The Beauty of Imperfection and Grace

I sow grace for myself. To be where I am, to be who I am. Enough.

I reap grace for others, to excel at what God called them to do in all the excellent ways He’s gifted them. To allow others to own their gifts and calling without resenting being passed over. They are running their own races. No one can outpace me when my route is different. – Alia Joy

Did you catch that? “No one can outpace me when my route is different.” Yes, yes, amen. We’re done here.

Just kidding. But think about it. How often do we find ourselves stuck in the dangerous downward spiral of comparison? We know comparison is the thief of joy, but we let it in anyway.

We steal glances at the people running beside us, and we try to catch up to those ahead of us. We wear ourselves out trying to compete with others and the standards we set for ourselves.

We let comparison whisper lies to us, telling us that we don’t measure up. We believe the little voice that tells us we’re not enough if we don’t buy all the toys, drive the nice cars, have an impressive job, and live in a massive and beautiful home.

We let the world and its expectations tell us what to believe about ourselves and our worth. We allow others to dictate how we spend our money, our energy, and our lives. We try to fit into boxes we were never meant to fit inside.

We tell ourselves that our dreams are too small or too big. We think they need to be the same as everybody else’s. We rein them in and trade them in.

But no more.

We are not perfect, and we don’t have to pretend otherwise. We are not all the same, and that’s a good thing. We are each unique, each beautiful, each valued, and each worthy. We do not have to do anything to be enough. We already are enough. We don’t have to conform to the rules of somebody else’s game. We are free.

We are enough. You are enough. I am enough. Right where we are today. May we give ourselves enough grace to see that. We don’t have to strive for our worth. We already have it.

Part of living like love is learning to love ourselves in the here and now, not some far-off version of us. It’s learning to embrace both our strengths and our weaknesses, acknowledging the reality of where we are at in this moment, even when it’s miles away from where we want to be.

It’s believing in our dreams, choosing to pursue things that we love, things that are different from our neighbor’s, sister’s, and friend’s dreams. It’s leaning into what makes us us.

But it’s also gently pushing ourselves to greater heights. Not because it will make us more worthy, not because we’re not enough without greater achievements or more impressive lives, but because we know what we’re capable of. We are capable of great things. Let us reach toward them, believing we can reach them, knowing that it is because we are loved and valuable and free that we can achieve our dreams.

We are capable of great things. Let us reach toward them, believing we can reach them, knowing that it is because we are loved and valuable and free that we can achieve our dreams.

 

 

Further reading:

An Anthem of Imperfection by Alia Joy, (in)courage

What I Learned: February 2017 Edition

I’ve been wanting to take part in Emily P. Freeman’s What I Learned community link-up for a while, but never made note of it early enough to get the jump-start on the writing that I need.

But I wanted to share with you what I’ve been learning because I wanted to spread the link-up to you and see what you’ve been learning, too!

I learned that living like love includes loving myself. Self-care, giving myself grace, resting, taking breaks, listening to my body’s need for rest days, exercise, good food, imageand balancing social commitments with solo time. I’m starting to get a handle on balancing my social calendar with my introverted need to recharge alone, knowing that it’s 100% okay (and even necessary) to spend time basically doing nothing, at least from a standard productivity perspective (like reading, coloring, or watching a few episodes of a show).

I learned more about writing for the right audience and creating a more cohesive voice through the Hope*Writers podcast and a webinar they did called “Why No One Reads Your Blog and How to Fix That.” I’ve also been getting advice from Chandler Bolt and Jeff Goins lately, so it’s been information overload at times, but truly good material and encouragement!

I’m realizing that my body is trying to communicate to me, and I should really start paying attention. Aches and pains, minor injuries, fullness and hunger cues… I haven’t been good at listening to them, but they’ve reached a fever pitch lately, so I’m starting to tune into them, and I think it’s going to make a world of difference.

I’m reading Joining Jesus on His Mission: How to Be an Everyday Missionary with my community group, and together we’re learning about what it means to live life on mission with God. I like the contrast the author, Greg Finke, drew between working for 4164727oxxl-_sx326_bo1204203200_God and working with God. I need to remember that He’s already moving (whether I can see it or not), and it’s not my job to strive to do good things for Him, but to humbly seek opportunities to join Him in what He’s already up to.

My eyes are slowly being opened to the fact that when spent correctly, I have time to do all the things I consider to be important. If I’m not paying attention, I can spend way more time than I am even aware of watching back-to-back episodes of shows on Netflix, calling it “down time” or a break between tasks, when I could (and probably should) cap it at one or two and move on to something more productive or more fulfilling. This weekend I was more conscious of how I spent my time, and while I did still watch several episodes of my current shows, I didn’t plan the rest of my weekend around them, and I turned them off when I needed to get other, more constructive things accomplished.

There are some things that are just worth investing more money in. I’m a naturally frugal person, so it’s sometimes almost physically painful to hand over a large sum of money for something (whether it’s objectively a large amount or just large for whatever I’m paying for in return). But I’m learning that there are instances in which I need to be able to see the value in paying more for higher-quality items that will last instead of going for cheaper options that will wear out or not be exactly what I was looking for.

The spiralizer might just be my new favorite kitchen gadget. It’s so easy and so muchunnamed-2 fun! I’ve made zucchini noodles, sweet potato noodles, and sweet potato fries so far, and I look forward to using it to make more delicious concoctions. I love how fast it is, because as much as I LOVE cooking, I’ve been looking for ways to speed up the process because it sometimes feels like I spend all my time in the kitchen.

I’m working on improving my Instagram photos (in terms of taking better ones and playing more with the settings) and posting more regularly. I really like Instagram, but always felt like I just wasn’t a good photographer. But after reading some tips and downloading the VSCO app for my phone (to use instead of the normal camera app), I feel like I’m making some progress!

 

What have you been learning lately?

 

Joining Jesus on His Mission image source: https://www.amazon.com/Joining-Jesus-His-Mission-Missionary/dp/193884002X

Let’s Share What We Learned This Winter by Emily P. Freeman

What if You Don’t?

A feeling of overwhelm was descending upon me as I thought about all the things I had yet to do.

There were the time-sensitive, practical things like taking my car in for an oil change, looking into our association documents to figure out how to pay our dues, making time to file some paperwork with the city, and grocery shopping. Then there were the things that were slightly less pressing, but that I nonetheless considered necessary– like cleaning the house before having company over, calling the doctor’s office to straighten out a prescription refill, reorganizing my dresser drawers to make everything fit, wrapping Christmas presents, and cooking enough food for the week. I also wanted to make a Christmas wreath, paint some canvases to hang up for the season, clean my room, crochet a new hat, and curl up on the couch to make a bigger dent in my copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes.

Needless to say, not all of those things got done.

Adult responsibilities kept piling up, and I didn’t know what to do with them all. I found myself questioning how everyone else does it. How do other people work full time, keep their homes clean, get food on the table, pay all the bills, have some sort of social life, pursue hobbies, and sleep enough to function?

I’m not sure my answer to that question is very satisfying. The only thing I came up with was to let things go. I can’t do it all (and I’m willing to bet you can’t either). I needed to figure out which things I had to do and which ones I could do without.

In my endeavor to lighten my load, I found myself asking some important questions:

What would happen if I do task x? What would happen if I don’t do task x? Would things fall apart, or would the world keep turning? Would I function as if nothing was different? Would it impact the lives of those around me? Would anyone notice? Would I be more or less stressed?

When it comes to things like cleaning my house, the truth is that nothing would come to a screeching halt. Nobody would likely even notice. However, they might notice if I didn’t show up for work or quit showering. And I would be better off for having taken the time to rest and read than if I spent a whole Saturday doing household chores, even though that’s more productive in the traditional sense. So I prioritized things that had greater consequences.

What can I do right now? Taking tasks one at a time helps me overcome my to-do list. Even if all I feel like I can do in any given moment is small, it’s something. It’s a start. And it’s one less thing to do tomorrow.

Is there a way to simplify things or cut them out completely? I’m still working on this one, because most of what I do is by choice, and I don’t really want to let any of them go. But I’ve come to really like automating things and creating patterns for myself to lessen the burden of making decisions and save myself time. For instance, I have calendar alerts for things I have to do so I don’t forget, and I set out my clothes and pack my lunch the night before to save time in the morning before work. I’m also working on getting better at meal prep to reduce the amount of time spent doing the menial part of cooking.

In the spirit of figuring out how to live a life of purpose without getting distracted or buried by all the other responsibilities and opportunities around me, I just pre-ordered Jennie Allen’s new book Nothing to Prove. It comes out at the end of January, and I’m really excited to read it. Even though I told myself I need to reign in my spending now that I’m almost done with Christmas shopping, I ordered the book in the name of my mental health.

That’s it. I’m not at all finished figuring out what it means to juggle the responsibilities of living life as an adult, but I like to think I’m on my way. I’m still learning and working through it day by day, but aren’t we all?

Thanks for joining me on this journey!

 

What things have you done to keep yourself sane when things get too crazy? How do you handle the busyness of the holiday season and the responsibilities of adulthood?

Holding on to Happy

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

In a world so full of stress, pain, and heartache, how can we possibly think of excellent and praiseworthy things? In the middle of our own chaotic, busy lives, how can we find joy? Is it even possible to focus on the positive things in life when we’re so caught up with our to-do lists and our own little corner of the world’s problems?

