5 Easter At-Home Activities Your Toddler Will Love

Easter celebrations are likely going to feel quite different for most of this year.  There will be no bunny photos or large egg hunts or dressing up in our Sunday’s best for Easter service.  In a lot of ways, Easter this year will be quite simple. They will be quiet, without the rush and bustle and people that usually surround all of our favorite holidays.  And while in some ways this disappoints me; in a lot of ways it is allowing my heart to be even more focused on the reason we celebrate Easter in the first place.  

Taking away the external elements of Easter, we are left with the one thing that truly matters and is forever unchanging: a cross and an empty tomb.  Jesus is alive and we get to be with Him forever! That will never be taken away. That is just as true now during a pandemic as it was before. That will never change.  In a time where everything seems to feel different, this Easter, we have even greater reason to celebrate our great, unchanging Father that loves us SO much. 

Even though things feel so different, I am very much in the Easter-spirit!  To me, this is what Easter is all about. It is about facing the darkness of the cross, but then it is also about looking past it and seeing the light and hope that lies beyond it.  Jesus’ resurrection is one of the greatest reminders that death and darkness DO NOT get the final word. Death is defeated. There is hope. We will get through this.

This may sound silly to you, but one thing that has helped me to be more focused on the hope of Easter is a week full of Easter-centric activities and crafts with Hudson Boy (21-months)!  Each day this week we did an Easter-themed activity. All of them were very simple and with materials that can mostly be found around the house. These activities absolutely brought some joy to our indoor days & reminded us both of the great hope we have in Jesus! 

With Easter just about a week away, these activities could be a great way to count down the days to Easter Sunday with your kiddos.

Quick side-note: we packed a lot of fun intentional activities into our week, but if you look at all my pictures in this post, you will easily find dust all over our floors. To the mom that struggles with a comparative heart (ME!), don’t worry if it was a week with less hands-on activities. It is all about give and take. This week we did a lot together, but my kitchen and floors and whole house for that matter is a bit of a disaster.

1. WATERCOLOR CROSS ART

I was inspired by the  Resourceful Mama’s tape Resist Cross.  We did not have painter’s tape on hand, so I cut out a cross with construction paper and taped it to the card stock.  Obviously painter’s tape is ideal, but it still worked out for us! This is a great project to do on Good Friday to focus and teach on Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection.  This project is simple and the result is really beautiful with the watercolors. I have ours on our mantle. It has been a really powerful reminder to me all week about how the dark cross does not get the final word.  There are beautiful colors on the other side.  

2. INDOOR EASTER EGG HUNT 

After this egg hunt, all Hudson seems to be able to say is “eg, eg, eg!”  I had saved a handful of plastic eggs from last year’s Easter egg hunt, so used these.  If you are feeling stumped with what to hide in the egg for this random, indoor hunt, you could do a “Resurrection Egg Hunt.”  There are ideas for this type of egg hunt all over, but I was specifically inspired by Meredith over at the blog, Wait ‘Til Your Father Gets Home

For Hudson’s egg hunt, I quickly wrote down what each item represented, along with the correlating Bible verses.  As Hudson gets older, I will use this activity to go through scripture and have a more in-depth discussion on Jesus’ resurrection.  For my 21-month old, it was still a good activity for him to hold each item and for me, in a few, simple words explain to him what the item represented.  This was a great activity that helped make a random indoor egg hunt feel a bit more meaningful.  

Since this one hunt, we have done a few.  Usually with empty eggs. He is obsessed with it and it is a fun way to pass some time. 

3. POM POMS + EGG COLOR SORTING

With those same eggs, we did this color sorting activity.  So simple and great for practicing colors with toddlers! Also, great for fine motor skills, as Hudson tried to pack as many pom poms as he could in a single egg.  We just used our hands to sort pom poms by color, but you could also use plastic tongs or a spoon to really work on those fine motor skills.  

4. CHRIST-CENTERED COLORING PAGES

My favorite resource for free, Christian coloring pages is Christian Preschool Printables.  It is an amazing site with some wonderful + free printables.  I look forward to using this resource even more as Hudson gets more into the preschool years.  He really enjoyed coloring these crosses and immediately started to run out the door to give it to someone.  Coloring pages, like these, are a great thing to have on hand, especially when someone wakes up way too early from their nap!  Coloring in the afternoon with a few snacks seems to sit well with Hudson as a solid afternoon activity. 

5. EGG + BUNNY EARS COOKIE BAKING

To end the week, we spent time with auntie and made Easter sugar cookies.  At this point, I am convinced that Sally’s Baking Addiction has the very best sugar cookie recipe.  I made this same recipe for Valentine’s Day and these Easter ones were just as delicious.  I was totally inspired by the way she used the same cookie cutter to make both eggs and bunny ears. How cute!

