August 2016 Favorites

I thought it would be fun if I took a moment each month to let you know what things are currently striking my fancy, so here goes the August installment!

Current favorites:

Book: Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, by L.M. Montgomery. I read these books when I was younger and held onto my copies of them, thinking I might reread them or pass them on. I’m so glad I picked them back up this month. I love the sweetness and innocence of Anne, coupled with her quirks. I identify with certain aspects of her personality and like getting a look into life during a different era. Definitely a classic.

Song: Keep Your Head Up by Andy Grammer. I’ve had this song on my running playlist for a long time, and it always encourages me to keep going. But I also have come to appreciate the motivation when my plate is overflowing with to-do lists, tasks, plans, and chaos.

I’ve been waiting on a sunset
Bills on my mindset
I can’t deny they’re getting high
Higher than my income, income’s bread crumbs
I’ve been trying to survive
The glow that sun gets right around sunset helps me to realize
This is just a journey
Drop your worries, you are gonna turn out fine
You’ll turn out fine
Fine, oh, you’ll turn out fine…

But, you gotta keep your head up
And you can let your hair down
But, you gotta keep your head up
And you can let your hair down

I got my hands in my pockets kicking these rocks
It’s kinda hard to watch this life go by
I’m buying into skeptics
Skeptics mess with the confidence in my eyes
I’m seeing all the angles thoughts get tangled
I start to compromise my life and my purpose
Is it all worth it? Am I gonna turn out fine?
Oh oh, you turn out fine
Fine, oh oh you turn out fine

But, you gotta keep your head up
And you can let your hair down
But, you gotta keep your head up
And you can let your hair down

Only rainbows after rain
The sun will always come again and
It’s a circle, circling around again
It comes around

But, you gotta keep your head up
And you can let your hair down
But, you gotta keep your head up
And you can let your hair down

Verse: Isaiah 40: 29-31: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” I’ve always loved this verse (I may have already included it in a Favorites post, but it warrants another one!), at least since high school. But especially in this season of chaotic running from one thing to another, draining myself of all my strength and energy, I love the reminder that I don’t have to do it all myself; I can lean upon God and rely on His strength to accomplish all that is before me, climbing mountains and soaring above obstacles.

Food: I’ve been eating a lot of quick meals lately since we’ve been so busy with moving prep, but I made some tasty pita bread and have been loving nighttime snacks of stovetop popcorn and trail mix (especially when I find discounted nuts in the bulk section at HyVee!).

Blog: Avocado a Day Nutrition by Rachael Hartley. I stumbled upon this blog this summer, and I’ve really enjoyed reading more about health, nutrition, and food. I like Rachael’s approach to mindfulness and intuitive eating, and her posts are upbeat, knowledgeable, and relatable.

Memory from this month: This past month has been full of preparations for moving, but the best part was an extended family get-together that my grandparents hosted. I didn’t know until a couple days before that it was a housewarming party for Jackie and me. It was so sweet! And of course, it was really good just to spend time with family, giving myself a break from the chaos of moving and packing plans.

Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite things? I’d love to hear them!

 

One Foot in Front of the Other

Do you ever feel like there are just too many things on your plate?

Like all of a sudden, you’re expected to be a fully-functioning adult who takes care of their own utilities, mortgage, medical expenses, vehicle maintenance, home improvement projects, and still has to fit in a social life and a full-time job? When did that happen?!

I know what it’s like to feel like you’ve entered a season of chaos, one that seems exponentially harder than the last, when it feels like everything is changing all at once, and you’re being pulled and stretched in a dozen different directions.

So how do you do it? How do you do all of those things? And how do you not go completely batty in the process?

One thing that’s been helping me is reminding myself to tackle one thing at a time. When I have a laundry list of tasks in front of me, it feels daunting and impossible. But if I focus on just the first thing, just the one thing I know I can do right now, then it doesn’t seem so scary. And when I do that thing, I feel more capable of doing one more thing. I tackle my to-do list one step at a time.

I love to-do lists because they keep me organized. But they also create a sense of anxiety when I feel like I have too much to do, especially when the items on the to-do list are particularly difficult or new in and of themselves. But again, if I focus on one at a time and remind myself that I am capable of accomplishing just one task, I can complete it and work my way toward finishing the entire list (or at least most of it).

I’ve begun approaching my work tasks in that manner– making a list of what needs to be done because I’m type-A like that and fear that I will forget things if I don’t write them all down, and then focusing on one of them at a time.

