Summer 2020 Reflections: Finding a Place of Peace, Purpose, and Play

We are holding onto these final days of summer for as long as we can.  The summer of 2020 has been strange to say the least. It was not the summer we expected or even the summer we hoped for, yet still, somehow, it was the one we needed.  It was simple.  It was full of sunshine and salty air.  It was the summer we learned to let go.  The one in which we shared the joy of our pregnancy and also shared the grief as we lost our sweet babe.

Summer 2020, you were beautiful and hard, you were joyful and sad, and you were long and short.  

I want to write this down here because I do not want to forget how this summer made me feel.  It has been filled with some of the most painful days, but somehow, through the grace of God, I have laughed and enjoyed these summer days more than I have in a long, long time.  

Here is a list of what this summer meant to me:

  • A Positive pregnancy test
  • Joy, joy, joy
  • Bike rides
  • Fireworks that lasted all night long
  • Yosemite with good friends
  • Hikes and waterfalls and skipping rocks
  • Trash trucks
  • 4 mile runs 
  • New friendships 
  • Loss and waiting rooms and ultrasounds that make your heart drop
  • Grief, grief and more grief
  • The couch
  • Family and friends showing up and loving us in such tangible ways
  • Malibu
  • Pickleball 
  • Kayaking in the bay 
  • Margaritas that make you sad that you can drink them 
  • The beach almost everyday
  • Spontaneity 
  • Ocean swims 
  • Letting go
  • Loosening up on bedtime 
  • Drives to San Clemente and San Diego
  • Golf cart rides after the beach 
  • Boat ride with dear friends
  • Outdoor Church gatherings 
  • Scooter-Walks as a family 
  • Afternoon reading on the couch 
  • Riding in the back of a pickup truck of newlyweds (true story, and something I will never forget)
  • Adjusting expectations 
  • Leaning in
  • Staying present 
  • Long hair and very tanned legs

This was our summer.  It was weird.  It was hard.  It was beautiful.  It drew me closer to the Lord, it brought me to my knees, and brought us to the ocean again and again and again.

As a former English teacher, I always love pulling out a theme.  And after reading over this list a few times and thinking of the big moments of our summer, I found a pretty strong and important theme.  It is one that I think I needed to learn and figure out this summer.  It is something especially helpful to have when walking through painful seasons, but important to have in your back pocket regardless.  Ready for it?  

This summer I learned the importance of finding a place of peace, purpose, and play.

Before we walked through our miscarriage, I do not think I had strongly identified what these three places in my life were.  I had peace, but not a specific place.  I had purpose, but I never named it.  I had play, but never for myself.  

This summer changed that for me. And I feel like I actually figured out my place of peace, purpose and play. Do you know yours? Think about it. Name it. Figure it out.  For me personally, it has been so essential in my healing process.  We all are walking through stuff.  Maybe this summer for you was about the joy, and that’s great, but can you name your place of peace, purpose, and play?  And if this summer has just been plain hard, do you know what these places are for you? And if so, I hope you can go to them again and again.

In case you were curious, here are mine.

My Place of Peace

The ocean.  No questions asked.   The beach has been our place of healing.  It has been one of the few places that make sense.  It is our peace place.  Our morning spot. Our late afternoon spot. Our Sunday evening post-dinner spot.  It is where we come to exhale the anxiety and inhale God’s peace.  

My Place of Purpose

Purpose has always been something really important to me.  In high school and college, my purpose was mostly running/performance-based.  Post-college, it was teaching-based as I started a new career as a high school English teacher.  Postpartum, my purpose seemed to get fuzzy.  Of course, it was within motherhood, but I did not even know who I was as a mom, let alone my purpose in being that mom. 

Two years and one miscarriage later, I finally feel at home in my purpose. It is pouring into my son.  It is teaching and guiding and showing.   Right now my purpose is in being my son’s teacher.  This is my full-time job.  And I am proud of it.  I might not get paid for it, but this is where my heart is and I know it matters deeply.  This all clicked for me one summer evening, when I walked into Lance asking Hudson who his teacher was.  Hudson without even thinking, instantly said, “mommy”.  And my heart melted. We never talked about how I was teaching him different things, but just based on our days together, he instinctively knew I was the teacher in his life.  This has changed a lot for me.  I have a newfound purpose. Yes, motherhood, but it really is much more specific than that.

My Place of Play 

This summer we carved out more play into our days and it made all the difference. It was a week or so after my D & C procedure that we picked up my mom’s pickleball set. We brought it with us to rally together after dinner. We went down by the ocean and rallied back and forth. We laughed. We were competitive. And we were focused on something outside of our sadness. Playing pickleball brought back laughter into our days. It drew us closer in a season that easily could have caused drifting. It was a simple source of joy. When you are going through hard things, picking up pickleball might not always make the most sense, but for us, it was one of the best decisions we made in our grief. Pickleball brought healing. It brought back play into our lives.

