Know Your Limits

We can’t do everything. At least, I know I can’t.

In this season, it’s all too easy to fill our calendars and to-do lists to overflowing with holiday busyness. We rush and rush, feeling like we have to do everything in order to have a perfect Christmas.

I want to do ALL THE THINGS. I want to make all my own food (mostly healthy, of course). I want to make frugal, natural cleaning products for my house. I want to buy fresh, local, organic food. I want to support causes that are important to me. I want to pour into friendships with people both near and far. I want to be engaged at work and at home. I want to keep a clean house. I want to crochet blankets and paint canvases and bake treats and watch all the shows on my Netflix queue. I want to serve in soup kitchens and meal packing stations and wherever else I can. I want to donate to organizations helping alleviate hunger, providing shelter for the homeless, safety and hope for the abused, and those that spread the good news of the Gospel. I want to spend time with my family, build my community, and still have enough time to myself to not go crazy. I want to run new routes and push myself to new limits. I want to learn and grow and not be complacent.

But my skills and time are limited. I work full time and have other commitments and plans outside of work, too. I realistically can’t do everything that I want to do. At least not all at once. I need to know when to say no. I need to understand the seasonal rhythm of my life and carefully choose what’s best from all the good options before me.

I’m trying to categorize my options to better decide which things I will say “yes” to and which I will say “no” to.

  1. Core commitments. I have to go to work– that’s not optional. But besides that, I have committed to my church, community, and my family. I have said I’m going to show up, and so I have a responsibility to be present. That means that family birthday parties and holidays take precedence over other things, and church family gatherings are prioritized.
  2. Things that bring me joy. I love reading and crafting. I love exercising and cooking. I would be disoriented without those things in my life, and they’re a part of my regular rhythm. I also love watching Christmas movies (especially with others) and Christmas parties, so those will definitely make the cut this year. But I don’t love stressful Christmas shopping or spending a lot of time outside in the cold. No, thank you.
  3. Sanity-savers. I’m an introvert, and that means I can’t function without enough alone time to recharge. In the midst of the holiday season, that can be challenging, but I know I have to set aside time to read, rest, and recuperate in solitude.
  4. Things that align with my purpose or goals. If I’m presented with an opportunity to take part in something I really believe in, something that fits my personality and gifts, then I will say yes. If my plate is already full, or if something sounds good but not great, then I’ll pass and let someone else who is better suited for it step up.
  5. Spur-of-the-moment things. I struggle with spontaneous plans, mostly because I usually have mentally committed to something else, even if it’s just a night at home to read by myself. That being said, these things get fit in when I do have time (especially if they bring me joy and align with my goals), and I pass on them when I have other things planned without feeling guilty.
  6. Things that can wait. There are things around the house that I would really love to check off my list. But they aren’t necessary for having a wonderful holiday season, so I’m pushing them to the back burner. No painting the kitchen cabinets this month.
  7. Everyday housekeeping. Starting with (but not limited to) actual housekeeping. I will say “yes” to the basic things to keep my house clean but not stress about having it picture-perfect or let it get in the way of my hospitality.

Despite the pressure to move through this season like a spinning top, I am choosing to set aside time to rest and cherish the real reason for the season. I’m going to say “no” to things that hinder my heartfelt celebration of Christmas and purposefully choose to participate in things that let me really enjoy it as much as I can. I’m going to be intentional about planning things out so that I don’t try to cram in more than I can handle or have to pull all-nighters to get things finished in the final hour.

No matter what I do, I’m going to regularly remind myself of what really matters. Investing in my people matters. Being thankful matters. Taking care of myself matters. But having a perfectly decorated house or beautiful, detail-oriented dinner party doesn’t matter if I’m a big ball of stress.

So here’s to a wonderful, intentional, purposeful Christmas season. May you and I both learn to say “yes” and “no” to the right things, respecting our own limits and those of others as we do our best to celebrate the season without losing our minds in the process.

 

What about you? What are you making time for? What are you saying “yes” or “no” to? What are your limits?

May 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 May installment!

Current favorites:

Book: Let Us All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs. I read my sister’s copy of this book, and I quickly filled it with little adhesive flags to mark all the lines that struck my heart particularly deep. I love the idea of pursuing bravery, despite the risk, or maybe because IMG_0374of the risk. I found the author to be really relatable, funny, and motivating. The book left me processing how to be brave in my own life, and I encourage you all to pick up a copy and be brave, too!

Song: Just Breathe by Jonny Diaz.