And I’m slowly starting to apply the same philosophy to the rest of my life. Big tasks are more manageable when I break them down into smaller parts. Thinking about moving is insanely stressful when I look at the whole picture. But if I tell myself that today I can pack up the contents of this one kitchen cupboard, that one drawer, and bag up our pile of things for Goodwill, then it doesn’t seem so bad.

If I spread out the work, I know I can get it all done without losing my mind. It’s only when I try to bite off more than I can chew that I begin to worry, wasting time frozen in panic, wondering how in the world I’m ever going to get an entire apartment packed, cleaned, loaded into the trailer, and unpacked in the span of less than a week.

Today I’m choosing to focus on one task at a time instead of fretting over a lengthy to-do list. That’s what’s keeping me sane. That’s what’s allowing me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, continually moving forward, even if it’s only by baby steps. What’s working for you today?

Lending a Listening Ear

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry… -James 1:19

I know from my own experience that it is far easier to be quick to speak and slow to listen. I, like many other people I know, like to give my input and contribute to the conversations around me. But when my desire to be heard (or to be right) trumps my desire to hear others, nobody wins.

I find that when I take time to listen to others’ points of view, I am more understanding. Even if I still don’t agree with them, I can better empathize with their position, making me less likely to get upset since I know where they’re coming from and why they do what they do.

I’ll admit I sometimes have a hard time pulling myself away from the things in front of me to give my full attention to people. I’m wired to be task-oriented and like to finish the things I’ve started; interrupting them for what seems like idle conversation is difficult and honestly sometimes feels like a waste of time.

That is, until I reframe the situation and approach it from a different angle.

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.
-Epictetus

Ignoring opportunities to be an attentive listener— one who turns away from her phone, computer, to-do list, current activity, and even mental distractions– is a sure-fire way to live a very small, secluded life. When I don’t pay attention to those around me, I unconsciously shrink my worldview, limiting my cares, thoughts, and prayers to things that only concern me. I instantly become exponentially more selfish.

On the flip side, when I set aside my own agenda to pay attention to those around me and really listen to what they’re saying, I allow myself to step away from my own worries and share someone else’s burden, lightening their load if only for a moment. It builds trust in my relationships and shows that I respect others by recognizing that they are more important than my to-do list.

Through listening to others talk about their lives, interests, pasts, concerns, and hopes, I gain a greater perspective not just regarding who they are and how they view the world, but I catch a glimpse of life through their perspective and challenge my own preconceived notions.

“To listen to a person’s stories, he understood, is to learn their feelings and experiences and values and habits of mind, and to learn them all at once and all together. Austen was not a novelist for nothing: she knew that our stories are what make us human, and that listening to someone else’s stories—entering into their feelings, validating their experiences—is the highest way of acknowledging their humanity, the sweetest form of usefulness.” –Jane Austen Education

So here’s to listening before we speak. Maybe we’ll find our world becomes just a little bit bigger and kinder in the process.

Rules for Rest

Rest. I’ve heard so much about it, and yet I still feel like I don’t really know how to do it. But despite my efforts, I still feel like I’m just not getting enough poured into me to be able to pour back into every area of my life.

Unless I consciously think about it, I habitually run and run and run from one thing to another until I’m completely running on empty. It’s incredibly easy for me to run on autopilot, simply going through my normal routine without really thinking about what I’m doing or whether the very things I’m doing are serving me or draining me and how I might be able to adapt them.

In my attempt to really learn how to rest and change my habits, I’ve been keeping my eyes and ears open to the wise words of others– those I know personally as well as those whom I only know through the wonders of the Internet.

One great resource I came across recently was a post by Stephanie Mae Wilson, in which she discussed some tips for incorporating more rest in our lives. Here I’ve mentioned a few, but I encourage you to look at the full list on her website.

Create a to-don’t list. At first, I didn’t think this sounded like something that would really benefit me. After all, things that come to mind are all things that need to get done, right? While that may be true, I need to remind myself that not everything that is important is urgent, and not everything that is urgent is important. I don’t want to get caught up doing things today that could very well wait until tomorrow, or putting off things I need to do right now just because they don’t seem as productive.

I have enough to fill my plate without adding unnecessary tasks that I can delegate to someone else, let go of entirely, or wait to complete until another time. And I don’t want to equate productivity with value; there are plenty of things that are important that aren’t necessarily accomplish a task, like spending time reading my Bible, reading a novel, giving myself a mani-pedi, or going to bed early. But those things are still important components of self-care and rest, and I need to learn to value them as much as the more productive things.

