What Really Matters

img_1066All too often I find myself getting upset about little things that maybe ought to just roll off my back. Instead, they get under my skin and set me on the path of creating a rather negative day for myself. Please tell me I’m not the only one here.

One morning last week, I was running late trying to get out the door for work. My sister and I carpool, and we had plans after work, so I had to take more stuff than usual with me. I was flustered, trying to remember to pack everything I needed, feeling like I was forgetting something but unable to figure out what it was.

Knowing we were crunched for time, I grabbed my things (with the help of my sister, because I truly had a lot to carry out to the car), and we headed out. A couple seconds after backing out of the driveway, I realized I had forgotten some of my food inside. I threw the car in park and literally ran back into the house to retrieve my apple and Goldfish crackers (yes, I’m four years old). Then, knowing we were leaving even later than we already had been, I quickly pulled out and headed to work– irritated, still feeling like I forgot something, and just all-around grumpy.

I got to work, where I was surprised to see my supervisor’s almost-two-year-old son. He was getting picked up by his grandparents, but I got to chat with him for a few minutes first. He was so adorable, going on about his shoes and toys, especially his back hoe. It was so precious!

And then I remembered what day it was– the birthday of two of my friends. So I took a moment to message them both and wish them a happy birthday. They both replied, thanking me for thinking of them.

And in that moment, I was reminded of what really mattered. Getting all my ducks in a row wasn’t the most important thing. Celebrating people was. Taking the time to get down to the level of a toddler and ask him about his favorite toys. Sending a quick birthday message to my friends to let them know I was thinking about them.

I have spent a considerable amount of time planning parties for my family members in the last two months, and even more time getting together with friends and family to celebrate various occasions (fiftieth birthdays, new babies, fall, reuniting with long-distance friends, adventuring, and more birthdays). I’ve cooked and baked up a storm, driven all over creation (or so it seems), and made more trips to the store than I want to admit. But I’ve also gotten to have many good conversations, form new memories, celebrate milestones, and I’ve laughed harder than I have for a long, long time.

It’s been a very full season, but it has been SO GOOD. Normally so much time spent surrounded by other people would drain me, but I’ve loved just about every minute of it (you know, except for carrying in huge grocery hauls and rushing around frantically, but what are you going to do?).

Sure, some house projects that I’ve been meaning to do are still not done. I would have loved to check more things off my to-do list. But at the end of the day, I’m happy knowing I invested in my people. Because that’s what really matters.img_1064

Moving Madness

You never realize just how much stuff you own until you try to move it all to a new place.

img_0663Playing real-life Tetris with boxes and couches in trailers opened my eyes to the fact that our little apartment really held a great volume of belongings inside. Thankfully our family and friends were able to come help us move things, or we would never have gotten it all done (shout out to all you lovely people– you’re wonderful!!!).

Moving is always stressful, but our most recent experience was made even more chaotic by the fact that we had planned a family vacation only five days after we closed on our new house. I had the day of our closing off from work, but other than that, we had to move everything and clean the apartment after work that week. With stress levels running high and sleep levels dangerously low, we somehow managed to get it all done.

The experience served as a good reminder that I can’t control everything, especially timing. If I had my way, I would’ve set aside a few weeks in my schedule to devote to packing, organizing, cleaning, loading up vehicles, unpacking, painting, and decorating.

But, alas, that is not how this whole thing went down. Instead, I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to accomplish too many things in too short of a time. Thankfully there were other people to step in and offer to help, because I realized I couldn’t do it all myself (despite all my efforts to the contrary).

I was less involved in church and community things due to moving logistics and our family trip, and coming back reminded me just how vital having a solid community is. I needed those people when everything seemed like more than I could bear. Who was I to think that I could take such a big step in buying a house without a little help from my friends and family?

