Don’t Rush Ahead

Do you remember going for walks or bike rides with your family as a kid? Were you the one who always went as far as you possibly could because you were just too excited to hold back? Did your parents have to tell you to stop and wait for them to catch up, to not go any farther than they could see?

I don’t think I really did that when I was a kid. I have always been really cautious when it comes to things like that. But I do think I take a similar approach to other things in my adult life.

I want to know what’s coming. I want to be prepared. And, if at all possible, I want to get ahead. I want to feel like I’m buying myself extra time by skipping steps or getting things done faster now so I can have a buffer later. And I certainly don’t want to feel like I’m wasting my time doing things that I don’t need to be doing.

I don’t like waiting. I don’t like doing the foundational work that feels like nothing at all. I want to get to the big, fun, challenging, heart-of-the-work things that produce results and give me something to show for all my work.

I have a bad habit of cheating myself out of my stretching before and after my workouts. I do stretch some, but not nearly as much as I should. And, of course, I never realize it until the next day when my muscles are sore and tight because I didn’t take the time to stretch them properly.

The problem is that I don’t give stretching its due. It feels useless. I have limited time allotted for working out, and I don’t want to “waste” it on stretching when I could otherwise be doing cardio or strength training- things that make my heart beat harder or strain my muscles in ways that I can feel in a more tangible way right then in the moment.

When I was in school, I always loved the professors who gave out course calendars and detailed rubrics for projects ahead of time. I loved knowing what was coming and what was expected of me. It allowed me to plan out my time and energy efficiently. In courses where I didn’t have a clear view of what came next, I found myself wondering what laid ahead.

And I’m finding myself in that place once again. I started a writing course a couple weeks ago, and I’m having a really (REALLY) hard time not rushing ahead. I did the prewriting exercises faster than the standard course timeline laid it out, but now I’m finding myself itching to look at material I’m not slated to encounter for a few more weeks yet. And I really don’t need it until then. But this little part of me just wants to know it all. To be prepared. To avoid surprises.

The more I think about it, the more I come to realize I do that with all of life. I want to avoid big surprises. I want to know what’s coming. I want to be prepared.

But life’s unpredictable. And if I run ahead, I might encounter something sooner than I’m meant to, and I might not be prepared to handle it because I didn’t let the waiting do its work. If I skip steps in my writing, I can most likely come back to them later. If I forget to stretch, I’ll be sore the next day, but I’ll survive just fine. But if I skip steps or rush ahead in life, I might make wrong turns, poor and uninformed decisions, and find myself ill-equipped to handle obstacles because I didn’t let my character grow before plowing forward. And if I knew everything all at once, I would certainly get overwhelmed.

I know it’s important to take things one step at a time. The steps exist for a reason– they make the journey easier, allowing me to tackle just one at a time instead of the whole staircase. I just sometimes need the reminder to not skip steps and try to rush ahead without doing the important foundational work first.

So today I’m reminding myself: Take life one step at a time. Don’t rush the process. Don’t skip steps just because you can’t see why they’re important right now.

 

Do you tend to run ahead? Do you have any tips for taking things one step at a time? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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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

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

Moving Madness

You never realize just how much stuff you own until you try to move it all to a new place.

img_0663Playing real-life Tetris with boxes and couches in trailers opened my eyes to the fact that our little apartment really held a great volume of belongings inside. Thankfully our family and friends were able to come help us move things, or we would never have gotten it all done (shout out to all you lovely people– you’re wonderful!!!).

Moving is always stressful, but our most recent experience was made even more chaotic by the fact that we had planned a family vacation only five days after we closed on our new house. I had the day of our closing off from work, but other than that, we had to move everything and clean the apartment after work that week. With stress levels running high and sleep levels dangerously low, we somehow managed to get it all done.

The experience served as a good reminder that I can’t control everything, especially timing. If I had my way, I would’ve set aside a few weeks in my schedule to devote to packing, organizing, cleaning, loading up vehicles, unpacking, painting, and decorating.

But, alas, that is not how this whole thing went down. Instead, I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to accomplish too many things in too short of a time. Thankfully there were other people to step in and offer to help, because I realized I couldn’t do it all myself (despite all my efforts to the contrary).

I was less involved in church and community things due to moving logistics and our family trip, and coming back reminded me just how vital having a solid community is. I needed those people when everything seemed like more than I could bear. Who was I to think that I could take such a big step in buying a house without a little help from my friends and family?

But I learned. I realized it’s necessary to acknowledge my limits and accept help instead of trying to do everything myself. I came to see that my own expectations caused most of my stress, and I’m much happier if I set the bar a bit lower and allow myself to rest. I learned that not everything has to get done at once; it’s okay if people come over and see piles of unpacked boxes or blank walls or a room devoid of furniture. It was a humbling experience for someone who typically cares so much about presentation.

Of course, that was temporary; we’ve gotten things pretty much squared away, but I’m still trying to hang onto the concept of not needing to have everything spic and span in order to be hospitable.

We’re certainly not done, but we’ve made some big strides in making the house feel like home. We painted, bought furniture, and unpacked all the boxes, so I’m okay with letting the smaller things take their sweet time.