If you too had a hard summer, one full of unmet expectations and disappointments, know that I am right there with you. Even in the hard, my hope is that you too can find some silver linings and that this time of heartbreak can allow you to fully lean into what is right before you.

Our Story of Miscarriage

The following is our story walking through miscarriage. I wrote everything as we were going through it. It might feel a bit rambling and disjointed at parts, but hey, that is the sound of grief.

My heart literally feels like it is on fire.  My stomach feels empty and dead.  My vision feels blurry from all the crying.  My soul feels weary. 

Literally two days ago, we were scheduling the date of our gender reveal as we found out I would be able to take a 10-week blood test to find out our baby’s gender.  Now, instead of the gender reveal on the calendar, I have a week full of blood work, doctor’s appointments, and a scheduled D&C surgery. 

Things certainly have taken a turn. 

Our dialogue in the past week has been light and fun.  I bet we are having a girl. No, we are definitely having a boy.  How should we do the reveal? Should Hudson hit the ball or throw the ball?  

Oh how I wish we could back to these simple dilemmas.

Now everything feels different.  Most of our dialogue is in-between tears.  There are long stretches of silence and loud, painful wails.  There are words about blood work and hCG levels and D&C surgery.  

My talks with the Lord have definitely been different lately.  There has been less words. More pauses.  A few more questions.  But in this season where I can’t really find the exact words to pray, I am still finding myself saying, I know you are in this Lord.  We trust you. We love you.   

Even in the darkness, I can’t help but feel God’s hand over all of this.  I feel Him in the loving text messages we have received.  In the extra snuggles Hudson has so generously offered over to us.  In the early morning prayers.  In the most beautiful bouquet of flowers. He is caring for us in such tangible ways.  

We have been so surrounded by love and prayers. We are so thankful for our family and community of friends that love us so well.

The Ultrasound that Changed Everything

It has been a few days since I last wrote.  If I am honest, writing is not really the thing I want to be doing right now. Mostly, I just want to watch Gilmore Girls and eat warm doughnuts and sit on the couch.  But, I forced myself to get up early this morning because I know this time is sacred and I do want to put into words how I have been feeling lately.

I actually want to start back on Friday.  The day everything changed for us.  Due to Covid, Lance was unable to come with me to any of the doctor’s appointments.  With our pregnancy with Hudson, he literally came to every single appointment.  Initially, we both felt disappointed that he could not see our baby on the ultrasound, but I promised to video it for him.  Little did we both know that him not being there would be so incredibly lonely for us both.  I needed Lance and he couldn’t even sit with me in the lobby.  

The whole process of the appointment made everything worse. I still believe it could have been handled with so much more sensitivity and kindness. I get it.  Sadly, miscarriage is common.  1 in 4 common.  This is another day for these doctors and nurses, but for us, it is literally the worst day of our lives.  It is our greatest fear coming true. 

The Texting Ultrasound Tech

Everything felt so procedural. During the ultrasound, there was no explanation or anything as to why the baby looked so tiny and motionless.  I asked if everything was okay because he or she looked so small and the ultrasound tech simply replied with, yes, looks small.  Again, I get it.  I don’t think he legally was able to directly tell me the baby was not alive, but why couldn’t he have grabbed the doctor so she could directly tell me? Instead, he told me to go back to the lobby and the doctor would review the results with me.  

So I silently sat myself back down.  This time I could not read my book that I was easily flipping through a few minutes prior to that terrible ultrasound.  I texted Lance, something is wrong. And then I began to Google incessantly. 

Is it okay if baby is measuring 8 weeks when you are supposed to be 10 weeks pregnant?

Are there special cases where heartbeat is not detected at 8 weeks?

Are there reasons ultrasound tech does not talk much during ultrasound? 

Symptoms of miscarriage.

And I did this for an hour and a half alone.  Do you know how long an hour and a half feels when you are unconfident about the health of your baby? Eternity.  Especially when you are sitting alone.  

I have replayed this window of time in my head over and over again.  And the thing that sticks with me most is that ultrasound tech guy.  As I Googled with tears in my eyes and became increasingly more certain that the news I was waiting for would not be good news, I heard him laughing.  He was laughing and texting and chatting.  He knew my baby was not alive.  Again, I get it.  He sees this type of thing often.  He does not know me or my life or all our hopes and dreams we had for this baby.  Yet still, the casualness of it all, stings my heart.  

Mask Full of Tears

When I was finally called into the doctor’s office, the doctor was quick to deliver the words I had been dreading for an hour and a half.  It looks like you are having a miscarriage.  

I tried to hold it together.  But within seconds,  the tears flooded and were held within my mask.  

The doctor was kind, but she was also very medical.  Saying things like this is so common, 1 in 4 pregnancies result in miscarriage, it is nothing you did, chromosomal abnormality. 

Yet still, it felt too numbers-based.  Too-medical.  Not enough compassion. 

She explained the next steps.  Blood work, follow-up ultrasound, and scheduled D&C surgery.  And that was it.  Still in the middle of tears, I was expected to go back out there, see that ultrasound tech as he continued to text on his phone, and make my next appointment that would confirm our greatest fear.  

I felt so vulnerable and alone.  I needed a second.  So I went to the bathroom. Ran cold water on my face.  Took a few deep breaths.  Whispered to myself everything is going to be okay.  Put on a fake smile and went out to make the appointment.  

Procedural Coldness

Again, I was met with procedural coldness.  I don’t know exactly what I was expecting.  Maybe a look in my eyes and a gentle smile.  Maybe a word of encouragement.  Instead, it was all business.  She handed me over the forms of blood work that had hCG and abortion highlighted on it. Seeing that word “abortion” on the blood work forms brought me such intense sadness. Did you know that? Did you know that the medical term for miscarriage is abortion?   Over the course of the week I had to see that word on every paperwork I signed and confirmed. Words are powerful. Every time I saw that word it stung my heart. This was not my choice. We wanted this life so desperately.  Abortion did not at all accurately describe what was happening in our lives. 

There were no instructions about where to get blood work or hours of operation or anything.  This might seem small, but when you are just given terrible news, it helps to have very clear instructions and steps.  I again felt a bit lost, but I was in no mood to ask questions.  As soon as she handed me the appointment card, it felt like I ran out of the office.  I wanted to escape that terrible place.  I held it together in those minutes and steps from office to elevator to car.  And the moment my car door slammed, everything broke loose from me and I wailed.    

Salty Milkshake

I called Lance. I wailed some more. And I drove home in confusion and despair.  The only thing I could think about was how I wanted a milkshake and hot fries.  Grief makes you long for comfort. 

From the moment I got home, there was an overflow of tears from all three of us.  Hudson is at a very sweet stage where he feels so deeply what you are feeling.  When he saw us crying, he was compelled to cry.  And not just cry.  It really seemed like he understood the severity of our pain.  He felt the loss of his baby brother or sister just as much as we did.  It was like he knew something was wrong.  He grabbed our little doppler that we were using just earlier that day in hopes we would hear the heartbeat on our own.  He remembered this and grabbed it and kept bringing it to me saying, “heartbeat, heartbeat, heartbeat!” I sadly had to tell him that we were not certain if there was a heartbeat anymore.  

The milkshake we got that night tasted salty. It was a sweet comfort, but I am pretty sure it was mixed with my tears.  

This was on Lance’s birthday, 2 days after hearing no heartbeat on the ultrasound. In the pain, we were able to have a sacred day alone celebrating the wonderful life of my husband, while still allowing space to sit in the sadness.

Malibu Escape

In the intense sadness, the Lord was gentle with us and allowed our weekend to be lighter than we imagined to be possible. Sunday was Lance’s birthday.  Terrible timing in some ways, but by the grace of God, we were able to celebrate.  We were able to be honest and say we are both so very sad, but we can somehow still enjoy this day.  We escaped to Malibu for a much needed day with just the three of us. We skipped church and responsibilities for a day.  We were sad. We were grieving. But the Lord met us where we were that weekend and somehow gave us lighter hearts.  We had the perfect lunch in an outdoor gastropub in Malibu.  We literally had the patio all to ourselves.  It was quiet and peaceful. We explored beach caves and took in the salty, fresh air.  There was an underlying sadness in it all, but it was still, despite everything, a good day. 

Handle with Care

And then Monday hit and it was like we woke up and realized this was in fact our reality. 

Monday brought a wave of deep sadness.  It all seemed to finally hit me.  It was the start of a week full of bloodwork, doctor’s appointments, a final ultrasound, and surgery.  Not a ton to look forward to.  This day, I felt especially on edge.  As we waited to be called back for bloodwork, we went to my OB’s office to explain to them how I was unable to get blood drawn on Saturday since the Lap Corp was closed.  I needed to move my Tuesday doctor’s appointment for this reason. I was fully caught off guard when I was met with a harsh tone questioning if I tried all the Lap Corp locations.  A harsh tone questioning my decision making was the last thing I needed as I was going through a miscarriage!

This small interaction made me lose it.  I held it together, but as we left the office I again burst into tears.  Do they realize what is going on here? I felt like I needed to be wearing a shirt that stated I needed to be handled with extra care and gentleness. I really wish it was explained to me which locations were open.  Grief puts a hold on logic.  I did not think to call up a bunch of locations. I simply drove to the one my map showed me and the sign said closed, so I went home. 

