Loving Your Right-Now Life

I often find myself thinking I’ll be happier when I achieve certain things or change this or that. But there’s always something else that sneaks onto my list. It never ends.

And I’m pretty confident that I’m not the only one.

It’s easy to think that acquiring more things or achieving bigger goals will make us happier. And maybe they do. For a while, at least. Until some other shiny thing catches our eye.

When is enough enough?

How do we get to a point where we can just love the lives we’re living right now?

I think we can start today. We can start right here, right now. Wherever that may be.

We don’t have to wait for tomorrow, next month, or next year. We don’t need more money, better jobs, bigger homes, or more impressive lives to flaunt on social media. We just need contentment. We need to be grateful for what we have and see the emptiness of continually chasing after what we don’t have.

If we don’t put a stop to it, we’ll find ourselves in a never-ending chase. We will never be satisfied. We’ll keep pursuing one thing after another, hoping the next one will bring us happiness, only to find that none of them can.

So, how do we find contentment? How do we satisfy ourselves?

We find ways to love our right-now lives. We pursue joy right now, right here. We don’t put off happiness until something else happens for us. There’s no guarantee that it will. The only way to really live abundant, wholehearted lives is to embrace the beauty of life as we know it today.

What can you love about your life right now? It’s easy to see the things you wish you could change, but I want to challenge you (and myself, too) to seek out and list the things that are going well.

Are you healthy? Are your family members healthy?

Do you get to spend time pursuing a hobby or favorite pastime, even just a little bit?

Do you have enough money to provide basic necessities (food, gasoline, mortgage/rent, utilities)?

Do you have access to a wide variety of entertainment options (Netflix, cable, books, music, podcasts, radio, movies in the theater)?

Are you in a season that will pass all too soon, one that you should savor and appreciate as long as it lasts?

Do you have a vehicle that safely gets you from point A to point B?

Do you have a solid community of people to support you and live life with you?

Are there moments of everyday beauty you can pause to enjoy? How about things like the sunset and sunrise, your child’s perfectly imperfect artwork, an adorable puppy, a gorgeous flower, a moment of quiet before the chaos of the day begins, a delicious meal, or a sweet conversation with a friend?

For me, loving my right-now life looks like being grateful for the job I do have instead of spending all my time dreaming about another one I might like more. It looks like investing in decorating and updating my current home. It looks like pouring into my friendships because I have the ability to do so right now without a family of my own to devote time to. It looks like being grateful for my safety after sitting in snowy traffic, because although I had to wait to get around a handful of car accidents, I wasn’t a part of any of them.

What things do you love about your right-now life? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Image source: Artem Kovalev, unsplash.com

Be “All In”

all_in_graphic_1110_624You and I both know that we do much better work on things when we give it our all. If we’re not fully committed, we’re more likely to try to get by with just the bare minimum instead of putting our heart and soul into something to make it really extraordinary.

But isn’t that what we really want out of our lives– something extraordinary?

If we want to get more, we’ve got to give more. We need to be all in.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to go through life on autopilot. Being all in takes intention and purpose. We have to know what direction we’re headed in, what we’re aiming for, and why.

It requires vulnerability and authenticity, being willing to be our truest selves, not holding back. That’s no insignificant risk, one that we often feel deeply.

But that’s the only way to really live. If we don’t let others get to know our hearts, we’ll never really get to know them. And what’s life without any real connection? We can’t hope to really experience joy, love, friendship, or wonder without allowing ourselves to truly connect with the world and the people around us.

If we want our relationships to really thrive, we need to be open and authentic. We need to be present, giving our friends and family our attention and putting effort into maintaining those relationships. They don’t just happen, and they can really suffer when we only give them a half-hearted effort.

The same goes for our work. Whether it’s our day job or a side hustle or hobby, the end product is directly related to the amount of heart and effort put into it. If we want to do a good job, we’ve got to be willing to put in the time and the work.