And for anyone who’s curious, here are some pictures of our new place: fullsizerender_9 fullsizerender_5fullsizerender_6fullsizerender_7fullsizerender_8fullsizerender_3fullsizerender_4 fullsizerender_2fullsizerender_1fullsizerenderimg_0787

Thanks to everyone who helped us move into our new home!

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

Rescuing Your Time

“Time is a squirrely thing. It only goes where you tell it to go. It has no mind of its own. It won’t naturally gravitate to things that matter or work you really care about. It always looks for the easy way out.” – Jon Acuff

Time. What an elusive thing. Try as we might, most of us feel like we just don’t have enough of it.

But is that really the case? Or do we merely spend our time on things we would rather not spend it on? And, if that’s the case, why are we wasting this precious gift on things that aren’t worthy of our time?

I think we feel obligated to do some things, like go to work, for good reasons. We know we need to earn our paychecks to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. But we also sometimes feel obligated to do things that we maybe shouldn’t. Maybe we feel like we have to pursue a certain career path to appease others or strive for a bigger, better home or a family of our own by a certain age. But we have the power to choose a different path for ourselves. There are some things we have to do as responsible adults, but there are also a great many things we have the privilege of getting to choose for ourselves.

What would happen if, aside from the things we can’t change like going to work and getting sleep, we prioritized doing things we want to do?

I’m not saying we should shirk all responsibilities– deep down, we still want to do some of those things. I want to wash the dishes to avoid having to scrub dried food off later. I want to do a load of laundry so I can have clean clothes. But I don’t want to spend all night doing those things. So I get what needs to be done (pots and pans, one load of laundry), and I move on to doing what it is that I really want to do (hanging up art work, reading a book, spending time with friends). I don’t get caught up doing the little things and miss out on the big things. I decide how I’m going to spend my time, even if it’s different from those around me.

I’m suggesting we do what’s absolutely necessary and then relax and allow ourselves to have some fun doing what we love with the people we love. Let go of the obligations and standards imposed on us by the world around us, and exercise our right to choose to focus on what we value most in our current season.

Certainly, there is a time for everything. Some activities go with specific seasons, like planting seeds or harvesting them. The same is true with our lives, although the length of seasons may differ.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

-Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Maybe you’re in a season of intentional self-care after a time of neglect. Maybe you’re in a season of abundance in which you have the privilege of blessing others. Maybe you’re in a season in which you are bursting with creative energy, looking for an outlet. Those things change over time, and that’s okay. In order to feel like we’re making good use of our time, we must know where our time is most needed right now, and take steps to act accordingly.

What do you really care about? What needs to happen for you to be able to devote more time to those important things? Are there things you need to say no to? Are there things you need to let go of in order to focus on others? What do you need to get out of the way, set aside, or delegate so you can focus on what matters most?

Will you join me in figuring out where to pour our time and energy? I sincerely hope you can figure it out and make the most of the time you have right here, right now. Because this is the only today you’re going to get, and nobody can leave a mark on it quite like you can.

 

 

Further reading:

3 Signs Your Life Is Too Busy by Eden Jones, Relevant Magazine

 

Image source: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/your-most-valuable-possession-time

Calendar Clutter

We all say we wish we had more time to do a fun or enriching activity, be it learning a musical instrument, learning a language, reading more, painting, taking a class, or exercising…

Why don’t many of us follow through on these new, fun and challenging hobbies that help us grow? Because we don’t “have time.” Because we are “busy.” Because we don’t “have the energy” to pursue them after a long day.

We are trapped under the burden of our commitments and the false importance we put on things that don’t matter to us.

We’ve bought into the cult of busy – and place more value on that than we do growth. – Steve Kamb, emphasis mine

What have you been saying you don’t have enough time to do? What hobbies and new things have you been wishing you magically somehow had more time to devote to? I hate to break it to you, but life probably isn’t going to slow down. We’re always going to be busy with something. It’s truly a matter of recognizing what’s important to you and organizing your time accordingly.

Time is a resource, just like many other things we have at our disposal. We are taught to carefully manage money, conserve energy and water, and take care of the world around us, as these are very precious resources. But how often do we consider the most precious resource of all– our time?

We all have the same amount of time to spend every day– it’s only a matter of how we use it. If we find ourselves saying we don’t have enough time, maybe the problem really comes down to us trying to cram too many things into our lives.

If you were to keep track of how you spend your time currently, you might be surprised. You may just find that you spend far more time than you thought mindlessly surfing the Internet, checking social media, or watching television. You might learn that there are shortcuts you could take or regular tasks you can delegate to others or automate to simplify the process. There might even be entire tasks you can eliminate or engage in less often. For instance, you can ask a family member to help with the dishes or dinner prep. Maybe you don’t really need to mop every week. Or perhaps it would be a good idea for you to set your clothes out the night before so you don’t waste so much time blankly staring at your closet in the morning, trying to piece a presentable outfit together.

We spend so much time doing things out of habit or obligation, but if we were to examine and change these behaviors, we would likely find that we have more time than we realize. And we have the power and ability to decide how we are going to spend it. We’re going to spend it on something, so why not choose fulfilling things? Let’s be intentional about how we use the time we’re given, taking opportunities to pursue our passions and engage in the world around us instead of filling up on screen time and mass media consumption.