But I learned. I realized it’s necessary to acknowledge my limits and accept help instead of trying to do everything myself. I came to see that my own expectations caused most of my stress, and I’m much happier if I set the bar a bit lower and allow myself to rest. I learned that not everything has to get done at once; it’s okay if people come over and see piles of unpacked boxes or blank walls or a room devoid of furniture. It was a humbling experience for someone who typically cares so much about presentation.

Of course, that was temporary; we’ve gotten things pretty much squared away, but I’m still trying to hang onto the concept of not needing to have everything spic and span in order to be hospitable.

We’re certainly not done, but we’ve made some big strides in making the house feel like home. We painted, bought furniture, and unpacked all the boxes, so I’m okay with letting the smaller things take their sweet time.

And for anyone who’s curious, here are some pictures of our new place: fullsizerender_9 fullsizerender_5fullsizerender_6fullsizerender_7fullsizerender_8fullsizerender_3fullsizerender_4 fullsizerender_2fullsizerender_1fullsizerenderimg_0787

Thanks to everyone who helped us move into our new home!

October 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 October installment!

Current favorites:

Book: I’ve read a few good books lately. I liked The Lake House by Kate Morton in its usethe-lake-house-by-kate-morton of different time periods and the pursuit of solving a mystery. The characters were likable and relatable, too. The plot had enough twists in it to keep me guessing, which I always appreciate. I’ve also been working through Wicked by Gregory Maguire. For some reason it’s taking me a while, but it’s interesting to read about characters who I only considered as minor when watching The Wizard of Oz. I tried reading it years ago but couldn’t get into it, and I’m proud to say I’m actually intrigued by it this time, even if it has been slow going. I also started reading No One Knows by J.T. Ellison this week, and find that my interest is piqued. It has me turning page after page, trying to figure out whodunnit.

Verse: “The Lord replied, ‘Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” -Habakkuk 1:5. “This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” -Habakkuk 2:3. Sometimes it seems like things are taking forever, like our plans aren’t unfolding the way we want them to. But it’s comforting to know that God the-afters-live-on-forever-300x300is moving, even if we can’t quite see what He’s doing just yet. He has a plan, and it’s a good one.

Song: Battles by The Afters is one of my top picks lately. I like the reminder that I’m not fighting my battles alone, and there is always hope. I have God on my side, and I have no reason to fear. I started a playlist called Truth on Spotify (one of my favorite ways to listen to music!), and this one quickly got added to the list.

This current is trying to wreck me
Like castles of sand, castles of sand.
My fear, like an enemy army
Is marching again, but I’m making a stand.

You surround me on every side
Your love is my armor I fear no evil.
Darkness runs from your light
So I won’t be afraid, I won’t be afraid.

You’re going before me
And oceans are parting
You’re fighting my battles.
When my feet are failing
And my heart is shaking
You’re fighting my battles.

Fighting my battles.
Fighting my battles.
Fighting my battles.

Time after time you’re my refuge,
You heal every scar you’re guarding my heart.
Your promise, the hope that I cling to,
My rescue, my friend you come rushing in.

And surround me on every side
Your love is my armor I fear no evil.
Darkness runs from your light
So I won’t be afraid, I won’t be afraid

You’re going before me
And oceans are parting
You’re fighting my battles.
When my feet are failing
And my heart is shaking
You’re fighting my battles.

Fighting my battles.
Fighting my battles.
Fighting my battles.

Fighting my battles.
Fighting my battles.
Fighting my battles.

In my weakness you are strong
Every trouble you have overcome
In my weakness you are strong
Every trouble you have overcome
In my weakness you are strong
Every trouble you have overcome
You have overcome

You’re going before me
And oceans are parting
You’re fighting my battles.
When my feet are failing
And my heart is shaking
You’re fighting my battles.

Food: Slow Cooker Curried Butternut Chili from Hummusapien. I’m so excited fall food img_0975season is finally upon us! I love pumpkin, apples, squash, chili, soup, spices, tea…basically all the fall things. And dark chocolate. Always dark chocolate.

