Routines to Keep You Centered This December

It has been a busy past few days.  From our trip to Yosemite to Thanksgiving to getting the house all ready for Christmas; my soul feels a bit tired and worn out.  The past week, I have definitely been out of my normal routine. I have been waking up later, working out less, and not sticking to my normal cleaning routine. Things feel a bit out of order. Our house is still scattered with Christmas things that are not fully in place. My mind has lots of words in it, but this typing thing already feels a bit foreign.  My legs are ready to increase mileage for marathon training, but I am not sure my head is there.

The thing with routines is that it is so easy to slip away.  My body fought me hard as I pulled myself out of bed at 5:30 am this week. My mind also fought me as I more easily convinced myself to skip on my typical disciplines. To me, this is just further evidence as to why keeping routines, even in busy holiday seasons is SO important.  If you have yet to read my past post on all of this, you can read it here.

3 Things to Keep Routines Around this December

On a different note, I want to write about some of the routines and rhythms you can keep this December. These three simple concepts are designed to help keep you centered on Christ this Christmas season. You are likely being pulled in a million directions this month. It is so easy to lose focus if you don’t have specific routines in place to keep you centered and grounded.

toddler boy playing in Christmas tree lot

1. Keep a Routine Around the Tree

On our first Christmas together, we started the tradition of getting our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.  This was our fifth year of getting our tree the Friday after Thanksgiving. I know a lot of you will get your tree whenever and that often depends on each year, but we have found to really love this tradition/routine of getting our tree at the same time every year. It takes away the guessing and we expect and look forward to it every year.  It is also nice to get it in on the earlier side, so it can be enjoyed all Christmas season. This year, we chose to decorate it the same evening. We listened to Christmas music, put up ornaments, and drank sipping chocolate from Trader Joe’s, which I highly recommend.  It is way better than regular hot cocoa.  

I can so clearly remember our first Christmas as a married couple.  I have a specific memory walking down the aisles at Target and feeling mad at Lance.  We didn’t have much for our Christmas tree. And I wanted to buy all the things for it: a fancy tree topper, a pretty tree skirt, festive ornaments.  But my logical and conservative husband, did not want to spend the extra money. We already spent over $60 on a tree, more money on things like that felt over the top to him.  I was so upset about this. It seems super silly now, but at the time it was a whole lot of Christmas drama!  

family Christmas tree traditions

Anyways, we didn’t buy a fancy tree topper. Instead, I used leftover ribbon we had from our wedding and tied a bow on the top of our tree.  Five years later and that is our same tree topper. At this point, we could buy one of those fancy toppers, but there is something about that bow that I love.  It feels right. It feels like tradition.

Christmas ornaments that hold important milestones for a family

All these little traditions and routines around our Christmas tree are fun and special and even important; however, the tree to me is actually more of a metaphor. It is this very physical thing that sits in your living room for nearly a month of your year. The tree is pretty and shiny, but even more importantly it tells a story. It holds important milestones and moments. And not only does it tell a story of your family; it ultimately tells a story of God’s faithfulness, even in the years that might not have any shiny or memorable ornaments attached to it. So, create routines and traditions around the tree. However, don’t be distracted by the small details, like the tree topper or the fact that your tree is always a tad crooked. Remember, the tree is just a metaphor of something much, much more important.

2. Keep a Routine Around Advent 

Last Christmas, Hudson was just 6-months old, so we did not keep up with an Advent calendar for him.  This year we are! There are so many Advent calendar options that you can buy at the store. Those are good, but I am currently really into the Advent calendars that you fill on your own and use every single year.  My mother-in-law got us this beautiful Advent calendar from Pottery Barn.  It has great big pockets to fill with whatever you choose.  It is nice that Hudson is still at an age where he doesn’t really care what he is getting and the smallest things are still super exciting to him.  For this reason, I filled up his calendar this year with things like stickers, plastic dinosaurs, and protein bars. I know- not as exciting as chocolate, but I think he will still enjoy it.  

scripture and stickers inside an advent calendar for a toddler

The day before Advent, I focused more on finding little things in the dollar section of Target to put into his calendar that I missed the point a bit.  I forgot that the whole point of this Advent season is to reflect on the coming of Christ. So, I kept the random dinosaurs and snowman stickers stuffed in the pockets, but I also added something.  I found an amazing blog that had this adorable handwritten scripture geared towards little ones for each day. She specifically had the two-year olds in mind! I printed it out, cut out the squares and put one in each pocket.  I taped construction paper on the wall next to our advent calendar to stick the scripture on. This way we can visibly remember the greatest gift this season: Jesus.  

scripture from Luke for a toddler's advent calendar

Again, this is nothing revolutionary.  A small adjustment to a typical calendar filled with chocolate or even alcohol (have you seen the beer advent calendar from Costco?).  While there is nothing inherently wrong with calendars like this, I do believe it quickly turns our eyes away from the point of Advent.  It is to remember and await in eager anticipation for what is coming. The purpose of Advent is not in the chocolate or craft beer cans. The purpose is in Jesus.

  If you have little ones and wish to incorporate simple scripture into your Advent tradition, you can get that free printable on the Happy Home Fairy blog right here.  Just because we are already a few days into advent, it is never too late to start implementing more of Jesus into your Christmas traditions.

3. Keep a Routine Around Family Time

After dinner time, we are trying to do one thing as a family that feels Christmas-y.  On the first of December, we started by watching Lance’s all-time favorite Christmas movie, Home Alone.  We just watched about 20-minutes, but it was a fun way to start off the month of December.  A few other ideas we plan on doing as a family include: walking around to see Christmas lights in Sleepy Hollow (we do this every year with our good friends Hannah and Kyle), baking cookies together, reading Christmas-themed books (more on this in next week’s blog post), dancing to Christmas music, drinking that sipping chocolate I mentioned above, attending local Christmas events (especially ones surrounded around celebrating what this time of year is truly about). 