I think we can. In small, incremental steps, I think we can move toward being more joyful. I’m not advocating for walking blindly through life, ignoring the hard things. Those need to be seen and felt, too. But I am saying that we shouldn’t get bogged down by our adult responsibilities and stress to the point where we feel like all of life is stress, responsibilities, and to-do lists.

Even so, I didn’t know how to just stop thinking the way I had always thought. If I didn’t think those thoughts, what was I supposed to think? The rutted pathway of negative thinking was so deep and worn that I literally couldn’t imagine my mind going in another direction.

I am learning, though, that our minds are not made for inactivity. They are lazy, though, and will take the path of least resistance every time. The only way for my mind to stop thinking one thing is for it to start thinking on something else. The only way to stop focusing on the worrisome aspects of life in this broken world is to intentionally fix my thoughts on even the most ordinary of gifts every day.

The only way to change the belief that I can’t change is to deliberately focus on the fact that Jesus says I can.

I am not condemned to a life of unhappiness. The way I am is not the way I always have to be. Changing my mind is not easy, but through small daily gains — choosing where to direct my thoughts — I am coming to believe in happiness again. – Jessica Bolyard, (in)courage

We don’t have to stay stuck in the cycle of negative thoughts. We don’t have to let worry consume us. We can live differently.

So how can you and I be happier in our everyday lives? Vacation is one thing, but “real life” is quite another. I was a much happier, more relaxed person while on a recent trip with my family, but I knew it was going to be a challenge to not fall right back into old patterns of stress when I got back. It was going to take work, and I’m just beginning to feel how big of a challenge that really is.

I think something we can all do (I know I could use it!) is to regularly make time for some small things that bring us joy. We don’t have time to invest in everything we love every day, but we can make small changes to incorporate some small things into our normal rhythms.

Some small things that bring me joy are:

  1. Listening to a favorite song
  2. Sending a quick message to a good friend
  3. Enjoying a cup of tea
  4. Taking a few minutes to walk outside
  5. Setting aside some time to read a book
  6. Thinking of things I’m thankful for
  7. Making and eating my favorite foods
  8. Doing something to help someone else
  9. Watching funny YouTube videos
  10. Puppies (other people’s– all the fun with none of the work) : )

I’ve noticed that my stress level goes down when I take a minute to breathe and engage in something that makes me smile when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’m still working on making it more of a habit, but I’ve already seen how it can really make a difference.

What are some little things that you can incorporate into your daily life to bring you more joy?

 

 

Further reading:

Five Minutes to a Happier You by Jennifer Dukes Lee, (in)courage

Happiness Hijackers by Jessica Bolyard, (in)courage

Image source: http://lifenlesson.com/happy-dreams-interpretation/

Remembering the Resurrection

With Easter behind us, many of us go right back to what we consider our “normal” lives, meaning lives that we live between Sundays, lives lived outside of church walls, lives in which the cares and worries of everyday life take over and Christ takes a backseat.

In light of having just celebrated Easter, maybe we ought to reconsider our approach to daily life and the fractured view we have of life lived on Sundays and life lived between Sundays. Easter commemorates Jesus’s resurrection, His demonstration of power over death, sin, and the grave. It reminds us that although the people around Him treated Him with contempt and hate, crucifying Him on a cross after giving Him a thorough beating, He didn’t let them win. Easter proves to us that our God is greater.

And yet we live lives filled with despair, worry, and fear. We get so consumed by the obstacles in front of us that we don’t look up and acknowledge the amazing power of the God watching over us. We let our own personal Goliaths overshadow the strength and might that could be ours if only we would believe God is on our side and has given us the tools we need to slay the giants.

If we were to truly embrace the truth of the resurrection and its implications, we would live life victoriously. We would see that in everything, we are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37). We would boldly face the mountains standing in our way, knowing that every trial and blessing alike are designed to grow us, teach us, and point us back to God, ultimately for our good and His glory, and with Him, we can handle anything life throws our way (Philippians 4:13).

Instead of facing challenges with an attitude of “I can’t do this,” “this is impossible,” “this day is going to be terrible,” or “this is as good as it’s gonna get,” we can remind ourselves that the light is stronger than the dark. Our Savior conquered death for us, and we are free to embrace His joy, love, and hope. No, our problems won’t magically disappear, but we have the comfort of knowing that the things we suffer through today can’t even compare to the joy of eternal life ahead of us (2 Corinthians 4:17).

I’m not saying our struggles and obstacles aren’t real or can be dismissed with a positive attitude alone. I’m saying that we have a source of power that is infinite, and we can draw upon that strength to stand up and face our giants, knowing our God is with us and for us. He will never abandon us. His strength is more than sufficient to handle all of our troubles, although He may not always act when or how we want.

We know who wins in the end. And we can live our daily lives empowered by that truth if we choose to. What we believe about who we are changes our outlook on life. May you and I remember today and every day that we are more than conquerors through Christ.

