On Loving the Ordinary

It hardly makes our Instagram feeds or Facebook pages, but we spend most of our time living in the in-between, the ordinary, the mundane moments of life.

We trudge through our work weeks to get a break on the weekends.

We plow through the day to celebrate and kick back at night.

But what about the time in between? Do the moments and days between the big moments count for anything?

In them, we work, manage our households, provide for ourselves and our families, build friendships, create a life for ourselves, and try to keep all our ducks in a row. Those are the days filled with washing dishes, cooking dinner, packing lunches, washing laundry, mopping floors, wiping runny noses, reading bedtime stories, filing reports, checking emails, and running errands.

They are the ordinary days, the regular rhythms of our lives.

We don’t give these regular spaces much value but view them as the mindless path to the more important and productive times in our day. But more and more I see that these routines, chores and daily times of transition are the liminal spaces where we can meet God.

We need not separate the sacred from the ordinary, the “quiet times” and church attendance from our vacuuming and showering. Jesus showed up with a body that ate, slept, walked, built, taught. He told life-changing stories in fields and by mountains, shared truth around tables and while he washed feet. He listened and obeyed the Spirit at every small turn, trusting in the Father to accomplish His will through Him, step by step, person by person, meal by meal. – Aimee Kollmansberger

Did you catch that? We don’t have to separate the sacred from the ordinary. Every moment is sacred. Especially when you consider we don’t know how many more we’ll have.

There is beauty in a well-made meal, time spent with friends and family, a quiet evening alone, a project well done, a quick break to breathe deep, a brief message to encourage a friend, a doodle, a good book, art, and anything that makes us laugh.

We belittle the small moments when we discount their ability to bring us joy. When we rush through them toward the few and far between big things, we don’t do the small moments justice.

They provide the safety and predictability of rhythm when other things get too chaotic. And the simplicity and beauty of them hold so much beauty and joy.

They are the very things that keep us grounded. They fill up our lives in seemingly small ways, but when we look back, we’ll see that they were everything. They’re our normal, our solid ground, our home base.

We could be living lives that are more consistently joyful if we took just a moment to pause and realize the amazing potential our daily lives have for bringing us joy in seemingly small but noticeable ways.

 

Further reading:

On Finding God in the Pots and Pans by

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

That Reminds Me

Do you ever hear a song and feel like it was written specifically for you? Or played at the perfect moment, just when you desperately needed to hear it? That happens to me quite often.

I decided that my word for this year is beloved. I’ve been asking myself if my knee-jerk responses to circumstances, conversations, and actions of myself and others are loving or not as a filter to determine how I should respond. Sometimes I do myself proud and choose a more loving response. Sometimes I forget completely and allow my default reaction to surface– one that is often not very loving in nature.

But I’ve heard several songs on the radio lately that remind me of who I am, and they have served as well-timed and desperately-needed reminders of my identity, regardless of how well I perform or try to respond more lovingly.

So whether I need to remember who I am, who Christ is, or what my purpose is, these songs (and plenty of others) come to the rescue with little daily reminders that I so desperately need.

You are loved
If your heart’s in a thousand pieces
If you’re lost and you’re far from reason
Just look up; know you are loved
Just look up; and know you are loved
When it feels like something’s missing
If it hurts but you can’t find healing
Just look up, know you are loved
Just look up, know you are loved

And you, don’t have to prove yourself
Don’t try to be someone else
You don’t have to prove yourself
Don’t try to be someone else

You are loved

-“You Are Loved” by Stars Go Dim

You are essential, not accidental
And you should realize
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved
Let it soak into your soul
Oh, forget the lies you heard
Rise above the hurt
And listen to these words
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved

-“Beloved” by Jordan Feliz

I’m tellin’ you somethin’
This racing, this running
Oh, you’re working way too hard!
And this perfection you’re chasing
Is just energy wasted
Cause He love’s you like you are!

So go ahead and live like you’re loved
It’s okay to act like you’ve been set free
His love has made you more than enough
So go ahead and be who He made you to be

And live like you’re loved
live like you’re loved
live like you’re loved
live like you’re loved

And live like you know you’re valuable
Like you know the one that holds your soul
Cause mercy has called you by your name
Don’t be afraid to live in that grace

…Live like you’re loved, walk like you’re free
Stand like you know, who he made you to be
Live like you’re loved, like you believe
His love is all, that you ever need

-“Live Like You’re Loved” by Hawk Nelson

I’m sure there are many other songs with similar messages, but these have been hitting me square between the eyes lately. If you’re looking for more uplifting, encouraging music to remind you of truth and give you better perspective throughout the day, I suggest you check out Air1 and KLOVE— they’re some of my favorites! In the meantime, look these songs up on YouTube. You’re welcome. 😉

 

Are there songs that have impacted you deeply? Feel free to share below in the comments!

