On Kindness

“I can’t believe you are running in the bike lane,” she grumbled to me as I flew past her. I can’t believe, I am faster than you on a bike, I wanted to say, along with a few other mean things that would of surely just caused a more righteous anger on her part. I wanted to explain to her I was running a workout. I wanted to tell her I was currently struggling to keep up my pace and could really use some words of encouragement. I wanted to tell her that I did this all the time and I am always careful, cautious, and respectful. I wanted to question her and ask why I couldn’t be on bike path when I was clearly going a faster pace than her on the bike. I mostly wanted to shake my head and say why are you so angry? But instead of all this, I smiled, I waved, and I laughed.

The thing with kindness is that it is not always the easier choice, but I have found it is always the right one. It is the one that actually holds the power to change, transform, and teach. It would of been so easy for me to yell back at this unreasonable lady that in many ways was out of line with making that type of comment; however, that would of done nothing. It would only justify in her mind that I deserved to be reprimanded. Kindness is untouchable. She was angry and rude, and I gave her back laughter. There is nothing she can do with that. It stops the situation in its tracks. The truth is, my tongue cannot always be trusted. It is enslaved to sin and pride. If I allowed myself to speak, it would have been mean and unkind, I guarantee it. So I kept silent and I laughed and smiled. I then preceded to go down to the strand that is designated for bikes and runners. The funny thing is that she followed me and passed me as I recovered and got ready for my last set: 2 minutes, all out pace. As I began this final set, she was about 100 meters ahead. I was no longer racing the clock, I was chasing her down. Before this little encounter, I was dying, ready to be done with this painful workout, but thanks to this lady, I found a new gear. I sprinted. I flew. I felt unstoppable. And I passed her. I wanted to again say so many things, like, I can’t believe your riding so slow, but again I looked at her and smiled and then kept running.

Kindness is always better. It is always the more powerful sword. The fact is not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone likes a fast girl. Not everyone will understand you. Let’s just be real honest, would that lady have made the comment if I was running that fast, but was a man? I’m not sure, but part of me wonders if she would have. I think maybe not. This makes me sad. I long to be the gal that doesn’t shake her finger, but instead cheers, claps, encourages with loads and loads of kindness. As that lady looked at me and said, “I can’t believe…” I truly thought she was going to say, “I can’t believe how fast you are going! Way to go!”. Kindness is simply not always on the forefront of our lips. It does not always come naturally. It is far easier to critique, question, put down. Especially in those moments where we feel threatened.

Kindness can be even more difficult in those moments where we feel wronged. I have recently been delving into the enneagram. Like nonstop listening and learning about all nine of the numbers. I go back and forth on which number I am, but I am pretty sure I am a 2. The helper. A large part of me didn’t want to be this number. I am not that good. I am selfish, lazy, and not always willing to serve. However, twos are most often associated with people-pleasing. And this rings so true to my heart. I am a people-pleaser and I often am enslaved to both the applause and criticism people serve me up. The weight I give people in my life is becoming incredibly problematic. The reason I bring this up is because I started this paragraph by saying kindness is especially hard to give when we feel wronged. I think this is true for most humans, but as a two this feels especially challenging for me. I put such high expectations on people that when I feel failed by them, it is so easy for me to hold grudges and keep a score in my head. I am working on this. The Bible is super clear on how we are supposed to love regardless of how we are treated.

“Love your enemy, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” -Luke 6:27-28

This is kindness. This is love. This does not come naturally to me. The thing with kindness is that I can’t do it in my own strength. Even my attempts at kindness have underlying motives: to be perceived in a certain way, to be loved by others. The only way I can even come close to living out those verses in Luke is if I ask for the Holy Spirit’s help. It is beyond humbling to realize that even being truly nice to the people in my life is something I can’t do on my own. Oh how I need the Lord’s help. Oh how I need His Grace.

So back to the lady on the bike. Thank you for reminding me the power in not saying a thing. Thank you for reminding me that even my attempts at kindness are not pure. And ultimately thank you for getting me to run harder than I thought I could.

On Sabbath

Rest does not come naturally to me. I am really good at pretend rest where it appears I am resting, but underneath it all my mind is racing through a running to-do list that never seems to stop. It is so hard for me to fully rest, but my heart and soul desperately needs it. The truth is, I could find things to do and work on 24/7. If you have seen our dirty floors you will know what I mean. If I wanted, I could be on a non-stop cleaning streak. There are also hours and hours of more work I could do to pour into my blog. If I let it, I could be constantly writing, constantly researching, constantly emailing. I don’t think we ever will reach a point in our days and lives where we can say everything is perfectly done and clean and finished. We still are here on earth, heaven is coming. Since there will always be another load of laundry to do, more crumbs to sweep up, another post to write up; we must set boundaries that allow for rest. If we don’t, we will constantly be in a state of busy. And this is not good for anyone. This is no way to live. Not only is burnout just around the corner, but not stepping away from my own work misleads me in believing that I am in control. It misleads me in believing that my work somehow plays a factor in my salvation. Only God saves me. I know this, but let me just do a few more good things, just to be sure. I hate typing this, but if I am fully honest, it is very easy for someone like me with this people-pleasing heart to quickly fall in the traps of a work-centered gospel, rather than a grace-filled one. All this to say, I desperately need rest in my life. And I am not talking about rest in terms of napping and Netflix. I am talking about a rest that restores body, mind and soul. A rest that reminds me of my weakness and points me to the greatness and fullness of God. The world will keep spinning if our washer and dryer that is typically always running stops for 24 hours. The world will keep spinning if the sink becomes a tower of dirty dishes. The world will keep spinning if I stop producing, planning, performing for a day. I think of God as he created the whole world. If the Lord that made the universe, takes a rest day, how much more does this little, weak, selfish mother need rest?

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating he had done before” (Genesis 2:2-3).

