Christmas Books that Bring Family Together + Hearts Centered on Jesus

This mama is a fan of children’s books. I believe the books we read to our little ones are more than just books. They are teaching our children what we believe, value, and love. For this reason, I am pretty picky with the books I choose to read to Hudson.

Especially when it comes to Christmas books, there are soooo many options, but there also are a lot that tell more of our culture’s version of Christmas and fail to include Jesus and instead focus on Santa, reindeer, and gingerbread men. Nothing inherently wrong with these elements, but I love finding books that help show the fun in these things, but ultimately draw our attention to Jesus and family and love.

I spent a ton of time sifting through our own Christmas collection, scrolling through library catalogs, and researching through all the books on Amazon, to bring to you my 10 Favorite Christmas books. This is a good mix of secular and Christian books. There are some classics you should recognize, and there are likely a few you have never heard of.

If you are anything like me, and still in the midst of Christmas shopping, one or more of these books would make a great gift for the little ones in your life!

Top 10 Favorite Christmas Books

1. Santa’s Prayer by Tom Roberts

This season, I have been very much feeling the tension between how our culture celebrates Christmas and the true reason for this special season: Jesus.  As a new parent, I am trying to navigate the role Santa will have in our family. I do not necesarrily wish to steal away all the fun that comes with traditions of Santa and putting out cookies for him and carrots for his reindeer, but I certainly do not want my children to miss the point. 

This book is a beautiful answer to some of this tension I have been struggling with. There is a Santa in this book, but it is a Santa that is a humble servant of Christ. It is a Santa that kneels and prayers and asks for God’s wisdom to help guide the children to understand the true joy of Christmas.  This is the type of book that I know I will read over and over again to all of my kiddos.  

2. The Way to the Manger: A Family Advent Devotional

This book very much aligns with much of what I discussed last week.  This is the perfect book to help bring your family together around Christ this Christmas season.  This book is the perfect element to a family tradition around advent. It gives you and your family a devotion for each day of December before Christmas.  Not only can this be the perfect family evening routine together, it will feed the whole family with the Word of God and keep everyone centered during this very busy time of year.  

3. Christmas Is Coming: An Advent Book

This is another great book that functions as an Advent calendar.  The illustrations are darling! This book would be the perfect coffee table book to have out during the holidays! It also very much connects to all my thoughts from last week’s post and gives a new recipe, activity, song, game or craft to try each day as a family.  There is something about books that can really bring a family together and I love how this book so intentionally gives fun, holiday ideas to help get your family to enjoy time together.  

4. Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht 

This is the perfect book to make part of your Christmas tree traditions. I just discovered it, but next year, we are definitely going to make reading this book apart of our Friday-after Thanksgiving tree tradition!  It is the perfect tradition-type of book as the book itself holds the traditions a family has around their own Christmas tree. I love how this book is so centered around family and the importance of tradition. Not to mention, it is a rhyming book so perfect for the little ears in your family!

5. God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren 

I am a fan of the God Gave Us series of books. This is another beautifully written and illustrated story that helps your little ones understand that Christmas is in fact about much more than the tree and the presents.  I love these books because the author so beautifully captures the curious, question-asking mind of a child. The answers from the mama bear, even minister to me as a parent, as I glean wisdom on how to discuss some of these bigger topics with kids as they begin to get older. 

6. Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell

There are so many wonderful books that beautifully depict the birth of Jesus that are geared for young children.  Of all that I sifted through and researched, Room for a Little One, stands out.  For one, I love that the story is told from the perspective of animals. Hudson is animal obsessed right now, so this retelling of the story is especially interesting to him. There is also something very charming about getting an animal’s perspective of the night of Jesus’s birth.  

7. Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle 

My mom got Hudson this book last Christmas and it is one of our favorites.  The whole Little Blue Truck series is so endearing and perfect for my little guy who is becoming more and more truck obsessed with each passing day.  I love this book in particular because it allows us to work on counting as we get to count the number of trees that are left in in Little Blue Truck. It is also fun because the last page has flashing lights on the final Christmas tree! 

8. Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares 

Hudson is currently loving birds.  We also just visited New York City this summer as a family.  For these two reasons, this book feels like the perfect addition to our Christmas library.  Again, this book’s illustrations are stunning. I love the beautiful images of NYC at Christmas time.  Red and Lulu are birds that get separated, but eventually are reunited by the story’s end. This heartwarming story combines some of our favorite things: birds, NYC, and love.  It is a bit wordy for Hudson’s attention span, but I look forward to enjoying this story with him next Christmas and for now, we will just enjoy the beautiful illustrations.

