Coffee

This mama needs coffee.  We have a frame in our kitchen that holds the Pinterest-worthy quotation: “All I need today is a little bit of coffee & a whole lot of Jesus”.  Okay, okay so in reality I don’t truly need that bit of coffee, it is all Jesus, but that is not to say that a few sips of coffee hurt after a night of waking up every hour for your sick babe.  Coffee and prayer are two parts of my morning routine.  They go hand in hand.  Literally.  I have one hand around my bible and the other around hot ceramic.  As I sip and read, I truly wake up to the Word, the Truth.  While of course I do not need that hot cup of coffee in the morning, there is something about sipping coffee, while reading my Bible that allows my mind and heart to really focus in on Jesus.  When Lance and I used to attend church at Reality LA, we both served on the coffee team.  I loved serving on this team.  I loved making the big batches of coffee.  I loved meeting new people and handing them hot coffee or even iced coffee in the summertime.  I still so clearly remember what one of the leaders said in an initial meeting before we joined this team.  They told us the importance of coffee ministry.  They told us that it is more than just pouring out coffee and tea.  Just like with hospitality and opening up your home, there is power in the details.  While it is and always will be centrally about Jesus, that doesn’t mean that a glass of good wine or a latte from a really good coffee shop, can’t be part of the ministry to turn people to Him.  Coffee is not going to bring people to Jesus (that is the Holy Spirit), but as I attended that meeting before serving on the coffee team, I was reminded that everything we do has the power to help bring people closer to knowing the grace and love of God.  It can be as simple as handing someone a cup of coffee and a kind smile.  I don’t know about you, but I definitely seem to think better and be more inspired and more creative and motivated, when I have a pretty mug in my hands.  Again, it is just small details, but I truly believe God made coffee for us to enjoy whether that be alone at 6am with tired eyes or together in a crowded coffee shop.

So do I need coffee?  No.  I survived nine months of pregnancy without it.  I don’t need it, but it does help me get up early even after a night of extremely broken sleep so I can pray and read scripture and be reminded that the Lord is faithful and He sees my weariness.  Just like there is something powerful that happens when people gather around a table with good food and conversation, I think something similar can happen with good coffee.  For Lance and I, coffee shops are important to us.  Before we even began to date, it was a slightly run down coffee shop in Venice that brought us together.  Coffee was the excuse.  Work was the excuse.  Really what we wanted was to better know each other.  So we spent hours at that cafe on Pier Street.  Drinking coffee, talking, working, dreaming.  The coffee at this cafe was not even that great.  It definitely was not like Intelligentsia or Blue Bottle, but for us it was the experience.  There was something charming about the place.  It was not fancy, it was actually quite grungey.  The coffee was served in paper cups.  Everyone inside seemed to either be brilliant or homeless or both.  And it was one of our favorite places.  For us this cafe, was not even about the coffee, but it was through the coffee and the need to work, that our relationship started here.  After a Sunday evening working at this cafe together, Lance drove me home and told me he liked me.  I can remember every detail of it.  I remember his nerves, his Honda Passport, the conversation that began with “So I have been talking to my mom…”.  And I think even  in that moment I knew this was more than just an “I like you” conversation.  This was serious.  This was real.  There was gravity in his words.  This was more of an “I am in it with you for everything” conversation.  Even then, I knew that conversation in the LMU parking garage was the start of our lives together.  You might not believe that, but I truly did have a sense that everything would change from that point forward.  This moment is one of my very favorites with Lance and I think it will forever be linked to the mediocre coffee on Pier Street.

See?  Coffee brings people together!  Actually, Jesus brings people together.  Coffee is just a little detail.  Coffee is good, but Jesus is better.  Much better.  Think of the most expensive, fancy cup of coffee.  Think of that $15 cup of coffee they sell at Blue Bottle.  Obviously that must be good coffee, but Jesus is infinitely better.  Of course He is, you’re thinking.  What a silly comparison to even make, you’re thinking.  But I would question, do our lives always reflect this?  Do we wake up in prayer or do we wake up first grabbing that coffee?  Do we say I am so exhausted I need Jesus? Or is it coffee we ask for? Coffee is good.  Coffee wakes us up. But, Jesus saves.  In my life, I hope to always first chase after the Lord and if I happen to find a good coffee shop on the way, that won’t hurt.