Alarm clock screaming bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life
Ninety miles an hour going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder trying to get the upper hand
So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life
It’s ready, set, go it’s another wild day
When the stress is on the rise in my heart I feel You say

Just breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe

Third cup of joe just to get me through the day
Wanna make the most of time but I feel it slip away
I wonder if there’s something more to this crazy life
I’m busy, busy, busy, and it’s no surprise to see
That I only have time for me, me, me
There’s gotta be something more to this crazy life
I’m hanging on tight to another wild day
When it starts to fall apart in my heart I hear You say

Just breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to take it in fill your lungs
The Peace of God that overcomes
Just breathe
Let your weary spirit rest
Lay down what’s good and find what’s best
Just breathe

Just breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe
Just breathe

Verse: “So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘what’s next, Papa?'” -Romans 8:12-15 (MSG). I’ve been reading passages in the NLT (my favorite everyday translation) and the Message lately to meditate on them and let their meanings really sink in. I really enjoyed the Message’s take on this section of Romans. We’re called to leave the customs of this world behind and strive for a better, a higher, way of living, one that is adventurous and expectant and, dare I say, wonderful.

Food: This month, I’ve been doing my own Project 7 challenge with food, so I’ve been using only sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli, chickpeas, oats, bananas, and apples for my meals. I’ve made some pretty tasty things with them like banana oat pancakes, banana “nice cream” sandwiches, sweet potato crust pizza with hummus and roasted veggies, and banana granola. 

Memory from this month: My good friend Leanne is an exceptional cupcake baker, and img_3987she had a table at a gala last month for an event called Girls, Glamour, and Giving. None of us were sure of what to expect since it was her first event like this, but we were very pleasantly surprised by the turnout. All the sample cupcakes were devoured, packaged ones were all sold, business cards ran out, and satisfied smiles were abundant. We had a great time! (To read more about it, check out my sister’s post about the evening.)

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

April 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 April installment!

Current favorites:

Book: Oddly enough, one of my favorite books this month has been What to Eat by 51TGfxEg91L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Marion Nestle, which dives deep into food, nutrition, and food politics in a way that had me gripped from beginning to end. I took copious notes on the conclusions that were drawn from various scientific studies, and felt validated when some of my own food preferences were supported. The book explained many things I hadn’t understood or known about before, and it made me wish I had studied nutrition sooner.

Song: Humble and Kind by Tim McGraw. I think the song is sweet, and it stands out to me in the way it highlights simple acts of goodness and reminds me of the wisdom previous generations pass on, which is vastly different from a lot of the music I hear on the radio. It’s a refreshing difference.

Hold the door say please say thank you
Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie
I know you got moutains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind
When the dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind

When it’s hot, eat a root beer popsicle
Shut off the ac and roll the windows down
Let that summer sun shine
Always stay humble and kind
Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you’re goin’
Don’t forget turn back around
And help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind

Verse: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” -1 Corinthians 1:25-29. When I begin to wonder why God doesn’t do things the way I want Him to, I remember that His ways are far greater than mine– so far above me that His foolishness is wiser than my highest levels of wisdom. He uses the seemingly small, insignificant, foolish things to accomplish His purposes and demonstrate His power.

Food: For most of this month, I haven’t been grocery shopping or making many new dishes. I realized I had a freezer and pantry packed with food to the brim, and it was time to help my budget out a little by trying to use up what I had before buying and making more. That being said, I have made some things. One of my favorites was Coconut Curry Popcorn from Naturally Ella, which I had with some dried mango on the side. It was delicious!

TV Show: I have been sort of alternating between episodes of Sherlock and Once Upon a Time on Netflix. I’ve watched OUAT before, but often didn’t pay enough attention to what wOnce_Upon_aTime_promo_imageas happening and have fallen behind on more recent episodes, so I wanted to start over. My best friend recommended Sherlock to me, and I love it!

Memory from this month: I went to a girls’ night at my friend’s house that was a lot of fun! We had a wide array of delicious goodies to munch on (which I, true to form, overindulged in to the point of being super stuffed), told funny stories, played with an adorable dog, and watched some Sherlock. It was a great way to get to spend some more quality time with some truly precious women.

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

March 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 March installment!

Current favorites:

Book: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown truly was my favorite this month, but you can read bookbgmore about that on my February favorites post. I also really loved Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love this month. Jen skillfully combines humor and sincerity in talking about both serious subjects and lighthearted ones in a way that makes me want to be more like her. She writes about being motivated by love, which is something that I don’t often think about. Since reading her book, though, I have been thinking about it far more often and challenging myself to find more ways to love the people around me.

Song: Trust in You by Lauren Daigle.

I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior King of the fight
No matter what I face You’re by my side…

Truth is You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want, Lord, and nothing less

(chorus)
When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust
I will trust in You
I will trust in You

(bridge)
You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation
The Rock on which I stand
Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go
You’ve not already stood

Verse: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” -Micah 6:8. It sounds so simple, but we seem to forget it so easily. This is what we’re here for, what we were created for, and what is truly most fulfilling.

Food: Sweet potato chana masala made with the amazing masala sauce recipe from Pinch of Yum. I made this with my best friend, and we couldn’t stop talking about how delicious it was. I’m so excited that I have more of the paste in my fridge to make more delectable dishes with it later!

TV Show: I’ve been working my way through many different cooking shows lately, the most recent of which was Food Network Star. It’s fun to watch the contestants compete and work on the skills they would need to host their own show on the Food Network. My own cooking stills are far behind theirs, but I still find myself learning new techniques, so I can count it as a learning experience, right?

Memory from last month: My sister’s birthday. We did a few different things to celebrate, and it was a lot of fun! First and foremost, we did a murder mystery party. I ended up being the victim, and it actually was a fun character to play. Jackie and I had a great time planning the decor and food, and dressing up in 1920’s red carpet attire was an exciting component for sure.

On her birthday, we had a progressive dinner with appetizers at Honey & Mackie’s (a french fry and ice cream shop), main course at Solo’s Pizza, and dessert at Cherry Berry,12512746_10208572671695179_8253790447791123414_nfollowed up with an impromptu movie showing at the nearby theater. I had been wanting to try a progressive dinner for a long time, and it was a fun way to celebrate!

Jackie and I celebrated once more with a sleepover at the house she was staying at to dog sit, complete with a breakfast of brownie batter pancakes and viewing of The Lizzie McGuire Movie. Sister bonding at its finest. I truly love celebrating things, especially birthdays, so I had a lot of fun planning the different parts and surprising her with some little notes and balloons on the morning of her birthday.

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

Highlight Reel

Can you believe 2015 is over?! It certainly seems like it flew by. As I create goals for the new year, I want to take a moment to reflect upon 2015 and share some of the highlights.

January– My extended family took a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. I hadn’t been there in almost ten years, so it was a completely different experience than when I was a kid. I loved the nostalgia of visiting old places and the chance to try new things that hadn’t interested me when I was younger.

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February– My best friend and I hosted a fancy dinner party. Each course represented a different country, and I think we had just as much fun making all the food as we did eating it with our friends.

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May– I went on a mini roadtrip with a couple of my friends to Madison, WI, to meet up with more friends and see our favorite band, Needtobreathe. The whole experience was straight out of a movie.

On the way to the concert- "Tour de Compadres with my compadres" -Katie

June– I went to Joyful Noise Family Fest with my family once again, and we had a great time! It was so fun to listen to bands I loved and hear music from artists I wasn’t familiar with, all the while bonding with my family.

July– One of my college roommates got married, and it was such a sweet reunion of all the girls I had lived with as we gathered together to celebrate this milestone in her life.

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August– I ran my first half-marathon. Man, that was definitely a big challenge, especially since I had never done a real trail run before. It was long and muddy, but I was able to push myself to new limits, and it felt really good to achieve my goal.

September– My cousin got married, and I was blessed with the opportunity to be a part of the celebration. The whole family came together to make everything run smoothly, and the entire day was spent together, cherishing one another’s company and conversation.

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My sister and I also moved into an apartment of our own in September, which was a big change from living with a few of our closest friends. It has given us the opportunity to spend more time together and become closer, which I’m really grateful for.

November– amidst the celebrating of Thanksgiving, my family participated in the Walk to End Hunger at MOA, which was a sweet time of walking together around the mall to support efforts to feed those who are food insecure while we think about how grateful we are for all that we have. I also got to celebrate Thanksgiving with my community, and it was so touching to hear how everyone in the group truly was thankful for the friendships that have been forged in that group and the support they have felt over the last year.

December– all the Christmas things. I hosted a party themed after How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which was a blast. I also spent time with my family, watching episodes 4, 5, and 6 of Star Wars in preparation for episode 7. It was good to spend so much concentrated time with those closest to me, especially during the holiday season, which is my favorite time of year. My cousin and I got to plan games for Christmas day with the extended family once again, and it was a lot of fun to get together for such a happy occasion.

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As I begin a new year, I can’t wait to see what joyful memories it will be filled with. May it be a very happy new year for you all!

Merry Rest of the Year

Here comes the letdown, Christmas is over
Here comes the meltdown, there goes the cheer
But before we have a breakdown, let us remember
The light of the world is still here

Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here
The light of the world

Come January I’m ready for summer
The Super Bowl’s over and I’ll settle for spring
Sometimes we all need a change in the weather
But it won’t change the reason we sing

Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here

The light of the world
The light of the world
The light of the world
So take down the stockings, take back the sweaters
Take down the lights and the star and the tree
But don’t let this world take your joy after Christmas
Take joy to the world and just sing

Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here
Merry Rest of the Year, Matthew West

I’m always so bummed when Christmas is over. It seems like the magic of the season vanishes at midnight as mysteriously as Cinderella’s carriage turned back into a pumpkin. We go so quickly from being like Buddy the Elf to being more like Ebenezer Scrooge once again as the dreary winter days loom before us.

We designate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as time for family, friends, traveling, fun, eating too many sweets, and biting our tongues to try to keep the peace. But as soon as the timer runs out, the leftovers are packed away, and the wrapping paper cleaned up, we resume our fast-paced lives as if none of it ever happened.

Who’s to say that we can’t carry the true spirit of Christmas with us throughout the year? Why can’t we slow down to appreciate our friends and family, cherish the time we’ve been given, give thanks, spread joy, and do kind things for others, regardless of the season? We certainly could all use some more joy in our day to day lives, not just for one month out of the year.

Even though the holiday season is coming to a close, nothing has really changed. The greatest Gift ever given is still ours to have and to share with the rest of the world. Joy, peace, and cheer can all be found if we will only take the time to look for them, and if we look for them in the right places.

Let us be determined this year to live like it’s Christmas all year long– to spread goodness, thankfulness, and patience to those around us. Let us be beacons of joy, light, and life in a dark, chaotic world. Let’s not succumb to the bleak winter weather with a sour attitude, letting our lives fade back into the mundane routine they were before the holidays provided us with some relief and a reminder of what’s really important. May our lives instead be changed by the Advent season, refreshed and reoriented.

Let’s challenge one another and spur each other on to be true ambassadors, messengers just like the angel in the Nativity story, carrying the truth of the Christmas story with us all year long. Let’s hold tight to the beauty of Christmas, Christ, and the virgin birth, cherishing it all in our hearts all the year through. Even though the official holiday is nearly a whole year away, I want to say Merry Christmas to you!

A Christmas Prayer

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Let your heart be light.

From now on, our troubles will be out of sight.

Take just a moment to think about what it would look like if we lived like those words were true. Because this is how the Christmas season ought to be. Our troubles should be miles away, worries thrown out the window, concerns long forgotten in the light and joy of the celebration of Jesus’ birth. In comparison with that wondrous gift, that moment when all of history was forever changed, how can our little concerns (and even our big concerns) possibly compete? They ought to be dwarfed, completely eclipsed by the sheer greatness of our God and the celebration of the gift of His Son.

In the place of this kind of holy holiday, when we gather with extended family for this annual event, old feuds rear their ugly heads, tensions rise, and tempers flare. Impatience reigns, and stress isn’t far behind. Our troubles and stresses certainly aren’t out of sight; instead, they loom before us like physical foes ready for battle.

Instead of letting the truth of the season and the significance of the celebration work its way into our hearts, we only let it permeate our calendars. We fill our schedules with things that seem connected to Christmas but really bear no resemblance to the spirit of the holiday. We fill our days with activity without taking a moment to pause and relieve our hearts of the burdens they carry.

In the midst of the craziness and busyness, I want you to take a breath right along with me and focus on the good. Instead of adding more and more to our wishlists this year, let us count the abundant blessings we already have.

Whether your plans include gathering all the extended family together for a big, loud dinner, or a sweet, small celebration with just a few of your nearest and dearest, may you truly have a merry little Christmas. I hope you and I can both remember that it’s not the size of the group, the culinary quality of the meal, or the cleanliness of the home that makes this time special. It’s about time spent together as we pause to reflect upon the joy and peace that can be ours if we will accept the gift being offered to us in a still, small voice that we can only hear when we slow down and clear away the clutter.

The holidays can either be rife with stress, tension, and hastening from one thing to the next with arms full of unwanted, overpriced gifts, or they can be simpler times of joyful company with the minimized importance of gifts and the focus shifted to what really matters– the hearts of those nearest and dearest to us.

In the spirit of the season, let us choose to cherish this time with our loved ones, no matter what else happens. Let us deliberately approach these next few days with a clear head, pure heart, and positive attitude. Let our hearts be light, free from overwhelming stress. If the turkey burns, that’s okay. If we don’t get everything we asked for, that’s probably a good thing. If people arrive late or have to leave early, let that teach us to be flexible and forgiving. If it doesn’t snow and we’re left with a rather brown Christmas, let us rejoice in roads without ice that take us safely to our destinations.

I don’t know about you, but I want to look back on this next week with a smile, knowing I didn’t strive in vain to create a perfect experience that will inevitably disappoint, but that I recognized that there is a time for everything– a time to prepare and a time to plan, and then a time to set things aside, declare them done, and just relax and spend time with people. And I have a sneaking suspicion that you would agree.

My prayer for us this Christmas is that we would set aside our differences, refuse the temptation to stress and worry, instead focusing on our many blessings, valuing people over presents, and truly make this Christmas one to remember as we gather together to praise our King.