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

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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

One Word

Are you the kind of person who has a laundry list of New Year’s resolutions? Or do you subscribe to the one-word philosophy? Or do you eschew all new-year resolutions altogether?

Last year I picked one word to meditate on: rest. I tried to incorporate it into the regular rhythms of my life. Let me tell you, it was hard. I’m still not very good at it. But I’m much better at thinking about how to integrate it into my life and recognizing my need for it. That’s a step in the right direction, isn’t it?

I’ve been thinking for a while about what my word for 2017 should be. I think that’s a better way for me to move forward instead of setting a dozen goals that I’ll likely forget about or give up on shortly after the new year begins.

In thinking about what words I want to describe me and my life, I’ve realized that what I really want to be known for is love. I want it to emanate from me and be painfully obvious in how I live my life.

I read a post by Jen Hatmaker a while back that really stuck with me (despite the fact that I can’t seem to track it down now). It was kind of a play on words to begin with (hello! already something I love!), starting with the word beloved. It was punctuated, broken up in a way that intrigued me right from the get-go. Jen broke it down into a few different concepts that really hit home with me.

  1. Beloved. It’s who we are.
  2. Be love. It’s what we’re called to do.
  3. Be loved. It’s how we’re related to by those closest to us.

That’s what I want to remember. That’s how I want to live. It’s all too easy to forget who we are in the chaos of daily life, losing our perspective and misplacing our priorities. This year, I want to remember who I am and what my purpose is no matter what curveballs life throws me.

I got a necklace from my parents for my birthday that has the same message on it. It’s from my friend Cambria’s new business, She of Noble Character, and I adore it! It’s so img_1107cute, and it’s truly a great reminder that I am beloved and that I am to be love, called to live like love to the world around me.

So that’s my word for 2017. Beloved. I want to remember each day that I am beloved by the Creator of the universe, my Heavenly Father, the King of Kings, the One who wins in the end. And I want to be reminded that it’s my purpose in life to live like love, to be love.

 

Did you choose a word for 2017? I’d love to hear what it is and why you chose it!

 

 

Further reading:

Choosing Your Word for 2017 – Part 1 by Danielle Allen, One Foot Coaching

Choosing Your Word for 2017 – Part 2 by Danielle Allen, One Foot Coaching

A Quiet Space and a Slower Pace

Even after writing about pausing and making time to slow down during the busyness of the Christmas season, I’m finding myself getting swept up in the mayhem.

It’s so easy, isn’t it?

Scrolling through our Facebook or Instagram feeds, losing our motivation to keep things small when we see the beauty of what others have created, longing for the same things in our homes and our lives. Seeing others’ highlight reels causes us to somehow forget the craziness and all the hard work required to do all the things and the reason why we’ve decided to pare down the planning and festivities this year in the name of creating some peace.

Even if we say we’re not going to overcommit, not going to say yes to too many things, not going to agree to things we don’t want to do or even to all the things we do want to do, we do.

How do we teach ourselves to live differently? How do we train ourselves to move more slowly, savor each step, and cherish each season while it’s here?

I think it starts with seemingly small steps. Creating new habits one choice at a time. Setting aside time today to quiet the thoughts in our heads and silencing our phones long enough to breathe deep and see the bigger picture. A moment to refocus and remember what this time of year is supposed to be about.

It’s difficult to set aside time when it seems like the whole world is hustling and bustling around you to the tune of Jingle Bells. But all it takes is a moment. A moment to breathe. A moment to pause. A moment to remember.

For the sake of your sanity and mine, I think we need to create time and space to pause and reflect on this season and the past year. Time to think about what went well, what didn’t, who we are, who we want to be, what we want to do, and the whys behind it all.

The more often we stop to remind ourselves what really matters, the easier it will become. And, I think, the better we’ll be for having done it.

This week, I’ve been forced to spend more time doing just that, as my computer and my car are out for repairs. It has been inconvenient in some ways, of course, but in others, I think it has been good. I’ve read more. I’ve rested more. I’ve been more flexible, realizing I probably won’t get everything done that I wanted, so where’s the harm in taking a little extra time here or there to do other things? Even though it wasn’t initially my choice, I’m glad I’ve made more time to just sit and stop participating in the holiday hustle.

I’ve been thinking more about what I need and what I don’t need. I’ve been doing the important things before some of the productive things. And that has been glorious.

So will you join me today in creating space and a place to pause? Time and room to think, to dream, to sit with your thoughts instead of rushing off to do the next thing on your to-do list? Time to rest in peace. Now doesn’t that sound like a good way to spend the Christmas season?

 

 

Further reading:

7 Advent Practices That Will Make Your December Better by Catherine McNeil, Relevant Magazine

You Said You Need This More Than Anything by Emily P. Freeman

Self Care During the Holidays by Rachael Hartley, Avocado a Day Nutrition

 

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?

Pause

Instead of human doings, we are human beings, loved not for what we achieve or what presents we give or how well we can cook a turkey, but for who we are—beloved children of a generous and comforting Father. -Nancy Sleeth, Relevant Magazine

Have you already fallen prey to the busyness of the holiday season like I have? In the middle of the chaotic mess that is everyday life (especially around the holidays), I challenge you to pause. I’m challenging myself to do it, too, so you won’t be alone.

