll find the roaring voice inside me, the one that sounds like the gushing waves of the ocean.

I’ll search for all the little shells of wisdom, different in shape, size and color, and I’ll stick them in my pocket. My fingers will study them, the smooth top, the rough edges.

And I won’t be afraid to show them to the world.

How are you finding your voice? Was it lost? Are you just now discovering it? I’d love to hear from you.

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I cannot wait to show you the culmination of a year’s work, my Month to Milestones Bracelet. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for where to find it so you can Reward the Journey!

why are we all distracting so much

Why Are We Distracting?

The Real Reason so Many of Use Distractions to Escape

Yet again, I’ve found myself sitting in condemnation for a bad month of working out.

The last couple of weeks my family and I have welcomed out-of-town guests to stay with us, we’ve traveled to other cities for baseball tournaments, and we’ve attended afterschool activities that have lasted well into the night.

Simply put, we’ve worn ourselves to a frazzle.

Many people struggle with overeating.

I am one of them.

My overeating started at fourteen years old, and, off and on, it’s been happening ever since.

I masked it for years because my metabolism was excellent. I could ram my car into a McDonald’s and not gain weight.

But then, a few years after my hysterectomy, losing weight felt impossible. It seemed as if I’d gained thirty pounds over night, and most of it had gone to my belly.

man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart

I tried keto. I tried WW. I tried counting calories and clean eating.

Intermittent fasting was going to save me, then back to WW I crawled.

I might lose five, maybe even ten pounds, but every single time, I gained it all back.

My dieting spun like a yo-yo, and I couldn’t keep up.

Nor did I understand why I was shoving food into my mouth to begin with. At that time, I didn’t know what distractions were or what it meant to use food, alcohol, sex or any other addiction to escape from reality.

But one year, after a particularly crappy few months and a string of bad hangovers, I made the connection that my bad nights of drinking only occurred when there was something negative happening in my life.

I could go out with friends and have a blast with no regrets when times were good. But when times were bad, wow. Watch out.

Likewise, my eating seemed to follow a similar pattern. Even if I never ate the “perfect” foods, I still didn’t struggle with overeating in goods time nearly as much as I did when times were rough.

I’d heard the terms distracting/escaping, and I realized that, yes, this was me.

But how do you pinpoint why you’re distracting? And why does it seem like so many of us are?

I have a theory, and I’m going to share it with you here.

Many thousands of years ago, we were wanderers. We hunted, we gathered, we traveled, we rested.

Issues like distraction and escape were overshadowed by necessities like surviving and finding food that wouldn’t kill you.

Years and years later, people began to settle. They built cities and opened businesses and started schools.

All of those new ideas stole a ton of energy. There was no time to be distracted when we were conquering. And those of us who did find time opened a good book and spent quality moments in a fantastical world we could only picture in our head.

Fast forward to the 20th-21st centuries. We *want* to believe there is life left to conquer, new territory to claim, new ideas to be harvested.

But do we really believe this is true?

I’m not so sure.

Back then, in those early days of civilization, though times were by no means easy, we understood our purpose and our roles.

There was a humility to living life that put us in the clay position and a higher power, no matter the kind one believed, in the potter’s place.

Over time, we looked around and saw that lands were divided by nation or by value, castles, whether small or large, stood proud, and ingenuity had been fully developed to the point of human extinction.

We now have less jobs for humans because of the technology that has replaced us. A shaky place to reside in this world.

Our land is being swallowed by this development or that subdivision. And older structures are being vacated and crumbling into disrepair.

Whole towns are ghostly now, as young people have moved on to bigger and better places, usually to discover that the bigger is suffocating and the better really isn’t better, after all.

Our young ones struggle to connect the learning they’re forced to pretend to accomplish in school with anything of tangible value in the real world.

The disconnect leads them to literally disconnect. They’d rather spend time mimicking dances on TikTok than reading Herodotus or Pride and Prejudice.

The adults aren’t faring much better. We carpool to cubicles and head home to loaf. A glass of wine and some Netflix finish off our nights. We wake up and repeat.

We throw our interests into any and everything that might entertain us, if only for a little bit. A sports game, an awards show, a juicy podcast, a terrible reality TV show.

Distract, distract, distract. It’s what we do.

I truly believe many of us are being woken up by the stirring of our discontented heart.