But ultimately, if we want to live a truly satisfying life, we have to be willing to be all in. We have to be okay with getting dirty, entering into the messy, nitty-gritty moments of life as well as the beautiful, joyful experiences. Both are necessary parts of real life, and both require us to engage fully with the world around us and with our own hearts.

If we distance ourselves from the bad things to avoid feeling the full brunt of pain and disappointment, we won’t be able to fully bask in the greatness of joy and celebration when the good things happen. The two are inextricably linked; we can’t dull one without dulling the other. And I don’t think any of us want to live a dull life.

We only get one chance at life, and there’s no guarantee that we’ll even get another day. So we’ve got to make the most of the limited time we’re given, really investing in the lives of the people around us, living intentionally, and not being afraid to jump in with both feet.

 

So are you all in? Are you willing to give your life your all? Will you jump in? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

Image source: http://theaterchurch.com/media/all-in1

Keep Your Eye On Your Why

img_0544“Keep your eye on your why.” It was the second-to-last step in a set of helpful tidbits for people looking to minimize, but it was the one that stuck with me the most. Maybe because it rhymed, so I found it catchy. Maybe because it’s something I struggle with.

In pursuing my goals, both big and small, I sometimes forget what motivated me to start in the first place. And if I’m not careful, this lack of self-awareness will allow me to give up. I wonder if something is even worth my time and effort if I don’t remember why I started doing it in the first place.

Probably not.

If I want to stay motivated enough to see something through to the end, I have to remember why I’m doing it. I have to buy into the idea hook, line, and sinker. I can’t be one foot in and one foot out. It’s go big or go home, baby.

In other words, I need to keep my eye on my “why.”

Why am I pursuing the things that I’m pursuing?

Why am I saying “no” to some things and “yes” to others?

I can’t do it all. I have to say “yes” to some things and “no” to others in order to maintain some shred of my sanity and make sure I get some sleep. There are many, many things I could choose to pour my time and energy into, but only so many of them are good uses of those limited resources. Only a small fraction of them bring me joy and benefit the world around me.

And those are the things I want to pursue. That’s how I make my decisions. I ask what’s most important to me, what I really want to define my life.

I want to be known for my love.

And, considering that, I think about how to make decisions that reflect my purpose. I choose things that support that goal and align with my personality and gifts. In order to make the most of my time and efforts, it only seems logical to choose things I’m interested in, have an aptitude for, and things that will support my larger ambitions. I don’t want to waste my time doing things I’m going to give up on for lack of interest, get burned out doing because I wasn’t the right fit, or doing things that keep me stagnant.

Having the right motivation is key. If we don’t know why we’re getting up early to workout, we’re more likely to hit the snooze button instead of throwing off the covers and breaking a sweat. If we forget why we’re pinching pennies and budgeting, we’ll probably be less committed and find ourselves still impulse buying.

We need to remember why we do what we do.

I’ve found that having reminders around me is extremely necessary to living a life of purpose. I painted a sign over the summer with the word “beloved” on it that serves as a reminder in my house. I also have a beautiful necklace from my friend’s company She of Noble Character that says “beloved” on it and allows me to walk around with a constant reminder of who I am and how I’m called to live.

Remembering that I am loved and am called to be love in the world is my why. And I’m trying really hard to keep my eye on it.

 

Why are you doing what you’re doing? Do you have a big, overarching goal for your life that you filter decisions through? How do you remind yourself what your purpose is? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Further reading:

A Guide to Let Go of Your Perfectly Good Things by Zoë Kim, featured on Becoming Minimalist

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Just Love People

Photo credit: Josh Felise

Photo credit: Josh Felise

Happy Valentines Day! Do you guys celebrate Valentines Day with gifts? Chocolate? Cards? Flowers? Fancy dinner dates? I’ve never been too big on Valentines Day, but I know my social media feeds are full to the brim with heart-shaped everything and lots and lots of pink.

But sometimes I need a reminder that cutesy little valentines and chocolate aren’t what Valentines Day, let alone love, is really about. If our love is limited to buying and exchanging gifts, we’re missing out.

