What the Heck is an Instagram Challenge?

What is an Instagram Challenge?

Instagram is a great tool. I’ve not used it to its full potential, but was determined to change that this year. A lot of bloggers use Instagram as part of their marketing efforts. Me? Not so much. I personally like my Instagram feed to be full of “real life” versus the promotional.

So if you are looking for a post on how to use Instagram in your blog marketing efforts, this probably isn’t going to be of much use to you. If you want to see how Instagram is a great tool for the intentional life, just keep reading, just keep reading…did you read that in your best Dory voice? I did as I wrote it. The toddler is on a Finding Nemo kick right now.

What is Instagram?

In an effort to not put the cart before the horse, I’ll start here. Instagram is an app for smart phones where you can create a profile to share photos you take with said smart phone. You can follow your friends (or friendly bloggers…) and see their photos in your feed.

In your feed, you can heart (similar to liking on FB) and comment on those photos. There is also an explore section where you can search for people sharing specific topics and hashtags (like #capturinglifelaughterlove).

That’s the nuts and bolts of Instagram.

The What & Why of an Instagram Challenge

An Instagram challenge is simply a set of prompts for a set number of days that is meant to inspire you to post to your Instagram account. The prompts are simple and there is no right or wrong way to interpret them. A few examples from last month’s Capturing Life, Laughter and Love challenges, click on the prompt to see how I interpreted it in my photos:

Why would I participate and even co-host an Instagram challenge? For me, it’s personal. I am terrible about taking photos, even though I have an awesome DSLR (actually, I have two…), a great point and shoot camera, an iPhone, and various other devices that take decent photos at my disposal each day. I wanted to change that.

I wanted to be intentional about capturing these moments before they become memories long-forgotten. That’s my why.

If you have ever started a 365 photo challenge and run out of steam, then using a prompt guided challenge may be a great way to help you meet that goal!

Instagram Challenges

Capturing Life, Laughter, and Love isn’t the only Instagram challenge out there, though I am pretty partial to it. ;) Here are a few other options to check out:

  • Capture Play – Aims to encourage parents to play with their kids with one word prompts each month.
  • 10 iPhoto Photo Challenges – No need to commit to a long term challenge if you aren’t up to it. This can be done on your own time.
  • #100HappyDays – I simply love the concept of this challenge. Look for the happy every day!
  • Project 52 – Maybe every day isn’t your thing, surely you can manage on a week?

Finally, here is a list of 11 Tips for Completing a Project 365 that is helpful for any photo challenge you may take on. There really isn’t a wrong way to go about this, just be intentional to snap some photos each day. You don’t even have to share them on Instagram!

If you decide to join us for Capturing Life, Laughter, and Love, you will receive a free ebook in your welcome email called 20 Tips to Improve Your Instagram Photos.

Challenge Yourself…Intentionally

Challenge Yourself...Intentionally - How to use challenges to better your life this year and every year.

“New year, new me!”

Did you see this in your Facebook newsfeed a few weeks ago? How about the posts of varying levels of making fun of such posts? I had both in my feed. It’s kind of amazing to me how pessimistic so many people have become about things like resolutions and goals.

I’ll say it again, I’m a fan of goals and resolutions, or whatever you want to call them. I believe them to fall in the same vein as Proverbs 29:18a – “Where there is no vision, the people perish“. Goals give us a vision of what the future can look like.

Does that mean our future WILL look like our vision? Not always. Sometimes we start out with certain goals for specific reasons and along the way we realize that God had different reasons. And sometimes that reason is for us to fail.

Yes, I believe that God wants us to fail sometimes. Is that scandalous? It totally flies in the face of any prosperity or candy-coated gospel, for sure. Life as a Christian isn’t all sunshine and roses. If it was, why would we need faith in God? Why would we still need a savior?

Yep, I believe God wants us to fail sometimes because it reminds us of three things:

  1. We can’t do this alone.
  2. His grace is sufficient for our shortcomings.
  3. He is always working in us for a greater good.

Actually there are more reasons, but suffice it to say that we learn a great deal from our failings and God is more concerned with growing us in our faith than He is with our earthly circumstances.

This is why I don’t mind setting new goals, even if I didn’t meet a previous goal. I want to always be learning and growing.

Enough backstory, now I want to challenge you.

One of the best ways to jumpstart change in your life is by taking up a challenge. What kind of challenge? Well, that depends on what problem you want solved and your end-goal. Let’s break it down a bit by common areas people look to make change in their life.