The rest of the week was weird. There was a lot of grief, but it was also mixed with a tiny amount of hope.  I was still carrying our baby.  There was still no blood.  There were no external symptoms that I was miscarrying.  If I had not gone into that ultrasound, I would still be strutting around happily with my little bump.  

A Missed Miscarriage

To me, this has been one of the most confusing parts.  I had a missed miscarriage, which means that my body never registered that the pregnancy was no longer viable.  My body did not want to let go.  And in some ways this frustrates me, but in a lot of other ways it makes me feel proud.  Just like my heart, my whole body wanted to hold onto this little life as long as possible.  By the time I had my surgery, it was already three weeks that the baby’s heartbeat stopped. Even though in some ways I feel like my body failed me, I also feel like it fought so hard to keep and protect our baby. And for that I feel thankful.  

So in the days between Monday and Thursday (the day the miscarriage was officially confirmed), I spent most of my time either on the couch, at an appointment or in prayer praying for some kind of miracle.  There was a lot of Grey’s Anatomy and Gilmore Girls consumed.  Lots of Googling.  Lots of sitting and waiting and blood work.  

This in-between time was painful.  I knew deep down what the result of the week would be, but in these days there was still a small string of hope.  I was still carrying a baby.  It was likely not alive, but it was still in my tummy and things just felt strange.  

Miscarrying during a pandemic is extra lonely. Lance could not even step foot into the hospital, he literally had to just drop me off. I took this photo and sent it to him before the procedure.

Closure + Covid Tests

In a lot of ways, Thursday brought a sense of closure.  Thursday brought peace in a strange way and I actually felt like I could finally and fully grieve our lost baby.  Thursday also brought frustration as I again was stuck in a doctor’s office waiting over an hour after the final ultrasound again showed me our sweet tiny babe with no heartbeat. 

Then I had to deal with an uninterested and uninformed lady who was in charge of scheduling my surgery.  I had to get a rapid result Covid test in order to have my surgery the next day.  She had no idea where I could get one, so as she sat on the phone distracted, I had to research on my own the best place to get Covid test results the same day.  Again, it might sound small, but this was just another stressor that added to my grief.  

After an exhausting day of running around doing yet another round of bloodwork and driving to get the Covid test, I finally returned to my spot on the couch.  And this is the place I have spent most of my time since surgery on Friday.  I don’t really care to go into the details, but the whole procedure went smoothly.  The nurses were kind. And Taylor Swift thoughtfully released a new album the day before, so Folklore kept me company as I waited alone on the hospital bed.  For what it was, the Lord absolutely used these small details to bring me comfort and peace as I was literally losing my baby from within me.  

The Sunday after my D&C procedure, we again escaped to Malibu. In a lot of ways, Malibu was our place of healing.

Days Following D&C Surgery

In the days following the procedure, I have found myself not crying much.  This seemed strange at first, but grief operates in a weird way.  I have good days and bad days.  Days where my heart stings all day long and days where I feel light and hopeful.  In the good and the bad, Lance and I have felt so deeply cared for. From the flowers delivered to our door to the gracious friends and family bringing over a meal to the text check-ins and phone calls, we feel the love.  We feel covered in prayers and we feel well taken care of.  

 I am not exactly sure what the next days or even weeks will look like.  I am taking things one day at a time.  Actually one moment at a time.  I have minimized my days and really only focusing on the things that matter.  I mostly stay at home.  I occasionally do a few normal things, like dishes and laundry.  I return to the couch every time I begin to feel overwhelmed and tired.  I am taking things slow.  I am running.  I am praying.  I am asking for help. I have never walked through something like this before and I don’t really know how to do it well.  All I do know is that I need grace and a lot of it.  I need Jesus more now that I ever thought I did before.  

This man has been our rock. He has kept things going as I have had to take a major step back from the daily things I normally do. Extra thankful to walk through this together.

Our Why

I share this story because I hope it can give you a deeper perspective on the word miscarriage.  I hope it can better humanize this very real (and sadly, very common) experience.  I hope it can make you feel a little less alone if you too have experienced this type of loss or are currently going through it today.  I hope it can help you better understand the experience if you have a friend or family member going through it.  Ultimately, I hope our story points you to a loving Father. One who doesn’t always prevent his children from enduring pain and loss, but One that walks right alongside us through it all.

Also, I share this story because I am terrible at faking things. I am terrible at pretending everything is okay when I just lost our baby. I can’t simply move on. I need to share. I need to put words to how I am feeling. And mostly, I need to honor our baby. We lost our baby so early that I don’t even have a healthy ultrasound photo. I do not have any official pregnancy announcement photo. All I have are these words and a heart longing to one day meet our baby in heaven.

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.