Schedule time for rest. I’m big on planning and scheduling, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet. I like to know what my day looks like before it begins. I feel more comfortable knowing what the plan is so that I know how much time I have allotted for everything, ensuring that everything can get done and I can still maintain some shred of my sanity in the process. But I typically put rest time on the back burner. I’ve heard time and again that rest is important (after all, it’s my word for this year), but I’m not particularly good at planning time for it. I plan to change that and set aside time to rest without guilt, knowing that it’s good for both my body and my soul.

Ask yourself what it is that you need, knowing it changes over time. Instead of just reacting by habit or reflex, I need to take a moment to ask myself what I really need. Do I need to do my laundry right this minute, or would I be better serving myself if I took five minutes to read, sip some tea, or just sit still? Do I really have to run to the store today, or would it actually be a better idea to go this weekend when I have time to go without rushing through it, allowing myself to enjoy it? Do I need more “me time” or “others time”? Knowing whether I’m in a season of neglecting personal time or time with others helps me discern what I need to balance things out when they start to go awry.

I hope that by paying greater attention to what I need to refuel myself, I can regain some balance even in the midst of the craziness of moving and travel plans. After all, I’ve been told that life only gets busier. I might as well get used to it and learn to enjoy the ride. : )

Do you have any tips for making room for rest in your life? I’d love to hear them!

 

 

Further reading:

My Heart Came Back To Life This Summer, And Here’s How… by Stephanie Mae Wilson

Taking Only What You Need

How often do we justify our stockpiles of stuff by thinking we’ll need them for a rainy day? Do we ever really resort to using them?

Chances are, if you’re like me, you use the same few things over and over, neglecting other things because you simply don’t like them as much or don’t really have a need for them because you have other things that you like better. You have your favorite clothes, so you wear those the most, leaving the “not-so-loved” clothes in the back of the closet for laundry day or in hopes that you might find something cute to wear it with later, magically transforming it into a more beloved item.

But what if we were to only hold on to, only choose to keep, the things that we really need? I’m not talking about the bare essentials, because I believe that we also ought to keep things that inspire us, not just things that have practical uses in our everyday lives. But I am talking about seriously reducing the number of things we have, eliminating the excess.

What if we were to let go of the fear of not having enough and just hold on to the things that are truly loved by us? I think we would feel free, able to go where we want and do as we please without excess baggage weighing us down. We would likely be more content with what we have if all we had was things that we believe are beautiful and useful, no longer hidden behind and beneath things that are of lesser value to us.

As I’ve begun packing for our move, I’ve questioned whether I want to keep some of the things I currently have. If it’s not worth it for me to have to pack it up (carefully, if it’s fragile, which takes extra effort) now, unpack it later, and find a new home for it, then I know I need to get rid of it. “Move it or lose it” has become a bit of a mantra for me.

The same concept applies when traveling; if you don’t want to carry it with you, you shouldn’t be taking it. If you feel like the space a particular item takes up could be better filled with something more useful, special, or beautiful, then that item isn’t worth taking. And if you can live without it for a trip, you might want to consider whether you can just live without it entirely.

I know I felt odd about that concept when I was in college. Because I went to school a few hours away from home, I only took what I could fit in my dorm room (and later, my room in a rented house). That being said, I left behind a considerable amount of stuff at my parents’ house. After graduating and moving back in with my parents, I realized I had effectively accumulated two whole bedrooms’ worth of stuff, and I still only had one bedroom to store it in.

I had to find a way to sort through my belongings and get rid of the excess in order to better appreciate what was most important. I had to get rid of duplicates and rarely- or never-used items, which sometimes felt really difficult. But when I was able to find a home for everything I chose to keep, it was much more comfortable than staring at piles of boxes of things I didn’t have room to store because there was just too much.

Since then, I’ve continued thinking critically about my possessions, more so in some seasons of life than in others, but I have been paying more attention to what I keep and why.

I’m not saying I’ve got this whole thing down. I keep revisiting the idea of minimalism and trying to apply the idea of simplicity to my home and my life. I hope that I can continue moving forward toward a life that feels like a Goldilocks kind of “just right,” between having far too much and getting rid of everything. And if you choose to join me in this adventure, I hope you find your own sweet spot!