Coffee-Stained Seashells

Sundays are again becoming my very favorite days of the week.  I used to be all about Fridays, especially when I worked.  Fridays were always nights Lance and I went out for dinner and it was the beginning of time away from work and students and stress.  When we had Hudson, Friday night dinners out became less frequent.  We tried to continue with this tradition but it turned out that by Friday we both preferred to stay inside and not deal with the stresses that come with a baby in a nice restaurant.  I still love Fridays, of course, but they lost some of the meaning they once held to me.  Now, Sundays are my favorite.  Maybe part of the reason for that is I no longer have the dread of Monday, but I think it more has to do with the fact that we are more intentional with our Sundays.  Sundays used to feel like catch up days.  It felt like cramming a lot into one day.  Sundays were church plus everything else that did not get done in the week.  Now, they are church plus rest.  This past Sunday embodied this new intention.

I think my favorite part of these days are the fact that church and small group are the only two things on the agenda.  The hours between then can hold anything we want.  This particular Sunday we had less time than others, so we chose to get coffee and walk along the beach in Manhattan.  With coffee in hand, we walked right along the water.  It was low tide.  There was just the right amount of sun. There were people, but not too many because most were watching the football game.  There are moments I have when I feel this deep sense that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  This was one of those moments. I was present.  I was with my two favorite people (Lance and Hudson).  And I was not worried about producing or accomplishing anything.  All I was focused on were the beautiful seashells before me.  When was the last time you did something not out of obligation or necessity, but just because?  I know for me the answer to that question is not very often.  Walking along the shore, finding the most beautiful shells, collecting them in my empty coffee cup; reminded me that I need to fill my days more with moments like this.  I found so much joy in shuffling through the array of broken shells and misshaped rocks.  It gave my mind and heart pause.  It allowed the constant rolling voice in my head listing out the things that must be done to stop and fade away in the background.  Collecting shells at low tide on a Sunday afternoon might not be quite the thing that fills you up, but my point in writing this is to encourage you to find the thing that does.  Maybe it is going to a cafe to eat breakfast by yourself.  Maybe it is taking a long drive along the coast.  Maybe it is going antique shopping and finding a piece to make your home feel more complete.  It is freeing to allow yourself the permission to do things that do not always result in a measurable outcome.  It is okay to have moments that are simple.  It is okay to give ourselves pause and just focus on the shells.

When we got home, I opened up my Starbucks cup to find the three shells I collected.  There was a small amount of vanilla latte remaining, so the shells were stained with espresso.  The cup held an aroma of sea salt and vanilla.  It sounds slightly silly to put this into words, but opening up that cup and seeing those coffee-stained seashells I collected, brought me so much joy.  I washed them, hoping that some of that coffee scent would still remain.  I then placed them on the dresser in our room.  I laid each one out meticulously, giving space for each shell to shine on its own.  Some of you reading this, probably think I am crazy for doing this or even writing this.  I know it seems relatively insignificant and not fully worthy of even sharing, but I think it is.  I think it shows the importance of the little things.  It shows the value in doing the things that fill you up.  It shows that we do not need to spend a lot of money or do all the fancy things to enjoy our life.  Sometimes all you really need is to go down to the beach, or the park, or whatever quiet environment you choose and find something that bring you joy.  For me on this Sunday, it happened to be shells soaked in coffee.

I now look at these shells every time I am in our bedroom.  They are more than shells.  They are symbols of a life well lived.  Every time I look at these shells, I am now able to transport back to this Sunday afternoon.  Those shells will take me back to the waves crashing, the taste of a warm latte, the curiosity of Hudson as he takes it all in.  Those shells remind me it is okay to just wander.  It is okay to be spontaneous and not have every minute of the day planned out.  It is okay to just be.

Even since this past Sunday afternoon, there have already been multiple times that I have forgotten about the shells and fallen back into the cycle of work and obligation.  This past week was filled with a lot of shoulds.  It was filled with a lot of lists and time obligations.  Unfortunately, there was not a whole lot of seashell collecting that occurred.  And this is okay.  I am human and quite frankly, it takes just a second for me to forget what I really need.  What I truly need is not found on lists or even in the form of a shell.  It can only be found in Jesus.  Just like shells can symbolize baptism, those three coffee-stained shells remind me that through the grace of God, I am made new.  My work will never be enough nor will it ever save me.  I have messed up 10,000 times already this week.  I have yelled at Lance.  I have been impatient with Hudson as I wake up for the 5th time in the middle of the night.  I get frantic as I am trying to feed Hudson and get dinner in the crockpot and get out the door in time for baby yoga.  I have very quickly forgotten about that peaceful Sunday afternoon where I was restful and just looking for pretty shells.  This is how sin operates.  We turn away and focus on our selves in an instant.  Thankfully Jesus offers us abundant grace.  Thankfully those shells do not leave and will be there for us next Sunday to return to.

To Run in the Rain

This mama needs to run in the rain.  