Our cookies, look NOTHING like hers, but we all had a lot of fun making them!  I set up Hudson’s own little decorating station with wax paper and a few cookies already frosted in white for him. This allowed him to spoon some color on to each cookie and shake some sprinkles on.  He was a happy camper with this set up. I intentionally made a really small egg that he called “baby.” This was a fun one for him to decorate and I didn’t mind him eating the whole thing since it was so tiny!! 

There are a few things we did not get to and are hoping to fit in next week!

Other Easter Things To-Do with with Kiddos

  • Dye Easter Eggs! (Excited to try these PAAS Marble ones).  If your Target has a Drive-Up, you should utilize it!  I just made a Target trip the other night and it increased my anxiety times 10. 
  • Easter Photos! No mall bunny photos this year, so hoping to make a spring little set-up in our backyard to get some cute Easter photos of Hudson! 
  • Write Easter Cards to Family!  Holidays are my favorite times to write words of gratitude to those we love most.  I have a mild obsession with Trader Joe’s seasonal cards. Picked these up the other day and I am excited to spend time with Hudson pouring love into each card.  We might not be able to see all of our family members this Easter, but we certainly can show them we are thinking of them. 
  • Easter Play-dough Play!  Planning to make a new batch of play-dough.  I will dye half orange and the other half light pink, so we can use our carrot and bunny cookie cutters! 

And of course, we will be reading all the Easter books on our shelves.  A couple weeks ago, I put a list of our favorite Easter books.  Another one that is not on that list that we have been reading constantly is Here Comes Peter Cottontail!  We have Hudson’s grammy’s version and I love this edition’s illustrations.  This week would also be a great time to delve into the Easter stories in The Jesus Storybook Bible. We keep reading the story, “God’s Wonderful Surprise,” over and over again.  It has been a comfort to both of us this week.  

What are some simple things you are doing with your kids and family this coming week to celebrate the coming hope & joy of Easter?  I would love to get some more ideas + inspiration!

Finding Peace in Sabbath during Uncertain Time

For all those that say they don’t have time to have a day of rest or sabbath, there is no better time than now to intentionally create a sabbath day for you and your whole family.  With the world shut down right now, this is the very best time to set some new healthy rhythms into your typical chaotic and busy schedule.  

Sabbath is a gift and it is my favorite day of the whole week.  It is the one day, we sleep in. The one day, I ignore the dishes and the laundry and the dust.  The work can wait. I do enough of that during the week. This is a day set apart and it is sacred.  Last summer, I put together a post full of explaining the importance of honoring the sabbath and some practical tips to incorporate this weekly day of rest in your own life.  You can go back and read it here.

“To Hell with the Hustle”

I just finished reading Jefferson Bethke’s book To Hell with the HustleIt is such a great read and a really great book to add to your list, especially if you are a hustler and struggle incorporating rest and margin into your days.  

There was a lot of really insightful wisdom packed into the pages, but the thing that stuck with me the most was actually quite simple: be faithful.

Not just a faithfulness when God is pouring you with blessings upon blessings, but in the seasons of your life that feel more barren and ordinary.  This is true faithfulness. A commitment to living your life faithfully to God, your spouse, your kids, your church, your neighbors in the ordinary days. 

Bethke puts it best in the epilogue:

“I think we hate faithfulness so much because at its root it’s obscurity and ordinariness, which is the biggest cultural curse we have today.  There is a certain paradox in making changes and choices that don’t seem to have obvious benefits. It’ll feel uncomfortable to resist technological advancements. To rethink how we communicate.  To question the noise all around us. To not hustle to get ahead, but to rest to be human. The more I root myself in a place, in a job, in mundane repetition of my life with love, the more I find joy springing up all over the place.”

(Bethke 182-183)

I don’t know about you, but my soul feels a peace and joy that has been missing for a while.  Don’t get me wrong, there is also a lot of anxiety and uncertainty and fear melted in there, but as a whole, my head feels more clear and my heart feels more open.  And I think a large part of it is because the extra noise has paused for a bit.

The morning rush of throwing things into my bag and quickly getting Hudson into his carseat has ceased.  There is no pressing timeline. We are home and for the first time in a while, I am truly thankful for the very mundane elements of my day. I am thankful for fresh air outside. I am thankful for the ability to take a long walk with my family. 

I am seeing things with a new vision. I see the beauty in the ordinary.