If you live in the South Bay area, our church is putting on a special event called “Campfire Christmas.”  It is the perfect evening activity with your family to spend some time celebrating and singing and preparing your hearts for the coming of Christ.  Do a little research and see some of the Christmas events local churches around you are putting on. These are often free and the perfect Christmas family outing centered around Christ.  

Side note: the truth of the matter is that we are not all curled up together doing some cute, Christmas-themed activity every single night of December. Applause to those families, but that is just not us. In fact, just tonight we had a nice dinner together, Hudson took a bath, and I flew out the door to yoga. The point of routines is intention. We could have gone out to a local holiday event being held in the community this evening, but Lance and I both sensed it was not right for us tonight. I am telling you this story because I want to be clear: we are definitely not perfect and life is busy, but on the nights that make sense, we really are intentionally trying to spend them together doing something centered around this season.

Give Something Up + Commit to Something

I recently listened to a new podcast episode on The Next Right Thing.  I have mentioned Emily’s podcast before on here and it is because she always drops such good wisdom in her short 15-20-minute episodes.  You really should take a listen if you haven’t. Her latest episode is all about how to avoid decision fatigue during the holidays. She suggests deciding ahead of time one thing to say no or remove from your schedule during the month of December.  For her, it was work-related travel. She also recommended planning ahead and saying yes to two things that will keep you centered on Christ during the holidays. It could be a devotional, a playlist, a book.

All this very much resonated with me as I wrote up this particular blog.  For me, I am saying no to late nights and consuming myself with tasks that simply are not that important. When it comes to the evenings, I want to be home with my family, I don’t want to busy myself with shopping and planning and doing. By setting this boundary, I am hoping to end this Christmas season in a place where I am more present and joyful. 

What Are You Prioritizing this December?

Okay, so I know this was a bit all over the place, but the heart of what I am trying to convey is that the things and routines we choose to do during December really, really matter.  Even if we don’t realize it, what we choose to say no and yes to are ultimately revealing what matters to us. When I choose to consume myself with shopping, I quickly lose sight of what this time of celebration is all about.  However, when I choose to put scripture in each pocket of Hudson’s Advent calendar and we stick it up on the wall together, I ground myself and the Word of God pulls me into the true joy of the season.  

I hope this makes you think about exactly how you are spending your time in the days and weeks to come.  What is your focus? What is spinning on in your head? Is it your shopping list and the parties you are attending?  Or is it your family? The candlelight Christmas-Eve service? That verse from Luke you just can’t shake from your mind?  

It sure is easy to be pulled away from the important things this time of year. My prayer is that this December can be different for you. You will likely still make some mistakes and fill your schedule a bit too full, but I hope that you can end the month with just a bit more peace, joy, and gentleness than last year!

Share a comment if you have a particular routine during December that keeps you focused and joyful this time of year! I would love to hear from you.

Keeping Routines During Holiday Busyness

Just last Sunday we went to the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at The Grove in Los Angeles.  This was the perfect reminder about what can easily happen during this time of year.  I witnessed people pushing and shoving each other through crowds. There were people yelling at waitresses for not keeping their reservation.  There were unkind words thrown at people that were standing and covering the screen that was projecting the show. To be honest, there was not a ton of holiday cheer.  There were a lot of security guards and chaos and crowds of unhappy people. Sure, there was a beautiful, big Christmas tree, which costs more than what many people make in a year (trust me, we looked up all the stats as we waited on the crowded lawn).  There were beautiful lights everywhere and the store windows glimmered with shiny things. But like I said, there seemed to be something missing.  

Stay Focused on What Matters

Don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE this time of year.  But, I also am quite aware that I have a tendency to not show up as my best self around this time.  I too can be like the crowds of angry people that push and shove their way to the front. I tend to be on edge, cranky, and stressed.  The truth is, I can easily let the distractions of gift giving, holiday parties, and all the decorations get in the way of staying focused and present on what this time of celebration is all about: the birth of Jesus!  

This year, I am committed to staying focused on what actually matters and not letting the holiday chaos get the best of me.  Are you with me? Let’s enjoy this time of year, but let’s also keep systems in place to stay centered and focused on what the celebration is truly all about.  It is likely that you are going to be a bit outside of your normal routine during this season and that is totally okay. You might be traveling. You might stay up later, sleep in longer, eat more cookies.  And to all of that, I say go for it. As much as I love routines and systems, I think it is also essential to let go of some of the structure during seasons like this; however, there are a few things that I believe are essential for you to keep up even during the holidays.  

5 Things To Keep Doing During Holiday Busyness

So, while you might be stuffing your face with gingerbread men and staying up past your bedtime, here are a few things you should keep up with to help avoid being a grinch this Christmas and to really be joyful and present and thankful.  

1. Wake Up Before the Kiddos 

I get it.  With less work + no school, you might easily be tempted to sleep in and wake up when the whole house wakes up.  This is easy to do when you might be staying up later than normal shopping or partying. However, if you are anything like me, even just 10-minutes of quiet time before the chaos of the day, is essential for me to be the best mama and wife I can be.  Normally, I wake up at 5:15 am to have at least an hour of time to journal, pray, work on blog. I will definitely have some days of waking up later, but I still plan on setting an alarm to ensure I have at least 10-minutes before Hudson wakes up. So, sleep in, but still allow for some early morning quiet time. This can really help set the tone for the rest of the day.

