Embracing Process Over Outcome

Last Monday, Hudson and I attempted to make homemade noodles. Like a lot of things in my life, I had a picture of what the outcome would look like. In my head, it looked almost identical to the perfect noodles pictured in Joanna Gaines’ cookbook. Let’s just say they looked nothing like the picture. While her’s actually looked like noodles you would have bought from the store; mine looked strange and unnameable. I couldn’t even will myself to post a picture of the outcome because they looked so strange. Something clearly went awry. This was not the outcome I was expecting.

All week I have been thinking about this soup.  I have been thinking about if my mindset was merely outcome driven, I would have been pretty disappointed.  And here’s the thing, I usually am outcome driven.  I am all about a clear measurable.  My heart rests a bit easier when I can see a spreadsheet of all the things I did accomplish in a day.  That is one of the reasons I love training for a marathon.  I love the outcome of high mileage.  Even if I produce nothing else the rest of the day, it feels good to know that I ran 20 miles.  That is an outcome I can be proud of.  But here’s the thing, what about the seasons where you are not training for anything? What about the seasons that do not have a clear goal or some outcome that can be measured?  What is the indicator of success?  

Those noodles the other night were not my definition of success.  However, Lance did snap a few quick photos of Hudson and I making those noodles.  And when I look at those photos, I see success.  I see happy faces and floured noses.  I see time well spent in the kitchen. 

There are a handful of lessons this season of quarantine is teaching me.  One is this: the process is always sweeter than the outcome.  In times where we do not have races, or stages, or arenas to display our outcomes, the process becomes essential.  We must lean in and embrace the sweet process of things and not be quite as concerned with the outcome.  

For me, personally embracing the process looks a bit like this: 

  1. Getting out to run with zero expectations on mileage and pace.
  2. Making noodles for the sake of spending quality time with my son with zero expectations that it will look like Joanna’s.
  3. Writing words for the sake of creativity and the fact that I am a better person when I am creating + vulnerable.
  4. Sending bold emails. There are lots of no’s, but I am embracing this process of putting myself out there.
  5. Trying new activities with Hudson and being absolutely okay when they do not look like Pinterest.
  6. Taking photos and capturing moments that are not perfect.
  7. Journaling. This is one of the best ways I can look back on the process of my life + see the Lord’s kindness.
  8. Prayer. This outcome-oriented girl needs a lot of help from the Lord to see new vision and embrace the process of things more.

Process over outcome.  It is freeing.  It allows room for grace.  It allows you to sit down at the dinner table still smiling as you eat noodles that look nothing like Joanna’s. It allows you to create, run, write, love, and step out in boldness because it is not about the outcome. It is something more. Something greater. It is about who you are becoming in the process.

Easter 2020 Reflections

I woke up Easter morning feeling a bit sad.  I was sad because I knew we would not be going to Easter church service.  I was sad to not see extended family. I was just generally sad that Easter could not be celebrated in the way we normally would.  And so the first couple hours of Easter morning I had a bit of a pouty attitude. I was mopey and down as I whipped up pancake batter and failed at hash browns.  Side note: if anyone knows the secret to getting really crispy hash browns, please let me know. Mine always turn out drenched in oil and soggy.

This is the true picture of how our Easter morning started.  I write this because this is just further evidence of how special and beautiful Easter truly is.  This girl, who still manages to get in a slump on the most joyous day when we celebrate the Risen King, this girl, needs grace every moment.  Left on my own, I will quickly lose sight of the big picture.

Praise God that he chose to love us forever and to sacrifice his one and only son.  This is truly good news! If it were not for this radical act of love, I would be stuck in my misery over soggy hash browns and changed plans. Thanks to Jesus our day of Easter celebration was not ruined by my poor attitude.  Grace filled in. And our Easter was not like any Easter previous, but it was quiet, intimate, and full of worship. And it was good.

Egg hunt all to himself!