I’ve been thinking about love more lately, mostly because I chose beloved for my word for 2017. Valentines Day serves to remind me in just one more way that loving the people around me is paramount.

Have a posture that is humble and not above or beyond certain tasks. Actions speak so much louder than words. In the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” What if we worried less about saying the right thing or trying to demonstrate our theological knowledge and just tried to simply love people—with no agenda. That is hard to argue with. There are endless opportunities to love people well and serve them, it just takes humility and the courage to be obedient.

– Courtney Bareman

When I don’t know what to do, when I feel lost and purposeless, I come back to what I know is true: people matter more.

People matter more than things.

People matter more than accomplishments.

People matter more than titles.

People matter more than money.

People matter more than the American Dream.

And our people need us to just love them. They don’t need us to solve all their problems, say the “right” thing, or whisk them away to a world where everything is just peachy. They just need to know they’re not alone, they’re cared about, and that at the end of the day, they’re loved just as they are.

What if we remembered that people matter more every day of our lives? What would it look like if we loved people because we believe they are all worth it? What if we loved them with no agenda, loved them just because they are people and they are lovable?

Maybe it looks like sending a friend a hand-written note or thoughtful message, calling your grandparents, doing someone a favor, lending a hand to a friend in need, encouraging a neighbor or coworker, providing meals for someone going through a hard time, or sending someone unexpected flowers (after all, ’tis the season!).

Today, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to remember that no matter what you do or don’t do to celebrate, the thing that matters most is how you love people. Roses or no roses; chocolate or no chocolate.

Have a great Valentines Day!

 

 

Further reading:

You Can Talk About Your Faith Without Being Annoying by Courtney Bareman, Relevant Magazine

 

 

Image source: https://unsplash.com/collections/806/valentines-day?photo=jjj1rHyYyG0

What’s Saving My Life Right Now

This is inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up as a reminder of the things –both large and small– that save our lives and our sanity in the midst of the chaos of life.

So what’s saving my life right now?