This day of rest is holy. It is sacred. It is untouched. I know I easily forget the holiness of this sabbath day. It is so easy for calendar schedules and busier seasons to get in the way of this sacred day of rest. It is also so easy for my mind that has a tendency to be incredibly legalistic to also get in the way. I definitely have had sabbaths where I spend most of the day worrying about what I can and cannot do or pointing out to my husband what is and is not restful. That is no way to sabbath either. There are so many amazing resources and teachings when it comes to this idea of rest. First and foremost, the best resource will always be the Word. If you are interested in really understanding God’s heart for rest, there is no better place to start than in scripture. We have also found the teachings of John Mark Comer, a pastor of Bridgetown Church in Portland, to be very helpful in understanding Sabbath and learning ways to live it out.

We by no means have figured out our perfect way to sabbath. We have weeks where we really end our sabbath feeling rested and rejuvenated, and we also have days where we fully messed it up. Like most things, the sabbath is an art and practice. You would think rest should be an easy thing, but even rest takes planning and practice. This is true without babies and kids; however, when you become a parent, sabbath can become even more logistically challenging. Diapers still must be changed, babies still must be fed and cleaned and watched over. Your sabbath is going to likely look different based on the season you are in, but I am convinced that regardless, you can still incorporate a sabbath into your life, it might just not always be a 24-hour period or exactly how you might imagine “rest” to look. This is the thing that can tricky, there is no exact formula for a perfect day of rest. Rest is personal. What I find to be restful and restoring to my soul, another person might classify as work. For example, I know some people enjoy exercising on their sabbath. They might run or even go to a fitness class. For me personally, sabbath entails zero running and exercise. I run throughout the week, sabbath is my day off from running. I need to step away from it. While I love to run, in a lot of ways, running is still considered work to me.

Sabbath is an art form and it is a type of worship that is largely personal. There is no formula or exact steps you must take. With that said, here are a few things to consider that have helped us as we have built a sabbath that allows for rest and worship.

Choose a Day

When you sabbath is going to vary based on a myriad of different factors, but for us sabbath is on Sundays. Sabbath does not need to be on Sunday. Especially if Sundays are days of work for you, choose another day in the week that makes sense. Sundays mostly work for us, but there are weeks where we need to adjust our day. Maybe for you, it is Wednesdays or Fridays. I don’t think the Lord is concerned with the day of week, he just wants our hearts.

Set Boundaries

This is incredibly important, especially if rest does not come naturally to you. I am the type of person that literally needs to pencil in times of rest into my calendar. I have learned that if I do not set the time for it in my calendar, it simply will not happen. It is important to realize that your sabbath likely will not happen on its own unless you set parameters around when it will actually occur. Again, I do not think the Lord is concerned that we sabbath for exactly 24 hours a week. He wants our hearts, I don’t think the number is as important to him; however, whether we sabbath for a 4-hour time period or a full-length day, I think He does want that time to be set apart from the rest of our days. For this reason, it is important for you and/or your family to set parameters around when sabbath will start and end for you. Since we have a baby, we have found that what works really well for us is using bedtime as the start and end of our sabbath. For us, typically this means that our sabbath officially begins Saturday evening around 7:30 pm once Hudson has fallen asleep and ends around 7:30 pm on Sunday when he goes back to bed. This rhythm is incredibly helpful for my busy mind. I know that if I want the floors to be cleaned or the laundry to be folded or that blog post to be published, I must get it done before Hudson falls asleep on Saturday evening. This often means leaving things unfinished. And that is okay! It slightly drives me crazy, especially when I am almost done, but if I don’t follow this boundary, a few more minutes of work, easily turns into a couple hours. The work will be there in 24-hours. I am not that important. Things will keep on spinning. No one really cares if my post or podcast is a day or two late. I can stop and rest in the Lord.

Plan Ahead

With setting boundaries, you must plan ahead. I have already alluded to this, but if you know that all Sunday you will not be working, it is essential to ensure that you get the important things that must be done before your sabbath. This might entail staying up later for one night in the week or getting up earlier. By setting one day of the week for rest, you will find that you can actually be more more productive in those 6 days. Plan those 6 days well so you can fully rest on the seventh.

Figure Out What is Most Restful to You

This may sound obvious, but this can take some trial and error. Like I previously mentioned, what one person finds restful, another will deem as work. Figure out what activities are the most life-giving and soul-restoring to you. We have not yet done this as a family, but I think a fun way to get the whole family involved is to create a list of your family’s favorite sabbath activities. Post this somewhere the whole family can see. Allow this to guide your sabbaths. For our family, some of our favorite sabbath activities include: going to the beach, hanging out by the pool, going on a walk, getting doughnuts or coffee or some special treat we typically would not have during the week, reading, watching a movie, baking cookies together, seeing close friends or family, disconnecting from screens, and the occasional nap (or for someone like me that can’t take naps during the day, just lying with my eyes closed for a few minutes). It is also important to note here that the activities we choose for sabbath largely depend on how the previous week leading up to sabbath looked. For example, if it was a particularly busy week filled with events and people, we would try to spend more time with just the three of us and might stay home more. If it was a less crazy week, we might try to get out of the house more and spend time with good friends. While most often are sabbaths seem to involve just the three of us, getting together with people we love can be incredibly restoring, but it also cannot be. Let’s just be honest, being around people can be work. If you do choose to enjoy fellowship with others on the day you practice sabbath, I think it is important that the time you meet them is established as being more flexible and they are people you can fully be yourselves with. That way it can be life-giving, rather than life-draining. This idea of setting a more flexible time is important. Most of our lives seem to be dictated by times. For us, it feels so rejuvenating to have a relatively empty calendar box that is not filled with the pressures of times and places. Our very best sabbath days are the ones that were fully blank and we freely chose how to spend our day.

Allow for Grace

The thing with many spiritual practices is that it is very easy to turn the discipline into a rule and become very legalistic about it. I so easily fall in this trap! Our sabbaths quickly start to fall apart the moment I start nitpicking. The moment we start concerning ourselves with what is and is not allowed on sabbath, is the moment our hearts are no longer receiving the Lord’s rest in the correct way. As I have already alluded to, I do not believe God is as concerned with the smaller details; He simply wants our hearts. Our sabbath is not suddenly ruined if we need to stoop down and clean something up off the floor. We are human, which means even the way we rest will not be perfect. Is that not humbling? We even mess up rest! What beautiful evidence for our great need of His grace. Sabbath is all about recognizing our great need for a Savior. It is about recognizing that our own work is insignificant and we daily and momentarily need the grace of God. Allow for this grace. You will have sabbaths that you mess up. That is okay. He will give you another try next week.