9. The Story of Christmas by Patricia A. Pingry 

This is another well-written book that helps young children understand the real point of Christmas and how things like gift giving is ultimately connected to showing love, like the love God showed us through Jesus.  I particularly enjoy the last two pages: “We give gifts at Christmas to show our love. And we say, ‘Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus’” (Pingry 19-22). The language in this book is super simple, the words are nice and big, making it again the perfect Christmas story for the little ones in your home.

10. The Night Before Christmas Recordable Book by Clement C. Moore 

Hudson got this as a gift last year from his nanny and poppy.  This makes such a great gift! Hudson loves opening this book and hearing the voices of his nanny and poppy.  This is such a classic book and we have multiple copies of The Night Before Christmas, but Hudson definitely prefers the version that is personalized with voices he can recognize! 

What are some of you family’s favorite Christmas books? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.

 

Routines to Keep You Centered This December

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

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

3 Things to Keep Routines Around this December

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

toddler boy playing in Christmas tree lot

1. Keep a Routine Around the Tree

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

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

family Christmas tree traditions

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

Christmas ornaments that hold important milestones for a family

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

2. Keep a Routine Around Advent 

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

scripture and stickers inside an advent calendar for a toddler

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

scripture from Luke for a toddler's advent calendar

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

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

3. Keep a Routine Around Family Time

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

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

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

Give Something Up + Commit to Something

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

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

What Are You Prioritizing this December?

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

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

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

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

Keeping Routines During Holiday Busyness

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

Stay Focused on What Matters

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

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

5 Things To Keep Doing During Holiday Busyness

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

1. Wake Up Before the Kiddos 

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

2. Take Your Vitamins

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

3. Keep Moving 

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

4. Create Space for Evening Routine 

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

5. Plan Ahead

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

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

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

Send Me My Gift! 

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

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.

Long Weekends Are Friends

While most weekends seem to literally just fly by and escape me, last weekend in particular seemed to hang around for a while and it was just what I needed. It actually felt long in the best possible way. Most weekends for us always seem to have a pretty lengthy agenda. Things to do, places to go, people to see. This weekend definitely still had some of that, but for some reason or another, there also felt like there was a ton of white space. There was a lot of down time, rest, breathing, dreaming, no agenda. And let me tell you, that is some of my favorite types of time. I even went to a spa by MYSELF! Yes, alone, just me and the steam room. If I were to say it was naturally just lovely, I would actually be lying because the truth is, it was uncomfortable for me. I truly had to push myself out the door to go and when I got there, I literally almost left. Little to my knowledge, bathing suits were not allowed in this particular spa. I am assuming this is a thing for most, if not all Korean spas. I was unaware. I went in with my securely tied pink and black suit, with zero intentions of needing to take it off. Here’s the thing, I am incredibly private. This is part of the reason I had SO much trouble breastfeeding in public. I like my privacy. I like bathing suits in spas. This really could be an entire story on its own, but here is the mildly shortened version. I did not leave the spa, even though every part of me wanted to. I felt incredibly out of my comfort zone. I walked into a spa that felt culturally unfamiliar to me. But, I took a deep breath, held the towel tightly around me, and tried to get into the hot tub as discreetly as possible. It was almost like that hot tub warmed me up, and I eventually got over my fears and was able to actually relax. I made a little circuit from the hot tub to the cold pool to the steam room and then back to the cold pool. I did this circuit over and over again, occasionally switching out steam room for the sauna.

Toddler boy in swim trunks throwing tennis ball in pool
Late Saturday afternoon pool time. Hudson loves throwing the ball to Nala Girl.