Blog: I just discovered Feel Free to Laugh, a blog by Jordan Baker Watts, and it’s fabulous! She’s so funny and real, sharing highlights and lessons she’s learning the hard way, always through a lens of humor and humility.

Memory from this month: September was so full of great things! Our church celebrated its third birthday, which was such a good time. And we had a surprise birthday party for img_0972my dad. It was really good to gather the family and some old friends together for him, especially since he didn’t see it coming. I went to an apple orchard with my best friends, helped frost 500 cupcakes for a wedding, had a girls’ night, and helped coordinate the food for my cousin’s baby shower, all of which were just as much fun as I expected and more.

Looking forward to this month: I’m looking forward to celebrating my good friend’s birthday this weekend with some fun adventuring that her sister planned. She doesn’t know what we’re doing yet, but I got let in on the surprise and I think it’s going to be a great, fun-filled time! We’re even planning on turning it into a sleepover like we’re back in junior high. : )

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



Book image source:

Album image source:

Things Above

Oh, how dirty and dusty our world is. I’m sure that’s not news to you. All you have to do is turn on the news or look to social media to see the evidence. It’s full of darkness, filth, and muck. We so often get stuck in it, as if we wandered unknowingly into quicksand that’s pulling us ever deeper into the pit of discouragement and disillusionment.

But what if we were to focus on something besides the messy world under our feet? Yes, of course, we need to acknowledge it and move within it, doing our part to clean it up and care for it the way it desperately needs. But we don’t have to let it steal our hope. We don’t have to dwell on it any more than is necessary. We don’t have to limit our sight to the visible things at our fingertips.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. – Colossians 3:2

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

We get the great privilege of living in light of God’s promise for redemption and restoration. We get to walk lightly, knowing that the things we’re seeing and suffering are small in comparison to what’s ahead, and they’re building an immeasurably great future. Our hope does not rest in the things of this world. And I, for one, am grateful for that more and more. God is moving, doing things that are far greater than what we could imagine in our wildest dreams.

No matter what’s going wrong in our personal lives or in the world at large, there are still good things. We’ve all been blessed, even if our struggles sometimes overshadow our blessings.

But when we take a step back and acknowledge that we have been given so very much for which we ought to be thankful, we catch a glimpse of eternity. Here we have blessings in the midst of pain and sorrow; one day all those things will be wiped away and only the good will remain. I believe that those of us who hold on to that hope and intentionally look up in the middle of our battles toward the One who is fighting for us and with us will be the ones who truly live their lives to the fullest and taste the joy of victory in the end.

So I hope we can take just a moment today to take a break from our striving and look up from the dirt around our feet to see the bright light from above and remember that things are not always as they appear. May we not let our eyes deceive us into thinking that we were made to live dull lives centered around the comings and goings of this life. Instead we’re given a hope for a future far greater than our present, along with an ability to rise above our circumstances and choose to hold on to that hope even when nothing around us makes sense.

Instead of keeping our eyes trained on the ground beneath us, I hope we remember Who and what we were made for. May we continue to look up from time to time to keep our perspective and continue to live like love.

Shine Bright

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t like being the center of attention. I feel uncomfortable when all eyes are on me. I shy away from being center stage, in the spotlight. I much prefer being behind the scenes or part of a group.

But I think that tendency bleeds into other areas of my life, causing me to be hesitant in sharing things with the world around me. I instead hold things tightly to my chest that were meant to be shown.

I know I’m not the only one.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. . . . We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. – Marianne Williamson

So what are we so afraid of, really? Do we think it’s selfish to pour energy into the things we’re creating or too self-promoting and bordering on bragging to share it with the world? Is that why we hide behind closed doors and backstage curtains?

Are we willing to let fear hold us back from embracing our true identity? Is that enough of a reason to keep to ourselves? Really, we are so much more than we think.

Why can’t we recognize and embrace the connection between the kind of art we long to make and the reality of our truest identity?