We know there’s something missing, something good out there that we just can’t quite reach.

I think we catch a glimpse of the good life through a perfectly filtered lens of an influencer’s Instagram. The world they’ve created is the world we want.

Or we find sprinkles of it in a calming coffee-session with a friend. Mocha lattes in hand, we’re ready to conquer the world.

An empowering sermon, an uplifting podcast.

We keep reaching, hoping that somehow, someday, there is going to be a force that takes hold of us and leads us to a better place.

I’m here to tell you, the force is us and the place is the present. At our disposal are tools and examples, a new day and a brand new life.

John Piper quote

If we take our eyes off of others for one second and stop to reflect on what it is we really want–what makes our eyes light up, our hearts sing and our feet dance–and we stop worrying what everyone else thinks about our desires, we can live a distraction-free life.

The key to success is not just consistency. We’d like to think we can always be consistent, but if you notice, people who are overly-consistent in their lives also tend to be incredibly obsessive. They make whatever they’re hyper-focused on an idol.

Consistency is good, but the key to true success is continuation.

It’s picking yourself up off the ground when you’ve had a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year.

Humans ebb and flow. We live among thorns and flowers, we travel peaks and valleys.

Life isn’t always going to make us consistent. We aren’t always going to choose the right thing.

That’s okay.

We must pick ourselves up, dust our britches off, and carry on.

In choosing not to remain down, we force our eyes off of distraction and start walking the road to freedom once again.

And we always remember: it’s not the destination that counts.

It’s all about the journey.

What new things are you learning about the reasons for escaping and distracting? Are you guilty of it, too? What are your go-to methods for getting back on track? I’d love to hear from you.

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why are we all distracting so much
sacrificial love month to milestone

Growing Older and Losing Loved Ones

What Sacrificial Love Looks Like

I was just a little girl yesterday, it seemed.

Long, dark-blonde hair. Terrible bangs. Navy eyes. A gangly little thing.

Every summer, from the time I was a baby until I was a junior in college, I spent a couple of weeks at my grandmother and grandfather’s house.

My grandparents lived in the Mississippi Delta, and it was truly what one would call a homeland, considering tons of aunts and uncles, “aunts and uncles” (what we called our older cousins–there were quite a few), and younger cousins lived there.

My older brother and I spent many mornings watching the old cartoons on Cartoon Network. We’d eat my grandmother’s homemade biscuits or a bag of powdered donuts from the Wonder Bread Factory.

Then, we’d get dressed and head outside to play. My grandmother’s backyard was like an enchanted wonderland. A master gardener, she’d spent what little money they had caring for the many plants and flowers that grew alongside the fence.

There was a small plum tree on the side of the yard. She used to to make homemade plum jelly, and it was the best I’d ever tasted to this day.

In the middle of the yard sat a swing I’d lay in, listening and laughing to stories my dad would tell about his three brothers and the shenanigans they all found themselves in.

We might drive to the Sack and Save for groceries, then visit my grandmother’s very best friend, my “Aunt” whom she’d spent every day with since birth.

That aunt had given birth to a child late in life, so we were close to the same age. One of my favorite people to this day.

Behind them lived my dad’s best friend, my “uncle.” His daughter and I were also the best of friends. That’s what cousins are for, after all.

I was blessed. These people, they provided a great deal of shade and stability when I needed it. As my childhood fell apart, they remained.

One of those in particular was my grandfather.

Radio Joe* was what we called him growing up, because he was always telling stories about inventing this thing or that. The radio, the airplane, MTV. He supposedly invented them all.

He was a tall man and strong. He’d spent his married life working in other countries for a construction company because he could make three times what he made at home.

By the time I was in high school, he’d retired from construction and had gone into the electrical business. He was smart and he was talented in music. I’m blessed to have a creative family, in that regard.

When I was in college, I attended a school not too far away from them. Every Sunday, before I went back, my grandfather would grill a steak for me and my grandma would make her famous potatoes. I was filled with good food and even better love.

The older I got, my grandparents seemed to stay the same, at least for a long time.

I got married and they were there.

I gave birth to my children and they were there.

We would visit and they were there.

They were there. Same house, same furniture, same town, same people.

They were there.

Until one of them wasn’t.

I’ll never forget the day I received the phone call telling me my grandmother was gone.