As I learn more about myself, I am realizing I am much introverted than I previously thought.  I like the idea of being around people, but I really thrive off of having time alone in quiet.  This is one of the many reasons why running is so good for me. It gives me the space to be in a quiet rhythm.  It allows me to think, pray, and breathe.  Don’t get me wrong, I love running with others as well and connecting in this way, but every once in a while a solo run does my soul a lot of good.

The rain just kept coming this week.  It rained and rained.  Every time I looked out the window my initial thought was to skip the run.  Stay inside my mind whispered. Even though I have been a runner for over a decade, basically every time I go out for a run, I am again dealing with the internal battle of just staying inside.  I know some people eagerly lace up their shoes and prance out the door to run, but this is just not how I operate.  It would probably fool you when I am actually out running with a smile, but that initial push out the door is so hard for me.  It is especially hard now when I don’t have a coach telling me what to do or a team depending on me to be in shape.  Now, I am the coach.  I am the whole team.  With anything, when it is just you, performing and producing your best becomes even less motivating.

Despite this desire to stay inside, I managed to get out the door twice to run.  And it was two of the best choices I made all week.  Both times felt magical.  The best part of running in the rain is that not a lot of people do it.  The park was empty.  The strand was deserted. All I could hear was the rain rhythmically hitting my visor.  All I could see was waves crashing.  All I could feel was peace.  I was not thinking about other people.  I was not trying to pass the person 100 meters ahead of me.  I was not trying to impress by running as fast as I could.  I was not worried about pace or performance.  I was simply just running in the rain.  Alone.

When all the exterior elements of running are stripped down and you are left with just the raw aspects of movement, breath, and cadence; you can really find the joy in running.  You can find it in its purest form.  I think over the past few years, I got lost in the races, the time trials, the competition.  I think I forgot what it feels like to just run because you can, not because you have to.  When it comes down to it, I really love to run.  I actually have always loved it, but I think somewhere along the way running became something else.  It became pressurized and demanding.  It became solely about performance and pleasing coaches.  The rawness of running: breath, movement, cadence; became lost.

It took having a baby to get me to return to running and fall back in love with the sport.  Once Hudson was born, all expectations of who I was as a runner seemed to dissipate.  It did not matter if I ran for just 20 minutes.  It did not matter if I ran 10 minute pace.  These are things that I would of laughed at a few years ago, but now it was all about getting out the door.  It no longer was about the pace or the mileage.  It was solely about running to clear my head, running to get off the baby weight, running to take a break, running to pray for patience.  It was all about the movement.  I was running because I had a deep down need to move and it turns out running is the best way I know how to do that. I finally was in a place where I could run without the pressure, anxiety, and fear that seemed to plague most of my college running career.  I could run and walk.  I could stop when I felt tired. I could just run a loop around the block and return home.  I finally am learning to run with grace.  And this is making all the difference in my love for running.

Running in the rain last week reminded me why I run.  It reminded me how running is supposed to feel in its purest form.  It reminded me the importance of not waiting until conditions or life is perfect.  If we run like this or if we live like this, we never will run much or really do anything at all.  Sometimes it will rain all week. Sometimes you will have bad days, weeks, months, years.  And sometimes you just have to face it.  You have to tie up those shoes.  Put on your hat.  And start that watch.  And just like running in the rain, through movement and action, you can eventually be reminded of why you do what you do and be at peace with whatever life gives you.

Letter To My 35-Year-Old Self

Last week, I reflected back 10 years, today I look forward 10 years and write down some dreams and thoughts to my future self.  Here it is:

Dear 35-Year-Old Self,

I am writing this with no idea where you will be at 35 or what you will be like, but I have some hopes and dreams for you that I would like to outline for you.  Knowing you, I have a feeling when you read this in 10 years, you might feel a little disappointed if you are not where I imagine you being.  That is perfectly okay.  You might not be where I imagined, but really all I can hope for is that you are following the will of God.  That is all that really matters.

Currently I am in a place of uncertainty.  A place of transition and new territory.  I am just beginning to figure out this new role as mom.  At 35, I have no idea how many children we may have or even what location we will be at, but I hope in 10 years to be more confident as a mom.  I question myself daily.  I question if I am doing enough for Hudson.  Every day I am faced with the doubt that I am not a good enough mother.  I am pretty certain that I will still have these doubts in 10 years, they may be even more significant with the passing of time, but I do hope you have greater confidence in your ability to mother well.  Not only as mother, but I hope your confidence has increased in all areas of your life.  Ultimately I hope you stand on even firmer confidence in Christ, and through this, you may live a life that is bolder and more certain.