To give you an idea of what I am trying to convey, this is a little glimpse of what sabbath looked like for the Capel fam last Sunday:

Last Sunday’s Sabbath

  • Drinking coffee and just watching Hudson play
  • Worshipping on the couch 
  • Watching our pastor teach on the biblical concept of work.  Our church’s online sermons can be found here
  • Packing a lunch picnic of bread, turkey, cheese, figs, and slices of cara cara oranges
  • A drive on an empty 405 freeway
  • A beautiful family walk 
  • Picnic on a big grass field 
  • Baseball and soccer play with Hudson
  • A nap
  • Book reading
  • Knitting (a new thing. I am trying to make a hat, so far it is a struggle). 
  • Backyard sunbathing 
  • Bubble wands
  • Lounging in beach chairs while Hudson and Nala entertained each other 
  • Zooming with dear friends 
  • Steak on the barbecue 
  • Apple crisp in the oven
  • Scoops of vanilla ice cream 
  • Dreaming about that Stanford baseball scholarship as we watch Hudson hit on his tee before bed (kidding…kind of).
  • Bedtime books, mostly reading Stormy Night on repeat.  His current obsession because of the page that says “BOOM!” 
  • The Sunday Bath.  If you don’t do this, oh, you really should.  It is one of my favorite sabbath elements.  
  • A little more knitting
  • Time with Lance and talking about what the week ahead looks like
  • Sleep 

Peace in the Ordinary

I wanted to list all of that out because I wanted to show how ordinary it is.  Nothing spectacular, but it was a new favorite day in my book. It was simple and rich and meaningful.  This is sabbath to me. A day where the blessings of my life are in full-picture. With perfect clarity and the tender whispers of God, I see with new vision that this is exactly where he wants me.  He wants me present with open hands and an open heart for all that he is showing and teaching me through these simple days at home.

So, in the midst of uncertainty and fear as the number of coronavirus cases seem to keep getting higher and higher, I am finding a whole lot of comfort and peace in just focusing on the here and now and leaning into this day of Sabbath that will never be cancelled or taken away from us.  It is a gift given to us with open hands by a Father that loves us so dearly.

Will you accept it and step into this sacred place of rest? There is no better time than now.  

5 Things to Keep Doing During Coronavirus Pandemic

Now more than ever, the routines we have in place are essential for getting through this time of pandemic. Our calendars have emptied and we are uncertain what the next few weeks will truly look like.  We each are affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 in different ways. I can only speak from my own experience. Since we do not yet have school-aged kids and I stay-at-home with our toddler, our routine does not feel drastically different. 

With that said, last week I internally struggled not having our usual routine filled with toddler class, park playdates, and library outings. I was left wondering: how should I spend this extra time?  Should I just sleep in? Should I just watch all the movies during H’s nap time?  Should I just stop training since the marathon is postponed?  Should I just mindlessly consume social media and let everyone’s thoughts and opinions and anxiety seep into my own heart? These personal questions plus more have been bouncing in my head the past two weeks.

And the answer? Keep on keeping on.  Keep doing the same rhythms I do on a daily basis, minus of course the things I can’t do.  If you are feeling stuck, in a rut, and confused about how your days should look in this new normal, here are a few things I am continuing to do during the coronavirus pandemic, we are currently living through.

1. Keep Waking Up At the Same Time 

After everything was postponed and cancelled, my first thought when my 5:30 alarm went off was sleep in.  I have a feeling that more people probably are sleeping in.  It makes sense. There is less of a need to urgently get out of the door.  I get the temptation and the reality of sleeping later, but for me personally, that small choice can really mess up the rest of the day and my own attitude.  Keeping up with this rhythm of still rising early has been an important piece of keeping me grounded. Now more than ever, I need this quiet time to process with God, to read His Word, and journal out what is in my heart.  

2. Keep Moving (Running is always a good option).

In the midst of all the hard news and fear surrounding us, I have been deeply encouraged to see SO many people using this time to get moving outdoors.  The New York Times in an article last week, even called it “a back-to-basics exercise boom.”  As I am typing this, running, walking, and biking outdoors is still within CDC guidelines. And for that, I am really thankful. 

If it comes to the point, that we can’t run outdoors, I am not exactly sure what I will do, but for now, I am deeply appreciative of my hour runs outside. It feels like freedom, it feels accessible, and it feels essential.  We need movement. Whether that is doing those push-up challenges cropping up all over social media or walking the dog around the block or lacing up those running shoes that have been gathering dust. This is the time to make movement a daily rhythm of yours.  It is essential.  