Spend Time Alone with God

Lastly and most importantly, spend some valuable time alone with the Lord. This could be through reading the Bible, praying, meditating on how God has moved in your life in the past week, and journaling. We have fully missed the point of sabbath if this part is not included. Sabbath is way more than eating doughnuts and lounging on the sand. It is getting, good quality time to remember all the amazing work the Lord has done and continues to do in our lives. It is about loving God more and receiving his love and grace with open hands.

We need rest. We need God. We can’t do it all. It’s all really that simple. Sabbath is not just something you should do, it is biblical. We are called to rest and worship. We are called to have a day set apart. A day the Lord calls Holy.

Staying Motivated For an Audience of One

Last night I went to bed feeling absolutely exhausted, discouraged and unmotivated. I was exhausted because I am running 60 miles per week. I am basically at the same mileage I was at in college, except I no longer live a life revolved around running. 60 miles plus a one-year old that still wakes up multiple times at night is not the best combination. I was discouraged because I spend a lot of thought and time pouring into my blog posts, but I still feel like only my husband and mom and a few very kind people read it. It has been months of writing and writing and writing, but the numbers are just not where I thought they would be. These two places of exhaustion and discouragement lead to the ultimate feeling of lacking motivation. Let’s just be real honest here. It is so much easier to be motivated to work hard when you know people are watching and are invested in you. It can be a real challenge to have this same type of motivation when it feels like no one really cares or no one is watching. Thinking back, I had it pretty easy in college. I had a team, coaches, a university that were all watching, all supporting, all expecting something from me. At the time, I hated the pressure, hated being told exactly what to do, but now I realize how helpful this can be. However, there is also something when these things are stripped away. I have never loved running as much as I do now. And no one is watching, no one is telling me what workout I should do on the track, no one cares how fast I go. I could not run today and no one would even know. The same goes with writing. No one truly cares if I keep posting (or at least I don’t think so). I am pretty sure if I stopped tomorrow, I wouldn’t get any emails or complaints or pleas to keep on writing.

All this leads to my point: regardless of the audience you have, all that you do should be to please the only audience that matters, God. He is my audience of one. The only audience that truly matters. Again, if I am being fully honest, I so easily lose sight of this. It is so easy to get caught up in caring about the followers, the likes, the page views. It is so easy to have your motivation be tied to external praise. I often care way too much about what other people think of me and way too little of how God views me. I hate admitting this, but this is the place I often find myself in. The problem here is that when our motivation comes from the approval and applause of people, our work will ebb and flow. When everyone is watching and clapping their hands, we will work super hard; however, when they all get distracted by the next new thing, our work will decline or even full on stop. The people can’t be our motivation or even our barometer of success. They aren’t reliable. They simply don’t matter nearly as much. They have no say in our salvation. They don’t know our hearts. Even when no one is watching, the Lord is. I know He sees me. He knows my heart. He reads every blog post before I even write it. While I can get so easily distracted and focused on the wrong things, I am thankful to be reminded that there is only one audience that is motivating everything I do. Strip away the crowds, the team, the readers. What do you do when no one is watching? Do you still go out and run as hard as you can? Do you push yourself to uncomfortable places when there is no one else to chase down? Do you keep writing even when no one is reading? It is in these places and these seasons that I think the Lord shapes within us a character that is built on Him, not people. This is what my heart has desperately needed for a very long time. And for most of my life, I have had an audience, specifically with running. I was in the front of the pack. I was being watched, recruited, wanted. Now, it is just me and the road and God. And like I said, I have never loved running more. There is something to getting down to the raw and simple elements, that allow your love and passion for something to become authentic and real. It is easy to love something and pour yourself into something when you are being praised, but it becomes an entirely different thing when you still pursue it, still return to it day after day, with no feelings of need to prove or please, but simply because you want to work hard for the Lord.

After going to bed with these feelings of discouragement, I woke up to verses reminding me of where my true identity lies.

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” Isaiah 40:31

Where does your hope lie? Is it tied to people? Approval? Money? Popularity? Or is it tied to the only one that truly matters? The Lord. Who are you working for? People or your Heavenly Father? I ask these questions because my own heart desperately needs to hear them. I will very quickly grow weary if my hope is in people. I will very quickly stop running the race if my hope and motivation lies in their applause. This is no way to live. I am so thankful that even when it can feel like no one really cares that much that the Lord is my constant audience that cheers and loves me regardless. So, even when no one seems to care, no one seems to be watching, I will keeping running, I will keep writing, I will keeping trying as hard as I would as if the whole world were watching. The whole world might not be watching, but the One who made the whole world is, and what better of an audience is that?

If you can relate and also struggle in this area. I hope you can be encouraged wherever you are at. Remember that God has placed you exactly where he wants you. Whether you are an executive or in the midst of changing diapers, your work matters and the Lord wants you do it with your whole heart, working for his glory, not the approval of humans.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

6 More Lessons in the First Year of Motherhood

Happy 1st Birthday to our sweet Hudson Boy! I cannot believe a whole year has gone by! These past couple days I have been very sentimental as I have thought back to what we were doing exactly a year ago. We were waiting. And waiting and waiting. We went into the hospital Wednesday evening after my water broke. We literally walked up to the check-in counter, and I was crying. I felt so overwhelmed and nervous and no one seemed to care that I literally was standing in a puddle of amniotic fluid! Was this normal? I was expecting to be rushed to a hospital bed. I was expecting urgency. This is important people. I am about to have a baby! But, it was quite the opposite. No rushing, no urgency. Just me, crying, as I stood in a puddle. After eventually being situated into our room, the real waiting began. Like 43 hours of waiting. Those long hours were filled with pocking and prodding, lots of jello and bone broth, prayers, and an epidural that finally allowed for sleep. There were some anxious moments in those hours, especially when we were getting close to the second day of waiting and Hudson’s heart rate began to drop. I can still hear the nurse’s voice when she shakily said my name. My heart has never dropped so low. She delivered the news that I needed a C-section in the most heart-stopping, terrifying way. I literally thought the worst case scenario was happening the way she looked at me and said my name. I could handle a C-section. At that point, it didn’t even matter. Did we type it up into our neat and tidy birth plan? Nope, but most of what we had in there didn’t happen. The C was the least of my worries, all I wanted was my Hudson Boy. Finally, Friday at 4:11 pm, Hudson was born. And let me tell you, our world shifted in the best possible way. As I type this, I literally am crying because when I think about this moment it truly brings me to my knees in thankfulness to God. What a good, good Father. I remember lying numb in that OR just praying. I remember hearing his first cries and the warmth of my own tears flowing down my face. It no longer mattered that things didn’t go as planned or that my tummy will forever have a scar, none of it mattered because our sweet boy was finally here.