  1. Tea. It’s my drink of choice, and really comes in handy in the winter months when I need something hot to warm my hands and soothe my throat. I tried Nourish Move Love’s detox ginger turmeric tea, and while I still have to play around with the ratio of tea concentrate to hot water, it’s been really good! I like knowing that I’m putting good things into my body that not only taste delicious but also help my body function better.
  2. The Hope*Writers podcast. I sat in on the webinar last week, and it was just the motivation I needed to really work on my writing. I’ve been listening to the podcast (is binge-listening a thing? I think it is!) like crazy since then, and all the information and encouragement is so good! I’m actually taking notes.
  3. Rest. I’ve been doing a lot less in the last month or so than I was in the previous several months. Some of that has to do with the cold and dark days and the lack of motivation that brings. But I’ve also been giving myself permission to just sit and rest after work and on the weekends. I’m trying to find the middle ground between productivity and rest, and I feel like I’m getting closer.
  4. Dark chocolate. It’s just the best. Nothing makes a long day feel better like some dark chocolate.
  5. Mail-order products. I’m not talking about ordering tchotchke things from a catalog. I mean having things delivered to my house that I would otherwise go to the store for. I signed up for Express Scripts prescription delivery to save trips to the pharmacy, and notify me a few weeks before the prescription runs out. Hooray for not running out because I forget to pay attention! I also started a subscription to Cora, which is a feminine care service that uses organic, vegan products that are comparable to traditional ones, and every subscription provides products for women in developing countries who don’t otherwise have access to them. Win-win! And again, it arrives on my doorstep. Hooray! If you’re interested, you can use my code and get up to your first month free (a $7 discount): jessica6483
  6. “Yes To” products. I’ve been trying to find better personal care products, and these are great! I love the Yes to Carrots body lotion and the Yes to Tomatoes face care line. They have a charcoal face bar soap that I love! I like knowing that I’m not putting dangerous chemicals on my skin, since what we put on our skin really matters (it’s the largest organ of our body and absorbs what we put on it, into our bloodstream).
  7. Mrs. Meyers and Norwex household products. Again, I’ve been working on having cleaner products– this time for my home! I don’t like the idea of having a lot of toxic chemicals spread all over the surfaces in my home. I like Mrs. Meyers soaps (hand and dish) and their all-purpose cleaning concentrate. They have so many lovely products and scents! I also like Norwex products because of their BacLoc technology. Because of the natural antibacterial properties of the silver in the cloths, I don’t have to worry about germs. And with their polishing cloth, I can finally get windows and mirrors clean without streaks!
  8. Community and friends. As an introvert, it’s often a challenge for me to balance social commitments and “me” time. I’ve been working on finding the sweet spot in the middle, and I feel like I’ve been making some good progress. I’ve spent some fun time with some wonderful people– crafting, pampering, chatting, cooking, and more. It’s been a great time and a good reminder that I need people in my life. 😉
  9. Books. True to form, I’m reading a few right now. I’m still plugging along through The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and it’s as great as I expected. It’s massive (we’re talking 1169 pages, people!), though, so I’m going at what seems a turtle’s pace. I’m also reading Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I think my love for the original is tainting my view of the new book, but it’s interesting to say in the least. I’m eager to see how it ends. And I just finished reading Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift: An Advent Devotional. It was lovely. I read more than a day at a time since I borrowed it from the library, and after Christmas since it was unavailable in December, so that was a little odd, but I loved it nonetheless.
  10. Netflix. I’m so grateful that my parents let my sister and me use their Netflix account, especially since we don’t have cable. There are so many good movies and shows on there that I hardly know where to begin. I like having familiar shows on in the background while I cook, and sitting down to watch a movie after dinner or on the weekend is a nice way to unwind. Sometimes I just need to de-stress and find something funny, and I often turn to Netflix for that. Lately I’m liking A Series of Unfortunate Events, One Day at a Time, Bones, and The Imitation Game.

What things are saving your life right now?

 

 

Further reading:

What’s saving my life right now by Anne Bogel, Modern Mrs. Darcy

Saving My Sanity

Oh, boy, were the holidays busy! Of course, everyday life is busy year-round, but I think most people would agree that November and December are even crazier. And with the addition of New Year’s resolutions or new words for the new year, it’s hard to know how to get everything done that we want to.

In my attempts (because I still wasn’t wholly successful, but, hey, I tried, and that counts for something, right?) to slow down and rest, I implemented some small changes in the name of redirecting my energy towards more important things and hopefully saving my sanity in the process.

These things allow me to spend less time on tedious things that get under my skin and instead pour more into things I want to be focusing on, like loving myself, God, others, and life in general. Even in their small ways, these little changes make life better! They’re especially helpful in recouping from the chaos of the holiday season and getting back into a normal routine.

I write nearly everything down. To avoid panicking about having forgotten something, I’m trying to get in the habit of writing everything down (and doing so in a logical place). I have many lists in the Notes app on my phone for that very purpose– a long-term shopping list, a home improvement list, a blog post idea list…and the list goes on. I add things to my lists as I think of them so I won’t forget. I keep a pad of paper on hand at work, too, to jot down things I need to get done, things I need to pick up from the store, and things I want to do when I get home. It frees me up to then focus on the task at hand because I know I committed it to paper (or virtual paper) to take care of later.

I unsubscribed from email lists that weren’t doing anything for me. Sure, I like to get gmail_iconcoupons for stores that I actually shop at regularly, but for others, I can always look up a coupon if I decide to go at the last minute. Without getting bombarded every week with emails I won’t make use of. That’s a win in my book.

I started working on blog posts farther ahead of time. Having to compose, elaborate upon, revise, revise again, and publish a post at the last minute (read: any time the day it’s “due”) is stressful. I do much better if I’ve at least gotten half the post written before the day I plan to publish it. It usually works best if I have multiple half-written posts in my arsenal so I can choose what to finish based on what I’m feeling most passionate about writing.