3. Keep Setting Goals 

With the cancellation or postponement of so many events, races, conferences, and gatherings, it is easy to just scratch all the goals you made at the beginning of 2020.  Along with being routine-oriented, I am very much goal-oriented. I need a clear goal to keep me focused and working hard. With the Boston Marathon’s postponement, I decided I desperately still needed a goal to look forward to and motivate me to continue to get out the door. 

As I wrote about last week, my new goal is to run a sub-1:20 half-marathon in a virtual race.  Obviously, not quite as thrilling as hitting the streets of Boston, but this goal is still keeping me engaged and excited to get the miles in.  This is what it looks like personally for me, but I think it is possible for us all to re-write and adapt our original goals.  This is no time to throw out goals altogether, instead, let’s pivot and adjust. 

4. Keep Connecting 

God made humans to be in community.  We are literally wired for connection and community.  This is one of the MANY reasons, this new time is so challenging.  As much as my own introverted self is perfectly okay spending most of my time with family, this time has reminded me the great value and importance in connecting with others.  It has been encouraging to see so many having virtual meet-ups with friends and Face Times that go beyond the casual “hi” and extend to really hanging out and enjoying time together.  Keep doing this. Keep scheduling time to see your people virtually! Hudson is not quite at the age where I think a virtual playdate would work, but if you have older kids, I found this creative list of virtual playdate ideas.  

5. Keep Praying

Well, of course.  But in full transparency, I know when I begin to get fearful, anxious, and out of my normal routine, sometimes the first thing to go is my daily conversations with the Lord.  Please don’t let this one go. God is listening. He is not surprised with any of this, and I truly believe he desires to teach each one of us something essential during this time of staying at home. 

Are you listening? Are you willing to hear what he has to say? Are you telling him your own concerns, worries, and fears? Please keep praying. Pray for all the medical professionals working tirelessly.  Pray for the elderly that may be especially fearful right now. Pray for those with compromised immune systems. Pray for those personally affected by COVID-19. Pray for those losing jobs. Pray for our grocery stores and the lovely people working in them.  Pray for the students that deeply depend on the structure that school life brings to their days. Pray for the teachers. Pray for the parents. Pray for those that live alone and depend on social gatherings. Pray for our world and for deep healing on a physical and spiritual sense. Christianity Today, put together 20 prayers that can help lead you to pray during this time.

In all the uncertainty and change, let’s work together to keep some things the same. Keep rising, keep moving, keep looking forward, keep connecting, and most importantly, keep praying. 

Also, keep attending church (virtually).

Keep reading books.

Keep having family movie nights.

Keep chasing trash trucks on Mondays.

Keep fort-building.

Keep washing your hands.

Keep taking your vitamins.

Keep sending birthday cards.

Keep the sabbath.

Keep creating.

Keep drinking coffee.

Keep walking the dog.

Keep grocery shopping.

Keep cooking and baking and ordering take-out.

Keep online shopping.

Keep reaching out to your mama.

Keep taking baths.

Keep watering the plants.

These little, unchanging things are becoming more beautiful to me with each passing day.

What are the things you are keeping in your life right now in the midst of pandemic?

8 Favorite Easter Books for Toddlers

I know the world feels quite different right now, but one of the things that is helping me stay sane with a toddler at home and no park time and no playdates is…books. We always read a lot of books over here and make our weekly Wednesday library trip, but now more than ever, Hudson and I both are dependent on the comfort and joy these repeated stories bring to our days. 

With Easter right around the corner, I wanted to share some of the Easter books we are reading right now at home and some that we don’t currently have on our shelves, but want to! We actually are pretty stocked up on Easter books right now because I checked out a big haul of them from the library in early March, little did I know we wouldn’t be back to the library for a bit. If you don’t have a ton of Easter books, now is a good time to order a couple new favorites to add to your permanent collection! As I write about often, books make the perfect gift and any of these would work perfectly in an Easter basket.

Some of these books on this list are purely fun and the sole purpose of them is in the colorful eggs and the chocolate bunnies.  I also did intentionally choose a few favorites that I personally think do a beautiful job delivering the true reason we celebrate Easter: He Is Risen!  

1. Jesus Rose For Me by Jared Kennedy 

This is the book we are putting in Hudson’s basket this year.  This is a really nice board book with beautiful images. The thing I love most about this book is the amount of details that are included about Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection.  Jesus Rose for Me is absolutely delivering the gospel, but doing it in such a way that little ears can better comprehend. I am all about delivering truth to our kids at a very young age and this book is a beautiful tool to use.  It even includes Bible verses with each story, so this is a great way to incorporate scripture with your little ones. The book is a bit wordier for Hudson’s attention span currently, but I know it will be the perfect gospel-centric book that he will absolutely grow into within the next year.