Faith

Does your faith feel stagnant? Don’t be satisfied with that! Listen for that still small voice in your heart and see where God wants to grow you. Consider challenging yourself in these areas:

Prayer

Reading the Bible

  • Pick a topical study of the Bible and do it daily.
  • Read through the Bible or a portion of the Bible in a set timeframe.
  • Commit to reading the Bible daily for a week or month (baby-step it, whatever you need to do to create a better habit with this).
  • Choose a book of the Bible and read it every day for a week.

Service

Daily Life

If you want to see improvement in some area of your life, challenge yourself to start today. Are you miserable in your job? Map out a plan to change jobs or even career fields. Set a time frame and get going! A few other ideas:

  • Reduce your spending. Challenge yourself to not spend any money for a whole month (outside of necessities that you decide upon BEFORE starting).
  • Save more money. Do you have a daily purchase like coffee or lunch out? Or maybe a bigger weekly/monthly purchase like dinners out? Commit to skipping that for a month (or 2-3 if it is a bigger/more sporadic expense) and saving the money in a special account.
  • De-Clutter. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of STUFF in your life? Try out a de-cluttering challenge, there are a LOT of options out there. A few to consider – 10 Minutes a Day, 31 days to clutter free, or do a mini challenge.
  • Better food choices. Give up sugar for a month. Drop your daily coffee or soda. Try meatless Monday for a month. Add a green smoothie to your day for a week. Pick your weakest area and challenge yourself to make better choices (spell it out better than that though).
  • Move more. Sit at a desk job? Commit to standing while talking on the phone for two weeks. Or use your break time to take a quick walk outside all week. Work at home or are a stay at home parent in a rut? Set a timer each hour for 10 minutes and climb steps, stretch, bounce on a rebounder, or go outside and pull some weeds in the garden.
  • Keeping a clean home. Try leaving your sink empty each night for a week. Or challenge yourself to clean something everyday that you won’t have to touch again for at least 2 weeks.

Health

  • Weight loss. If you are struggling with weight loss, commit to no sugar for a time of at least 21 days. This will help reset your cravings and likely jumpstart your loss.
  • Drink more water. Try setting a goal of 6-8 glasses of water each day for a week or more and then see how you feel at the end.
  • Exercise. If exercise is a 4-letter word to you, but you want to lose weight, tone up, or boost your energy…you’re going to need to add exercise to your list. Challenge yourself to try a new form of exercise every day (or 3-5x’s per week) for a couple weeks. By trying new things, you may find a form of exercise that you just love to do!
  • Kick bad habits. Pick one and hyper-focus your efforts to kick it to the curb. Replace bad habits with good ones. It takes 21 days to create a new habit, so be patient with yourself.

Intentional Living

The whole point of these challenges is to try something new. Make different choices to see different results. It really isn’t about the goal, it is about the day-to-day decisions that lead you there. Be intentional to challenge yourself this year and see where God takes you!

Living the Intentional Life

Living the Intentional Life

Life goes by so fast. These kids keep just growing up. Birthdays just keep coming. And it is GOOD. It’s just so easy to get wrapped up in the details and miss the big picture. Or is it just me?

Every year I choose one word to set the tone for my year. I have varying levels of success with this, but I continue on because I find it helpful.

Previous Years:

The year 2015 is another big year for me in some ways. The most bittersweet happening is that my oldest child will enter her teen years. I have been hit in the face with the realization that she will be entering the adult phase of her life in 5 years! Five years seemed so far away when she was born, but now that I’ve been a parent for awhile, I realize just how short those years will feel.

The big milestones are just going to keep coming. I don’t want to miss them! So this year’s word is Intentional because I need practice with this. I’m not a very intentional person. I tend to float through daily life.

Don’t get me wrong, I love goal setting and working towards meeting those goals. I’m just really bad about thinking ahead or outside of the box of right now. It’s probably why I’m so drawn to the idea of goal setting. Or something.

Living the Intentional Life

Since choosing a word alone doesn’t change anything, I have chosen some areas I want to focus on being intentional with and will spend time this year working on these.