Will I go back to this bathing suit-less spa? No, probably not. Not my thing. I prefer having a secure suit around me, but here’s the thing that is important: I made the best of this situation that felt uncomfortable to me. I am quite aware of the privilege in this story. Oh no, poor thing, what a hard life, she had to endure a spa day without a bathing suit. I get it. This may sound silly to you, and it kind of is, but I still think there is value to it. It is not always going to manifest itself in the form of a Korean Spa, but daily I am faced with situations where I need to push myself out of comfort zones. If I am honest, I am pretty comfortable just at home, not needing to interact with people, or put myself out there through an email, an ask or a proposal. Lets just be real honest, life is so much easier in our comfort zones. It is so much easier to just type and type, but never hit publish. It is so much easier to complain about how I never get time to myself, but then not do anything about it, even when I have a kind husband that encourages me to take time. It is so much easier to pull out all the toys at home and not venture out on that playdate to the park you have never been and the moms you have never met. Especially for someone like me that craves safety, routine, and control, life is just easier in the comfort zone. I am very aware that the Lord wants more for me. He wants me to push myself. He wants me to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable. He wants to refine me. And the best way He will do this is if I am willing to get more uncomfortable. All this to say, I am proud of my spa day and thankful for my husband that gave me this gift of time alone. I needed it. Once I finally got into my little rhythm of the circuit I created, I ended up enjoying myself. I even laughed with other women about plunging into the cold pool. I let go and I was able to relax. I even got some writing in, as I headed up to the second floor, that was co-ed, so thankfully required a baggy orange and gray outfit. So in my orange gym shorts that went past my knees, I wrote. I munched on Sour Patch Kids and I wrote from a heart of gratitude. Even when I step away by myself for a couple hours, I can see with clear vision the incredible amount of blessings the Lord has surrounded me with. I am so grateful.

Toddler eating doughnut at Randy's Doughnuts
Sundays are for Randy’s Doughnuts

On a very different note, the rest of the weekend was filled with time with family, Sunday morning doughnut trips, BBQs, walks and runs along the beach, long drives and good podcasts, and a little bit of dreaming of things to come with my sweet husband. This weekend actually did feel long. It felt restful and fun and carefree. It felt simple and good. It is amazing how just one extra day off can really make a world of a difference. That extra Monday was very much needed after what felt like an entire summer of non-stop hustle. I loved our summer. It was a ton of fun. We did a lot, saw a lot, traveled a lot. My extra tanned skin and Hudson’s bleached and highlighted hair is our proof. We lived this summer well. We took in lots of sun and had numerous ocean dunks. As much as I have loved this summer, I am ready for slower fall days. I am ready for staying inside more. I am ready for less travel and more time at home. Our fall is still relatively full as we are starting a couple mommy and me classes next week, but I actually really look forward to this routine. I look forward to steady schedules and cooler weather and of course, more sweaters and nitro cold brews with pumpkin cream.

Father and father sitting next to son
So thankful for this family of ours

On Sabbath

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

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

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

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

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

Choose a Day

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

Set Boundaries

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

Plan Ahead

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

Figure Out What is Most Restful to You

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

Allow for Grace

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

Spend Time Alone with God

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

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

Routines Pt. 4

The Weekend Routine

To finish up this series on routines, we are ending with my very favorite part of the whole week: the weekend.  We have had some really amazing weekends, but we also have had some really terrible ones. I think the terrible ones are a result of two things. 1. Planning too much into a single weekend. 2. Not being intentional with this allotted time.  The weeks can feel crazy full and busy. It is easy to save tasks and things to do for the weekend. However, when this happens, I almost always end our weekend feeling just as tired as when I began it. This is not a weekend well lived. We should be ending Sunday evenings feeling rested, restored, and ready for the week ahead.  Some of my very favorite weekends are the ones that were empty, white boxes on the calendar. However, I have found the opposite can also result in an unfulfilled weekend. When we are not intentional with our time and do not have any sort of plan with how to use the time, we end of having weekends wasted on shows and laziness. So like everything, it is about finding that balance between the planned and unplanned, the lazy naps and hikes outdoors, the going out and the staying in.  We are still in the process of crafting the perfect weekend, but here are a few of our favorite weekend things. I know this whole month I have been doing lists of 5 things, but weekends are just so good, I made this one a list of 7!

  1. Sleep In

By sleep in, I am referring to 7:00 or 7:30 am.  This is going to vary on preference and lifestyle, but we are not out late on a Friday night, so waking up at 7am feels incredibly restful, especially when your weekday alarm is 5:00 or 6:00 am.  Both Lance and I can’t really sleep in much later than this, but getting out of bed at 7:30 am really does feel special. There is nothing wrong with sleeping in later, but we love Saturday mornings and if you sleep in too late, it can feel like you just lost one of the most precious times of the week.  

