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

Mastering Mindfulness

Yesterday, I stumbled upon several posts on a new-to-me-blog called Avocado a Day Nutrition, and I was almost instantly convinced that her approach to food is the one I had been missing out on. I’ve heard of mindful eating before, but never really had it explained very well or contrasted so thoroughly with more conventional approaches to healthy eating.

The whole concept behind traditional diets is risky and ineffective, as restricting calories and labeling foods as “good” or “bad” often leads to binging and regaining any weight that was lost. Instead of jumping on that bandwagon, I began exploring the idea trying to live a healthier lifestyle quite some time ago, convinced that a more relaxed and holistic approach to food and health was the right way to go.

I wrote about using fitness trackers that included exercise, sleep, food, and water, which I appreciated greatly for a long time (almost a year), as it motivated me to make healthier choices, until it started stressing me out. I was getting tired of inputting all of the information and discouraged when the program indicated I hadn’t done as well as I thought in sticking to my goals. It felt more like Big Brother watching over my shoulder to see where things ended each day, evaluating my performance by external standards. It was no longer a tool I valued, so I have since been looking for a new approach that doesn’t require extensive logging and counting.

Enter mindfulness. I still wholeheartedly believe in pursuing a healthy lifestyle, and I think the application of mindfulness fits into that idea and provides a useful tool for managing food intake while enjoying food at the same time.

It’s all too easy to either feel like trying to eat healthy is a burden, keeping us from eating what we really want, or, on the other hand, to love food so much that we feel the need to eschew all concern for health to maintain our joy surrounding food and cooking. But what I’m learning about mindfulness is that it can bridge the gap between the two– you can enjoy what you like, but only until you’re full. If you pay attention to how you feel, you’re more likely to choose mostly nutritious food, with the occasional indulgence– because that’s what will make you feel your best, not to check off lists of required vitamins or keep your meals under a certain number of calories.

The key is that you take a moment to think about whether you’re really hungry and what you really want to eat. You take into consideration how you will feel after eating what you’re craving and decide if it’s truly worth it. You don’t count calories. You don’t place your worth in the number on the scale. You learn to listen to your body’s own fullness cues, so that you give yourself what you need to become strong and fit, without overindulging or restricting. You don’t label foods as “good” or “bad,” but recognize that there’s a place for all foods that you truly enjoy.

I’m trying to embrace this idea in all aspects of my life, asking myself why I’m doing the things I’m doing. Why am I working at my current job? Why am I craving chocolate? Why am I reaching for yet another handful of granola? Why am I exercising? Why am I binge-watching TV shows on Netflix? Why am I saving money?

Examining my motives for things helps me see the gaps and the ways in which I can change my thinking to focus on positives and make better choices that align better with my values. I want there to be a good reason behind everything I do, whether it’s big or small. I don’t want to go back to the kitchen for seconds out of habit when I’m already full simply because I haven’t taken time to realize I’m already full. I don’t want to run because I feel like I have to since I know exercise is good for me; I want to run because I like to.

With that in mind, I’m trying to learn to pay attention to cues of fullness and satiety in what I fill both my stomach and my life with— I don’t want either to be uncomfortably full or achingly empty. I encourage you to join me in embracing a more mindful approach to food and life.

Sabbath Heart

“For the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said: ‘You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence.’” –Isaiah 30:15 HCSB

I’ve been catching up on forgotten podcasts lately, and this particular episode of Megan Tietz’s Sorta Awesome show really resonated with me, as one of the hosts discussed the concept of Sabbath. We’re commanded by God to observe the Sabbath, but as this episode uncovers, many of us have no idea what that looks like.

Kelly, the guest host of the episode, explained how the word used in the Bible when referring to God resting after creating the world really means to sit back, reflect, and delight in the results of one’s work. She says as it’s important to create room in one’s schedule to observe the Sabbath, it also takes cultivating a Sabbath heart. It’s not enough to just set aside time, we need to actively engage in the process of resting by setting aside everything else competing for our attention and waging war on our hearts.