2. God Gave Us Easter by Lisa Tawn Bergren 

This was the book we put in his Easter basket last year!  I LOVE the God Gave Us series of books.  Again, the stories still are a bit longer for his attention span even now, but I know this will become a favorite.  Through beautiful illustrations and the real curiosity of a little cub, papa cub through natural imagery explains where the true joy of Easter comes from. 

Like so many of Bergren’s books, this book is a wonderful answer to how to teach kids that the cultural elements of these holidays (eggs, Easter bunny, gifts) are fun and good, but they should never overshadow the true meaning.  Easter baskets and egg hunts point to only a small glimmer of the joy that is found in true relationship with Christ. This book helps reveal this truth and for that I am really thankful. 

3. The Easter Egg by Jan Brett

I discovered this classic book at the library and I am slightly obsessed with the storyline.  This is not a religious Easter book, but the story is heartwarming. It teaches little ones on the importance of small acts of kindness.  The bunny, Hoppi is so concerned with making the most beautiful egg and is inspired by all the beautiful eggs his bunny neighbors are creating.  While trying to figure out how he will decorate his own egg, he ends up helping Mother Robin keep her egg warm. This is how he spends his time and at the end only has the cracked and empty egg shell. Can you guess whose egg was chosen as the winner? Hoppi!

I love how well the storyline shows it is not always about the product we produce, but the intention of our hearts. Love this story, love the illustrations, love Jan Brett. We checked out the hardcover version, but Amazon also has a board book I linked to that is perfect for toddlers! 

4. Happy Easter, Mouse!  by Laura Numeroff

Each holiday, we collect another Mouse book because Hudson is such a fan.  I will admit, the Easter one is not as good as the It’s Pumpkin Day, Mouse!, but it is still a good Easter one for toddlers.  It is a very simple story, so probably best for 2-3 year-olds.  We are currently working on our colors. This is a great book to practice naming each color of egg Mouse finds.  This is an easy book to pair with a small activity or craft revolved around colors and eggs! 

5. A Very Happy Easter Prayer by Bonnie Rickner Jensen

Now more than ever, we need to count our blessings and thank God for the gifts of flowers budding and new life being created. Hudson and I read this book before his nap and it brought me a lot of peace. The words are simple. The illustrations are full of colorful flowers and cute bunnies. During these weird and anxious times, my heart settled as I read these simple words thanking God for all the simple blessings.

6. Happy Easter, Country Bunny by DuBose Heyward

The Country Bunny was my favorite Easter book as a young girl. I can still remember how I felt when my mom would read it to us. I loved it then, and now connect to it on an even deeper level. It is such a timely and relatable story for the modern woman. It is a beautiful picture of balancing motherhood with the dreams of your heart. Mother Cottontail continues to inspire me, and it is the perfect story to share with our little ones to inspire them. I would put the original story here, but since this list is geared towards toddlers, this board book is the better option for toddler-aged kiddos.

7. The Great Easter Race

This is a fun book with all the Sesame Street character partaking in a race on Easter morning. The bunny that joins the race leaves baskets full of each character’s favorite things and in the end, the slow turtle wins the race. The illustrations are colorful with all the recognizable Sesame Street friends. The story also contains more substance than typical stories geared towards toddlers, which I appreciate! If you have a Sesame Street lover, this is a fun book to read together this Easter season.

8. An Easter Egg Hunt for Jesus by Susan Jones

This is a sweet story full of cute forest animals and a valuable lesson that Easter is much more than just an Easter egg hunt. It is about Jesus. Through beautiful illustrations and a sweet storyline, Jones delivers the important message that this time of year is a celebration for Jesus!

The Hope of Easter

Again, I know there are much bigger world issues going on right now, and Easter books are likely not on the top of your list. I get that, but in these uncertain and uneasy time, I am finding a lot of comfort in reading books with H and looking ahead to the hope of Easter (even though it is likely to look quite different this year). These books I selected are the perfect stories to read to our little ones this year to point them to the fact that Easter is not dependent on Easter egg hunts and baskets full of chocolate bunnies. Those are fun, but Easter is much more. As papa polar bear puts it in God Gave Us Easter:

“On Easter, we remember we get to be with Jesus forever.”

And that alone is reason to celebrate.

So, let’s read more books, pray more, and cling more than ever to the hope and promise we know for certain will come Easter morning. In all this uncertainty, the sure promise of Jesus is pulling me through.

Happy reading, friends.

When the World Shuts Down, Turn to Jesus.