2. Take Your Vitamins

Even if you don’t take supplements as a daily routine, the idea behind this point, is keep up with one simple habit that is good for your health.  The reality is that I am going to be eating A LOT this holiday season and I will be eating a ton of things that might not be the healthiest options. That is part of this time of year!  However, my body and emotional state really gets affected if I am just consuming wine, sugar, and salt. And let’s be honest, that is a lot of what is going into my body around this time.  There must be balance. So, even if it is just keeping up with your vitamin routine or your protein shake every morning. Keep doing one healthy food habit that will help counter all that wine, sugar, and salt.  

3. Keep Moving 

Amidst all the busyness, it is easy to skip out on your typical workout routine.  I don’t think you need to keep up as intense of an exercise routine as you might normally, but continuing to have some type of movement in your days is still vital.  If you are traveling, it can be a real challenge to stay as active. As I wrote about in last week’s post on finding exercise routines, 10-minutes is always better than zero.  Use your small windows of time! Another option, is to try to incorporate movement or getting outdoors when you are visiting with friends or family.  Take a family walk Christmas Eve. Bring a friend that is home for the holidays to a yoga class. This is a fun way to visit, while still keeping active! 

4. Create Space for Evening Routine 

It is likely you are going to be out later on certain evenings than you typically would.  Our family is an early to bed type of family, so it can really affect us staying out past our bedtimes night after night during this time of year.  For that reason, I think it is important to talk within your family and set the maximum time you will be out. Aim to really get home by this time, so you can keep up with the elements of your evening routine.  Story time, cuddles, night cream. These are the things that might be easy to toss out the window when you are coming home past midnight and are exhausted. I really believe it is important to preserve your evening routine as much as possible by giving yourselves and your family some time before just falling asleep.  This might entail leaving the party slightly early or saying no to certain things, but trust me, you and your family will be much happier if you create these types of boundaries.

5. Plan Ahead

The week of Christmas, I always feel especially on edge because I am still trying to do all things on my holiday to-do list that I have not gotten to!  This Christmas season, I am really committing to getting all the shopping and holiday prep done by the first week of December. This is my goal. To make this happen, I am planning ahead.  I am scheduling all my shopping early. I am clearly marking our calendars with the different events we are going to, so it is very clear to the whole family what we have going on. Planning ahead really can save you from a lot of Christmas drama!  

In the spirit of Christmas, I wanted to give you a little gift.  I created a pretty little “Christmas To-Do List” to help you organize everything you have to do this season! I put some scripture and reminders to help you stay rooted in what this time of year is all about.  Not the presents or Santa or the Christmas Tree Lighting or cookie exchanges. Jesus. It is about Him! I really believe working on incorporating these 5 things into this busy time of year will ultimately help keep you focused on what actually matters! 

All you need to do to be sent this special list is to enter your email below. If you are already subscribed, I’ll be sending you this PDF in next week’s newsletter.

Send Me My Gift! 

What are some things you do during this time of year to help keep you grounded?  I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.  

6 Steps to Make Exercise a Routine for the Busy Mom

Routines make the things happen that you don’t always feel like doing.  For me, a huge one is exercise. Running comes pretty naturally to me and something I have been doing for over ten years; however, the reality of being a busy mom, often is still a huge barrier for me.  While I definitely do not always feel like it, I still manage to exercise 6 days a week. This simply would not happen if I did not have a consistent routine. The miles and burpees are literally scheduled into my week. That might sound excessive, but here’s the truth: if I don’t pencil in my workouts like they are important work meetings, they simply WILL NOT HAPPEN!  Same with you?

I am coming from the perspective of someone who loves to run and loves staying active and healthy, so I can only imagine the real obstacle to actually get out there and workout when it might not come as naturally to you. This is just more of a reason that you need to make exercise into a weekly routine! 

Routines Make It Happen!

 As I have said a ton on here before, routines help us actually do the things that are good for us even when we do not FEEL LIKE IT. If I am being honest, there are very few days where I truly feel like pushing myself and running a hard workout. Even when the feeling or desire is not there, I still get it done because I know that I run hard every Wednesday morning. It is just what I do.

I have a LOT of thoughts when it comes to exercise routines for the busy mom.  Before I even really get started, I want to clearly acknowledge that I absolutely understand that some mamas have greater barriers to fitting in workouts based on either being a single mama, having no family nearby, dealing with a tight budget, and/or having multiple little ones still at home to care for.  With that said, I still firmly believe that 6 days of movement, even for the busy mom with limited help and resources, is not only possible, but absolutely necessary.  

Before you start listing out the excuses about why there is no possible way you can exercise 6 days a week.  I want you to stop. The excuses are likely valid, but if you truly are priortizing your health, you can and will make time for scheduling working out as a daily routine.  

6 Steps to Creating Your Own Exercise Routine

Below are some step-by-step suggestions to help you get on the track of incorporating movement into your daily routine.  Notice how I am saying MOVEMENT. We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves with that word “exercise” or “workout.” There is this underlying pressure that if we do not have a solid hour to workout, then forget it.  This way of thinking needs to stop. You have 10 minutes in your day. I don’t care how busy your days are. There are 10 minutes you can spare for intentional movement.  

I will send you this 4-paged printable that I created that will help you target the times in your schedule that are open + guide you as you set goals and actually schedule the exercise into your week. I have made this PDF editable so if you choose to keep it on your computer, you can easily edit the boxes! To get this sent straight to your inbox, just enter you email below. If you are already a subscriber, you will getting this lovely PDF in my Tuesday newsletter.