What if you desire to do a particular thing because God created you a particular way, not to tease you or to make you miserable, but to actually mold you into becoming more like him, for his glory and the benefit of others?

Could it be possible that the thing you most long for, the thing you notice and think about and wish you could do, is the thing you were actually made [for] and are being equipped to do?

Could it also be possible that somewhere along the way you got the message that to follow desire would be selfish, when really, it would be the opposite? – Emily P. Freeman

Wow. How crazy of a thought is that?! The things we long to do, to create, are part of what makes us who we are. And it’s those very things God plans to use to make us more like Him and to touch the hearts and lives of others.

We don’t have to take center stage or grab the microphone at every opportunity if that doesn’t suit our strengths (hello, fellow introverts!), but we can’t be afraid to contribute what we can in other ways. What are you working on? What’s the most logical way to share it? Maybe you’re writing a book, putting together a class, editing a video, or creating a recipe to share. Don’t be afraid to put those things out there.

By being the first to step out of our comfort zones and do the scary thing of sharing our precious creative treasures, we set an example for those around us. And because our talents and gifts are uniquely different from our neighbors’, we begin a chain reaction of contributing one-of-a-kind gifts, shining our lights like no one else can.

Just imagine for a second what the world would be like if people more willingly shared their hearts and their creativity, their distinctly different lights. God would be glorified. Creative solutions to problems could be reached. Collaboration would increase exponentially. Problems would get solved. People would work together instead of against each other. Compassion, empathy, understanding, grace, and kindness would abound. And it can start with us. Right here. In our homes, our families, our communities, our workplaces, our schools.

Now what’s our excuse for keeping that gift from the world around us?

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. {Matthew 5:16}

Go out there, friend, and shine. The world needs your light.


Further reading:

Sunday Scripture

The Email I’ll Never Forget by Emily P. Freeman

Our Path Is Lit by Jennifer Studio, (in)courage

Great Expectations

What kind of expectations do we have, either consciously or subconsciously for this life we’re living?

Do we feel entitled to certain things? Do we think our lives are supposed to be easy, free from pain? I think it’s very easy for us to get comfortable and assume that we’re secure, ignoring the fact that hard times come, and that’s not a sign that we’re not loved, but an indication that we live in a world fraught with sin.

Do we forget that we were told that we would have trouble (John 10:10)? Do we forget that we were given hope for that very reason? There’s a reason that the reminder that we will have trouble in this world is followed with the command to not fear. Our first response to trouble is often one of fear. But that’s not the end of the story. We don’t have to live in that fear.

Do we remember what lies ahead of us? Do we remind ourselves of how this story ends? No matter what happens here and now, we have eternity set before us, a promise of a life to come with no tears, sorrow, crying, pain, or death (Revelation 21:4). Good and truth will win out. Our God conquered death and overcame sin and evil for us, and we are more than conquerors through Him. That is what we should expect– not that life will be easy or that we will win every battle, but that in the end, we will be on the winning side of the war.

Do we live in anticipation of God working in the world, and in the lives of those around us? Or do we let our eyes deceive us? It’s easy to think that because we don’t see God moving in our daily lives or working some big, dramatic miracles in the ways we expect that He isn’t at work.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. – Ephesians 3:20

He is at work. He is moving. In big ways and small ways, through some of the most unlikely circumstances and people, He accomplishes His purposes. And He wants us to be a part of it. But I think sometimes we let our expectations get in the way.

Do we expect too much? Do we expect some big, grandiose enlightenment or life-changing moment to happen to us before we can do something? Are we waiting for the next big thing before we really live our lives? Are we holding back in the hope that something has to happen before we can step out and make a difference in the world? What are we waiting for?