Along with confidence, I hope you are not as serious.  I hope in 10 years, you have become more fun and less stressed.  I know in these next few years, life is likely going to get more complicated and more full, but my prayer is that I can increase in maturity to handle it all better than my early twenties.  I hope you can better handle when things fall apart.  I hope there are less anxious tears and more belly laughs.  I hope that you can shake things off quicker and with greater ease.  I hope you can be less frantic and concerned about the things that really do not matter.  Again, I know you and I know that you are likely going to still have these same anxious and stressed out tendencies that I am currently dealing with, but along with all the other hopes I outlined, I ultimately hope you can learn to lean less on yourself and more on the Lord.

Not only do I hope you are more confident and less anxious, I hope you have become better.  I hope you are better in all senses.  I hope you are a better wife.  I hope you love Lance better and are less selfish.  I hope you are a better mother.  I hope you are more patient with Hudson and any future children you may have.  I hope you have become a better sister, daughter, friend, church member, neighbor, woman, and most importantly a better follower of Christ.  This is starting to feel overwhelming, but really all I am hoping for is that by 35 your heart is bigger and fuller and more willing to love the people in your life better.  I know you still have a long way to go, but I really hope you can read this and know that you are absolutely more intentional with the relationships in your life.

At 25, I write this with great optimism.  I really cannot wait to meet you at 35 and see the life that you are living.  I can’t wait to see the growth you have made and I really can’t wait to see Hudson as a 10-year-old.  While I write this with hopeful optimism, I am almost certain that you probably have experienced lost somewhere along these 10 years.  You probably have had some darker seasons.  You may have even gotten a little lost along the way.  I am sure there have been some really hard tears you have cried and some really beautiful laughs.  I write this knowing that there are going to be some difficulties these next 10 years that will likely test me and make me feel uncomfortable.  Whatever has happened, I hope you can look back and through both the pain and the joy, see the hand of God over it all.

Love,

Your 25-year-old self

Chocolate Cake & Blueberries

This mama needs chocolate cake and blueberries.  I am writing this on Sunday afternoon, and right before I sat down to begin writing, I cut myself a generous slice of vegan chocolate cake.  While I normally would not indulge in chocolate cake anytime before 6pm, I figured it is still my birthday weekend so chocolate cake at 3pm is allowed.  To give a little insight as to how my brain works, I chose to top it with a handful of blueberries to balance it out.  Now, blueberries are a perfect topping to cake, but I am more interested in exploring why I tossed those blueberries on.  I honestly did not even feel like eating blueberries.  I really just wanted my leftover vegan cake, but internally that felt too indulgent.  This is a small and silly example, but in a similar vein to my post last week on rest, I too often find myself adding something to what alone is perfectly good and acceptable.  Why is it so hard to just eat the cake?

Reflecting on this further, maybe adding the blueberries is a good thing.  There is something incredibly valuable in balance.  It probably would not be the best to eat cake alone every afternoon, but cake with some antioxidant-filled blueberries every once and a while is a good thing.  I need to start living my days more from this cake and blueberry mindset.  By this I mean that I need to incorporate more balance.  My Mondays and Sundays are in stark contrast.  For me, Mondays are cleaning days.  I spend basically the entire day cleaning.  Sundays are resting days.  Especially recently, I have tried to be much more intentional on the ways we spend our Sundays.  While I don’t think there is anything wrong with having days dedicated to specific things, there needs to be balance.  On Mondays, I usually end the day so burnt out because I spent the majority of my time cleaning.  Continuing with my metaphor, Mondays are all about the blueberries, but even Mondays need a sliver of cake.  Sundays are all about the cake.  No laundry.  Crockpot dinners.  No agenda.  However, a day full of cake is not good for us either.  We need protein.  We need vitamins.  We need color.  As I am currently learning, Sundays also need blueberries.  It can’t just be cake.  Balance is needed on a daily basis, but that balance is going to look different with each day.  Certain days, work will outweigh play and rest; others the rest will be the focus.  I think we can get into ruts when we forget the importance of balancing our days out.  We forget to add the blueberries to the cake.

Will the Sabbath be ruined if we sweep the floors?  Will the Monday cleaning day be ruined if I take a nap? I have a habit of functioning in a black and white mindset that does not leave room for in-betweens.  It is either all or nothing.  I am learning this is not a healthy way to live.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with occasionally having a big slice of cake on its own,  I hope to better strive at creating my days with greater balance that makes room for both the cake parts of life and also the blueberries elements because the truth is- they both are sweet on their own and even sweeter together.

Letter to My 15-Year Old Self

Yesterday was my 25th birthday.  I am officially a quarter of a century.  I have entered the mid-twenties.  For some reason this year feels significant to me.  I think back to 10 years ago and I am proud of who I am becoming and the family Lance and I have started.  I also hopefully think ahead 10 years to the future and I have so many goals and dreams as to where I would like to be at 35.  In honor of 25 years, I wrote a letter to both my past and future self.  Here is the first letter:

Dear 15-year-old self,

Hi Kelli Sugimoto, this is Kelli Capel writing to you.  In 10 years, a lot is going to change for you.  You will get married, you will have a baby, you will come to truly know Christ.  These are the big ones, but your next ten years will be filled with little moments, little decisions that will change everything.  You are going to feel lost at times and uncertain that you are making the right decisions, but I just wanted to reassure you that you are.  Even the mistakes, led you to the life I am currently living and it really is a beautiful one.  It is so full with family, friends, the sweetest little boy and a man that loves you.  I know what you are dreaming about right now and I am pleased to tell you some of those dreams will happen in just a few short years.

Right now you are probably just in the midst of figuring out that you really love to run.  It is your freshmen year and I know you have no idea what running will become.  You are entering a chapter where running will be everything.  It is going to teach you a lot.  It is going to build within you a determination and a strength you did not even know you were capable of.  It is also going to test you.  It is going to wake you up and make you realize you are much more than just a runner.  It will show that running is a good thing, but it is not the thing.  It will get you places and open doors and give you things.  This is a lot of vagueness, all to say this: keep running, keep chasing dreams, keep getting better, keep putting in the miles and the minutes, keep believing you can.  Running will begin as the everything and it will end as really nothing, but I am learning right now that it will come back to be something really beautiful again; just with a different look.

Along with running, you are also forming some very important friendships.  Some of those friends, you are going to lose touch with and that is okay, but some, specifically a couple, will be your two best friends, 10 years later and beyond.  Enjoy your time with them now.  Things will change very quickly.  Definitely not for the worst, but it will be different.  You will all live in different states and your time together will be limited.  Soak up your time with them now.  These girls will stand by you at your wedding, they will be there for your baby shower, they will drive to see you in Arizona.  They will love you in the good and the hard.  They will be true friends through and through.

As with your friends, spend as much possible time with your family.  As strange as this may sound, you only have about 3 more years of living at home.  You only have 6 more years of being unmarried.  In three years, it will be different.  In six, entirely changed.  Your time at your family home is limited.  Appreciate it as much as you can now.  Thank your mom more for always helping pack lunches and making breakfasts and loving you so well.  Thank your dad more for all his support and believing in you always.  Spend more time with your sister.  Tell her more often all the amazing strong qualities you see in her.  Give more cuddles to your dog, Jack, he will pass in just a couple years. Go and visit grandma as often as you can.  When she tells you to “run along now” stay longer.  Treasure this season with your family.

I know now you are not even really thinking about dating or boys, but just remember the real man will come in the form of a very good friend. He is more than you are even dreaming about.  Therefore, do not take the different heart breaks too seriously.  As dramatic as they feel at the time, God has something infinitely better planned for you.  All the disappointments are one step closer to finding the life He has intended for you.  I don’t want to tell you who your husband will be (some things are better left as surprises), but trust me when I tell you that he is perfect for you.  He will be the man that helps point you back to the cross.  Through your friendship, you will be reintroduced to church and find out what it means to truly be in relationship with Jesus.  Reality LA will be an important church and community for you in the coming years.  I know right now you go to church, but I am so excited for you to fully see what it looks like and feels like to have a personal relationship with God.

Remember how you always dreamed about being a teacher and a mom?  These dreams comes true.  Teaching will be hard at times, but by the time you leave for the next dream to happen, you will have a heart so much fuller than when you began.  You will come to find that you learned more as a teacher than you ever had as a student.  You will realize that teaching is not always about the deliverance of content as it is about the example of love and kindness you can set for your students.  It turns out this is what they will really remember about you; not the proper placement of a semi-colon.

You will leave the classroom for a bit and enter your next dream.  Motherhood.  Your baby boy is more precious than you can even imagine.  He has your nose and his father’s eyes. Even in just the first few months, he is going to teach you a lot about sacrifice, patience, and love.  There is not much else I can tell you on this, considering I am just a few months in, but I am sure my future self will have some good lessons to prepare you for.

I want to leave you with these final words.  You have so much to look forward to.  There is amazing and beautiful things ahead.  A common thread you will be faced with is lack of confidence in your abilities.  Whenever you are in those places of doubt whether it be on the line of a race, in a classroom of students, up late with a sleepless baby; remember that God made you ready for each of these different seasons.  You were made for this.  Don’t ever forget that.

Love,

25-year-old self

 

 

Rest

This mama needs rest.  

Resting is something that does not come naturally to me.  I really wish it did because it is so important, but it doesn’t.  In the moments of my day that actually lend themselves well for rest, I seem to resist real rest in place of what I am calling “pretend rest.”  I think we all have a tendency to do this.  Last night, I had an unexpected window of free time.  This could have been an ideal time for rest.  I could of curled up and read more of my book.  I could have just laid down and turned on a show.  I could of just closed my eyes for a few minutes and prayed.  I could have done all these activities of rest, but instead I chose “pretend rest.”  I chose to fold the laundry, while watching “Tidying Up.”  What I really wanted to do was just lay there and watch Marie Kondo perfectly fold laundry, but that is too restful.  I must do that plus something productive.  Why do we do this?  In my life, I seem to always blend rest with what actually needs to be accomplished, which ultimately results in mediocre rest.  I don’t want mediocre rest. I want real rest.  I want the type of rest where you just nap in the middle of the day, not because you are sick, but just because.  I find the only time I truly grant my body rest is when it is fully in need of it.  When I am hit with terrible body aches and feel sick, then I can just lay there and rest.  However, if I am feeling good, I forget that I am still in need of rest in the middle of my days. I need to better grant myself permission to fully rest, not pretend rest.  Pretend rest looks like folding laundry and watching a show.  It looks like laying down while going through emails.  It looks like emptying the dishwasher while listening to a sermon.  Don’t get me wrong, these things listed above can be great ways to get things done while also relaxing or doing something more fulfilling, but I think the issue is when we deem these things as our true rest.  Rest plus something else cannot equal pure rest. Rest alone equals pure rest.  It is that simple.

I need a lot of grace in this area of my life.  I need to not just rest and turn everything off, I need to rest in the fullness of what God has already accomplished and done for me.  Everything I could do will never be enough.  It will never save me.  I am enough and I am saved solely through the grace of God.  I was reminded of this truth as I read Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:5-8 earlier this week:

“You are saved by grace!  He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift- not from works so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:5-8).

I feel like I can end this here.  There is not much else I can write that is not perfectly captured in those verses from Ephesians.  It is all God.  It is all grace.  And it is all good.  We are so little and are to-do lists are so insignificant to what has already been accomplished.  Therefore, there is no point in filling our time with pretend rest when what we truly need is to fully rest in the goodness of God and his ever-sufficient grace.

2019: The Year of Open

Last Friday, Lance and I had our first date night in a while, and it was amazing.  One of the pieces of advice we both seemed to hear a lot in pregnancy was that you must prioritize your marriage when you start having kids.  Already, I can see how true this is.  The reality is that life is so much busier and more structured than it used to be and if we do not intentionally make the time to just be Lance and Kelli, husband and wife; we will live our lives solely as mommy and daddy.  This is not good for anyone, including Hudson, especially Hudson.  I want my son and any future children we may have to look at our marriage and see a strong Christ-centered marriage that sets an example for them.  We realized that we need to be more intentional about having date nights once a month.  Since this date fell just a few days before the New Year, we ended our date at Urth Cafe and set intentions, goals, and habits we hope to strive after as a family.  We first attempted to come up with what we wanted our overarching theme for the year to be.  What one word did we want to really focus and embody in 2019?  While a few words were tossed on the table, we landed with open.  I wrote it in big letters in my planner: “2019: The Year of Open.”  In many ways, this directly aligns with a vision and campaign at our church entitled The Open Campaign.  In the way that our church is striving to be more open to the surrounding community, Lance and I also hope that we can live 2019 well with an open heart, home, and hand.  The aspect I really love about this concept of openness is that it is two-fold.  In one sense, being open allows us to pour out into others, but the opposite is true as well.  Embracing a posture of openness, also allows us to be filled up.  Both are essential.  Unfortunately, I have a tendency to hyper-focus on the pouring out, that I forget to fill up.  This year, I personally want to better embrace this idea of allowing time and space to be filled up.  I wanted to share 5 ways in which I am attempting to do a better job in this area.