I tell this story because as I wrote about when Hudson turned 6-months, one of my first lessons was learning to be okay when things do not go as planned. You can read those first 6 lessons here. This lesson is only more true now. I am daily reminded that I am not the one in control. While this is a really hard lesson for someone like me that has a heart gripped to control and self-reliance, I am beginning, emphasis on beginning here, to not only let go of control, but develop the ability to laugh when things don’t go the way we planned. I immediately think about the Proverbs 31 woman.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

-Proverbs 31:25

Before becoming a mother, I read that verse and thought it sounded nice, but it didn’t fully sink in or connect with me. It makes so much more sense to me now. I picture her house being a mess, her toddler throwing a tantrum, her clothes stained in spit up; and despite it all, I picture her laughing with a confidence and peace that can only be explained through the presence of the Holy Spirit. I am not there yet, but I desire to be and I do believe the Lord is continuing to do a work in my heart to eventually get me to this point. While I am not there, I think back to the way I handled situations in the first few months. My heart rate probably stayed at 110 all day long. The littlest peep or cry from Hudson put me into a downward spiral. Man, was I gripped by an anxiety I have never felt before. There was definitely not a lot of laughing happening, but there certainly were a lot of tears and fear. Just yesterday, in Costco, as we were shopping for food for his birthday party, I was reminded of the work the Lord is doing within me. Hudson spilled half of his water all over himself and on the floor beneath the cart. His pants were soaked and he slowly began to get more fussy as he wanted to be out of that cart. Kelli 9-months ago would have lost it! She would of panicked and made up lies about how the cashier probably thinks I am not a very good mom. But instead, it didn’t affect me. Wet pants? Who cares, we will change it when we get home. A little fussing? Who cares, babies make noise. A bit of a mess on the floor? A casual sorry will be enough. It will be okay. The world is not ending. This may seem like a small thing to you, but let me tell you, this is huge. This confidence, this growth, it amazes me. So, if you were anything like me and are currently in those early months where everything is new and scary and anxiety-inducing, I really hope these words can encourage you. It is incredible what the Lord can do in a year. Hold on. It gets better.

Okay that was a lot, but I think all of that is important. Here are 6 more lessons I have learned as mother to sweet Hudson.

1. Don’t Sweat the Small Things

As I have already alluded to, the small things, like water spilled everywhere and crying, do not grip me in the same way they used to. One of the biggest lessons I have learned in this past year is to let go of all the little things. I will drive myself crazy if I try to control everything: naps, floors, attitudes. There are so many things that could go wrong in life, a little sand eaten by Hudson or a spill in a restaurant, are minor concerns. The world will keep spinning. I will still be a good mother.

2. Time Goes Quickly

It is easy to eagerly look ahead and think I can’t wait until fill-in-the-blank. I can’t wait until he doesn’t wake up multiple times in a night. I can’t wait until he can crawl and walk. I can’t wait until he can talk. I can’t wait until he eats solid foods. And the list goes on. Those are all exciting milestones and it is easy to dream about the next stage where things seem easier, but I have learned that things change so quickly and it is so much better to be present and grateful in the season you are in. Things are already moving way too fast. I would love to go back to myself a year ago and tell her: “These next few months are going to be hard, but stay in it, soak it up, watch him sleep as often as you can, and it will get better.” I had too many days where I dreamed of easier times, when I wish I had just accepted the season for what it was.

3. Trust Instincts

I had a lot of my doubts in the first few months. I questioned everything I did. I was too easily swayed by the opinions and advice of others. I would watch one YouTube video and implement one strategy and the next day I would read something completely opposite and try that instead. Early on, external factors were the driving force behind how I mothered. For example, if we were out and Hudson was crying and someone would say “oh, he must be hungry!” I would immediately feel this pressure to nurse him, even though, deep down, I knew hunger wasn’t the issue. I just fed him. My internal mother instinct knew his needs, but I didn’t trust it yet. Now I do, and we are both so much happier because of it.

4. Breastfeeding Can Become a Dear Friend

My relationship with breastfeeding over the course of this year has changed drastically. I used to hate it. I know hate is a strong word, but I really did. I dreaded every couple hours when it was time to nurse again. It felt like rejection and failure all in one. It felt incredibly weird and uncomfortable to me. I am a slow learner. Change is hard for me, it takes me a while to adjust and learn. Those first few months I could not even fathom the possibility of making it to a year of breastfeeding. But here I am, a year later, unsure if I want to give it up quite yet. While I would not gush about it in the same way others have talked about it, it has become part of who I am. It is like sleeping, breathing, running. It is how I start and end my days. While it used to feel weird and uncomfortable, it now only feels natural and familiar. Side note here: while I was able and chose to exclusively breastfeed, this is not for everyone, nor is it always possible for everyone. Fed is always best. This is another thing I really wish I could tell myself a year ago. I was so hard on myself. Every night was a meltdown. I wish I could have told myself that it would be okay. That I would make it, but I also wish I could tell myself breastfeeding is not the goal. I put way too much emphasis on it, and that created a lot of stress for the both of us. Just like any relationship, it can’t be forced. Take it slow. Trust the process. And you might break up and move on, or you might just find a dear, reliable friend.

5. Don’t Compare

It’s the thief of joy. It really is. You will find so much joy especially in those early months if you just focus on your baby and family. I really wish I deleted Instagram in this season. It was more harmful than helpful. My heart could not handle it. Your baby is different. You are different. Don’t compare.