I’d recently moved about an hour from her, and all she’d talked about was coming to visit.

She never got the chance.

We thought surely my grandfather wouldn’t make it long without her.

The first year, he had a heart attack on the day she died.

But now, it’s been almost a decade.

He’s lived alone with little to no help.

The man is immortal, we always said.

Except, he’s not.

Yesterday, I received a phone call that he’d had a heart attack.

He’d been taken to a hospital near me.

I jumped in the car to see him.

Because of Covid, we haven’t visited in a few months.

So when I walked into the hospital room, I couldn’t believe how old my grandfather looked.

He was not my Radio Joe. He was just a shell.

My strong and funny grandfather couldn’t go to the bathroom and he needed my help.

With no shame, he took off his gown. He was in that much pain. He was that desperate.

I immediately jumped into to caretaker mode without a second thought. This was my grandfather. I’d once needed him to help me, and now he needed me.

With the nurse’s help, we got him to use the bathroom. She laid him back down, and I remained.

We talked for almost two hours.

I asked questions about his childhood, his early marriage, his family.

He told me funny stories about my Italian relatives, all twelve of the “originals,” we always called them.

It was a good visit.

When it was time for me to head home, I kissed the top of his forehead.

We said our I love yous. Only God knows if it was the last time.

And as I walked to my car, I thought about being a little girl, how fast it had all flown by.

You blink and your life is halfway over.

I thought about a conversation I had with my mother-in-law the other day, where she said she hoped she had “ten good years” left.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to get to the “end,” and to know it’s coming faster than you ever imagined.

But here’s the thing: we’re all actually at the end, every second of every day.

We never know when we might draw our last breath.

This year has made us all realize that a little more, I think.

So while I have that breath, I plan to use it wisely.

Forgetting the old…

Putting on the new…

Loving my neighbor…

Caring for the widow and orphan…

Loving my Earth…

Respecting my elders…

Honoring my parents…

Valuing my life and the blessings I’ve been given.

If you ask me, sacrificial love looks a whole lot like real love, true love, lasting love.

The kind of love that remembers the little girl who once thought of her grandfather as immortal.

And chooses to believe she will see them both, little girl, strong man, again.

Have you lost a loved one? How did it make you feel? Did you realize anything about life that you didn’t know before? I’d love to hear from you.

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sacrificial love month to milestone

is mark driscoll the problem with christianity

Is Mark Driscoll the Problem with Christianity?

Or is the problem “Christianity” itself?

As I wrote in a previous post, I’ve become hooked on The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, a podcast by Christianity Today that is currently on Apple.

I’m nine episodes in, so I’ve had a good chance to hear many of the incidents that happened at Mars Hill and to discern my own feelings.

Church itself is a bit of a trigger for me, seeing as how it destroyed my parents’ marriage.

So I’ve been interested in what went down at Mars Hill between the lead pastor, Mark Driscoll, and his congregants.

Mark Driscoll - Wikipedia
mark driscoll- wikipedia.com

I keep thinking as I listen that I’ll hear something Mark said or did and find it abhorrent, considering that seems to be the point.

However, I have to admit, I haven’t heard anything that Mark said or did that has shocked me.

In fact, I’ve visited/attended a total of ten Southern Baptist Churches, two Methodist, two Catholic, one non-denominational and have listened to more than a dozen preachers on the World Wide Web, and I have yet to hear Mark say anything that sits in stark contrast to anything preached by any man I’ve heard in any of these churches.

Most Christian churches, at least mainstream ones, preach along this sort of wavelength:

Bible= perfect and literal (unless it’s verses like not gossiping, giving to the poor, or forsaking all for Christ)

Women= less than man and under their headship (also: stay thin and beautiful, be quiet and submissive, and give your man whatever he wants, whenever he wants)

Jesus= our Savior (EXCEPT for those already damned to hell by God because they weren’t part of the “elect,” and those who do not “repent,” i.e., stop being homosexual, liberal, or feminist)

Church and church leaders= always right, always in control, always to be obeyed (not those lgbtq affirming or universal churches, though- Jesus most certainly didn’t die for all and he most definitely didn’t reach out to all)

I’m exaggerating here (or am I?), but it seems to me that nothing Mark Driscoll said or did was outside the boundaries of what almost every preacher across the country, and maybe even the world, has said or done.