  • Building my foundation. Over the last year, I came to realize that I do have a routine…and it’s not exactly efficient. The very first thing I want to be intentional about is building my foundation, putting first things first. I’ve not been very good at this traditionally because the things I want to do are not necessarily what is actually best for me. As cliche as it is, this means focusing on my health – spiritually and physically.
  • Stepping up my game. I have some big goals for 2015. I want to travel more. I want to have a successful garden again. I want to grow my blogging towards my goal of a full-time income. This will require consistent efforts in some areas that I have been kind of spotty with up to this point.
  • Focus on relationships. I am an introvert that lives a lot in my head. This doesn’t exactly build relationships. Add in that I get overwhelmed with lots of people interactions and I end up resembling more of a hermit than a person. I want to stretch my box and be intentional about building the relationships that matter in my life, with particular emphasis on my husband and children.
  • Identifying and utilizing my strengths. I have them, I know I do. At least, I think I do. I’ve not really given much thought to my strengths. Now, my weaknesses, those I am intimately familiar with…

Documenting the Intentional Life

If you have been around long enough to remember that I once entertained the idea of being a photographer, this will make you laugh. I am terrible at taking pictures! I am even more terrible at printing those pictures I DO take. This year I decided, NO MORE EXCUSES!

I now have an iPhone, iPad, a point and shoot camera, AND a DSLR that all take good to great pictures. Seriously.

Since I want to be intentional about taking photos of daily life, I decided that Instagram is the perfect tool for this. When my friend Dollie announced that she was looking for bloggers to partner with her for an Instagram challenge in 2015, it seemed like God was lighting up a big neon sign for me.

Capturing Life, Laughter, and Love is a subscriber Instagram challenge that provides a daily prompt (via a monthly graphic) to inspire your Instagram photo taking. I would love to have you join us! You can read more about it on the Capturing Life, Laughter, and Love page.

Or you can sign up below.

Free Goal Setting Printable Worksheet

Free Goals Setting Printable Worksheet from Vicki-Arnold.com

Free Goal Setting Printable Worksheet

Today we are starting the new year off with a free goal setting printable!

This printable features:

  • a column for 8 goals
  • a column for 3 action steps for each goal
  • a column for both start and end dates
  • a column to track any rewards you may want to set
  • the King James Version of Proverbs 16:9 on the right to remind us to pray for the Lord’s guidance

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

You can download your free copy of the goal setting printable worksheet today!

3 Reasons Tell Your Time is Awesome

3 reasons Tell Your Time is awesome! Final post of the How Do I Teach Organization & Time Management Skills...When I Have Neither? series.

Previously: why I need to change, how I can change, when do I teach this, and some places to start.

To bring this series to a close, I could walk you through time management 101, tips, tricks, and some tools to get you there. In fact, that is originally what I was going to call this post. As I started writing though, the thought kept popping up that I never reviewed an ebook that I read and loved so much on the subject of time management.

So, instead of me sharing MY tips. I am going to share the resource that finally made a lot of things “click” for me in this area. And as an added bonus, I am going to gift a copy to one lovely reader. I am keeping this one super, super simple. More on that below.

Friendly disclaimer: I use affiliate links in this post.

The ebook is called Tell Your Time and it is written by Amy Lynn Andrews. Amy writes an awesome blog about blogging called Blogging with Amy. She is also a wife, homeschool mom, and a virtual assistant. In other words, she’s busy. She was kind enough to share her time management wisdom with all of us the ebook.

Three Reasons Tell Your Time is Awesome

1. It is a quick read.

Anyone who needs time management help doesn’t need a novel to wade through on the subject. Amen? The ebook is organized well and without a lot of fluff.

2. Two words, common sense.

She lays the concepts out in a very sensible way. She isn’t revealing or promising to reveal anything “revolutionary,” which is rather refreshing in a world that overflows with marketing buzz words like revolutionary and new!

I appreciate that she took me step by step and made me face some truths that I needed to face. Like the simple fact that you can’t do everything all at once.

3. Making a schedule has never been easier.

You know me, I love my lists and schedules. Well, making them anyways. After I read through the book and did the exercises, I sat down and put our stuff on paper in a schedule that actually reflected our REAL life. I can’t tell you how profoundly this impacted me.

I spend so much time thinking I’m spinning my wheels and getting no where. Seeing our schedule on paper helped me to realize two things:

  1. We have a LOT on our plate. Seeing it on paper actually helped me make some cuts in our activities and empowered me to say NO when I needed to. I could physically see that I simply did not have the time to commit to one more thing.
  2. I was wasting a lot of time. Ouch. That one still stings and is a constant battle for me. Facing the fact that I have enough time to get everything done if I will just put my mind to it was hard because it meant admitting that I was being lazy in some areas.

Now, I want to pass along the blessing that is this ebook to one of you.