I unsubscribed from some blogs in my Feedly account. I love Feedly because it screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-3-15-47-pmallows me to read my favorite blogs in one place, choosing which stories I want to read, which I want to skip, and which I want to save for later. But I had followed too many, and every Monday found myself feeling overwhelmed with the hundreds of stories that had accumulated since Friday. I gave it some thought and decided to remove some of the blogs and news sources from my list to give myself a better-curated list of things that I’m more interested in, thereby saving time and effort deleting things I hardly ever read anyway.

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-11-08-27-amI started using PepperPlate to plan my meals. I like that I can create a plan to make certain meals on certain days and have the recipes right there in the app or on the website version. I had been using Todoist to plan my meals along with all my other tasks, but I always had to open the website to double-check the shopping list, and PepperPlate allows me to add items to my list directly from the recipe. There are some websites it doesn’t support, so I’ve had to add some recipes manually, but that’s not all that difficult, especially with the PepperPlate bookmarklet for Google Chrome. I’m still trying it out, and I still use Todoist for other tasks, but I’m working to figure out what will make this whole meal-planning process more efficient and less labor-intensive. I have thousands of recipes saved in a Google Sheets document online, but those take longer to look through, don’t include the photo, and require me to input more information. I still like my master list, but PepperPlate has quickly become a good tool to have.

I’ve been trying to make my daily rhythms more purposeful, and that requires making little processes more efficient so I can focus on the bigger things, like living like love.

 

Has your year gotten off to a good start? What sorts of things have you been doing to save your sanity?

 

Gmail icon source: commons.wikimedia.org

This Year

I’ve started thinking about what I want this next year of my life to look like. And while the idea isn’t quite fully formed yet, I do have some thoughts on the subject.

I want to be more like Christ. I want to be generous. I want to be less self-centered. I want to be more understanding and gracious.

I want to get better at meal planning, saving myself time during the week and freeing up more time to spend with friends and family. Using time wisely for the win. ‘Cause I’m learning it never slows down, and I’m not capable of creating any more of it. I need to be diligent in making the most of what I’m given and prioritize it well.

I want to remember that people matter more than everything else. Despite my best intentions so far, I often let my to-do list come before relationships. But I know that when I look back, I will be far happier if I spend my time pouring into the lives of my nearest and dearest than if I pour all my energy into my work or building up a life for myself.

I want to relax. I’ve written before about how I tend to be too serious, wound too tight. I expect too much of myself and sort of set myself up for failure. I need to create space in my life for fun and make time to just relax with no agenda.

I want to get better at loving others and myself. “Love is patient. Love is kind. It keeps no record of wrongs.” That’s not always my first reaction, at least in terms of my knee-jerk responses. Truly loving starts from the inside out, and I want to put more intentional effort into that.

I want to figure out this whole intuitive eating thing. My interpretation has been a little too much on the lenient, eat-all-the-food kind of approach. Not exactly a great plan. I’m aiming for figuring out what truly makes me feel my best, incorporating the joy of cooking and eating foods I love and making sure I focus mostly on things that allow me to function at my best.

I want to be engaged at work and at home. I want to feel like I’m really present, really contributing. I catch glimpses of that feeling every so often, and I want to pursue it more.

I want to serve, whether it’s in soup kitchens, my neighborhood, meal packing stations, a school, or somewhere else an opportunity comes up. I want to be more generous with my time and money, recognizing that there are better uses for them than things that only benefit me.

I want to spend time with my family, build my community, and still have enough time to myself to not go crazy. I want deep relationships that stand the test of time, and I know that requires putting a great deal of effort into building and maintaining them in the regular rhythms of life.

I want to run new routes and push myself to new limits. I want to constantly challenge myself to reach new goals.

I want to learn and grow and not be complacent. It’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut and live life only out of habit, without any passion or joy.

I want to live like love.