 



 

 

1. Examine Your Weeks + Identify Open Windows

Take the time to list out all your time obligations and responsibilities during the week.  Write it out as a schedule with time blocks. Once you have everything written out, identify the windows that are open.  It might be very small windows, but even if it is 10-minute windows, highlight these.

2. Set Clear Weekly Goals 

Be VERY specific.  Set the number of times you plan to do cardio (run, spin class, bike ride, swim, treadmill, HIIT training).  Set the number of times you plan to do strength training (core, weights, yoga, barre). For example, my typical weekly goals when I am not in full-on training mode is 4 runs per week + 2 classes (focused on legs, arms, and core).  

3. Schedule It

Now that you have your goals, schedule the exact time + type of movement you will be doing on each day.  Similar to my meal planning tips, I suggest that you do similar types of movement on each day of the week.  For example, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays could be days you run. Tuesdays and Thursdays could be days focused on core strength. Saturdays could be either long run days (if you’re into that type of thing) or a morning class you attend to kick off the weekend on the right note.  When scheduling, try to frontload your week. Schedule the hard things early on in the week when you are more motivated. For example, Monday-Wedneday I have most of my mileage scheduled in + a run workout. Put the hard things first! 

4. Plan Ahead 

Once your weekly schedule is set, next you need to plan out the logistics.  As a busy mama, it is no longer as simple as just leaving the house for a run or the gym.  You need to figure out who is watching your kiddos. Plan ahead and ask if you can have help in the hour you plan on getting out to exercise.  If you don’t have help available to you, try to plan out with your spouse a time when they will be home. For us, this usually means waking up very early or using the evening time. 

If limited help is a major barrier, try to plan most of your daily movement time when the kids are either in school, still asleep, napping, or my personal fav (can join you).  The baby jogger is a great way to incorporate your little ones, while you get out the door and prioritize your own health. I wrote a whole post dedicated to tips on running with the jogger, which you can read here.  There are also gyms that offer childcare, so this is another great option if you can swing a gym membership!

5. Actually Do It 

This can sometimes be the hardest step.  Once you have done the extra work of planning ahead and creating plans, you must actually commit to it.  At first it might feel hard, especially if your only window of free time is in the evening, but once you make it a consistent routine, it will become easier and easier.  Tuesday and Thursday evenings are the nights I go to a core class at my local Yogaworks. It used to be hard to find motivation to drive to these classes at 6 pm after a long day chasing Hudson, but now that it is a routine, it is something I look forward to and expect.  

6. Be Flexible

Even with the routine set and things planned out, the reality is that certain days will simply not allow for your typical exercise routine to happen.  There will be days where finding an hour window will feel nearly impossible and that is okay. I am learning that on these types of days, I can still incorporate 10-minutes of intentional movement into my day and this will help me to not feel guilty for skipping out and will also boost mood and productivity. 

We often operate in this all or nothing mindset. We think if we don’t have a solid hour of time available, then we should just skip it. Not true! 10-minutes will always be better than none. Be willing to adjust and stay committed to the movement even if it will look slightly different than planned. Just getting out the door to run a couple miles and play at the park with your little one will always be a win over just choosing to skip it. 

The tabata method is another great way to get in a solid workout in a short amount of time. It is similar to HIIT training in the sense that it focuses on doing certain exercises at a high-intensity level for 20 seconds and then resting for 10 seconds. I really believe we can all do something really hard for 20 seconds. You repeat this cycle 8 times. This is just 4 minutes of work, but it will push you in ways that going out for a casual 2 mile jog will not. I really believe this type of training is key for us busy mamas. It gives a high-quality workout in a short amount of time, and if done consistently can have huge aerobic and anaerobic results!

You’ve Got This

Wherever you are, whether that be training for a marathon or just trying to walk around the block daily, remember that you’ve got this and that prioritizing intentional movement daily is an essential part of your routine.  If you do not have a consistent movement routine, I really hope this encourages you to do so.

Remember, it will likely not happen if you do not have a routine dedicated to staying active! You can always give up 10-minutes to move! Those intentional minutes put towards your health will ultimately make you a better human, mama, wife, and friend.  I know that I am a wayyy nicer human, a more loving wife, and a much more patient mother when I get out there and make my running and fitness routine a priority.

Let me know how you squeeze in working out! I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!

Rest as a Routine: 10 Ways to Help Keep Your Sabbath

It is early Monday morning and I am getting some writing in before Hudson wakes up.  I find myself working with a sense of peace, clarity, and focus. Probably not typical feelings on a Monday at 5:30 am, but I have a secret and I want to share it with you.  Keep the sabbath. Allow for 24-hours of your week to be untouched by work, hustle, hurry, schedule, and yes, even social media. This actually is no secret. It is a biblical command: 

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  You must not do any work…For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy” Exodus 20:8-11

It seems like even for Christians, this is a command that is easy to not take as seriously.  Our culture literally preaches the gospel of work and hustle and making a name for ourselves. The concept of rest often runs counter to everything our culture seems to stand for.  

While rest is something that definitely does not come naturally to me, I have been learning, especially recently in the past year, how essential the weekly routine of sabbath is for myself and for our family.  It has become the part of the week that I most look forward to. It is restorative and necessary. And the truth is, this stop in work, is the very thing that allows me to produce better quality work throughout the week.

We Work from Our Rest

I have had the concept of work and rest backwards for much of my life.  I used to think that I had to work really hard to deserve my rest.  And here’s the thing: I never felt like I fully deserved it.  There will always be things left on my to-do list.  There will always be things I simply did not get to.  If we only allow ourselves to rest when we feel like we deserve it, rest will likely not happen very often.  