As my goal for this year is to rest, I found this focus on cultivating a Sabbath heart to be really interesting. It challenged my ideas of what Sabbath is and what it isn’t. Kelly, the host, quoted Dan Allender who wrote a book on the topic, saying Sabbath is not a break from routine, a chance to find respite before going back to our “normal” lives, but an encounter with God.

Sabbath rest is:

  1. Rest— a break from work. This requires slowing down, acknowledging our weariness, our busyness, and being still. In order to do this, we actually have to stop running around and working, right in the middle of the chaos, to take a break from the crazy.
  2. Restoration— to heal the fractured pieces of our souls. It’s only when we rest and take a break that we give ourselves the opportunity to grow. We need seasons and moments of rest to prepare for seasons and moments of activity.
  3. Reflection— taking a look at what’s going on in our hearts and lives. We are to listen carefully and watch intentionally to see things that are happening all around us.
  4. Rhythmic— regularly returning to rest. Making rest a part of ordinary life makes it more of who we are in the deepest parts of our hearts. Making moments of rest a regular part of our lives demonstrates its importance and teaches us to incorporate it in every season of life.
  5. Remembranceremember, to put back together the image of who we really are. In the midst of a world that tries to tell us so many lies about who we are, we must regularly return to God’s truth about who we really are.

Sabbath also means delighting in life. We need a break from our adult responsibilities to enjoy the things we love– whether that means taking a nap, reading a good book, going for a run, cooking up a storm in the kitchen, or getting outside in the sunshine. It’s giving ourselves permission to set aside all the things we ought to do, and enter into a time of truly enjoying whatever activity will bring us joy.

Life is meant to be more than just day-to-day drudgery. In a world where hard work and ambition are highly praised, it’s all too easy to think taking time to just enjoy life, beauty, stillness, and the things that bring us pleasure is lazy or wasteful or unproductive. But these are the things that give us life, and we need to revel in them to gain the strength we need to carry on. Let us each cultivate a Sabbath heart and set aside time to rest.

Naturally Frugal, Frugally Natural

I embarked on a 31-Day Frugal Natural Living Challenge from Don’t Waste the Crumbs for the month of October. It was arranged so that I received daily emails with ways to frugally live a more natural lifestyle. These two things are often seen in opposition with one another, as many natural products are expensive. However, as this challenge proved to me, there are more frugal ways to adopt natural practices.

I found some of the challenges to be easier than others. Each day there were two or three ways to implement change in a specific area– usually offering beginner, intermediate, and advanced applications. I liked having the opportunity to choose my level of involvement to customize the challenge to fit where I’m at in my journey toward healthy living. I wanted to challenge myself, but knew I had to have realistic goals, or I would never follow through with them.

It was encouraging to see how well some of my current habits aligned with the suggested applications, as I was already doing some of the things included in the daily emails, like flossing my teeth, maintaining a budget, trying to get enough sleep, and reducing my use of disposable items (like paper towels, paper plates, and plastic baggies). It made me feel like I had already gotten the ball rolling, giving me momentum to continue.

Some of the more difficult challenges included using natural cleaners (which I hope to do, but will focus on more once I deplete what I already have so as to not be wasteful), avoiding a pretty comprehensive list of toxic ingredients in personal care products (it’s more difficult than I thought to find products without them), and eating seasonally (I’m working on it, but sometimes I just want that banana in November).

I really liked how the challenge ended. On the last day, the email had the same format as before, but the action steps were left up to us to fine-tune. The last challenge was to set new goals, to continue moving forward in our natural frugal living journey in whatever way best suits us, knowing that it’s a journey that never really ends. It reminded me that this wasn’t meant to only last a month while I was receiving daily emails to keep pushing me in the right direction, educating me about harmful ingredients in common products, and natural alternatives that are easier than I would have expected.