Our “Calling”

Oh, the ever-so-elusive “calling.” I can’t tell you how many articles and books I’ve read, hoping to find the one that will once and for all spell out what it is I’m supposed to do with my life. But the fact that I’m still searching proves that I have had no luck finding such an article or book.

(Hint: That’s because it doesn’t exist.)

There’s no book or article that can definitively tell me what job I should pursue, where I should live, or what my life journey will look like in detail.

Everyday, I’ve been feeling the pressure
I always gotta know the plan
It’s a weight that I’ve tried to shoulder
I thought I could, but I can’t
And I’m so tired of chasing dreams
When I am wired to let you lead

You’re changing my heart
To want what You want
To love how You love
And that is enough
There’s no greater plan
That I need to know
You only ask me to follow

-Tenth Avenue North, “What You Want”

As a Type-A control freak, I know full well how tempting it is to want to have everything planned out. I don’t like it when things don’t go the way I planned. Even worse, I don’t like it when there is no plan at all.

But when it comes to our lives, God’s will isn’t always black or white. Yes, of course He gives us commandments and guidelines (love as He has loved us, obey our fathers and mothers). But He doesn’t tell all of us to quit our jobs and travel overseas to be full-time missionaries in the traditional sense. He doesn’t expect us all to have jobs in churches, youth groups, or campus ministries.

He just asks us to love. Right here. Right where we are. Right now. Today.

He cares more about how we live than what we do. He’s more concerned about the position of our hearts than the location of our feet.

The way my pastor explained it last weekend was that God’s will isn’t a blueprint; it’s more like a game plan. Blueprints go into very fine detail and are incredibly precise. They have to be exact or things will fall apart. There’s no deviating from a blueprint. Game plans, on the other hand, are far more flexible. There are still guidelines to keep things from getting out of hand– rules to make things go more smoothly– but there is freedom within those boundaries. Changes can be made to account for different circumstances.

What I realized is that my calling was more like a life message.  A life message is less a motto and more something you become and embody in everything you do. And what I found as I was struggling in my business and wondering if I’d made a wrong turn is that I could live out my life message in any job.  While being a life coach.  While working at the World Market.  By being a copywriter.  And you can too.  – Danielle Allen, One Foot Coaching

So when you’re struggling to grasp what God’s perfect, pleasing will for you is, remember some of the things He has called us to do:

-Love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt 22:36-40)

-Go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20)

-Love others as He has loved us (John 13:34)

-Care for widows and orphans (James 1:27)

-Serve others in humility (John 13:14)

-Store up treasure in Heaven, not on earth (Matt 6:19-21)

That being said, we were each created uniquely, and we will impact the lives of those around us in ways others can’t. Our purpose is to discover how we can use our talents to point the world back to God.

Our job is to say yes.  God’s job is everything else. – Danielle Allen

It seems so intangible, this “purpose.” What it really comes down to is finding a way to do what you do to the glory of God. Embracing challenges. Facing fears. Taking chances. Having faith that even if you don’t see it yet, it will all work out.

God works in the imperfections. Stop worrying about getting everything right and trust God to work through your weaknesses. When we recognize our limits and God still works through them, He gets all the glory. And that’s the beauty of it. You were designed specifically for this time and place, and the world needs what you have been called to do. Begin building.

-J. Scott McElroy

We don’t have to do it perfectly. We just have to do it. We have to stop letting the fear of not doing the “right” thing keep us from doing anything at all.

And in everything you and I do, we need to love. Love God and others. In our workplaces, we are to love. We are to be light. In our homes, we are to love. In our schools, we are to love. In our neighborhoods, we are to love. In our friendships, we are to love. Regardless of what our day jobs and titles might be, our real job is to live like love wherever God has placed us.

 

Further reading:

Living Out Your Calling by Danielle Allen, One Foot Coaching

Don’t Overthink Your Calling. It’s Closer Than You Think by J. Scott McElroy, Relevant Magazine

 

Image source: www.todayschristianwoman.com

For Today

I’m a perpetual list-maker, in case you didn’t already know that. I love making to-do lists. I like being organized. I like knowing what the day before me holds.

But sometimes my own tendencies trip me up and make me anxious. When there’s too much on the list, I get stressed as I try to think of how I can somehow manage to get them all in anyway.

It’s all too easy to spiral into a whirlwind of craziness in the name of getting things done. Productivity is great, but it’s not the end goal. There’s not much point in doing things just to do things.

Crossing things off a checklist feels good, but if I don’t put the most important things first and recognize which are too trivial to worry about at all, I’m still going to be dissatisfied at the end of the day when there are items left, regardless of how many I’ve already crossed off.

Sometimes I just need to focus on today.

Today, I’m going to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.

Today, I’m going to make enough food for the next couple days and not worry about the rest of the week.