6. Let God Take Over

Let the Lord enter your sleepless nights. Let him enter with you at the grocery store. Let him enter when you don’t have the energy or the words or wisdom. He can fill in all the holes, all the areas of weakness. Let Him takeover. Give him the reigns. Say Lord I can’t do this on my own. Help me! And He will.

The Impossible Task of Cleaning Floors

We all have insecurities. They often manifest in different ways. For me, the floors of our house are more than just floors. They are the status of how good of a wife and mother I am. I know that might sound crazy, but that is just how my mind works. Clean and shiny floors, and I feel pretty good about myself. Nala hair everywhere, baby smeared handprints, and I feel like a failure. The floors of our home represent a deep insecurity for myself. It feels like this impossible task to keep the floors clean. The thing with the floors is no matter how hard I try to keep them clean, they never look that great. I don’t know about you, but the floors act as a pretty good metaphor for my life. I try so hard. I put forth so much effort to be perfect and hold things together with my two, little shaking hands. And the result is always the same. Unsatisfactory floors. I think God laughs at the way I tirelessly sweep our floors. I sweep. I swiffer. I sweep again. Every meal is another sweep. I try to control the mess. I try to bring order to the chaos, but my efforts never seem to be enough. Does this sound familiar to you? It does to me. Love and approval, thankfully, do not come from how tidy the home is and how spotless the floors are. The floors are not the status of how good of a wife I am. The floors, especially with a golden retriever and baby, will never look perfect. Or maybe they will for a few minutes and then meal time will come and there will be puffs and blueberries everywhere. There will be mud tracked paw prints. There will be leaves and twigs. There will be a million little toys strewn everywhere.

This week, we literally have had an inflatable bounce house in the middle of our living room. It was an early birthday present for Hudson. It was a lot of work to get it inflated, so I kept it up for a few days. We also are in the middle of a bathroom remodel, so there is a massive box with our new vanity sitting in our living room. Not to mention, I spilled half a tub of melted vanilla ice cream everywhere last night. Get the picture? Our floors are a chaotic mess over here. I can sweep and organize and shine all I want, but there will be chaos the next day. I guarantee it. So, does that mean we give up? Do we throw away the broom? No, we keep sweeping. But, we sweep without anxiety or stress or need of approval. We sweep to manage the chaos, but thankfully the status of our floors does not represent our status as wives, mothers, Daughters.

Since I am all about creating lists, here are my top 5 ways to manage the floors, without driving yourself insane. The most important thing that is not included in this list is everything I just discussed above. Clean floors are a good thing, but in the whole scheme of life, who really cares that much. I want a clean and pure heart, if my floors are a bit of a mess, I’ll survive.

1. Choose One Day for a Major Clean

Mondays over at the Capel home are for getting things back together. I really don’t do much cleaning at all on the weekends. This is a necessary break and it allows me to be refreshed by Monday to get the house back in order. For us, Monday is the day of the week that I focus on a major clean of our floors. I typically throw all the rugs in the washer, run our Shark Ion Robot (lovingly called Sharky because this robot vacuum makes my life so much easier), and Swiffer afterwards. Truth is, I don’t even spend that much time on this “major” clean. I let the washer and Sharky do their things. The idea here is more about implementing these rhythms so I know the rugs are clean and dust bunnies under the couch are taken care of.

2. Clean Daily for Short Duration

The floors, like the sink and laundry basket, are one of those things that if left even for a day, quickly becomes overwhelming and uncontrolled. Even if I just do a super quick sweep of the floors every evening for 10 minutes, the task of cleaning them becomes more manageable. While the floors are my least favorite things to clean, I have found that the more I can treat them as a daily routine, like making the bed, the easier they become. An hour of cleaning the floors broken up into 5-6 days is so much more enjoyable than a straight 60 minutes of floor cleaning. Break it into daily tasks.

3. Invest in Good Cleaning Products

For a long time we had this terrible vacuum. It was bulky, hard to navigate, and seemed to always leave crumbs. Then, for Christmas, my parents got us the Shark Ion Robot Vacuum, and our carpets have never been cleaner. I run Sharky through all of our carpeted rooms every week. Before, the carpets did not see a vacuum nearly that much. The point here, is the sleeker and easier to use the product, the more likely you will want to clean. Initially, it is a higher investment, but long run it is worth it because you will actually use the product on a regular basis and your house will be cleaner.

4. Pick up Toys Quickly During Naps/Bedtime

It is so easy to get overwhelmed by all the scattered toys that seem to accumulate on a daily basis. It seems so bad with just one baby, I can’t even imagine what it will be like in a few years. I have found the easiest way to manage all the toys, is to do very quick pick-ups when he is asleep. This usually means putting the toys that were out back in the pack ‘n play. Later on, I will go back and organize toys more throughly, but this is a quick way to at least declutter the floors. It is amazing how things already feel cleaner and more organized after just a few minutes of clearing the toys. When he goes down to bed, I am usually exhausted so the idea of cleaning more is never appealing, but I try to consistently take even just 5 minutes to put away all the toys that are out. It is so much nicer to wake up to relatively clean and clear floor.

5. Let it Go

Probably the most important tip of them all. Let. It. Go. My control tendencies have come out in full-force now that we have a kid. I am slowly learning to let go of the little things that I used to lose sleep about. More often than not, my floors are going to look less than perfect. I can guarantee it that Hudson is going to leave the floors a mess every single meal. I can guarantee that Nala is going to shed like it’s her full-time job. I can guarantee that by the end of the day, there will be books, balls, and blocks everywhere. This is just going to happen. We will likely have visitors come at exactly the time where all three of those situations listed above collide at the same time. And I will need to just let it go. I am sure they do not care nearly as much as I do. Remember this: your status as a wife, mom, Christian, women has no basis on how clean your floors are. God is in the heart business, not the floor business.