Do we expect too little of ourselves? We’ve been blessed with the resources and gifts we have, given a unique personality and calling, a precise footprint to leave behind us in this world. We are all where we are for a reason, and there’s always something we can be doing, even while we wait. Our lives are made up of small moments, and we can always love those around us like He loves us, no matter what our day jobs or present circumstances are. We can live differently. We can be present. We can love. We can have faith. We can encourage and uplift. We can serve. In big ways and small ways, we can live like love.

May you and I both consider what expectations we’re holding for our lives and be willing to let them go in favor of understanding the truth of what we’ve been promised. There is a great inheritance for us ahead, but the road we have to take to get there is sometimes bumpy. If we’re willing to hang on and even adjust our outlook from time to time so that we can see the bigger picture, we might just find that life exceeds our wildest expectations. Now wouldn’t that be something?


Less Stress

We could all use less stress in our lives, right?

More and more results of high stress levels are being made known to us: poor sleep, poor eating, lack of energy, lack of desire to engage in relationships, poor health. As if those weren’t enough, there’s always the feeling of spinning out of control looming right around the corner, the threat that we feel might be sneaking up on us, the deadline we’re sure is approaching like a freight train.

We all can get consumed by stress, whether it’s in our work, relationships, health, finances, or life goals. We’ve become so accustomed to struggling under the weight of our stress that we don’t even realize it’s possible to live without it.

But as someone who has lately been battling high stress levels, I think it’s time we all check out an alternative option. What would our lives look like if we didn’t accept high stress levels as an inevitability? What if we actually believed that this isn’t how we were meant to live?

What if we actually tried to reduce the stress in our lives?

I know, it sounds rote. Or like make-believe. Like an unattainable goal. You’ve probably heard it before and don’t really believe it. But hang with me for a second.

While there certainly are circumstances that we can’t change, there are things we can do to better manage the stress we experience. We don’t have to carry the weight around and let it taint the rest of our life.

I know one thing that has helped me immensely has been taking a second to breathe when I’m feeling overwhelmed. If it seems like there are too many things being piled on my plate all of a sudden, threatening to crush me with their cumulative weight, I take a moment to pause and just breathe. As simple as it sounds, it allows me to come back with better perspective and a renewed sense of my ability to conquer whatever it is that I’m facing.

Taking the time to figure out what stresses me and what relaxes me was a big step, too. I didn’t realize how helpful it would be just to think about what kinds of things in my life are causing negative emotional and psychological impacts and what things drive me or excite me helped me reframe the concept of stress. I can better limit the things that overwhelm me and incorporate more of what is life-giving.

I also have found that limiting distractions is really indispensable. It’s easy for me to feel like things are spinning out of control when I’m trying to manage too many spinning plates at once. But if I focus on one thing at a time, tuning out other things around me, I have a much better chance of finishing things because my attention isn’t divided.

Appropriate self-care is huge– namely, sleep. When I don’t get enough sleep, I know I am far more likely to be stressed and irritable. Sleep has a way of making us relax, which is definitely necessary when we’re feeling overwhelmed.

Giving thanks for things I’ve been blessed with is also a way to lower my stress levels. It’s really hard to be stressed and thankful at the same time. When focusing on the good things, I’m not dwelling on the things I can’t change or the frustration of having a to-do list longer than my arm.

And I still think there’s something to be said about making a plan. You probably all know by now that I’m a Type-A, organized person. I like having a plan and a schedule. I used to live out of my planner in high school and college. Now I’ve just moved on to using the calendar and to-do list apps in my phone.Having a plan allows me to take intentional steps toward my goals and filter through the things in front of me to better prioritize them. It helps me to know what I want and where I’m headed.

But I also know that I can’t hold onto my plan too tightly. Things are constantly changing, and if I’m too rigid in my planning, I’m probably going to miss out on some good things and be disappointed when things don’t go my way. There’s a delicate balance that must be struck in creating a plan and holding it loosely.

And, if all else fails, there are always the tried-and-true methods of taking a nap, relaxing in a bubble bath, or eating some ice cream. : )


What helps you relieve your stress?


Further reading: