Fall

Pumpkin spice tea, cozy scarf, jeans weather, fall colors, what more could a girl ask for?

Pumpkin spice tea, cozy scarf, jeans weather, fall colors, what more could a girl ask for?

Fall. It’s a time of new beginnings as kids head back to school after summer break. It still stands out to me as a turning point, even though I’m no longer numbered among those who are returning to their backpacks and pencils, school buses and cafeteria lines. I think I will always consider this time of year to be one of new starts, even if I’m not moving on to another year of school. I’ve left behind the days of shopping for school supplies and new school clothes, but I’ve hung onto the feeling of wanting to begin again.

I adore fall—the beautiful, rich colors, the warm drinks, the leaves crunching beneath my boots, cozy sweaters and scarves—I love it all. Okay, I may resent the colder weather a little bit, but bonfires and hayrides and trips to the apple orchard make it well worth it. And the fact that the cooler temperatures come around whether I want them to or not reminds me that I’m not in control, that I have to choose to make the most of what I’m given and be grateful for each season (of the year and of life) as it comes, because no matter how endless it seems, it won’t last long.

Life would seem too monotonous and mundane without having anything to strive for, without any signposts to break up the year and remind us to set a new round of goals and ambitions. Many people think of resolutions as only an annual event, a New Year’s tradition. But why limit our reflections upon the past year and hopes for the next one to a single occurrence every twelve months? As the leaves begin to change color and the air grows crisper, I find myself considering once again what kinds of change and growth, what new starts, are needed in my life.

I am grateful for this season and the way it reminds me each year that I can have the opportunity to start again, to turn over a new leaf, to begin a new chapter. I choose to continually challenge myself, not with the mentality of never being good enough, but knowing that there is always some room for improvement in becoming the best version of myself.

As I break out my jacket and boots, I’m reminded once again that this season is a fleeting one– it seems it’s halfway gone almost as soon as I realize it began. All too soon, frost will be forming on the grass and stores will be filled with Christmas music, luring people into the mistaken notion that they need more stuff in their lives to be happy. Instead of falling prey to that way of thinking, I will pause to reflect upon everything I am already blessed with, knowing it’s more than enough. I’m choosing to take this opportunity to recognize the brevity of fall and life as a whole, to see the need to cherish every moment, knowing each one is precious.

As the hours of daylight grow shorter, my time becomes an even more valuable commodity to me. But in preparation for the holiday season that will all too quickly be upon us, I will choose to slow down and savor the sights, sounds, and smells of fall while it’s here, and I encourage you to do the same. May this be a time filled with the aroma of apple and cinnamon, the crunching of leaves and crackling of fires, and the beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows of fall foliage as you take a moment to ponder the greatness of life in all its changing seasons.

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Routines & Ruts

I LOVE routine. While I admittedly would like to be more adventurous, I love the familiarity and predictability of having some routines in my life. Routines give me stability. They help me get things done. They prevent tasks from slipping through the cracks. They ensure that the important things get prioritized and the trivial things get automated to leave me with enough energy for the important things.

For instance, every night, I take time to pack breakfast and lunch for the following day. This saves me precious time in the morning, because, let’s face it, I don’t want to get up any earlier than I already do. For the same reason, I set out clothes at night for the next day (or several outfits on Sunday night for the upcoming week). I am not as creative or thoughtful when putting outfits together in the morning in my sleepy state, so this also adds the benefit of being able to put together better combinations.

Another routine I have created for myself is a workout routine. I designate certain days as video workout days, and get up at the same time, exercising for the same length of time, in the same place. I do mix up the workout videos I use, but I gravitate toward only a few channels and have some favorite videos that I do often. I created playlists with videos that target different areas so that I can quickly select videos I know I like, saving me valuable time searching for them in the morning.