  1. Get Up Early.  When I was teaching, I woke up every morning at 5am.  While I initially dreaded that early morning alarm, it allowed me to be so much more productive and efficient with my time.  I did not realize it at the time, but that early morning commute was a really important time for me to wake up, plan the day, and pray.  It gave me a pause before the day fully started.  Once I stopped working, I stopped setting the alarm and chose to have Hudson be my new alarm clock.  This worked initially, but I began to realize I was starting my days grumpy and unprepared for the day ahead.  Even if it is just 15 minutes of uninterrupted, quiet morning time, I am able to start the day at peace and in joy.  While I don’t quite feel ready to set my alarm back to 5am, setting it to 6am this week has allowed for time to sip my coffee, drink a glass of water, light a candle, write down what Hudson did the previous day, and spend some time alone with the Lord reading my Bible and praying for the day ahead.  These sound like such simple things, especially the one on drinking water, but I am finding it is these simple acts that put me in the right frame of mind to be open to loving and pouring out to the people in my life.
  2. Write Daily. Writing is something I really enjoy to do.  I have always been the journal keeping type of girl.  Journaling and just writing in general really helps me process how I am feeling and why I am feeling that way.  While I really love writing, I have not prioritized it.  I hope to keep a daily practice of making sure I am writing on a daily basis. It might not always be a full blog post in one day, but regardless of the type of day I am having, I hope that I can take at least a few minutes of it to practice my craft of writing.  Even in just a week, I have experienced certain days where the words just rolled off my fingertips and others where the interruptions were abundant and the words scarce.  I am not concerned about length or even initial quality, I really just want to write because it is something I love to do.  The other goal in writing is that I can share some of what I write to be open and vulnerable.  It does not come naturally to me to want to share personal pieces of my life, but I want to be more open in this way.  I know that I am not alone in a lot of my experiences, especially recently in motherhood, so I hope some of what I write can connect well to others.
  3. Read Daily. Like they say, garbage in, garbage out.  Some of my very worst days are the ones spent scrolling on Instagram at every free moment.  Some of my very best days are the ones where I forget where my phone even is and I pick up a book or am outside.  What I consume in a day greatly affects my mood and outlook.  While I am a very slow learner at times, I am finally coming to terms that I cannot handle Instagram.  In the past few months I have deleted and re-downloaded it basically every single week.  I delete it because I am consuming too much of it and then re-download it just to check one thing and the next thing I know I have scrolled away an hour.  Time is now even more precious now, and I do not want to waste it away scrolling through content that often times does not even motivate or inspire me.  I close the app and I feel tired and unmotivated to do anything at all.  I am done with it (hopefully for at least a longer stretch than just a week).  I am very intentionally training myself to pick up a book rather than my phone.  Similarly to the writing intention, I am not expecting to finish novels in just a couple days.  I am a slow reader. This week I have just been reading a chapter a day.   This may seem small, but it is a whole chapter more than what I previously would read in a day. To me, it is not about going through all the bookshelves.  It is about slowing down and just reading.  And not just reading to read, but really delving in and being invested to the people and the lives I read about.  This past week I keep having an image of myself as a little girl staying up past my bedtime reading The Boxcar Children in bed.  I can still remember how those books made me feel.  All I wanted was to be in bed reading about the adventures of Henry and Jessie and the other Alden siblings. I craved those stories.  For quite some time now, I have not craved reading like I used to.  I think schooling and being forced to constantly read material that was not always the most riveting created this lack of desire within me.  I also think I became tired.  Reading is more effort than Netflix.  Whatever the reason, I stopped reading for pleasure and I am really missing it.  I want to return to that little girl curled up reading The Boxcar Children.  Reading, along with listening to really great podcasts, fills me up.  It opens up my perspective and feeds my love for words and storytelling.  Reading is good for me, Instagram is not.  So here’s to hoping in 2019 I read more and scroll less.
  4. Invest In Friendships.  We are built for connection.  God intended for us to live in community.  I love community and I love people, but I am learning more and more that I am naturally more introverted.  It takes more internal convincing and pushing to get myself out to meet with friends.  I always leave a phone call, a brunch, a walk with a friend in such a better mood and mindset.  I love connecting.  I long for connection, but I often times forget that this is a need of mine.  This year, I want to be more intentional about having an open schedule and calendar that allows for planned meetings with friends and even last-minute ones (because sometimes these impromptu meetings are the most important ones).  Friendship is a gift of God.  He is so kind to place people in our lives that make us laugh and make us better.  I never want to be too busy to take the time to invest in the friendships I already have and reach out to make new ones as well.  This year one of my hopes is to be slow to say no when it comes to friends and connection.
  5. Take Sabbath More Seriously. Recently, I have been extremely convicted in not taking the Sabbath as seriously as I should.  When I was running in college, I used to be annoyed that our coach always had long runs on Sundays.  The longest run of the week was on the day that was meant for rest.  I felt like I could not fully practice a Sabbath when I was running 12 miles at 7am on Sunday morning.  Now I am no longer tied to this obligation of Sunday long runs, yet still I find myself not fully embracing the Sabbath.  I still find myself scrambling to get things done even on a Sunday.  I am not fully satisfied with the work that I have done, so feel like I still need to get a few loose ends taken care of.  This is not the Lord’s desire for us.  If even the Lord needs the seventh day to rest, how much more I need it.  He does not care how clean our house is by Sunday; he wants us to rest regardless the state of our home or the length of our to-do list.  So much of my days and weeks are filled with obligations and things I must do, I really want to strive towards using the 6 days of the week in more intentional ways that will open up my Sundays so I can really have no agenda other than church and small group.