As a result of this challenge and the other reading I’ve been doing, I am working toward making and buying better personal and household products, sticking to my budget, getting more sleep, eating more seasonally, and trying to embrace a slower, more natural lifestyle. Won’t you join me?

Accommodating Anxiety

While I think living your life consumed by fear is not the way to go, there is something to be said about embracing fear– to not be afraid of fear, so to speak. Our fears, our anxieties, have things to teach us, if we will only let them. I wrote last week about a commencement speech from J.K. Rowling that talked about how we can learn from failure, and I am also a believer in learning from our fear.

I recently read a blog post called Dealing with Anxiety, written by Allison Vesterfelt, whom I consider myself to be identifying with more and more as I read more of her writing and feel like I get to know both her and myself better.

If we blindly cast our anxiety aside and tell ourselves not to feel it, we’re missing out on learning from our own feelings. We then enter into a cycle of anxiety by feeling it, telling ourselves not to feel it because we know we shouldn’t get so anxious, and then becoming more anxious in our inability to dismiss our anxious feelings.

Like Allison suggests in her post, when we feel anxious, we get the opportunity to ask ourselves what the root cause is. We can take the opportunity to figure out what our anxiety is trying to tell us. From there, we can adjust our ways of negative, worst-case-scenario thinking patterns, encourage ourselves to think more realistically and positively, address the bigger underlying issues, and actually move closer to resolving the things that cause us anxiety instead of just ignoring them when we brush our unpleasant feelings under the proverbial rug.

Anxiety is habit-forming. We develop patterns over time of how we deal with situations, and our approach to them is just as important as our reactions to them. If we let ourselves get worked up before something even begins, we’re preventing ourselves from great potential enjoyment, setting ourselves up for failure and robbing ourselves of pleasure we could have experienced.

If, instead, we acknowledge our nervousness and anxiety, ask ourselves why we feel that way, and remind ourselves of truths that contradict the deep-seated lies we believe, adjusting our perspective, we are more likely to be better prepared to handle the things that come our way– both pleasant and unpleasant alike. Allison notes that she chose to replace her anxious thoughts with positive ones, changing her thinking to change her feelings and behavior.

This also goes back to a speaker I heard last fall, Jeff Vanderstelt, who spoke about how our belief informs our behavior. If we have a mistaken belief about who we are, we will see its effects in our life. He gave the example of anxiety. If we are anxious, we can trace it back to an incorrect belief in who we are and who God is. Ultimately, anxiety is caused when we believe we are not in control, believing we need to be in control, believing God isn’t in control, and believing He isn’t going to take care of us. We feel ill-equipped to run our lives the way we want to as a result of our past failures and fallibility, leaving us fearful of making mistakes and wrong decisions.

But if we realize that God is loving (which we know because He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for us so that we could spend our lives with Him), we can trust that He will provide for us (and be reassured with how He has so lovingly provided for us in the past), and know that we are not responsible for controlling everything in our lives, reducing our anxiety.

Similarly, if we are anxious because we are afraid of making mistakes, we can remind ourselves that things will work out whether we choose option A or option B, that we can bounce back from negative experiences, and that such choices and their effects will build our character. We have the power to use our anxiety to point out our deeper struggles and face them head-on. Now let’s choose to do so.

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Home Cookin’

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I wrote about making homemade flour tortillas a while ago, and have since made corn tortillas, too. The process is similar, but I think I like the corn ones better. They taste more authentic (I kind of think the flour ones taste like whole-wheat Eggo waffles), and they use water instead of oil, so they’re healthier and cheaper to make. I also made corn tortilla chips with some of my tortillas, which I promptly ate with homemade pico de gallo (delicious!).