Quite honestly, it feels a little weird to compile a list of my favorite Easter books for toddlers, when the world right now feels pretty scary and uncertain.  I have a lot of emotions right now. I am a bit fearful, a little confused, and in my human nature, quite disappointed about the Boston Marathon officially being cancelled. More on the whole marathon situation in an upcoming post.  So for now the Easter book post I previously scheduled can wait, I think this is more important.  

Every morning, with my cup of coffee, I start my day by reading the day’s devotional from Paul Tripp’s New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional.  These past two mornings, I have so felt the Holy Spirit moving.  The devotionals so spoke into everything that is going on with the spread of COVID-19 and the fear and the slew of cancellations.  

Yesterday morning, I read the following: 

If you mourn the fallenness of your world rather than curse its difficulties, you know that grace has visited you.

Tripp goes on to write, “Now, there are really only two responses we can have to the brokenness that complicates all of our lives: cursing or mourning.  Let’s be honest.  Cursing is the more natural response.  We curse the fact that we have to deal with flawed people.  We curse the fact that we have to deal with things that don’t work right.  We curse the fact that we have to deal with pollution and disease. We curse the fact that promises get broken, relationships shatter, and dreams die…Cursing is the wrong response…Mourning is the much better response.  Mourning embraces the tragedy of the fall. Mourning acknowledges that the world is not the way God meant it to be. Mourning cries out for God’s restoring, redeeming hand. Mourning acknowledges the suffering of others. Mourning is about something bigger than the fact that life is hard.  Mourning, then, is a response that is prompted by grace.” (Tripp). 

I basically just typed up the entire devotional, but it is that good.  I read this on the morning where it felt like the whole world began to shut down.  It sure is easy to curse and complain when we are living through a very clear example of our world’s brokenness.  Things are clearly not the way they should be.  Cursing doesn’t remove the panic, the virus, or the disappointment.  Mourning is a response that says yes, I see this, the world is not functioning properly, and God, I trust that you will redeem our world and heal and bring peace

Everything that has happened in the past week has reminded me of a few very important things. First and foremost that I am not in control, God is. Secondly, I need to be very careful to what my heart clings to.  When all our carefully laid out plans begin to get cancelled, it is a time to reflect and see where our treasure truly lies. It is natural to feel disappointment when things you were looking forward to are not happening in the way you expected, but you can’t stay there.

Everything going on in the world right now is the perfect example of why your identity cannot be in your sport, your profession, or even church gatherings. How will your heart respond when the entire season is cancelled? Or when the big work project you have been working on for months get cancelled? Or when church gatherings are not happening this Sunday? Does your identity go beyond what you do in your week?

In this time, I am convinced that the right move is NOT letting the panic seep into your soul, but to have faith that this too will pass. I must admit, I have been a bit glued to my phone and I have let the panic on social media affect me. During this time, I need less social media, and more solid, truth, which I know I can only find in God’s word. 

If you too, are feeling anxious, confused, and unsettled, here are 5 Psalms that are greatly helping with my own anxiety and uncertainty.  I encourage you to put the phone down for a bit, turn the news off for a little, and open up God’s word. And just see what this does for your heart.

Psalm 13: A Psalm of Trust

“But I have trusted in your faithful love; my heart will rejoice in your deliverance. I will sing to the Lord because he has treated me generously” -Psalm 13: 5-6

Psalm 16: A Psalm of Confidence 

“I will bless the Lord who counsels me- even at night when my thoughts trouble me. I always let the Lord guide me. Because he is at my right hand. I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices; my body also rests securely” -Psalm 16:7-9

Psalm 22: A Psalm of Remembrance 

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far from my deliverance and from my words of groaning. My God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, by night, yet I have no rest. But you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in you; they trusted, and you rescued them. They cried to you and were set free; they trusted in you and were not disgraced” -Psalm 22: 1-5

Psalm 27: A Psalm of Strength  

“The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-whom should I dread? When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh, my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell. Though an army deploys against me, my heart will not be afraid; though a war breaks out against me, I will still be confident.” -Psalm 27:1-3

Psalm 56: A Psalm of Protection 

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose words I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” -Psalm 56:3-4

In this very weird time in our world, let’s turn our hearts to Jesus. Let’s trust that God is working, even when we don’t see it. And let’s be people who are prayerful, not panicked.

Stay safe, all! Wash your hands, be considerate of others that might be in even more stressful and challenging situations, and ultimately trust that the Lord will bring peace and restoration.  

God is bigger than all of this. 