 

Further reading:

The Spiritual Discipline of Traveling Light by Tsh Oxenreider

Not-So-Patiently Waiting

Waiting. I’m not very good at it. Or should I say I’m not very good at doing it patiently?

I’m currently in another season of waiting. And I’m once again reminded that I’m not a naturally patient person. I want to move on to the next thing once I’ve set my mind on it. I don’t usually like change, but when I’m the one initiating it, I have a hard time waiting for it. I find myself restless, wondering what the point of the waiting is, or if there even is one.

But I just read a post on a blog I’ve really been enjoying lately, written by Shawn Smucker, a guest writer, entitled Above All, Trust in the Slow Work of God. It reminded me that God is at work in the waiting. There is a divine purpose for every step of the process. And I need to be patient, allowing the growth to happen in the in-between times. I need to not keep searching for the next thing, but be content with where I am for the time being.

While we usually obsess over the thing we’re waiting for, the thing we want, what the waiting can do for us, can do in us, is never about that thing.

…While I continue to wait for this thing that may or may not happen, what’s happening in me has nothing to do with the end result. There is “a new spirit gradually forming within” me, especially if I can believe that I am not wandering this dark house alone. – Shawn Smucker

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Thinking back upon other seasons of change, I can see evidence of growth happening in those uncertain, impatient days. I still don’t see the whole picture, but I trust that there is a reason for everything that happens, and a reason that they happen when they do.

Waiting on God’s timing ensures that the process of refining can happen slowly and thoroughly, making me into the person I need to be before I take whatever step lies ahead of me. When I strain for what’s out of reach and rush toward the future without waiting patiently, I get things I’m not prepared for, and they’re definitely not as sweet. Waiting creates in us a sense of desire, one that produces even greater measures of excitement when we finally obtain what it is that we’ve been waiting for. It reminds us that there are great things ahead. But it also can serve to remind us that there are great things right where we are as well.

Like they say, it’s about the journey, not the destination. So, today, may you and I set our sights not on the destination ahead of us, but on the journey right around us and the world under our feet. May we embrace both change and consistency as they come, knowing there is a place and a purpose for each.

Project 7: Clothing

As I continue with my own version of Project 7, I’m moving on to tackling clothing, in the spirit of acknowledging that I have far more than I need, have the bad habit of continually buying more because I somehow still think I “have nothing to wear,” and place too much value on my appearance.

I have a habit of regularly cleaning things out of my home and donating them (usually to Goodwill, although most recently to PRISM, a nonprofit that serves the needy population of people who live in the area). However, I find myself itching to get rid of more stuff again only a few months later. Clearly, something is wrong if I’m taking in so much stuff that I’m longing for some relief just a few short months after a clean-out.

In modifying this challenge from Jen Hatmaker’s in her book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I took a long time to decide what parameters to set for myself.

I like concept of a capsule wardrobe, but I also love playing around with clothes and feeling like I have variety in what I wear, so I’m not sure that’s really the answer for me (even though that was part of Jen’s challenge for herself, too). However, the idea behind the capsule wardrobe system is a good one, and it has inspired me to make changes in how I structure my wardrobe, even though I don’t plan to embrace all the tenets of it.

As this challenge is coinciding with packing for a move, I am choosing to focus primarily on reducing the number of clothing items I own and mindfully investing in good-quality additions. As I pack, I will also pare down the number of pieces I have for a limited time, reminding myself that nobody but me cares if I wear the same things all the time.

My closet is full of items that I don’t love, and I want to work toward building a wardrobe of pieces that will make me feel good, not only because they fit well but also because I know I will get enough use out of them. In reducing my clothing to what I really like, I will be wearing the same things more often, which will certainly be a challenge.

I plan to follow the basic structure given here, taking everything out of my closet, cleaning it, sorting things into piles, trying things on again, and not rushing myself in the process.

I’m sure I will have to keep reminding myself why I’m going through my clothes yet again, and why I’m trying to exercise restraint in buying new pieces impulsively if they’re not quite what I’m looking for. I will set goals for myself: Reducing shopping. Keeping only what fits & is in good condition. Keeping what I love. Investing in quality over quantity. Saving for good, long-lasting pieces that won’t go out of fashion with the next trend.

 

Do you find yourself with clothing you don’t really love or get enough use out of? What do you do about it? How do you keep it from growing again after a cleanout?

 

For further reading:

Why Keeping Only the Clothes that “Spark Joy” Is Magical by Shifrah Combiths

How to Finally Clean out Your Closet for Good by Courtney Carver