Grace in the Kitchen

This mama needs grace in the kitchen.  I am a pretty average cook in the kitchen.  Thankfully I have a husband who is incredibly non-picky and gracious when it comes to my cooking.  He is the type of guy that is happy with a meal made up of quinoa, sweet potatoes, and brussel sprouts. He is not your average steak and potatoes type of guy.  And for that I am thankful! I can do veggies. I can do salads. I can do stir fry. Those are my things. I work well with vegetables. Chicken on the other hand is a different story.  I have a deep fear that I will serve undercooked chicken. I am always amazed when I watch cooking shows and they just seem to know that the chicken is cooked all the way through. I am the type of person that basically ends up cutting the entire breast of chicken before serving it up on plates because I am absolutely terrified there will be that ever-so-slight tinge of pink in the center.  I so wish I could be like those chefs that slide the chicken right onto the platter. I wish I had that type of chicken confidence. “Being a chicken” is typically considered to be the opposite of confident, but for these purposes, chicken confidence is someone who is so trusting in their own skills, they serve the chicken without even cutting into it. I long for this. Because what happens when undercooking chicken is your fear, you end up overcooking it by a long shot.  I never serve undercooked chicken, but I often serve devastatingly dry chicken.  I am not sure which is worse. Well, probably undercooked chicken because salmonella, but dry chicken is pretty depressing.  As I am sitting here thinking about cooking chicken, my memory is flooded with failure. I am brought back to my college apartment when I attempted panko-crusted chicken tenders and they came out of the oven looking strange and rubbery.  I think about cooking chicken on the stovetop and having beautiful golden crusted chicken with a middle that was entirely pink because I was not applying the right amount of heat or patience. I am reminded of battling with a rotisserie chicken uncertain as to how to navigate around all the bones.  Chicken often makes me feel inadequate in the kitchen. Actually there are a lot of elements in the kitchen that make me feel less than the perfect homemaker. Like, tonight, when I was “roasting” vegetables in a cold oven. Right when dinner was to be served, Lance went to take out the pan of veggies and found cold, sad sweet potato, zucchini and mushrooms drowning in olive oil.  Sometimes I forget to turn the oven on and we end up having to wait an extra hour for dinner. Sometimes I burn the quinoa, the rice pilaf, the fill-in-the blank. Sometimes I dry out the chicken. I am an average cook, just like I am a pretty average person. No matter how hard I try, the results of my cooking never seem to look like the images in Bon Appetit.  Just like my face never seems to look like the ones I see on Cover Girl commercials.  Or how my life never seems to look like those perfectly curated squares those bloggers post.  My cooking, my face, and my life are often not magazine worthy. All three of them are quite messy and dry at times.  But here’s the thing, I don’t stop. I keep making the dinners. I keep living our life. Do I burn things? Yes. Do I fall short? All the time.  But I promise you, tonight I will make dinner again and I will try my very hardest to remember to turn on that oven and watch that quinoa better.

The kitchen is just a microcosm for my whole life.  Some days I am going to feel like a Top Chef as I serve our family the perfect berry crisp after a turkey, brown rice dinner we all loved.  As my spoon scoops up hot berries and chisels into perfectly golden crisps, I am going to have those moments of I am killing this mom/wife game.  There will be those berry crisp type of days, but there also will be a whole lot of burned rice pilaf, cold vegetables type of days.  The beautiful thing is that on those burnt out and dried up days, we can rest in the grace of Jesus. He does not care that the chicken is dried up.  He cares about our hearts. When I mess up dinner, I need to remind myself that God does not see a burnt meal, he sees a heart desiring to serve her family well.  This is what matters to Him.

My bible has two ribbon bookmarks in it.  I love this feature because it allows one to be wherever I am currently reading and it allows the other to always remain in Proverbs 31.  For me, this is my grounding chapter that inspires me, but also points me to the main purpose of my life: fearing and serving the Lord. I know these verses have been reprinted on mugs and canvases and quoted often and even criticized at times for putting pressure on women to be a certain way, but the reason I love this chapter so much is because it reminds me that praise does not come from what I produce.  

The Proverbs 31 woman is awesome.  I love her. I love her selflessness.  “She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household” (Proverbs 31:15).  I love her resourcefulness. “She makes and sells linen garments; she delivers belts to the merchants” (Proverbs 31:24).  I love her boldness and decisiveness. “She evaluates a field and buys it; she plants a vineyard with her earnings” (Proverbs 31:16).  She is much more than a good homemaker. She is a business woman. She is smart and adaptable. She loves and serves her family well. While this list of everything she does can feel daunting and make us women feel like we are not doing nearly enough, the reason I love these verses so much is because her praise from the Lord does not come from all that she is doing.  It comes from being in right relationship with Him. “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). To me, this verse so beautifully captures my whole point that the small things in life, aka the chicken and rice pilaf, do not matter, and what really matters is our hearts towards the Lord. There are days where I feel paralyzed to even think about all that the Proverbs 31 woman does.  She rises in the night. I have trouble getting up at 6am. She plants a vineyard with her earnings. I have a dead garden and do not make money. She has everyone in her household doubly clothed. I sometimes forget to pack Hudson an extra jacket and hat. I could go on. But, I fear the Lord. And I love Him with my whole heart. This is what matters. This is what He sees. This is what my children and Lance will see and remember as well.

You might be wondering, how did we go from cooking chicken to Proverbs 31?  Hopefully I have not fully lost you because I think this is important. I think it is important that we are striving for the right things.  I think some (including myself at times) read Proverbs 31 and think well, I could never measure up to that standard.  I think our brains get filled with everything that is listed out that we do not hear verse 30 as strongly as we should.  A woman who fears the Lord will be praised.  It does not say a woman who has it all together and sews and gardens and cooks gourmet meals will be praised.  No. A woman who fears the Lord will be praised.  I can do that.  Not always well, but thankfully He gives so much grace in this area as well.  

All of this to say, I need grace in the kitchen, aka my entire life.  