  1. Make a Good Breakfast, Not Oatmeal and Toast!

Saturday mornings for us are blueberry pancakes and peppery turkey bacon.  This has become such a routine for us that both Lance and I just seem to know that when Saturday hits we will be eating hot blueberries and crispy bacon.  After a week full of quick sips of coffee and toast thrown into the toaster, there is something so nice about slowing down and really taking the time to put together a good breakfast.  There is also something about the ritual of our Saturday morning breakfast. These motions are becoming second nature. I have always been a recipe type of girl. I think it is just my personality.  Give me the steps and I will follow them to a tee. This blueberry pancake recipe, which I am linking here, is the first recipe that I am beginning to be able to do without even looking at the steps.  I have it basically memorized by heart. 3/4 milk with two tablespoons vinegar. These pancakes are what Saturday mornings are all about.  I think it must have something to do with the vinegar because they are just the perfect amount of fluffiness. Basically every week when I am doing our weekly grocery run, I always pick up the peppered turkey bacon from Trader Joe’s.  This is hands down the best turkey bacon we have ever eaten. It is peppery and crispy. It is the perfect friend of these fluffy blueberry pancakes. Some Saturdays are more hectic than others and we cannot always have this as our breakfast, but we really try to carve out space on Saturday mornings that leaves room for pancakes, peppered bacon, and slow sips of coffee.

  1. Exercise + Take Time Off

Saturdays are long runs by the beach or in the hills of Palos Verdes, and Sundays are days off.  We go long and fast on Saturday, and take it slow and restful on Sunday. For us, this is the perfect weekend balance.  In high school and college running, long runs were always either on a Saturday or Sunday. It took me two years after graduating LMU to realize how reliant I was on these weekend long runs.  Saturday long runs are my favorite run of the week. I think the main reason I love it so much is because even if nothing gets accomplished the rest of the weekend, I know I ran 10 miles. This plus the fact that it starts the weekend off in a place of wellness.  It gives me the chance to breathe, reflect and pray before the day really starts off.

  1. Coffee Out

We have not been to the movies in years.  We don’t go bowling. We don’t go to miniature golf.  We don’t even go out to restaurants much anymore. But, we go out to coffee.  This is our activity of choice. And I am not talking Starbucks. There is nothing wrong with Starbucks and we will definitely end up here on weekends as well, but our favorite thing to do on either a Saturday or Sunday is take a drive and go to either Blue Bottle or Alfred’s.  We will grab our expensive yet delicious coffee and either hike on the bluff trail (right underneath LMU) or go to our favorite spot, Will Roger’s State Park. Sometimes, we will just drive around with our coffee and pretend we live on one of those fancy streets. We drink our coffee, we talk, we listen to a podcast we both agree on (which is a great struggle, but we usually go with Skimm’d on the Couch), we listen to worship music, and sometimes I even read parenting books aloud to Lance.  The point here is you don’t need to spend a ton of money to make a great outing. It is all about the people and the coffee.

  1. Keep Fridge Stocked

This is sort of a random, small detail, but I love making sure the fridge and pantry is all stocked by Friday, so I don’t have to spend that precious weekend time at the store.  I tend to go to the store on Thursdays, either during the day with Hudson or in the evening after dinner. This allows us to have fresh and yummy things to munch on all weekend without needing to face the weekend crowds.  I also plan our meals for Friday and the rest of weekend intentionally. Fridays are typically really easy and basic dinners. Our go-to is pizza using the Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough. Saturdays tend to be a little more special, like rosemary steak and roasted potatoes.  Sundays usually are crockpot soups or stews. By having everything in terms of our food planned, it allows for more space and time to enjoy the weekend together.

  1. Get Together with Good Friends

There is nothing better than getting time with some of our favorite people.  This does not happen every weekend, but we intentionally schedule time with friends at least once a month.  This definitely has become more tricky now that we have baby H, but it still is a priority of ours. It just looks different than before.  It usually means early dinner with friends or hanging out with them in the afternoon in-between naps. Weekends always seem to be extra fun when it involves our people.  While we used to be able to have more spontaneous plans with friends, now things need to be a little more planned. But, that is okay! It makes it even more special when that date we have put on the calendar finally comes.  