If you are wondering what to do tomorrow morning. Can I suggest something? Our church, along with many others will be holding online services. Even if you are not a believer, this could be an opportunity to learn more about who God is. It can also act as a place of comfort and community in this strange time. You can find the online service here tomorrow (Sunday morning).

Solo Retreat for the Soul

I am alone.  I can literally hear the waves crashing from my little hacienda my husband so kindly rented and gifted me for my Christmas gift this year.  In this place of solitude, you would think I would be rejoicing. You would think I would not have a care in the world and would just be drinking wine and ordering take out and watching all the romantic comedies I could squeeze in.  But here’s the thing: I already miss my family. I feel homesick. And if I am honest, I feel really anxious about being in a new little city all by myself.  

Isn’t it funny how the thing we keep saying we need and want is not actually what we need and want?

 Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity to be alone with the Lord.  I 100% understand the privilege in being able to have the resources and life situation that allows me to run away for a little on my own.  I am grateful and I do not take this time away lightly at all. In an effort to really use the time well, I even created an hour-by-hour itinerary.

I understand the sacredness in time to be alone with the Lord, and I don’t want to waste a second of it, but again, if I am honest, I let about 45-minutes slip away. I felt nervous, a little scared, and quite frankly, like a fish out of water who has become so accustomed to depending on her family and the safety of her routine and familiar city that she has lived almost 26 years in.

Yet, those 45-minutes have come and gone, and I can feel my heart beginning to settle.  And oh, did I mention I can hear the waves crashing from my window? 

Reminiscing of New York City Days

The funny thing in all this is that 7 years ago, I would have been in my element.  7 years ago, I did most things on my own. I would go to cafés and work for hours on end all by myself.  I would go to sushi and sit at the bar and just eat and watch the sushi chefs chop and roll with such precision. 

When I was 20-years old and was living in NYC for the summer, I spent a lot of time alone. I ran late at night (okay, like 8pm) in Central Park without a fear. Most meals, I ate alone. I rode the subway back and forth with a confidence I didn’t even know I had.

My mind goes back to New York because I can remember how I responded to the type of freedom I had back then. Now, as I have a small taste of that freedom, I can’t help but crave the limitations and the noise and the mess of my actual life.  When you’re in the chaos of early motherhood, it is easy to reminisce about those New York City days. Of late night runs, of solo meals, of endless quiet time.

My Life Right Here, Right Now Is Better

Trust me, it is easy to drift off to this place, but again, here’s the thing, I have been given this lovely day retreat where there is endless quiet time and I can actually have a peaceful restaurant experience and there is no one constantly tugging at my legs, saying “more, more, mommy”.  It is just me.  The crashing waves.  A beautiful little hacienda.  And these words. Yet, my heart is already missing my crazy little boy and my handsome husband that loves me so well.

Oh my life is so full and beautiful.  It is messy, loud, dusty, busy, chaotic, but it is beautiful.  

Part of the reason, I am on this retreat is because Lance knows my heart so well and I have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve.  Since the summer, my soul has been struggling. I have been weary and tired and drained. I have felt unimportant and small. My joy has been low.  I have snapped at Hudson, at Lance. I have not been my best self. This time away came out of a clear need and the kindness of my husband. Thanks, Lance!

5 Things My Time Away Taught Me

My soul needed this solo retreat. It reminded me of a few things I have forgotten. It also taught me some new lessons. Whether you yourself are planning a solo retreat or you are in the grind of ordinary life, these takeaways are things that I hope can help you wherever you are.

1. Time Away is Essential 

Whatever our job is, whether we are stay-at-home moms or working moms or work-at-home moms or married without kids, we need time away. This does not make you a bad mom or a selfish wife, it simply makes you human.

It is not always going to look like staying in a hacienda on the ocean by myself, but this time away reminded me that I need to intentionally schedule time away.  This time away could be for just an hour, but I need to do this on a regular basis. It can’t be an hour away of running errands or even of working out.  It needs to be time away intentionally with the Lord. In quiet, in peace.

I realized that I often deem my down time when I escape to Costco by myself or I attend that evening workout class.  Contrary to some, Costco and core class are not life-giving to me. They are good and necessary, but when I am talking about time away, I mean time to really hear the Lord. It is going to be different for every person, but for me I am finding it involves sitting down in a new setting, reading a good book and writing down prayers. 

2. Embrace the  Uncomfortable 

This part was most surprising to me.  I was caught off guard when the initial hours of my retreat felt uncomfortable and fearful.  Like with anything that is outside of your norm, it is likely that initially it will feel weird.  The new job, the new marriage, the new baby, the new home, the new city. Maybe it is just me, but it takes me a while to warm-up to things I am not used to. 