  • Mark discussed sex at length, namely that a woman should please her man in the bedroom. Heard that before. Read that before.
  • Mark talked about women keeping children and home and making that the first and highest priority of her life. Heard that before. Read that before.
  • He said that the members of his church should come under the authority of the elders and obey them no matter what. Heard that before. Read that before.

And, according to the episode I’m listening to now, he even went so far as to say he held power and authority to exorcise demons and saw visions of sins that were hidden among his congregation.

The podcaster acted as if that was the craziest thing he’d ever heard- demons? Visions? Spiritual warfare? What?

Except, I just opened a book I’m reading by well-known Christian speaker and leader. And what would you imagine I found before I even arrived at page 30?

An encounter with a demon possessed woman at one of the author’s speaking engagements.

Here’s the deal, my Christian friends. At some point, we have to grapple with the whole Christianity thing, what we really believe and what we’re ready to toss out. But we don’t get to decide what’s true and not true based on whether or not we like someone.

We don’t get to destroy a person because it’s now the cool thing to think progressively about women, when not a short time ago, most, if not all, Christian leaders were thinking just like the Mark Driscolls of the world.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad that we’re finally deep-diving into what it means to be a Christ-follower in the 21st century.

But let’s parse it out. Let’s not just base our fault-finding on a singular person, like Mark Driscoll, because like it or not, he developed his beliefs from someone somewhere long ago, and there are 100,000 Marks just like him.

Last year I began teaching medieval history and literature.

Our school is a classical Christian school, and unbeknownst to me, this movement towards educating classically was bolstered by a man who I find utterly contemptable based on his personality alone.

His theology is questionable (at least, to me–I am so far from Calvinist it’s not funny), his views on women and slavery are detestable, and to be frankly honest, he isn’t even that smart. His curriculum is loaded with poor sentence structure, typos, and questions meant to guide students towards thinking more like him, as opposed to having them think critically. (And that’s when they can answer them. Most questions have no real answer and thus can’t be answered. Makes for interesting grading!)

But even I am forced to admit that this man’s theology and beliefs line up with many of my denomination, and even the Christian religion as a whole. And many of these beliefs use the Bible as reference.

Instead of quitting my job, however, I’ve come to believe that God placed me in the position he did for just such a time as this.

Had I not been reading medieval history and literature, I wouldn’t have known exactly how we began believing the “truths” about scripture, that they were taught to us by human people interpreting them in human ways that they claimed were divine. (Mark Driscoll, anyone?)

I wouldn’t have known just what a stinking hot mess express the Church has always been, how corrupt and shifty and shady the people shepherding us really were and sometimes still are.

And I wouldn’t have come to see that so much of what we believe isn’t based on a solid understanding of scripture, but on tradition, or, the way it’s always been done.

Finally, having also read so many ancient writings in preparation for my classes, I’ve also learned that nearly every religion and people group have stories almost identical to ours, some written many years before the Bible.

But ironically, instead of causing me to lose my faith, uncovering the history of the Christian church has only made it stronger.

Why?

Because it means that it’s not about humanity. It’s about the thing that fixes humanity, the Greater Power and trusting that when He said He came down to touch my hurt, die for it, and never remember it again, He meant it.

It’s knowing that if all those people throughout history were trying to figure this out but couldn’t, then maybe we won’t figure it out, either, and that’s okay.

I believe that my religion has a basis in the truth. I also believe that lots of other religions are trying to find their truth, too.

If we’re going to take the Pauls and the Peters and the St. Augustines of the world as solid, infallible, undeniable truth, then we can’t toss out the Mark Driscolls just because we don’t like him.

At some point, we have to acknowledge that all of it might just be a little wrong, at the very least, our interpretation of it, even if that interpretation is centuries old.

And you know what? I think that’s my most favorite thing about Jesus and his religion, after all.

He came to do a new thing. And his Word is alive today.

Living things evolve. They change and stretch and grow.

Thank goodness for that.

Full-Length Trailer: The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill | Christianity Today
rise and fall of mars hill on apple podcast by christianity today

Have you listened to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill? If not, are there any good religious podcasts you would suggest? I’d love to hear from you.

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is mark driscoll the problem with christianity

Reclaim Your Family Time (the great homework debate)

I seethed as I listened to my son list the amount of school work he needed to complete before Monday.