To Be Known

This mama needs to be known.  For the past couple months, I have been more consistently going to a particular workout class at the yoga studio I go to.  Just to set the stage, this is one of those classes that always seems to be full.  The teacher is popular and has been teaching classes for ten plus years.  He has built a strong community within his different classes.  His classes are challenging, but also fun.  It reminds me of weight training days in college; it reminds me of being on a team.  There is a definite sense of togetherness, which I have really enjoyed and look forward to.  There is a very personal element to these classes.  A lot of these women have been attending his classes for years.  There is history within the walls of studio 2.  He knows mostly everyone by name.  He calls out, jokes, encourages.  For a while, he did not know my name.  The extent to name calling occurred when he called me LMU because I was wearing a LMU cross-country shirt one day in December.  This all changed when last Wednesday, he called me Kelli.  And with just a simple tap on my shoulder and the sound of my name, I felt known and recognized.  It was not until I heard him say “Kelli” that I fully understood my deep, internal desire to be known.  In my normal, self-reflective nature, I thought about how silly and surface-level this was.  Great! A yoga instructor knows my name!  I am recognized in a fitness class.  Why do I care so much about relatively insignificant things?  Why does so much of my head space go towards worrying about human perception?  I guess the answer to that question is because I am human.  I think it all goes back to a deep human desire to be known.  Not just to be known but to be fully known.  The feeling I had in class when I heard my name called does not even scratch the surface to how we should feel when we recognize that we are fully known by the creator of the universe.  If I am in awe of being recognized by a yoga teacher, my reaction to being fully known by God should be infinite times greater.  It amazes me how I get so excited about earthly recognition.  I internally jump for joy when I get another like on Instragram.  I stand a little taller when someone tells me I am fast, pretty, a good writer.  I constantly am asking “did you like that dinner I made?”  to Lance in hopes that my ego could be fed even more.  I could list out example after example of the way in which I seek approval.  This is such a struggle of mine!  Becoming a mother has only revealed this sin in greater fullness.  It has always been there.  Now, I am just actively aware of it.  Anywhere we got out, I am constantly battling the internal dialogue that is telling me all sorts of lies about what other people are thinking of me.  This is so real and crazy in my head.  As I write it out, I can rationalize it and call it for what it is- lies; but in real time, I am a complete slave to those voices that are so concerned with outward appearance.  Lance knows me so well and can instantly tell when I am beginning to get in my head.  Especially recently, he has had to give me constant reminders that no one cares as much as I think they do.  Almost every time we are out he tells me, “No one is looking at you.  No one cares.”  It brings me sadness to think about how much effort, time, energy, worry, anxiety, and head space is given to the concerns of others.  The creator of everything knows not only my name; He knows every part of me.  He knows my greatest fears and dreams, the ones that I am too scared to even voice aloud.  He knows the worse parts of me and he knows the very best.  Not only does He see me for who I am, but He knows who I will become.  When I really sit in all of this, the moment of hearing my name in yoga class, feels so insignificant.

I think this desire runs deep within all of us.  We want to be known.  That is why we chase after degrees, titles, promotions.  This is why we desire to have all those letters after our name whether that be PhD, J.D., ThD.  It sometimes just feels like a really expensive alphabet.  But, we chase after it.  Each letter we tack on to our real name with pride. Chasing after ambition is not a bad thing, but I do think we need to remind ourselves of our roots.  We must remind ourselves of the parts of us that won’t change, that are not based on degree or fame or marriage status.  The Lord does not see us for the Mrs. or Miss in front of our names.  He does not see us for all those fancy titles that follow our names.  He does not see us for how many times our last name may or may not have changed.  He sees you as His daughter or son.  You are more than your name or your titles.  You are loved by the King.  This knowledge alone is enough.  I say all this, but I struggle in truly believing this at times.  I live my life knowing I am a daughter of His, but there is still such a huge part of both my head and heart space that cares about those other titles and recognitions.  Are you there with me?  Are you also internally jumping up and down when someone calls you by name and sees your worth?  Are you also hoping for more likes on that post?  I sure am.  But I am working on it.  It is a constant battle and a constant place of reminder.  I don’t need to perform or raise my hand or shout out.  I am already fully known by God.  This is enough.  This allows me to let go of every desire and part of myself that cares to be recognized.  I am His regardless if I am just LMU in a yoga class.

Routines Pt. 1

For the month of February, Saturdays will be all about routines.  This will be a four part series exploring ideas for morning, midday, evening, and weekend routines.  I am all about routines, especially recently with baby H.  Are you with me?  Do you love routines too?  Read on, then!  Are you more of a go with the flow type of person and tend to be against routine?  Still, I would say, read on!  I think routines are obviously going to look very different based on lifestyle, but I do believe routines are essential regardless of life status.  We all need them.  From the college student to the SAHM (stay at home mom) to the CEO to the freelance photographer, even to your toddler; routines are for everyone.

The Morning Routine 

I used to believe to my very core that I was a morning person.  I lived for early morning wake up calls.  I loved getting up before everyone else.  I loved the quiet and the early morning coffee time.  Don’t get me wrong, I never leaped out of bed ready for the day (except maybe for a select time in college when I had less responsibility).  I did however, want to get up early and enjoyed it after I was out of bed. Then I had a baby.  I was no longer a morning person, nor was I night owl; I was not really sure what I was.  Maybe an afternoon person.  Is that a thing?  It took a few long months for me to realize that the lack of a morning routine was really messing up my whole day and leaving me feeling cranky, unproductive, and dare I say, mad.  Mad does not look good on me, or really anyone for that matter, but the early days and months of Hudson, I was not as joyful as I should have been.  There are many reasons for this shift in mood and attitude, but I do think a large part of it had to do with not having a good morning routine that put me in the right frame of mind to face whatever that day held for me.  What works for you is likely to be quite different, but here are 5 general tips to start building your morning routine that gets your day started right.

1. Set an Alarm

Trust me, I hate the sound of an alarm going off as much as the next person, but I learned that even when you don’t need to, setting an alarm is one of the best ways to start the day.  Why?  I think part of the reason alarms can be so important to a morning routine is because they help you start your day off demonstrating discipline.  We are faced with thousands of decisions per day, research even concludes that the average adult person makes about 35,000 decision in a day.  That is a lot of opportunities to either demonstrate discipline or not.  By choosing to get out of bed when your alarms rings, you are allowing your first decision making opportunity one in which you are saying yes to your day and no to the comfort of continuing to sleep.  We often focus more on the big decisions in our day like where we are going, what we are doing, and who we are seeing, but tend to not to give as much weight to the smaller ones that fill our days.  These smaller ones are just as important and can make or break a day. All this to say, that setting an alarm is important and actually listening to that alarm is even more important.  I definitely have noticed a difference with my days where I stop or snooze my alarm versus the days I get up right when my alarm sounds.  Set an alarm, get up early, start your day saying yes.