The quarantine is showing me a lot of my shortcomings.  One of them is how dependent I have come to the hustle and bustle of life.  While we sometimes complain about it, I have realized I love a full calendar.  I love rushing from one place to the next and stuffing our days with as much experience, people, food, and laughter.  This is especially true when it comes to holidays. As much as we sometimes dream about a quiet holiday at home, the reality is I love the rush of a full day of celebration and people.  

While there is nothing inherently wrong in this, over the years, it has made my heart numb to why we are celebrating in the first place.  We say Happy Birthday, Jesus and He is Risen! but our hearts and minds are easily distracted by the feasts, gifts, and people all around us.  At least that is the case with my own heart.

This year there were zero distractions.  And initially, my heart could not handle it.  There was no rush to get out the door. No need to iron the dress.  There was no pressure to make some elaborate meal because it was just the three of us.  And with all the normal busyness that typically fills days of celebration, our small family of three was left in our pajamas on the couch in quiet and peaceful worship. 

We were not checking our watches to make sure we made the family Easter brunch in time. We were not scrambling in the kitchen. We were present and at peace and in full awe.  The words of worship felt more crisp. The faces of my husband and son were in clear focus. The truth of the gospel has never felt more real.

This Easter will not be another blur of a holiday full of too many things and obligations, no, Easter 2020 will be the one where we really allowed ourselves the quiet space to sit in the emptiness of the tomb and truly feel the joy of what that means.  

It will be the one where we worshipped on the couch.

The one with the big brunch.

The one where Hudson had an egg hunt all to himself.

The one where we all napped and then soaked in all the amazing online church services we could.

The one where we Face-timed and zoomed with family.

The one where we just sat out at our new fire pit and watched Hudson play.

The one where we ate too much candy and had a simple dinner. 

This Easter I am thankful for the quiet, the extra time, and mostly I am thankful that Jesus rose for us. Even on mornings when we wake up with bad moods and eyes fixed on earthly expectations, God is gracious and loving and meets us where we are.  

Happy Easter! He is Risen! Thankful that this truth remains just as true, regardless of the state of the world. And for that we have a lot to celebrate.

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?

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).

Reflecting on 2019 + Looking Ahead Optimistically to 2020

I am not exactly sure why, but I love these in-between days after Christmas and before the New Year.  In some ways it feels kind of awkward. One big celebration is over, but another one is just a week away, so you don’t really know if you should get back to your normal routine or just wait a few more days.  I love these in-between days partially for these last few savoring days of waiting to fully get into the swing of things. This week is feeling slow and simple and I am quite frankly, loving every second.  

The days before Christmas, even with my intentionality of staying more present and focused, still felt like a scramble this year.  I think this is part of the reason why these slower days after Christmas feel so good and are so necessary.  

Recently, I have been writing a lot about routines.  But today, I want to write about living in a space where those routines are let go of almost entirely.  Routines are necessary, but I am learning this week, that a non-routine week or so is also very necessary.   

This past month I have really been struggling with low energy, low motivation, low everything.  I finally in the past day have felt better, a bit more alive and have a bit more energy to give.  This largely is from these past few days where I have fully let go of my normal routine.  

Since Christmas, I have woken up when I woke up.  I have only gone on runs when I have really felt like it, which has been only a couple times.  I have finally finished my book I started in the fall. I have done a whole lot of sitting on the couch with no agenda.  I have spent time just sitting there and watching Hudson play and my goodness, it has refreshed me. This might sound crazy to you, but I simply do not do things like that.  I have a lot of goals and hopes for 2020, but probably on the top of my list is to have more moments like this; more moments of just sitting and noticing the beautiful, little things of my life.

These past few days, we have gone on lots of walks.  We have picked up doughnuts because it felt like a good idea.  We picked up take out food on our way home from one of these walks (this might sound normal, but we rarely do things like this).  We did not have much on our agenda. I made minestrone soup that filled 2 large containers and this has been the main food in our refrigerator (I have eaten minestrone soup for lunch three days in a row). 