“Tell me again,” I said. “Was this work you were supposed to do during the week?”

“No, mom,” he assured me with a look of anguish. “This was assigned for the weekend.”

For the weekend.

I thought about how just one week before, I sat in a faculty meeting listening as our principal talked about his need for down time.

“I’d appreciate if you all didn’t send emails and/or texts during the weekend,” he reprimanded with an annoyed tone. “We all need time to breathe. Our lives should not revolve around a job. Our lives should be about our families, our home, God.”

As I recalled that “sermon,” I grew angry. Why was my child’s time not as important as his?

Do our children not deserve the same amount of down time we get?

Is his relationship to home, family and God not just as important?

It was then and there that I fired off an email I don’t regret:

“To Whom It May Concern,” I began. “Our children will no longer be participating in nightly or weekend work.”

Because I’m a teacher at the school my children attend, I received more than a few looks the next day, but I didn’t care.

I’d long ago stopped giving my own students homework. Why?

For starters, they’re at school for 8-9 hours a day. Most of them leave school and head straight to some kind of practice, whether for sports, music, or both.

When they get home, they need to eat. They need to shower and spend time watching television with family or reading a good book of their choice. They need to text friends that they didn’t get to have a decent conversation with throughout the day because they were driven to be doing, going and being.

What they don’t need is more school work.

I’m an adult, and when I get home from work, I want work to be over. Even so, I have house chores to complete and so do my children. I want them to participate in helping out around the house. If they’re given homework, their entire day is now revolving around a single focus.

What are we teaching them?

I’ve decided to reclaim my family time.

I made out a list of boundaries, and I have to tell you, it was absolutely freeing.

Here is where I started with my working boundary list:

1.Goals

What kind of life am I trying to achieve? What am I hoping to gain?

I want to have peace. I want to have a clean, beautiful home. I want a well-kept yard, a good dinner, and time with my family spent laughing and revisiting the day.

None of that will happen if my life revolves around my career 24/7. The same goes for my children.

2. Time

How do I want to spend my time? How will I parse my schedule?

I decided that during my work hours, I will go all in. During the time I’m at school, my day will be about school.

I will allow myself two exceptions: during break and lunch. That will be my time, and unless it’s absolutely necessary, I will give it to myself with no guilt.

When I am done with school, I am done with school.

The minute I get into my car, school is done and my home life begins. I have no guilt splitting the two and no stress worrying about a divided mind.

3. Work and Chores

Getting to the nitty gritty of my schedule has helped tremendously with not feeling guilty.

I set my work goals every morning and I decide what chores I’ll do when I get home.

I get busy doing the things I need to be doing, so that I can do the things I want to be doing.

My children set the same goals for themselves. They figure out what work needs to be done at school and what chores will be completed before or after practice.

4. Rest

We can’t just worry about work and chores. We must also worry about resting.

Rest doesn’t only apply to your sleeping. You must find periods of rest in your waking hours as well.

I’ve found that my life functions a lot like the seasons.

In late fall, winter and early spring, I’m reflective. I tend to think more about where I am and where I’m going.

In late spring, summer and early fall, I’m project-oriented. I want to thrive, accomplish, and win.

Likewise, I’m more reflective on weekends and Mondays. Tuesday through Friday I get my best work done.

Morning and evening also are different. I’m much more eager to rise and work. At night, I’m ready to rest and relax.

When I figured out what I wanted, I was able to set clear boundaries for my family. In addition to no homework, I also don’t take work-related emails or phone calls.

I’ve also grown better at respecting my coworkers’ boundaries. None of us is perfect, but we’re doing better.

My child has had some outside work, too, but he now knows it’s okay to say no.

For anyone who disagrees with my no homework policy, I’ll leave you with a final thought.

This child, the one with too much work. I’ll be honest, school really isn’t his thing.

He makes good grades and he’s a good kid. But I’ll never forget a profound question he asked me out of the blue one day when we were heading to school.

“Mama, do you think God is mad at us?”

I didn’t have a clue what he was asking so I told him to explain.

“We put children in buildings all day behind desks. We aren’t outside in the trees or looking at the sky. Will he be mad?”

Wow. I can’t tell you how much I’ve thought about that since he asked.

From the mouths of babes. Makes you think.

How do you achieve balance in your work and home life? I’d love to hear from you.