Enjoy Today

IMG_0190I recently changed the wallpaper on my phone to a floral design with the words “enjoy today.” This is definitely a reminder I need to return to frequently, and having it on my phone has proven to be a good way of jogging my memory.

As a planner and generally Type-A person, I think a lot about what I’m going to do in the future— whether near or distant. I often find myself ruining a peaceful experience by worrying about whether I’m going to have enough time later to do X or how I’m going to fit in Y.

Instead of enjoying today, I fill it with thoughts and concerns about tomorrow.

I recently took a trip to visit some college friends, and I had to consciously remind myself to stop thinking about the growing list of things I would have to accomplish when I got home in order to prepare for the week ahead. I was going to be spending several days the following week away from home, so taking time to prepare was a logical thing to do. But if left unchecked, my thoughts would drift into worrying and planning in the midst of spending time with lovely friends, distracting me from enjoying their company. I only had a couple days with my friends, and I didn’t want to waste them trying to mentally organize life back home.

It was the timing that caused the issue, not the fact that I wanted to be prepared. I cannot be in two places at once– physically or mentally. I’m learning that I need to keep myself grounded, paying attention to the things and people around me, instead of removing myself from the world around me by not being present.

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” –Matthew 6:25-34

In my head, I know I’ll be provided for. I have been so abundantly blessed already that I have faith in future provision from my Heavenly Father who loves me and loves to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11). But sometimes in the busyness of life, I get a little planning-happy, subconsciously telling myself that the only way to take care of everything and make everything work out, I have to have every detail figured out ahead of time.

This kind of planning quickly turns into worrying as it seems like my to-do list will never be done or my calendar never open enough to allow for everything I want to accomplish. I stress and fret over it, trying to see a loophole, a way to make everything line up just perfectly so I can rest. It’s as if I have to have all my ducks in a row before I can enjoy my life.

But rest is found in the midst of the craziness, not in its absence. When I step back from my obsessive planning and look at the world around me, I’m struck by its beauty and simplicity. How many days have I spent running around with my head down, internal dialogue turned all the way up, not even seeing the rays of sunshine, technicolor sunset, arching rainbow, or falling snow?

There is always something to be enjoyed, if only I will take the initiative to slow down and look for it. My Creator made a wonderful world for me to experience, and I’m going to miss out on that if I’m too focused on trying to plan out my future. I don’t want to be so busy organizing my life that I don’t get to live it.

When I see the reminder on my phone to enjoy today, I take a moment to breathe, pause whatever I’m doing, and think about how wonderful life is. I give thanks for the things that are making me smile, choosing, even for just a moment, to focus on them instead of the mountain of work in front of me or never-ending to-do list at my side. I certainly have a long way to go in controlling my planning and worrying habits, but for now I’m grateful for the little reminder I get every time I pick up my phone. Today will never come again; may you and I enjoy it to the fullest while it’s here.

Little Lifesavers

I recently read a post from Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy, in which she shares little things that are keeping her alive right now, the small details and blessings of life that are helping her retain her sanity. Since then, Tsh Oxenrider (one of my all-time favorite bloggers, authors, and podcasters) wrote her own post on the same topic, and I really liked the idea, so I decided to run with it for my own post.

In the midst of whining about the weather, traffic jams, or getting up early for work, it’s good to remember what things in life are making me happy. These are some of the things that I’m finding to be little lifesavers:

Running outside again! While it may be short-lived, considering the impending forecast of colder weather returning, I got to run outside again this weekend, and it was glorious!

Gilmore Guys podcast. I adore Gilmore Girls (and am super excited for the new season to come to Netflix!), and the commentary these guys offer as they watch the show is comedic gold. Disclaimer: the episodes are not 100% clean; they do use some coarse language periodically.

Party planning. I got to help my cousin plan her son’s birthday party last weekend, and it was such a blast! We had a train theme, so the sub sandwiches were lined up like a train, complete with cucumber wheels. We also had a “lumber” car with pretzels, “animal” car with animal crackers, “coal” car with red grapes, “dairy” car with cheese, and some “produce” cars with carrots and bell peppers. So cute! I’m also working on planning a murder mystery party with my sister for her birthday, and I’m getting really jazzed for it!

Fun, exploratory grocery shopping. I’ve been going to more stores lately to search for ingredients that are more obscure than what I typically shop for. I’ve been broadening the range of foods I cook (I recently used pomegranates and tomatillos for the first time), probably inspired by the insane amount of cooking shows I’ve been binge watching on Netflix. As a result, I’ve found myself spending hours wandering the aisles of Whole Foods, taking trips to my local Mexican supermarket, and making plans to go to Trader Joe’s (which I’m super excited to revisit– it’s been a long time since I’ve been there).

What things are keeping you alive these days? I’d love to hear them!