We also put away most of the Christmas decorations and took out our very dry tree. This may sound weird, but I LOVE putting away all the Christmas things. I love Christmas, but I think all the stuff and the decor and needles scattered on our floor start to really weigh on me by the end of the month.  I felt lighter almost instantly after everything was put away. Our house looked so simple and clean and blank. I loved it. My eyes felt like they could rest.  

This may sound all very strange, but these in-between Christmas and New Year’s days have convinced me the power/importance/necessity of living outside of your routine.  Of turning off that 5:30 am alarm and just waking up when you wake up. Of only working out if you really sense that is what your body needs. Of sitting on the couch.  Of minestrone soup that lasts for days. Of doughnuts. Of take-out food. Of leisurely walks.  

These in-between days have been life-giving.  I have gotten more clarity and peace and joy in these days of no routine.  In fact it has been these few non-routine days that are making me want to be back in my normal routine of waking up early and running consistently and actually taking Hudson out to do something.  I am almost ready to get back into the swing of things, but I am still savoring these final 2 days of 2019 to not fully be in it yet. 

I plan on using these last couple days to be a bit more structured, I am actually up early this morning writing and have a run over 6 miles at 8 am.  So clearly some of the strucuture is back, but besides time to write and run, the plan in these next two days is to still keep things quiet and simple and reflective.  

2019 Reflections

In these final days of 2019 (when this publishes it will already be 2020), it is hard to not reflect back on the year as a whole.  It makes it especially helpful if you had something written out at that start of the year.  This is a tangible way to help you reflect on how the year actually went. If you don’t do this already, I highly recommend that you take some time TODAY, and jot down some hopes, some prayers, some goals for 2020.  You can read my thoughts at the start of 2019 here.  

I must warn you that if you take the time to write down your heart for the year to come, you might read it at the end of year with some disappointments.  If you are ambitious at all, it is quite likely that some of your goals for the year did not happen. When I read back on my post from January 2019, I feel a tinge of disappointment when I look at my specific goals.  I laid out 5 specific goals:

  1. Get Up Early
  2. Write Daily
  3. Read Daily
  4. Invest in Friendships
  5. Take Sabbath More Seriously

And here’s the thing.  I feel like I did #1 and #5 very well.  #2-#4 I definitely did, but maybe not as consistently as I would have liked.  Especially #3. Anytime you use the word daily in your goal, you are making it really difficult to follow through.  No, I did not write every single day, nor did I read every single day, but as a whole my year was absolutely marked with more consistent disciplines of rising early, writing, reading, gathering, and resting. And for that I feel like I lived my year well.

Word for the Year

I love to choose a word for the year.  I get it, it is cliche, but there is something really powerful about not just choosing a word but actively and intentionally coming back to it as the months go on.  For that word to be on the forefront of your mind, heart, and prayers. It gets tricky and disappointing when we focus on the minute details of our goals, but it becomes much more encouraging when we focus on the heart and intention of our year as a whole.  

2019 was the year of open for us.

When I reflect back on 2019, I see how my heart has opened up this year and for that I am really thankful. 

The thing with your word being open, is that you might end the year feeling a bit drained and exhausted.  I know that is how I currently feel. This year, I said yes much more than I said no.  

Run a marathon? Yes.

Spontaneously get together with friends? Yes.

Host dinner? Yes. 

Occasionally lead bible study? Yes.

Sign-up for the toddler class? Yes.

Road trip to Arizona? Yes.

New York? Yes.

Hawaii? Of course.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Lessons the Lord Taught Me in 2019

I am thankful for this openness.  I am thankful for this season to say yes more than I said no.  I am thankful for how much we got to travel and do this year. So different from last year with a newborn. And I am mostly thankful for the way the Lord has helped me to better see who He is shaping me to be this year.  