  1. Get Out with the Whole Fam (Dogs Included!)

Nala’s life has become pretty boring since the arrival of Hudson.  She has definitely gained some weight as her activity levels have greatly dropped.  She used to spend her weeks at doggy day care or at her grandparents’ house where she would fetch the ball for hours, but now she is stuck with just me.  This entails a lot more naps and watching me focus on Hudson. Because her weeks are less eventful, we do really try to do something she can join in on. This usually means a hike or a walk on the strand or if she is really lucky, a trip to the dog beach.  Sometimes it is even simpler and we will just walk to the park near our house, and Lance will throw her tennis balls and Hudson and I will watch. Whether it simple like this, or a more elaborate day trip, there is nothing better than getting out of the house with all four of us.  It is especially great because when we get home Nala and baby our both exhausted and happy.

This is just a small glimpse at what a typical weekend looks like for us.  Yours will obviously be different, but however you spend it, I hope you can spend it with the people you adore and even if it just for a bit, I hope you can breathe in some fresh air.  

 

Routines Pt. 3

The Evening Routine

Just like all the other parts of the day, I think it is so important to be incredibly intentional with the ends of our days because at least for me, there is a greater temptation to use my evenings just to veg.  This almost always leaves me falling asleep wishing I used time wiser.  After a long, full day it is easy to say I deserve to just lie here and watch Hulu and stuff my face with cookies.  While this is the more tempting and easier choice especially when you are exhausted, I do believe that our evenings have the potential to hold so much more for us.  I think there is a way that evenings can be both restful and fulfilling.  For me, as much as I choose it, watching shows on Hulu does not feed my soul in the same way that scrapbooking or spending quality time with husband does.  Some nights, I fail at having a good evening routine.  Actually a lot of evenings I do, but I am learning that if I try to incorporate these 5 things, I end the day right.

1. Leave the Dishes

The last thing I want to do after we eat dinner, is spend more time in the kitchen.  So I don’t!  Lance is always really great about clearing the dishes, so after Hudson and the high chair are cleaned up, I leave the kitchen.  There are always pots in the sink and counters that could use a wipe down, but I intentionally choose to not touch it.  I am sure some of you are thinking how you would never do that.  How you have to have your kitchen spotless before you go to sleep at night.  To each their own, but for me personally, it steals joy when I end my night in the kitchen.  Especially staying at home, I feel like I am constantly in the kitchen.  As much as I can control it, I choose to leave it as soon as dinner is done. I only return to it to find something sweet for dessert! The amazing thing with this is that the world keeps spinning and no one seems to care that the pans do not get cleaned until the morning.  Lance loves me just the same.  Hudson loves me just the same.  It really is crazy how we put these unneeded expectations on ourselves.  Who says the kitchen must be spotless before you sleep?  Why is that a rule?  It shouldn’t be and if it is, I break it.  Will Hudson remember that we had pans in the sink or will he remember the walks we took together as a family after dinner?  Will he remember the crumbs on the countertop or will he remember the laughter and the play that happened after dinner? I think it is all the latter.  Like I always say, the dishes can wait.

2. Wear Real Pajamas 

By 8pm I am in my pjs.  This is one of those very small details but I think putting on a pair of comfy pjs help switch my mindset into resting mode.  With the colder weather, I have been wearing a pair of flannel pjs every night.  These flannel pajamas are like my nighttime uniform.  It is my signal to stop, to rest, and to be satisfied with the work I have accomplished.  So after we do Hudson’s evening routine (I’ll write more on this in future posts), I tiptoe out of the room, put on my flannel pajamas, and get right into evening mode.  I know some moms might use this time right after the little ones go to sleep to do some cleaning up around the house, but I really try to do all this tidying up before Hudson is asleep.  Similarly to my kitchen philosophy, if there are a couple pillows not fully fluffed or a few random toys out, I don’t fret about it.  I know those things will get done the next day during my cleaning cycle.  Similarly to the idea of sabbath, I think it is essential to really carve these evening hours out as sacred time for rest and rejuvenation.  For me, this time of rest starts with the comfort and warmth of flannel and finally getting out of those yoga pants I have been wearing all day.