It clicked in my mind a month or so ago when I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey.  Her guest that week, Dr. Saundra Dalton Smith, explained how we don’t earn rest, we work from our rest. When you think about rest in this way, it no longer is just some nice luxury that you will get to if you have time; it is absolutely necessary and is commanded of us by the Lord. 

Typically, when we think of routines, we probably don’t first think of rest.  However, we should start thinking of rest as a routine that is just as important as our cleaning routine.  One of the many reasons I love routines so much is because it makes things that do not come naturally to me, aka rest and cleaning the house, actually happen!

The thing that is different with sabbath is that this is a routine that I do not need to create or carve out on my own, it is a gift given by the Lord. It is not about us creating sabbath, it is about us keeping it. Thank you to Emily P. Freeman’s podcast episode on “Keep Your Rest” for reminding me of this truth. It is not about creating or carving out rest on our own power; it is about obeying and keeping the rest that is already ours.

10 Ways to Keep Rest as a Weekly Routine

Below you will find a list of 10 things to consider when thinking about how to better keep the sabbath in your own life. I say the word “consider” because there is no one size fits all sabbath. Based on your season, your sabbath will look different, but it does not mean you simply throw out the practice. You adjust and keep sabbath based on your current stage of life.

1. Choose a Day 

It does not necessarily need to be Saturday or Sunday.  Examine your week and choose the day that is most open for you and your family.  For us, it is on Sunday. We could also practice sabbath on Saturday, but Saturdays seem to always get full with birthday parties and events and time obligations.  Sundays work better for our family. We try to keep church the only planned thing of the day. After church, our day is fully open.  

2. Keep a Timeframe 

Once you choose the day, it is important, that you set a clear signal for when your day of rest officially begins and when it ends.  Biblically, sabbath goes from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. So for some, this is a helpful way to indicate the beginning and end of sabbath. If you don’t have a clear indicator or signal, it is less likely you will fully get a 24-hour period of sabbath. Also, if you are in a place where 24 hours of sabbath feels not possible, that is okay. Create a time segment that you can weekly commit to. Maybe it is when you wake up on Saturday until lunch on Saturday.  Whenever it is, I have found that it is essential to commit to that time framework.  

3. Step Away From Social Media

This is one I recently added to my personal discipline of sabbath and I think it is essential.  I have a personal rule that I will not look at any form of social media, the entirety of my sabbath.  This rule prevents me from laying on my bed, scrolling through newsfeeds.  This is definitely a temptation of mine when it comes to my day of rest, but I have found (after many sabbaths filled with social media) that I do not receive as rejuvenating of a rest when I am on social platforms. 

We do not limit all screens, we tend to watch a show or maybe even a movie, but even this we need to be careful with. Sabbath simply is not about just vegging out and doing nothing.  There is a big difference from practicing sabbath versus being on the couch all day binge watching Netflix.

4. Limit Time Obligations 

This will likely mean that you will be saying “no” a lot when it comes to plans or events on your given sabbath day.  Occasionally, we will attend a scheduled event that falls on our sabbath if we feel it will be a time of good fellowship.  For example, sometimes our church will have fun outreach events on Sundays and we will mostly always still attend those.

When it comes to getting together with friends, we like to schedule things like this on Saturdays, but with really close friends (shout out to Hannah and Kyle) we enjoy spending time with them on our sabbaths.  It is all about determining what is restoring and what people ultimately bring you closer to the Lord. Spend time with those types of people on your sabbaths + whenever else you can. If we are meeting people or people are coming over to us, we like to have a looser time boundary on our sabbaths. It is incredibly refreshing to have one day that does not feel as scheduled or as pressured to be at places at a specific time.

5. Prioritize One Thing You Typically “Never Have Time For” 

I started a scrapbook for Hudson when he was born.  For the first 6 months of his life, I was invested in this scrapbook.  Every month, I would fill out the page and write all about what we did for his _ month birthday and list out major milestones and his likes/dislikes.  Now, he is almost 17-months and I have piles of photos and a half-empty scrapbook. Life has gotten more full now that he is older and scrapbooking just does not happen during our busy weeks. 

But here’s the thing, memory keeping through the act of scrapbooking is something that very much fills me up. I love it. When I create the time to actually work on it, I sense my whole body relaxing.  It is a really healthy and joyful practice for me; the perfect sabbath-keeping activity. It feels extra special because I know Sundays are the one day I get to work on my scrapbook. What is it for you?  List out the activities that your heart always longs to do. Maybe it is gardening, or baking a pie, or knitting a sweater, or learning calligraphy. Write out your list and use your sabbaths to start actually doing those things!

6. Connect with Your Family 

Sabbath is the perfect day to really spend quality, focused time with your family.  Of course we try to spend a good amount of family time throughout the week, but during our regular week, it feels like a to-do list is always running in the back of our heads.  It is refreshing to have one day set apart that I just sit on the couch and really watch Hudson play and create and imagine. I love this stillness that is created on our sabbath.  I am not frantic, I am just sitting and watching and connecting.

Last Sunday, during Hudson’s nap, Lance and I went out into the backyard, threw Nala tennis balls and went through our roses, buds, and thorns of the week.  It was simple and good, and it is so different from our normal pace during the week. Our best connection as a family absolutely happens on our sabbaths. So, turn off your phones, get outside, watch your children play as you simply sit, and slowly chat with your spouse.  