The thing with 2019 was that there was no big ah-ha moment. There was no big day of delivering a baby or getting married or starting a new job. However, 2019 held a lot of small choices, small decisions, ultimately of saying yes. I will join that. I will do that. I will help out with that. There were lot of miles done in secret. Lots of early mornings of pouring out my heart onto a blog that only a few very kind people read. Lots of talking with God and quite a lot of waiting. These types of years can be hard but they also can be wonderful. It is a time of preparing and pruning and getting ready for what is to come.

2019, you were good, solid, consistent. Lord, you were faithful. You protected, blessed, provided, answered prayers. And I firmly believe that you will continue to reveal your faithfulness in this new year.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year’s Day! I so appreciate all of you that keep coming back here to This Mama Needs Grace. I look forward to everything that is in store for this little blog of mine in the year and hopefully years to come!

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.

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

5 Choices to Help Get Out of that Slump

At the start of the New Year I felt a sense of motivation and determination that I have not felt in a while.  I was getting up early every morning.  I was writing every day.  I was having consistent, quiet prayer time before Hudson woke up.  I was not touching social media and was reading voraciously.  I was scrapbooking a ton.  I was running with joy.  I was going to baby story time, baby yoga, baby play dates.  I am not exactly sure what happened but somewhere in the course of the past couple weeks I have fallen into a major slump.  I have turned off my weekly alarm clock that was set to 6 am.  I have chosen to scroll through Facebook, instead of read and have been on the same chapter of Searching For Sunday for weeks now.  I am dreading my runs and workouts.  I am doing them, but that sense of performance and pressure and pain from college running is slowly beginning to seep back into my running soles.  I have writer’s block and I seem to constantly be hitting the delete tab.  The words are just not coming out the way I intend for them to.  I have not been to baby story time in weeks.  I keep finding really good excuses as to why we can’t go out.  I have not touched my scrapbooking table.  Pictures have been messily scattered all over the coffee table untouched for many days.  I just can’t seem to muster up the creative energy to continue it.

I am so tired.  My once abundant milk supply has also hit a major slump and I literally feel like I am running dry.  I keep training like I am in college, but the reality is I am not.  I go to the track and run basically the same workouts I used to but instead of going to the training room to have an ice bath and go home to just relax and revel in the fact that I have no responsibilities, I go home to immediately needing to nurse Hudson.  My body is rebelling.  I can’t do it all.  I am running myself to the ground and I am just now feeling it.

All of this to say, I am in a slump.  I know I will get out soon, but like Dr. Seuss said, “Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”  It is true.  It is easy to sit and wallow in the slump. It is easy to read the post on how to un-slump, but a different story to actually get out of it.  And the thing is, I think a lot of us know what we should do, but it sure can be hard to push yourself to do what you know long-term will be good for you.  There are a few things that usually help ease me out of a slump.  The key word is ease.  It does not happen all at once, but typically if I can consistently make a few small, but important choices throughout my day, I will slowly and surely find myself on the other side.  When it comes to the difficult task of un-slumping yourself, here are 5 small choices to help in the process:

  1. Wake Up Early

This one is tough because when I am in this low place, I really have a hard time getting out of bed period, but especially getting out of bed before 7 am.  The problem here is by hitting snooze and choosing to sleep longer, I am actually making my day start off on a bad note and this just further perpetuates the slump.  So, as much as I really, really want to ignore the alarm and snooze, it is so important that I make that first choice of stepping out of my bed.  It is hard.  But it matters.  Last night, I intentionally chose to set my alarm for 5:10 am and get up when Lance does.  This small choice is already making a big difference in my day.