Note: when chopping jalapeños, wear gloves!!!! I knew somewhere back in the recesses of my mind that some hot peppers should not come in contact with bare skin, but glossed over that tiny detail in the hopes that jalapeños were not counted among them. News flash: they are. While chopping the peppers, I was fine. However, when I tried to wash the dishes I dirtied in hot water, I felt like I had torn cuticles on all of my fingers as the capsaicin reacted with the heat of the water. It then felt akin to having bad sunburn on all of my fingers. Not fun. I proceeded to Google how to relieve the pain, which meant looking like an idiot as I soaked my fingers in a bowl of milk while watching my Friday night movie selection. The burning sensation lasted into the next day and became a sort of nerve sensitivity even the day after that, preventing me from putting in contacts for a couple days. May you learn from my mistake and ensure that you don’t chop hot peppers (and remove the ribs and seeds) with your bare hands.

Also, I strained some regular yogurt to yield my very own Greek yogurt. It was thick and creamy, which was great, but it made so much less than the container I can buy at the InstaCollage_1442859769000store that I’m not sure it really would save me money. It did, however, produce about two cups of whey, which I proceeded to freeze in ice cube trays for smoothie and soup bases.

I made some pretty tasty mixed nut granola, too. I toasted some mixed nuts, dried cranberries, and maple-syrup-drizzled oats in our toaster oven, and then added cinnamon and a little nutmeg when I removed it from the oven. The result was a nice crispy, slightly sweet, mostly nutty granola/trail mix combination. I probably should have upped the granola, since there are far more nuts than anything else. But it’s really delicious the way it is, too!

I made some amazing roasted vegetables for a grill out that my friends complimented me on multiple times. Who would have thought that simple veggies would get such rave reviews? I simply chopped zucchini, yellow squash, baby sweet peppers, potatoes, and onions and seasoned them with basil, oregano, pepper, and thyme. We cooked them on cookie sheets (one for the potato & onion mix, one for the summer veggie & onion mix, since I knew the potatoes would take a lot longer) on the grill, which was surprisingly successful, since we had never cooked food that way before. I actually put a large spoonful on top of my veggie burger in lieu of traditional toppings of lettuce and tomato. It was a delicious grilled mess! And, true to form, I used my leftover veggies as pizza toppings. Mmmmm. Grilled veggie pizza.

And just in case you think everything I eat is healthy, let me suggest a summer/fall treat to you that breaks that mold. I’m by no means the first one to try it, but I think everyone 4cedfe2d9e78d2633cb61ece91fe3574should taste one at some point: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup S’mores. Yes. You read that right. I made mine with two marshmallows for extra melty gooey-ness. Part of the fun is trying to figure out how to eat s’mores without getting it all over, right? By adding peanut butter to the mix, I’m pretty sure I got a little taste of culinary heaven. So the next time you’re prepping for a bonfire, don’t forget the Reese’s!

Dear Thirteen-Year-Old Me

This month, I’m going to be writing letters to myself at various stages in my life. Below is the second installment, for my thirteen-year-old self. Check back next week for the next letter!

Dear thirteen-year-old me,

Junior high is awkward for everyone. Just embrace that fact, and things will go much more smoothly for you. Don’t be afraid of looking foolish or making mistakes. Those things are inevitable. Celebrate them. Take joy in the courage it takes to be your awesome self– awkwardness, big glasses, crooked teeth, bad hair days, and all.

I know moving to a new city threw a wrench in your friendships, and now moving from elementary school to junior high is full of unfamiliar faces, leaving you feeling like a small fish drowning in what’s really more like an ocean than a bigger pond. But you’ll learn to navigate the currents here, too.

Don’t be afraid to be exactly who you are– crazy outfit days in the name of school spirit needn’t be the only times you choose to let your oddball side shine. Stand out from the crowd. Don’t be afraid to sing loud in choir and give your next art project your all– you are capable of far more than you think.

Love yourself just the way you are. Fight the urge to compare yourself to others. Live your unique life, resisting the temptation to spend your precious time trying to fit in. Nobody else can be you. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

I promise you’ll make new friends who will carry you through these strange years. Take them up on their invitations to slumber parties, school dances, and football games. You will grow out of some of your awkwardness, and embrace other parts of it, in time. Love yourself for it and others will, too.

All my love,

Jessie