Of course, over-reliance upon routines can lead to getting stuck in a rut. It’s really easy to go through life on autopilot when you have routines set up to make things more efficient. Last year, when I was running the same route twice every week, I quickly got bored with it, and I felt unchallenged by it. Since then, I have found that mixing up my workouts (devoting different days to different focus areas, running different routes, etc.) is better for me than doing the exact same thing all the time. It requires more attention, involving more brain activity, and it keeps me more engaged in the activity, since I can’t just follow along with absentminded muscle memory. Different videos use different exercises and movements, continually challenging my body in different ways.

I have found the same to be true in my spiritual life. It’s easy to get caught up in a comfortable routine: devotional book, Scripture, prayer. That’s been my routine for a while now. But then I realized that I don’t approach any of my other relationships with such rigidity. Why should my relationship with my Heavenly Father be that way? Today I’m choosing to break out of my stuffy routine and approach my Father, my Lord, with reverence, but also with joy, basking in His Presence. I certainly will continue to read from devotional books, study the Bible, and spend time in prayer, but not in a fashion that makes each step seem like a task to check off before I resume the rest of my day. I want to be more fully involved in my time spent with Him, and fully engaged in life in general. So even though routines help me make better use of my time, I’m learning to be careful to avoid relying on them too heavily, lest I go through life completely on autopilot.

What steps will you take to create a routine to make your life simpler? In what ways might your routines be keeping you from moving forward, challenging yourself, or fully engaging?

Quote

You Won’t Relent

“You won’t relent until You have it all
My heart is Yours
You won’t relent until You have it all
My heart is Yours

Come be the fire inside of me
Come be the flame upon my heart
Come be the fire inside of me
Until You and I are One.”

Jesus Culture – You Won’t Relent Lyrics | MetroLyrics

I’ve been reading Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, and it has been doing a number on my heart. I’ve been on this simplifying journey for a little while now, and I felt like I had done a decent job of going through my things and getting rid of (or setting aside until I could take a trip to drop off) things that I don’t use or need.

Little did I know, I was going to be challenged to do more. I still have far more than I need or even want. I still am surrounded by a mountain of evidence of having bought into my consumer-driven culture. I still live in a place of abundance and extravagance. I still pride myself on filling one or two garbage bags with my second-hand cast-offs all the while ignoring the shelves, drawers, and closets full of things I barely touched in the last six months. As my eyes are being opened to my selfishness, my heart is breaking, and the kind of person I want to be is becoming clearer.

Giving away my ratty leftovers is no longer enough. Scheduling a pickup or quickly dropping things off in a drive-through at the local thrift store isn’t going to satisfy me any longer. I am being called to more. I have so far to go.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy,and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:19-20

How many times have I read those words and told myself the rewards of Heaven far surpass the trinkets of this world? How many times have I still labored to get the next best thing that will be cast aside shortly after I attain it?

I need to get to a place where I am not relying on my ability to provide for myself. I have been a packrat for years, keeping things “just in case” I might need them later on down the road. The actual number of times I’ve used those things should make me ashamed. I have feared that if I got rid of too many things, I would be left wanting for them, left in a state of need. As if by letting go of my material possessions, I could give away enough to enter into a state of pseudo-poverty. As if I thought the Lord wouldn’t provide for all my needs, like I didn’t recognize His hand in having provided me with the means to buy all this stuff in the first place, or His provision for the more meaningful things in life that I can’t buy with all the money in the world (family, friends, health, security, peace, love, joy, eternal security in Heaven with Him, to name only a few).

I’m done buying into the lie that I need more and more and more stuff to make me happy, to make me feel secure, to make me feel accomplished for having been able to provide for all of my needs, for having the forethought to stockpile things for my potential (and mostly superficial) future needs. I am choosing today to be more mindful of the things I spend my money on and spend my time doing. I will take a more honest, critical look at the things I’ve been holding onto and release more of them from my possession so that others (who actually need them) can have them and make use of them.

Jesus, You are all I need. I have been so incredibly blessed with everything in my life, but it’s not mine to hold onto. It all belongs to You. Show me how to best use it all.

This will begin a series of posts dedicated to more specific areas of life, areas that Jen covered in her book and/or areas that others have inspired me to look at in greater detail as I endeavor to take a more critical look at where I need to change some habits in order to become a better manager of everything I’ve been given.