2. Listen to Life-Giving Words

For me, that is a sermon or a podcast.  Yesterday, I listened to a sermon by Tim Chaddick and it changed my outlook, my day, and my heart.  Never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to give you exactly what you need to hear.  The sermon was on ambition and work that is pleasing to God.  It was so powerful.  I am linking to it here. Part of the reason I have been in this particular place is because I feel like I am lacking purpose.  I feel like I try so hard, but then it does not matter.  I try so hard to make organic, homemade food for Hudson, and then he hates it and tosses it to Nala.  I try so hard to keep the house in order, but then the next hour, I see dirt and Nala’s hair all over the floors again.  I try so hard to be a good runner again, but my body is just not the same as college.  I try so hard to be a good writer, but no one reads this except my husband and mom (or so it feels). These are all the emotions running through my heart and mind and then I choose to play this sermon as I am doing dishes.  And I hear the words of Paul:

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody”  1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

And my whole body sighed relief.  This is enough.  What I am doing is enough.  I might not be in a fancy office or have the influence I used to when I was in the classroom, but I am doing important work and God delights in this.  This is all to explain the power and importance in allowing others to speak into your days to help point you back to the cross and to the love of God.  It is so easy to forget.  If I could I would listen to sermons on repeat in my head because that is how much I need daily and momentary reminders.  So, listen and consume content that is life-giving.  Allow the Holy Spirit to run through you and change your heart.  It will happen if you let it.

3. Exercise 

This one is kind of like getting up early.  I am the least motivated to workout when I am in this rut, but usually the best fix is to get out and run or make it into a yoga class.  Yesterday I literally went from bawling on the couch to running a 4-mile tempo on the strand.  And let me tell you, every fiber of my body wanted to just stay put on the couch, but I went and I am glad I did.  It allowed me to breathe and focus on something other than how I was feeling.  It gave me space to have rhythm.  It gave me the time to pray.  This might not be the thing for everyone, but getting outside and breathing air can be so helpful.

4. Connect with People

We are built for connection.  In my slumps, it is really easy to cancel plans and stay home.  And sometimes I do this.  But, as much as I can, I need to keep plans and connect with friends and family.  I need this.  Hudson needs this.  And maybe it is not going out, but it is having people come to you.  Invite people over.  Make play dates.  Put events on the calendar and commit to them.  Trust me, this can be the hardest one for me, but this connection is so important.  I almost always walk away from time with others feeling happier and rejuvenated.  Also, it is so important to have a few people in your life that you can talk about being not okay.  Just yesterday, both my husband and my mom prayed over me as I bursted into tears to both of them explaining how I felt.  What a blessing to have people in my life that will not only listen and love me, but will bring my pain to the Lord.  How thankful I am for that!

5. Pray!

This leads me to the fifth and most important choice.  Choose to pray.  When I am on fire in my faith, I tend to pray aloud in the mornings.  The words flow easily and I have a great enthusiasm to speak out my prayers.  When I hit these types of slumps in both my life and my faith, I tend to not even be motivated to voice out my prayers.  Some mornings I feel so tired and unmotivated, it feels hard to even voice prayers.  Thankfully God even hears my sad little whimpers that are left unspoken.  Earlier this week, my heart was given so much relief when I read the words in Matthew 6:

“When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words.  Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him”  Matthew 6:7-8

Even on those mornings where it is hard to muster out the words, the Lord knows what I need.  He knows my heart.  When I pray I am not going to some distant god, I am speaking to my Father who deeply loves and cares for my well-being.  Therefore, I don’t need to worry about phrasing things in the most eloquent way or even saying them aloud.  He knows what I need.  He knows how I am feeling.  There is just so much relief in this. So when I pray in these slumps, even if my prayers are fragmented or if it is difficult for me to find the right words, I can know that the Lord will meet me where I am and offer me an abundance of peace and grace.

Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.  And it is not as simple as checking off a few things on a list.  However, I am learning that by focusing less on the slump and more on daily and intentionally choosing these five things: wake up early, listen to life-giving words, exercise, connect with people, and pray; I am able to more easily transition out of the slump and onto flat ground where I can go back to running with joy.