7. Don’t Touch Laundry, Dishes, or the Broom 

Our house is not pretty on our sabbath days.  And I am perfectly okay with this. There usually are dishes stacked in the sink, laundry sitting in the dryer, and crumbs scattered throughout the house.  And I do not touch it. I do this stuff all the time during the week. It is essential for me to have a day that I simply let the house go. This would typically bother me, but because this is the designated day of rest, I am perfectly fine leaving it for Monday or later that evening.  I also try to not get super legalistic with things like this. Of course, if there is a huge spill or mess, one of us will wipe it up, but as a whole, we will try to not worry about cleaning on our sabbaths.

8. Read 

Like scrapbooking, sabbaths are my days to actually curl up with a good book.  If you read all the time, maybe choose a special book you just read on your sabbath.  Something that will draw your nearer to God. Something that really fills you up. I am currently reading Run the Mile You’re In by Ryan Hall (thanks mom for giving this to me!).  It is the perfect sabbath book for me right now because it is a book about God and running. Two of my favorite things. Find a book if you are currently not reading, and save it for your sabbath days. 

Sabbaths are also great opportunities to collectively read the Bible as a family. We typically just do our personal Bible reading in the morning, but this is something I would like to start incorporating into our weekly day of rest, especially now as Hudson is getting older and loves listening to stories.

9. Dream

On our most recent sabbath, we all woke up extra early due to the time change.  I threw together a veggie scramble, we ate, watched the NYC Marathon, and since we had two hours to spare before church, we drove down to the beach for a walk.  On our walk, Lance and I dreamed. We rambled and casted vision for our future. When we both are undistracted by the hum of our to-dos and social media, we can really come up with amazing things.  I was reminded on our dream walk, how days of rest are the perfect days to dream and wander and talk to God about what He has in mind for the future.

10. Thank God 

This should be a daily practice, but sabbaths also create the perfect, quiet space to intentionally thank the Lord.  This could be done through prayer or creating a gratitude list. It is easy for our busy and full days to slip by without even noticing the amazing work the Lord is doing.  Take the time on sabbath to really notice.  

If you would like to read more of my thoughts on rest & sabbath, it is a topic that I have written on a lot in the past. You can find all other posts related to rest here, and here, and here.

I would love to hear from you. Do you practice sabbath as a weekly routine within your own life? If so, I would love to hear some of the ways you keep sabbath. Please leave a little comment below about sabbath, rest, time away from social media, or really anything this post made you start thinking about!

See you next Thursday. Find some rest, my friend. Actually, keep the rest. Remember, it has already been found by our kind, Father.

Simple, Weekly Meal Planning for Busy Moms

It is appropriate that I am typing this up on a Monday because Mondays are my meal planning and grocery shopping days.  Before you stop reading and tell yourself, “I don’t have time to plan out meals for an entire week. Heck, most days I don’t even know what I will eat for lunch.”  Think again! Meal planning is one of the things I do at the start of the week that allows for the next 6 days to be WAY less stressful.

I will admit, meal planning used to take me close to an hour every week in the beginning of our marriage.  However, like with most things, the more you do it, the quicker and more efficient you become. I am at the point where I can plan out all the meals for the week and produce the grocery list in under 15 minutes!  And here’s a little secret, you can too! It really is not as hard as you might be thinking and it will save you SO much stress and time throughout the week.  

Quick side note: if you have babies in your family and would like tips on preparing meals for the littlest mouths in your family, check out these 5 tips for making meals for babies. Using some of these tips have actually helped me not drastically increase our grocery bills because Hudson eats a lot of similar foods to us.

5 Reasons You Should Be Meal Planning

If you still are not convinced, below are some very clear reasons and benefits on why you should start planning out your family’s meals for the week.

1. Saves Time

People often think they need to be super organized and have a lot of initial time available to properly plan meals.  I am here to tell you that is simply not true! As you get used to the weekly discipline of planning meals out every week, you will become more efficient. Even if it takes you a bit more time at the beginning, it is is worth it because it will save you so much time later in the week. dft67t6tcv yjbv

2. Saves Money

I literally used to spend MORE money on food  when I was in college just feeding myself then what I currently spend to feed a family of three (and not just any family of three, a family that eats A LOT).  When it was just me in college, I never planned out my meals. I would go to Trader Joe’s and literally just let my stomach guide my purchases. This is no way to grocery shop!  I would buy lots of the frozen pre-planned meals because I thought it would save me time and money. NOT true! Plus, a lot of the frozen meals are pretty high in sodium. 

I would buy really just whatever looked and sounded good and figured I would make things work for meals. This method resulted in HIGH grocery bills that I could barely afford. By planning out your meals, you are creating a grocery list only with the items that you actually need. 

3. Wastes Less Food

Since you only are getting produce and proteins that you will actually use for meals throughout the week, you will notice that you end up throwing away much less food.  I rarely need to throw away produce because it is all used by the end of the week. Really one of the only times I need to throw things away is on weeks that plans change and we don’t end up using all the meals I had planned out.  In terms of proteins, I NEVER throw these away because I put all meats in the freezer, except what I am using that night and the next night. 

4. Removes Stress 

Our weeks are busy and after full days of work and chasing after littles, we should not be stressing about what our family will eat.  Taking the time to plan ahead, will allow your weeks to run so much more smoothly around dinner time. It is now something I don’t even think about.  I just know what we are eating and I start making it. There are enough stressors in our lives, don’t let dinner time be another one of those.

5. Allows for Healthier Choices

If meals are not planned, it is more likely that you will resort to going out or picking up something quick.  While of course you can find healthy options out, it is more likely that you will consistently be eating healthier meals the more you plan things out.  When you plan out your meals, you have the control to make sure you are getting lean proteins, greens, and healthy carbs.   