Did you notice that word open pop-up in each of the 5 intentions?  2019, my hope and prayer is that I can live out these intentions, not with obligation or pressure, but with joyful willingness because I know these things will allow me to ultimately be more open to your will in my life.

 

To Take a Hike

This mama needs to take a hike.  I will explain the hike part later, but first thing to know is that today is New Year’s Day.  January 1st, 2019.  I am a fan of New Year’s.  I love goal setting and dreaming up big plans for the next year.  I love the chance to start new patterns and fix old ones.  I love cleaning and organizing and putting away all the christmas decorations.  I also love reflecting on the past year and taking the time to really examine it.  This morning as I put out my new, blue and floral planner; I flipped through my 2018 planner.  I was instantly drawn in, as I turned the pages of each month and was taken back.  As I paged through, I was struck with a feeling of disappointment.  The months from January-May were covered with events, important to-dos, and meetings.  As I looked through those months, it felt like I was looking at the planner of a different person.  I had forgotten how full my teaching days were.  The calendar for each month had 10 different colors of ink on them, arrows were drawn, and each little box was bursting with words.  By June it was blank.  Of course, June and July had nothing.  Hudson was born.  But then August-December looked so much less important than January-May.  A lot of days, the boxes were blank.  The to-do list section had changed from planning lessons and meeting with parents to cleaning floors and organizing the spice rack.  At first when I saw these differences in calendars this morning, I felt unimportant.  Do my days matter as much as they used to?  This is a terribly sad question to ask and I think it makes the Lord feel sad too because I know deep down that He loves me with a great love that is absolutely unrelated to what I do.  He loves me because I am His daughter.  I am clothed in Christ.  His love has nothing to do with how full my calendar looks or how busy and important I appear on paper.  Thankfully I have a husband that can also point me to this truth and pull me away from the lies that I so often fall trapped in.  This is where the hike part comes in.

We hiked at Will Rogers today.  When I say we, I am also including everyone else that chose to hike on New Year’s Day.  I guess that is a thing.  It was the most crowded I have ever seen it.  Anyway, our hike started rocky.  Actually, our day started rocky.  I let that calendar comparison eat away at me.  I let the lies of “I am not enough” take over.  I let it affect what was supposed to be a happy hike to start off 2019.  I even suggested to Lance that he should just go without me and I can suffer alone in the freezing house (heater is broken).  I can be very dramatic.  Despite my sour attitude, we managed to leave the house.  We were warmed up by the heat of the car.  It is amazing how being extra cold can affect your outlook.  As my freezing hands and toes began to thaw, I felt better.  When I had hot peach blossom tea in my hands from Alfred’s, I felt even better.  As we drove through the beautiful Brentwood neighborhoods and dreamed about our future, I felt light and happy.  However, when we got out of the car and began our hike, it was freezing again and that poor attitude again so quickly returned.  I find it amazing how quickly I forget.  How quickly I turn away back into my sin.  It is scary.  Sin is scary.  This is just another reason why we so desperately need Jesus.  While we almost turned around, we kept walking.  Once on the trail, Lance suggested we both say what we are thankful for.  At that point, he was hoping to salvage what was left of our New Year’s hike.  At first, I did not want to.  I did not feel like it.  But, I could see he was just trying to turn things around so I went.  I told him that I was thankful for him.  For loving me despite the fact that I can make it really hard sometimes.  Then he went.  He told me he was thankful for me.  For the fact that I stay at home with Hudson and care for him.  He told me how much it means to him and how he knows it can get overlooked and not feel as important but that he sees all that I do.  This hit my heart in such a raw way because it was exactly what I needed to hear.  It released tears because all morning I was crying out to be seen and heard through my poor attitude and Lance (through the Holy Spirit) fed me the words my soul thirsted for.   It took away the lies that my 2018 planner told me.  I went on to explain to Lance how I had been feeling and my experience with the planner earlier that morning.  And again he gave me another truth.  He told me all that I do with Hudson, those types of things cannot be put down in a calendar or in a to-do list. This does not make them unimportant.  This again spoke so directly to my heart.  I was taken to all the late night nursings, the holdings, the shushings, the soothings, the playing, the changing of diapers and outfits, and all of the loving.  Those things cannot be put on a planner.  They typically are not what we write down in our to-do lists for the day, but that absolutely does not take away from their great importance.

I needed that hike today.  Actually, like always, I needed Jesus.  It just so happened that Jesus spoke through Lance on that hike, so I guess I needed all three.  For those of you who also were in a funk at the start of the New Year, I hope these words can encourage you that the shaky start does not need to define your 2019.  I hope that you can see through my sin and silliness, that grace can enter in just a moment when you least expect it and that hike you thought was going downhill can actually be the very thing that starts your year off in the best possible way.