To enter the drawing to win the ebook Tell Your Time, answer this question in the comments below:

What is one thing that you want to do, but never seem to have the time for?

Be sure to use a valid email address, I’m not adding you to any list or using the info for any deceitful reasons. I just need it to contact you if you win. The giveaway will end August 31, 2013. If you do not want to wait that long to win the ebook, you can buy it for $3 on Amazon. Seriously…$3.

How to Make a Summer Bucket List With Your Kids

Please note that this post contains affiliate links.

How to make a summer bucket list with your kids. Make the most out of your summer!

How to Make a Summer Bucket List With Your Kids

Bucket lists are popular. I know I personally LOVE a good checklist. I once made a 1,000 things to do in my life because I’m an overachiever like that. Then I realized it was weighing on me so I deleted it. Quite a freeing experience. My kids have inherited this love of checklist making (and checking it off!).

Here are some quick tips on how you can make a summer bucket list with your kids.

Ask Them

First step is easy, just ask them if there is something they have been wanting to do, but haven’t had the time for.

Talk About Money

I know, I know. Not fun, but neither is adding a cruise to your bucket list, only to discover later you only have enough funds to cover a canoe trip. Set a budget for your summer fun. This is an awesome time for you to model financial stewardship for your children.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Anyone know where that cliche came from?! Maybe add some of these to your list:

  • things to do, read, watch, and experience
  • places to go
  • crafts, recipes, and projects to make
  • think of rainy days, touristy things in your area
  • is a day trip or long weekend in your budget?

Put Others First

Add things to your list that include serving others. Summer is a great time for service projects. Use your summer to make a difference. Try a few of these:

  • sew pillowcases to donate to a children’s hospital
  • collect and decorate flip flops for children in Nicaragua
  • collect change to donate
  • collect baby items for your local pregnancy care center (host a baby shower!)
  • do yard work or small home repairs for an elderly homeowner
  • bring a meal to someone who is sick or just to bless them!
  • volunteer at a soup kitchen or other ministry
  • pack a care package for a soldier

If you are crafty, a great resource with lots of projects to make and places to donate them is the book Craft Hope: Handmade Crafts for a Cause. I read that and was rather inspired by the good people are doing with their God-given gifts. I like to pin ideas for service projects to my Make a Difference Pinterest board, be sure to check that out, too.

Pinterest!

Speaking of Pinterest, be pinspired by Pinterest and all the fabulous things you can find. It is my favorite place on the web (after this blog, OF COURSE!) and it has gobs and gobs of ideas just waiting for you. Gobs, I tell you! See what I mean?

Summer fun ideas Pinterest board!

Now, go talk to your kids and take advantage of whatever time you have this summer!

Dearest Me {Healthy Habits Tuesday}

healthy-habits-250-2

Today I’m talking to myself. You can listen, er, read along, if you would like.

****************************************************************

Dear Vicki,

You’ve been at this for over a month now. You’ve mapped out your goals, plotted and planned for success, you’ve realized you need to change your inner voice, and thought about feeding your change and how to fail successfully.

And here you sit.

And there sits your bad habits, right in your lap. You might just stand a chance at getting rid of them, if you would just loosen your grip.

Let go.

Seriously.

I mean, really, what have you got to lose? Huh? You already know how much more you get done when you get up early, which, by the way, awesome job. You know how much better you feel when you don’t pig out and watch the scale climb. You KNOW this! So, come on.

Let’s do this!

Wohoo!

Oops, not ready for the “wohoo”?

Ok, let’s pump you up. Let’s get excited. You like planning, so let’s plan a little more. Give you a little checklist to check off every day. Sound good?

What?

You don’t need something else to do?

Well, aren’t you just a ray of sunshine today? Fine. Then let’s set some goals for February.

1. One serving at meals, excluding veggies, including dessert (stuff just got real).

2. Six, count ‘em six, glasses of water every day.

3. Pray daily. Use the #PrayerDare cards and tweet often for accountability.

4. Move on purpose. Every. Day. Stretch, take a walk, climb stairs intentionally, exercise…what theget up off the floor…I don’t care what you do, just MOVE it.

5. Worship God daily. Count your blessings. Sing praises to your Lord. Read His Word. Find Him in everything. Invite Him into everything.

6. Write every day. The Word. Letters. Blog posts. Cards. To do lists. Prayers. Just write.

7. Stick to your routines, dang it! You like them, admit it. Or don’t, but stick with them.

8. Stay motivated. Read what you need to read. Visualize. Pin inspirational stuff. Just stick with it! You can do it! Push through the blah.