Today, I’m going to smile and have joy no matter what happens.

Today, I’m going to have a good attitude about work.

Today, I’m going to pause and prepare my heart for Christmas.

Today, I’m going to be grateful for what I have instead of lamenting what I lack.

Today, I’m going to be present and pay attention to the people around me.

Today, I’m going to make an effort to reach out and do something nice for people around me.

By definition, choosing the most important things for my day identifies the rest as comparatively insignificant. It sets my priorities for the day, reminding me of what’s most important, what really matters. And that’s critical, especially in this busy season.

While many of the things on my list aren’t productive in the traditional sense (like cleaning my house would be, for instance), they’re far better. They are steps toward becoming who I want to be, and their impact reaches farther than that of a clean house or piles of clean laundry. They impact more than just me and more than just today.

Of course there are dozens of other things I can and probably will do, but I’m going to do these things first because they’re the most necessary for my sanity and my life. If I get every little minute detail done without touching the big things, then I’m no better off than if I had done nothing but lie on the couch and binge-watch Netflix all day (which sounds pretty good right now).

 

What are you going to do today?

 

 

Image source: combiboilersleeds.com

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?

Narrowing the Focus

You don’t have to do it all.

We often set the bar too high for ourselves. Our tendency to over-commit stems from societal pressures to do everything, and beyond that, to do everything well. We take an all-or-nothing approach, pushing ourselves to create picture-perfect moments, dishes, photos, homes, and lives to share on social media.

Again, saying you want something is one thing, doing something about it is very different. We prove what we desire most by our actions, not by our words.

So let me ask you: What is it you want most? What life change do you desire?

Then, ask yourself this follow-up question: Are you taking the steps necessary to accomplish that goal? Or, are you settling for something else instead?

After all, a goal without a plan is just wishful thinking. – Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist

Did you set New Year’s resolutions only to join the majority of people who fall away from them when life gets too chaotic? Did you try to change too many things at once? Did you jump on the bandwagon and make a resolution that you weren’t genuinely motivated to pursue? If you feel discontent with where you’re at, I encourage you to ask yourself what you really want to change, and what steps you can take today to get closer to being the person that you want to be.

If you’re like me, and you let too much time go by without actually planning steps to achieve your goals, you might find them slipping into the back of your mind, never again to see the light of day. If you were to be asked, you would say that you certainly still wish for the same things, but you just don’t know how to accomplish them.

Where does the disconnection happen? I don’t think it’s that we’re not motivated; we all want to change things. I don’t think we don’t know how; there are others to ask, plans to follow, and, of course, the Internet to go to for ideas. I think we just fill our lives with too many other things, leaving ourselves too little margin to put enough effort into the things we most want to work on. We try to pour ourselves out into too many buckets, causing there to not be enough in any one bucket to accomplish anything.

I know that when I choose to see life as a series of seasons, it makes it easier for me to make decisions. I know that I won’t be forced to stick to them for the rest of my life (at least in most cases), but can rest assured knowing that I just have to choose what’s best in my current circumstances, and I can later choose something else. I don’t have to commit to one career path. I don’t have to live in one place for the rest of my life. I don’t have to pour my time into just one lifelong hobby. Depending on my current needs and the opportunities I’m presented with, I can step forward in faith, knowing I’ve made the best decision possible with the information I had at the time.

Prioritizing my goals allows me to see what’s most important to me in my current season. It allows me to rearrange different pieces of my life to focus on the piece that’s the biggest at the time. When I narrow my focus, intentionally picking and choosing what it is that is worthy of and desperately requiring my time, I feel a greater sense of purpose. I don’t feel like I’m wandering aimlessly, just waiting to see what comes next. I have a greater part to play and know that I’m making good use of the time and gifts so graciously given to me.

It also helps me realize when I need to say no to some things that are good in order to say yes to things that are the best. I can’t do everything, so I have to be willing to turn down some opportunities, even if I would really like to do them. Because deep down I know that there are other things that would be an even better use of my time and energy. If I truly want to accomplish my goals, I have to be willing to spend more time working on them and less time on other things. And the things I say no to open up the door for someone else to say yes.

And when I remember to take life one step at a time, focusing on fewer things, I find that my slower pace allows me to better enjoy the life I’m living. If I’m trying to go through it at a sprint, I trip over my own two feet and completely miss all the roses I’m meant to stop and smell along the way.

So here’s to saying no to the good to make room for the best, narrowing our focus, slowing down to smell the roses, and reminding ourselves that we don’t have to do it all. May you and I both remember that today and walk freely without the unnecessary weight of our ridiculously high expectations, choosing instead to love this season and love ourselves and our lives in it for however long it lasts.

 

Further reading:

WFMW: Just Do One {Special} Thing by Mary Carver, Giving Up on Perfect