2. Make Your Bed

I have gone in and out of bed making phases.  I sometimes fall in the trap of believing the lie: “I don’t have time to make my bed”.  Time how long it takes to make your bed.  For me, it takes about 1 minute.  Granted, we have a pretty simple bed, you might be fancier with more throw pillows and such, but the reality is that making your bed does not take long at all.  No matter how crazy life can feel, we can always choose to make our beds.  It seems like a small choice, but starting the day by completing a task is extremely satisfying.  In the matter of the first 10 minutes of waking up, I have already made two positive choices.  Gotten out of bed and made it.  When the morning starts rolling and the anxiety begins to creep in that I am a failure of a mom/wife/person and can’t get anything done, I can at least catch a glimpse of our neatly made bed and tell myself, “You made your bed! You’re doing awesome!”.  Also, a point of clarification, when I say make your bed, I don’t mean just pull up the covers.  I mean really make it.  Fold the sheets precisely.  Fluff the pillows. Flatten out all the wrinkles.  Be able to step away, not only feeling like you accomplished something, but that you did it with quality and care.  This makes a difference.  Try it.

3. Get Grounded

After making my bed, I cannot just begin on my to-do list.  I need to first ground myself.  Again this is going to look different from person to person, but the best and only way I know how to truly stay grounded and reminded of my purpose is spending time in the Word.  This will look different depending on the season I am in.  There have been seasons where I honestly was not in the Word.  And this greatly affected me.  Just like taking vitamins every day in the morning, reading scripture is a necessity for me.  I desperately need the Word of God to remind me who I am.  I need scripture to give me a more heavenly perspective.  Sometimes I read just a few verses, sometimes I read a Psalm, sometimes I read multiple chapters.  Regardless of season, the importance is being in the Word.  For me, part of my routine is also avoiding any screens in this early time.  Therefore, I always read scripture in the Bible during this morning time.  Again, this is just a personal choice, but I really enjoy physically opening it up.  About a year ago, Lance gave me the She Reads Truth Bible for a Christmas present.  I love this bible for many reasons.  It is pretty and inviting.  It has excellent devotionals interwoven throughout.  And the CSB translation feels very accessible to me.  Obviously, how your bible looks does not matter.  All that matters is the Truth contained within the cover, but there is nothing wrong in finding a beautiful bible, especially if it helps you get in the Word on a daily basis.  Maybe you are reading this and thinking: “getting grounded sounds great, but I am not religious.  I don’t even own a bible!”.  I could then go on to tell you that as an alternative, you could read a quotation that inspires you.  There is nothing wrong with that, but I feel like I would be remiss in not encouraging you to try reading scripture.  I love literature and I love a good quotation, but the words of an author simply do not compare to reading the living Word of God.   It is amazing how wherever I open up my bible to, I am met right where I am and given the words I so desperately needed to hear.  If this is something you have never done, I think the Psalms  is a great place to start.  Read just one verse, maybe read more.  God will meet you where you are.  He can ground you.

4. Find Your Morning Place

I sit in the same chair every morning.  I light the candle.  I pour my coffee. I sit in my flannel pjs.  Your morning likely will look different.  Maybe for you, you are already dressed in work attire and you are sitting in your car.  Maybe you are out walking on a trail.  Maybe you are lying on a yoga mat.  However you start your morning, I think there is something nice about creating a very similar atmosphere every morning, even if it lasts for just a few moments.  It does not need to get crazy.  It can be simple.  For me, it is a familiar chair, the flicker of a candle, and coffee.  Pick a couple things that will help create a morning environment that brings you peace and calmness.

5. Pray and Plan for Day

If you have just read a couple of posts, I think the fact that I am a woman of prayer and planning has come across.  I hope it has! If not, I am not conveying who I am very well.  My morning routine typically ends with me praying for the day and mapping out in my planner the tentative time schedule for the day.  I always start with gratitude.  I thank the Lord for giving me a new day.  I then pray for the things ahead in the day.  I pray for my attitude.  I pray for people.  And then I always end with love.  I tell the Lord of my love for Him and ask Him to help me better love the people in my life, and ultimately thank him for the love He has given me.  Also, just want to clarify this looks different based on the day.  This is real life.  I don’t want you to falsely get the idea that every morning I have a full block of time where I perfectly get to do everything I outlined above.  I don’t want you to think every morning I am in fervent prayer.  I wish I could tell you I was, but here’s the truth: some mornings, Hudson cries.  Sometimes (actually many times) I am interrupted.  Sometimes I don’t get to sit in quiet and converse with the Lord.  Sometimes my prayer time is simply “Lord, please help me” as I attempt to not break down as I try to console Hudson.  The point here is that, yes, some mornings I get amazing quiet time filled with scripture reading, reflection, and prayer.  Those mornings are great!  But the reality is that those mornings do not happen every day.  They may not even happen for days.  This does not mean that I throw out the whole routine and I hope I can get in good quiet time with the Lord tomorrow.  “Quiet time” does not always have to be quiet.  As I type this, I know that I am still attempting to learn this lesson.  I am learning to be okay with the noise and chaos and being out of control.  If I only prayed in the morning when I had 15-20 minutes of quiet, I would not be praying very much at all.  I hope these words can encourage you to be less focused on finding “quiet time” and more focused on communicating with the Lord regardless of how crazy or calm your morning looks.

Along with prayer, I also try to squeeze in a couple minutes of writing out time blocks for the day.  I am linking to a youtube video that has helped me re-think how I chunk my day.  She has some good insights that I found helpful.  Writing out my time schedule for the day, even if it does not go exactly as planned, helps give me direction and focus for the day.  By writing down what needs to get done, I am so much more likely to actually accomplish it! Also, sometimes I end up doing things that I did not initially write down, I try to record these once I finish them so I can give myself proof that I am in fact being productive, even on days I do not feel like I am.

 

 

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.

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.