9. Take your vitamins. Seriously, dude.

Feeling better now? Ok. Time for that “wohoo”? No? Well, fine. Just do this thing.

With all my love, you (or me…or something)

************************************************************

There you have them. My February goals. Pray for me, please. I really do seem to be hitting a wall with myself internally. I need to burst through. Soon.

If you want to follow along on Twitter, I use #healthyhabs to tweet about my healthy habits and #PrayerDare to participate in Amanda’s Prayer Dare community. Join us!

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How to Fail Successfully {Healthy Habits Tuesday}

how-to-fail-successfullyThis week was pretty bad as far as working towards my goals. I fought myself every step of the way. I was already struggling with my carb cravings when I stepped on the scale to see a number I haven’t seen since a year ago. I knew my weight had gone back up because my clothes were starting to feel snug again.

Funny thing is, seeing my suspicions confirmed by the scale didn’t inspire any motivation. Instead I wanted to shovel hot fudge in my mouth. That wouldn’t help anything. You see, my problem is, eating the right foods and exercising isn’t nearly as fun as getting fat. Being fat stinks, getting fat not-so-much.

Let me just stop here and say this: I’m not looking for a pity party or any motivation even. The funny thing about this all is, it happens in my head. My struggles are internal. You can’t change them and I don’t expect you to. I just have days where I struggle to remember WHY I want to do this so that I can WANT to do it. Sometimes I have a week of those days.

Before I tell you some tips I found helpful, I’ll give you a final update on my January goals:

  • Memorizing scripture. I did not memorize the ones listed, but I did achieve this. I memorized at least one scripture per week with my kids. We do this during our morning group-work session.
  • Pray daily. I did do this. I did pray daily. {psst, check out that link}
  • More water. Did great with this until this week. Funny thing is, if I would just stick with this, it would help with the food issues. I simply don’t have enough room to stuff myself with sweets if I am drinking enough water. I will continue to work on this.
  • More veggies. This isn’t going as well as I had hoped. I’ve struggled to include fresh anything in our diets.
  • Remove HFCS. Going well. Feels less strange to check labels.

The one thing that I’ve actually had the most success with this month was not even on my radar at first: getting up early. I’ve successfully gotten up by 6:30 every week day for the past two weeks. Now it’s my turn to be the crazy person and tell you that it really does get easier the longer you do it.

The hardest mornings follow the nights my 11 month old gets up to nurse. He’s very busy during the day and doesn’t want to sit still to nurse. So he makes up for it at night. Not an ideal situation for getting good sleep.

Now, some things I found helpful in motivating myself.healthy-habits-250

Interrupting the whine my inner voice will fall into (I’m just so tired, but I waaaant to, etc.) with a reminder that I have enough time to get my work done, that I WANT to do the things scheduled for my day, and WHY I want to do it. Sometimes I just repeat to myself, just do it. Corny? Yes. Helpful? Sometimes.

I do not mean this to replace the one change you must make, this is in addition to.

Drink a glass of water. Sometimes my fatigue is simply my body telling me I need water.

Pop a pill. No, I’m not talking about prescription drugs here. Sometimes with my glass of water, I’ll take a couple Vitamin D3 and Vitamin C. I’ve noticed a lot of this comes at me when there isn’t much sunshine. Ultimately, I aim to get outside and walk every day, but for now, this is where I am.

Letting go. It’s funny, in my rebellious self, sometimes the only motivation I need to get something done is to give myself permission to NOT do it. Oftentimes, that breaks this mental “gotta do it” weight on my shoulders and I find myself getting the task finished because I can think clearly enough to remember why I wanted to get it done in the first place.

Re-evaluate. Sometimes I’m not ready for a goal I’ve set. Sometimes there is more work to be done before I can work on a task. Reevaluating does not mean I’m giving up, it means I realize that I’m not perfect and sometimes it takes my optimistic, overachiever, loves-to-plan brain a while to realize that. Goals are flexible. Goals are personal. Just because it sounds like a good goal, doesn’t mean it is a good goal for me.

The point of this post is not to give any revolutionary ideas. Clearly. The point of this post is to show that sometimes, most of the time, little things matter much.

The most important thing to remember when reaching for a goal is this: Never give up. Fall, stumble, pity party if you need to, change directions, but get back up and KEEP GOING.

You can do this. After all, if God is for us, who can stop us?

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