So now you might be thinking, “Okay I get it, meal planning has some clear benefits, but planning ahead is just not my personality.  I don’t even know where to start!”  

That is where I want to help you out. 

Remember how I mentioned it used to take me an hour to plan our meals for the week?  Part of the reason it took me so long was because I didn’t have any plan to help guide me.  I was doing all the hard front work myself. Now that I have been planning out meals for the past 4 years of our marriage, I have developed a weekly system that allows me to write out 7 meals + a grocery list in under 15-minutes.  I actually timed myself and I planned out the meals in 12-minutes yesterday, while throwing tennis balls to our dog Nala and chasing around a toddler. This is something you can even do quickly in the middle of your chaotic days! 

4 Simple Steps to Start Meal Planning TODAY

Below are four tangible steps you can start taking today to help with meal planning and make your life so much simpler.

1. Choose a Day to Plan and Shop (stay consistent!)

Pick the day that is open enough for you to plan out your meals and shop in the same day.  If you are working, a weekend will probably work best. For me personally, I do it all on Mondays.  Start by thinking about your week as a whole and intentionally choosing a day that you can do all the planning and shopping.  Try not to split it up over 2 days. I used to do this and it made the process feel longer. Get it all done in ONE day, so the rest of the 6 you don’t even need to think about meals or the grocery store. 

Grocery shopping on the same day every week is one of my favorite weekly rhythms. It saves a ton of time because you are just making one big grocery trip for the whole week. It is something that you expect to happen on that particular day so it does not hold as much dread. And it actually helps build a sense of community. I love the fact that I have come to know a lot of the people that work at our local Trader Joe’s. This type of community would likely not be as felt if we went grocery shopping at random days, times, and tons of different stores.

2. Write Down Ingredients Currently in Refrigerator + Pantry 

To be honest, I don’t do this every week because by the end of the week, we are basically empty!  However, at the beginning of your meal planning journey, you probably have a lot of food sitting in the fridge and pantry that are left unused.  I got this idea from Jordan Page, a blogger and You-tuber on how to be frugal as a family.   She suggests writing out a list of everything you have and then use this list to generate meal ideas.  This will ensure that you are using ingredients you already have.  

This is a much better strategy than first looking up recipes. I used to look up a recipe for nearly every day of the week, and I spent way more money on groceries because I was buying ingredients that I do not typically cook with. Don’t do this! Start with the ingredients you already have and generate meal ideas from there.

3. Create Meal Types for Each Day of the Week

Part of the reason I can so quickly plan out 7 meals in under 15-minutes is because I have created a system in which we have similar types of meals for each specific day of the week.  This is REALLY helpful. It takes out a lot of the decisions when it comes to meal planning and it can actually be a really fun thing for your family to look forward to and expect. This is something you can get the entire family on-board with.  To clarify, this does not mean we are eating the same meal every Monday or every Thursday, but we are eating the same “type” of meal.

For example our weekly menu includes “Meatless Mondays” and “Taco Tuesdays.” So on Mondays, I will either plan a veggie stir-fry, or veggie quinoa bowls, or a veggie pasta, or maybe even veggie burgers + sweet potato cubes.  On Tuesdays, we might have turkey tacos, or shrimp taco salad, or even beef taco soup. See? There can be variety even though each day of the week is assigned a specific type. I put together a sample week in the graphic above. As you can see, I keep it REAL simple!

Isn’t this menu pretty? I made it just for you! Well, and for myself too, but mostly you. I’ll send it to you for FREE! Just enter your email right below here. Along with the menu, I will also send you the organized grocery shopping list. Say goodbye to your frantic and wandering days of grocery shopping. This list will get you in and out of the store with CONFIDENCE.

Yes! Send me the Menu!

4. Use My Weekly Menu Chart + Grocery List 

There are tons of Meal Planning templates that you can purchase, but why spend the money?  I typically just grab printer paper and quickly write everything out, but I wanted something that looked a bit nicer, so I created this really simple menu chart + grocery list.  They are on two separate documents so you don’t need to cut the list off from the menu! I would highly recommend putting the menu up on your fridge or somewhere super visible in the kitchen so the whole family can see it.  Make sure you enter your email above, so I can send you this FREE gift.

For the grocery list, I have created it with three columns: Produce, Proteins, and Pantry. I used to just list everything out, but this method made grocery shopping more difficult. Now, as I make a list I organize it into these three categories and it makes the actual shopping experience a lot simpler.  So when creating your list, just think of the 3 P’s. Also, I started adding a fourth category: Freezer. I tend to not really get anything from the frozen section, except frozen berries and a couple dessert options. However, I included it on the list, just in case you tend to stock up on more frozen items.

I really hope this is helpful for you.  If you are already a meal planning type of gal, I would LOVE to hear some of your tips.  Leave a comment below! If you are still very new to meal planning, and have any specific questions, please leave them below as well.

See you next Thursday! Happy Meal Planning!

Happy Birthday to Us & Hello Routines!

this mama needs grace blog is one

 Happy Birthday to us!  It has officially been one year since our very first post on This Mama Needs Grace.  On October 19th, 2018, I wrote our very first blog post: “This Mama Needs…”.  Go back and check it out.  Or not, because let’s be honest, it is not the best, but the messaging is solid.  And it still is very much the driving force behind this blog: 

“My prayer is through this blog of grappling through my own ever-present need for Jesus’ abundant grace, that you too can remember that even when it feels like you have nothing together, that God loves you with a crazy love and He showers you with grace in all of your imperfections.”