This time away was no different. It felt weird and uncomfortable and I immediately called Lance the moment I entered the doors of the hacienda. I was very, very close to calling off the whole thing and having him and Hudson crash the retreat.  That felt right and familiar and comfortable. And here’s the thing, if I did give in to those feelings, I would have missed out on a really lovely time alone. It would have been great to have them with me, but it would not have been the same.  

Instead of giving in to the uncomfortable, I chose to embrace it.  And I am so glad I did. I heard God clearly for the first time in a while.  I read more than I have in months. For the first time in a long time, I was not worried about someone else.  I had no time constraints: I went on an evening run and I literally just stopped in the middle, went down to a little cove, sat on a rock and watched the sun go down. 

I must admit it felt good to just be. To not worry about getting back at a certain time and starting dinner right at 4pm. This time alone was needed. It allowed me to process and write things down that have been stirring in my heart.  For all those reasons, I am glad I sat in the uncomfortable; I am glad I did not give in to my longings to call off the whole solo aspect and make it just a family thing. 

3. Life with Your People is Always Better 

With all that said about how lovely it was to be alone, my biggest takeaway from my solo retreat was how life is so much better with my people.  It is messier and way louder, and quite frankly, all my sins are much more apparent, but it is my life, my family, and I love it with my whole heart. 

When you are in it, it is easy to daydream to retreats like the one I just had. It is easy to long for hours spent in a café, sipping a latte and reading.  It is easy to wish for just one quiet meal that does not result in food flying everywhere. And it is easy to desire freedom to run and write and watch P.S. I Love You whenever you would like.  It sure is easy, but I am here to tell you that right when I got this freedom, it was not quite as amazing as I pictured. Within the first couple hours I was already missing my family. 

Sure, I got a lot of reading in, wrote down some interesting thoughts, enjoyed a glass of wine as I voraciously flipped the pages, fell asleep to those lovely crashing waves; yet it still does not come close to my actual life.  Life with your people is always better!

4. Some Things are Better Left Unplanned

It should be no surprise that I created an hour-by-hour schedule for my retreat.  This is just how my mind operates. I want to know the plan, even if it is just me and the intention is to relax and get some writing in.  In a lot of ways I am glad I created a schedule, it allowed me to find a really great lunch spot that I likely would not have gone to if I did not plan ahead.  It also allowed me to really use the time wisely.

With my schedule, I got a lot out of my 24 hours away. I made it to a hatha yoga class at 7:30 am, got my eyebrows threaded (which always seems so hard to find the time to do in my ordinary days), listened to so many good podcasts (my favorite one I listened to was about reading the Bible chronologically), had an amazing lunch at Ellie’s Table (if you’re in San Juan Capistrano area, you should go), wrote about my feelings, ran at sunset, ate dinner with my book as company at Pierside, wrote a letter to my husband, talked a whole lot to God, started P.S. I Love You on Netflix and fell asleep to those crashing waves. 

The schedule helped me really use the time wisely, but all those things I listed, only some of them were on the schedule.  Pierside I just wandered into after my run without taking a shower. Weirdly, I scheduled a shower after my run and before dinner, which is so not me, so I just went to dinner with running shoes on and book in hand. The prayer walk on the beach I had scheduled for 1 pm, never happened because I lingered at Ellie’s Table much longer than expected.  But, prayer was scattered all throughout my time it just did not look as neat as a “prayer walk on beach.” Point in all this, is that spending time away intentionally is super important, but be okay with having some gaps and unknowns in your schedule. 
 

5. Things Might Feel the Same

When you do intentional things like this, it is easy to have this hope and even expectation that when you return, things will feel different.  That upon returning, you suddenly will be that patient mom, extra loving wife, and all-together better human being that is much more holy than before she took a solo retreat.  And here’s the thing, I felt the same. I quickly became anxious again as all my responsibilities quickly hit me with one step back into our home. I lost my patience soon after as I said “no” a million times and had to clean throw up off the floor.  But this all goes back to #3. Life is easier when you are away, you are likely going to be appear to be a much more loving and patient person than you actually are, but life is always better with your people.

This retreat did not instantly change me, but God absolutely used the time.  Through the podcasts I listened to, the words I read, the words I wrote, the miles I ran, the prayers, the yoga teacher, the lady that threaded my eyebrows, and those crashing waves, God reminded me of his nearness, he reminded me of how loved I really am, and he reminded me of the great gift and privilege it is to have the beautiful life the Lord has entrusted me with. So while I still struggle with a lot of the same things I did pre-retreat, my vision does feel clearer, my heart feels lighter, and I feel so much gratitude.  

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.