The reality is that we need to press pause in the middle of our busy lives.  We need to learn to take the time we need to find that space to reconnect with our hearts, pay attention to what has meaning to us, and then begin to design a life that includes pausing as we go instead of a forced pause when we come to the end of our rope.  – Danielle Allen, One Foot Coaching

We’re busy, yes. But don’t we want our lives to be purposeful? I, for one, know that when I look back on a week or a month and only see time spent doing the immediate, practical things required to get me through without an ounce of purpose, intention, rest, or fun, I’m disappointed. I find myself wishing I could do it over, think more, spend my time doing more things I enjoy, slow down, and savor each moment. But that doesn’t come naturally to me. And I’m willing to bet it doesn’t come naturally to you, either.

That doesn’t mean we can’t learn to pause, though. We can teach ourselves to set aside our to-do lists, projects, assignments, and ambition for even just a moment and take a breath.

It, like many other things, is a habit we can cultivate. Just like constant busyness, it’s something that becomes more natural over time. So if we decide today to begin setting aside little moments to pause, we’ll slowly find ourselves doing so naturally. And we’ll be able to benefit from the practice as we make the time to rest, re-center ourselves, gain perspective, and see the bigger picture.

Pressing pause allows our hearts the breathing room they need to make us whole and to remind us that our identity is not based in what we do but in who we become.  – Danielle Allen, One Foot Coaching

So in a season that is full of holiday to-do lists, frantic shopping, late-night gift wrapping, and more parties than our social calendars can possibly accommodate, let’s make sure we pause to rest. After all, the holidays are meant to be enjoyed, not rushed through at breakneck speed.

I say enjoy the aspects of it that are special to you, and do away with as many of the troublesome burdening portions that you can. If your family no longer likes some of the traditions you’ve observed in the past, don’t feel like you have to do them just for tradition’s sake. Don’t worry about having a Pinterest-worthy living room decorated with a giant tree and perfectly arranged stockings on the mantel. Don’t feel the need to fill your bucket list and calendar with so many events that your head spins just from looking at it. Set aside time with family, planning low-key moments to cherish one another’s company in the spirit of Christmas, remembering that the holiday is about more than presents, trees, lights, and parties. Whatever you do– however you choose to celebrate– remember to pause and cherish this special time of year.

 

Further Reading:

All the Things You Don’t Need for a Perfect Holiday by Joshua Becker

How to Prevent Holiday Burn-out Before It Starts by Nancy Sleeth, Relevant Magazine

 

Less Stress

We could all use less stress in our lives, right?

More and more results of high stress levels are being made known to us: poor sleep, poor eating, lack of energy, lack of desire to engage in relationships, poor health. As if those weren’t enough, there’s always the feeling of spinning out of control looming right around the corner, the threat that we feel might be sneaking up on us, the deadline we’re sure is approaching like a freight train.

We all can get consumed by stress, whether it’s in our work, relationships, health, finances, or life goals. We’ve become so accustomed to struggling under the weight of our stress that we don’t even realize it’s possible to live without it.

But as someone who has lately been battling high stress levels, I think it’s time we all check out an alternative option. What would our lives look like if we didn’t accept high stress levels as an inevitability? What if we actually believed that this isn’t how we were meant to live?

What if we actually tried to reduce the stress in our lives?

I know, it sounds rote. Or like make-believe. Like an unattainable goal. You’ve probably heard it before and don’t really believe it. But hang with me for a second.

While there certainly are circumstances that we can’t change, there are things we can do to better manage the stress we experience. We don’t have to carry the weight around and let it taint the rest of our life.

I know one thing that has helped me immensely has been taking a second to breathe when I’m feeling overwhelmed. If it seems like there are too many things being piled on my plate all of a sudden, threatening to crush me with their cumulative weight, I take a moment to pause and just breathe. As simple as it sounds, it allows me to come back with better perspective and a renewed sense of my ability to conquer whatever it is that I’m facing.

Taking the time to figure out what stresses me and what relaxes me was a big step, too. I didn’t realize how helpful it would be just to think about what kinds of things in my life are causing negative emotional and psychological impacts and what things drive me or excite me helped me reframe the concept of stress. I can better limit the things that overwhelm me and incorporate more of what is life-giving.

I also have found that limiting distractions is really indispensable. It’s easy for me to feel like things are spinning out of control when I’m trying to manage too many spinning plates at once. But if I focus on one thing at a time, tuning out other things around me, I have a much better chance of finishing things because my attention isn’t divided.

Appropriate self-care is huge– namely, sleep. When I don’t get enough sleep, I know I am far more likely to be stressed and irritable. Sleep has a way of making us relax, which is definitely necessary when we’re feeling overwhelmed.

Giving thanks for things I’ve been blessed with is also a way to lower my stress levels. It’s really hard to be stressed and thankful at the same time. When focusing on the good things, I’m not dwelling on the things I can’t change or the frustration of having a to-do list longer than my arm.

And I still think there’s something to be said about making a plan. You probably all know by now that I’m a Type-A, organized person. I like having a plan and a schedule. I used to live out of my planner in high school and college. Now I’ve just moved on to using the calendar and to-do list apps in my phone.Having a plan allows me to take intentional steps toward my goals and filter through the things in front of me to better prioritize them. It helps me to know what I want and where I’m headed.

But I also know that I can’t hold onto my plan too tightly. Things are constantly changing, and if I’m too rigid in my planning, I’m probably going to miss out on some good things and be disappointed when things don’t go my way. There’s a delicate balance that must be struck in creating a plan and holding it loosely.

And, if all else fails, there are always the tried-and-true methods of taking a nap, relaxing in a bubble bath, or eating some ice cream. : )

 

What helps you relieve your stress?

 

Further reading:

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/7-proven-ways-de-stress-your-life