A year later, and this is still my prayer.  

blogger with toddler son celebrating first year of her mom blog
I came up with a cute idea to get a cupcake at my fav spot, Susie Cakes in celebration of year 1 of tmng! But then life happens & it got smeared in the car, but hey, I tried!

The Beginning

TMNG (this mama needs grace) initially was born because I was drowning.  I was drowning in my tears, drowning in unreasonable pressures I had set around motherhood, drowning in feeling like I was simply not enough.  The transition from working to fully staying at home was a much more difficult than I would have imagined. Since I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mom.  I have dreamed about snack making, playdates, arts and crafts. But then reality hit, and the vision I had of being a stay at home mom was not quite as peachy.  

I quickly realized I needed an outlet.  I needed a place to spill my guts. A place to be fully honest about some of my raw and difficult days as a new mama.  I needed a place to write and remember who I am. I am not just a mom, a wife, a runner. No, I am much more than that…I am His beloved daughter.  I needed to remember this.  

Year 1 Reflection

To be honest, I did not have a ton of goals when TMNG began.  I really just needed a creative project that was for myself. A year ago, I was not in the healthiest place because I was fully consumed in being a “perfect” mom. I barely took time to go on a run or to yoga and I had nothing that made me want to get up early in the morning. My days were consumed with nursing, cleaning, and making dinner. Those things just were not filling me up. I desperately needed a reason to get out of the house to pursue something I was passionate about.  I needed a fill-up and in many ways TMNG was that place for me.

So while this began as very much a personal thing, below is a quick look at what has happened in a year.

Year 1 Stats

  • 70 posts published
  • 98,621 words written
  • 264 post likes
  • 22 comments
  • 124 subscribers

I am not a numbers girl.  I am all about the words, but I also think it is important to occasionally check in with the number side of things.  Those stats in some ways impress me. I am shocked I have written those many words in a year of very much working on this thing part-time.  I am also shocked I have actually stayed with it and have been for the most part pretty consistent. This I am proud of!

In terms of comments and followers, well, we are small, but after a year of writing, creating, posting, and dreaming; I firmly believe this is just the beginning.  TMNG might be small right now, but I have this beautiful vision of what it can become so I will not stop. I feel God in this, so I will keep writing. When He tells me to stop, I will, but now is not the time.  

5 lessons learned from first year blogging

A Year of Growth

Within this year, I have written on all types of things.  From losing my grandmother to returning to running to mom routines to traveling to lessons in motherhood.  TMNG has been a place for me to ramble about the current state of my heart. It really has come to hold a lot of the hard things that have happened this year (saying good-bye to my grandma and dealing with anxiety as a new mother) to a lot of the really exciting moments (running a sub-3 marathon, celebrating 4 years of marriage, celebrating Hudson’s first birthday).  TMNG is more than just another mom blog.  It is the home place of all my crazy ideas and emotions wandering in my head and heart.  It is my open-diary for myself; my open-letter to you.  

This past year, TMNG has been a bit all over the place, trying to really figure out who we are.  We took on different subjects, styles, and formats. From super short posts to extremely long 2,500 word posts; from no pictures to pictures embedded everywhere. We have had a lot of different looks and held all types of content: lists, tips, reflections, letters. Through this year, we have grown a lot and it feels like we are finally beginning to understand our voice and purpose.

Looking Ahead

After a year of figuring out exactly who we are, we think we know.  Kind of. TMNG is changing and evolving. TMNG is still going to be the home base for my emotions and ideas to wander freely, we are just taming it up a bit. 

For year 2, TMNG will become your destination spot for all things…ROUTINES. Yes. Routines, schedules, healthy habits. And not just any routines. Simple ones.  Not overwhelming or more complicated than your life before routines. Simple and accessible ones you can start adding to your life TODAY.  The focus will be on routines revolved around the morning, quick cleaning, fitness, devotional time, meal prep, and toddlers (because that is currently where we are at over here at the Capel home).

These routines are specifically curated for not just anyone, but for the busy mama on-the-go. 

this mama needs grace blog is for the busy mom on the go

Busy mama, we see you, and this one’s for you.  

Starting next week, join us every Thursday for new content that will be geared towards providing you with specific ideas and tips on how to make different aspects of your life into a routine.  We will be talking about ALL sorts of things (working out, marriage, cleaning, dinner time), but it will all be through the lens of how to make that thing into a routine. A pattern. A thing you don’t even think about, you just do it.  

We Love Routines, You Too?

If you can’t tell, we are big fans of routines, and believe routines are the key to happier, healthier, and more productive mamas.  Mom life, especially new mom life is EXHAUSTING.  Without systems in place, it is easy to feel like you are drowning in all the responsibilities on your plate.  The thing we love about routines is that it not only is something that allows for you to be more productive, it ultimately frees up chunks of time for you to do the things that fill you up.  It allows for you to start taking the time to go to that Tuesday workout class every week, or consistently work on that side hustle you have been dreaming up for years.  It allows you to finally step into your calling and ultimately, to find CONFIDENCE in your new life as a mama. 

Not to mention, routines benefit not just us as mamas, it benefits the entire family, specifically the little humans we are raising. Check out this really interesting article that presents research that draws a link between family routines with children that are more socially and emotionally healthy. Once you start diving into the research and numbers, routines become more than a nice option for those people that are well-organized and enjoy planning. No, routines, are necessary for all of us! And as the article points out so well, routines do not mean your days are always super strict and rigid. There is flexibility, which we talk about in future posts.

So are you in, mama?  Click the button below to instantly join our community, get email reminders when a new post drops, and as a special gift to say thanks, we will send you one of our fav weekly checklists to make sure you are getting all the important things DONE! See you next week!