3. Invest in Yourself

This is going to look different based on your own interests, but for me this typically looks like having a small activity to myself that I enjoy.  This is usually something I do right after Hudson has fallen asleep.  Sometimes I will go in the playroom and continue to work on Hudson’s first year scrapbook.  I typically do not spend a ton of time on this, I might do this for 30 minutes, maybe an hour, but I usually do not produce more than a page of work, but this set apart time of sorting through photos, cutting out shapes, and designing layouts gives me joy.  It makes me feel calm and at peace.  And the thing is, I am not even very good at scrapbooking.  The shapes I cut out are not always the most even, even though I use a stencil.  I have not invested in a lot of extra, fun scrapbooking things, so the pages really just have the images and my own handwriting.  The point here is not perfection.  It is the act of cutting, pasting, creating that brings the joy.  To me, I love the pages I create, not because they are perfect, but because of all the smiles I see of our family on those pages.  Scrapbooking allows me to take a step back and be reflective of all the amazing memories we are already making.  It is proof that while we definitely do not have it all together, we are making memories that will forever be captured in the pages of my less than perfect scrapbook.  This is just one option.  And the reality is that a lot of nights, I don’t always feel like doing this.  It sometimes feels like too much on especially exhausting days.  So, I choose something else.  My other go-to, typically has been picking up a book.  Alongside activities, it is also important to practice self-care during this evening time.  I don’t even know what to write here because honestly I don’t do a good job in this area, but I really want to.  For the past few months, I keep thinking how I should really have an evening skin care routine.  It just seems like one of those things you do when you’re really grown-up.  I still do not have one, but I am determined to develop one soon! Even if it something as simple as putting night cream on every evening, I think this small act of caring for your skin is the perfect way to invest in yourself.  Note to self: buy night cream.  Right after writing this I went down a rabbit hole of watching nighttime skin care routines on Youtube.  And let me tell you, I had no idea you could use that many products just to get “unready.”  I use maybe one or two products just to get ready, or let’s be real, sometimes zero.  Maybe one day, I will have a routine like this, but if you are with me and get overwhelmed in this area, start small, purchase one thing of night cream.  Then, maybe one day I’ll be cool enough to have a whole routine where I roll my face with that roller thing and put on 8 different products.

4. Spend Quality Time With… 

Again this will vary, but for me it is with my husband.  If you’re single, maybe this will look like calling your best friend you haven’t talked to in a while or video chatting with your mom.  However it looks, I think it is important to end the day with connection with someone.  Lance and I like watching shows together in the evening.  This is our thing, but I typically fall asleep, so we are currently in the stages of figuring out better ways to spend quality time together, without me falling asleep.  We both are training for races so we are hoping to better use the time right before bed to stretch, roll out, and talk together.  We also almost always brush our teeth and get ready for bed together.  As much as we can, we try to not be on screens during this time.  I used to be terrible at this, but I have noticed I am so much more present with Lance when I plug my phone in to its charger early and don’t touch it.  Sometimes I need to just leave it in the other room so I do not even have the temptation to touch it.  After Hudson falls asleep and we both have finished up whatever personal activity we were pursuing for that evening, we really do try to spend good time together.  In all honesty, we sometimes really fail in this area because we are so exhausted, but I think we are both learning that this hour to hour and a half we have together is so precious.  We really need to use that time together well.

5. Drink Water, Floss & Pray 

I am a terrible water drinker! I need to get better in this area, but right before bed I always make sure I have at least a few big gulps of water.  I also keep a cup of water in our room so when I get up at night to nurse Hudson, I always make sure I sip water before heading back into bed.  Along with water consumption, I am a terrible flosser.  Every time I go to the dentist, my gums bleed.  I have heard, “You need to floss more,” a countless number of times.  I go through phases.  Sometimes I am all about the flossing and I am super consistent with it.  Others times, I skip it all together.  It is kind of like bed making, which I talked about here.  It feels small, but it is a consistent healthy habit.  Even if you had an evening of tv and cookies, at least you are doing one thing productive and healthy! Plus, your gums will thank you.  Once the water drinking and flossing have ended, Lance and I together always end our days with prayer aloud.  As I wrote in the morning routine post, prayer is an important part of the way I begin my day.  For us, it is also an important way we end it.  I am thankful for this time to hear the prayers and heart of my husband.  Maybe you aren’t the praying type.  I still think having some type of quiet, intentional time before sleeping is a great way to end the day.  Maybe it is a meditation.  Maybe it a moment of gratitude.  Maybe it is a conscious breath in and out.  However you end your day, I hope you can feel like it is enough.  This is a struggle for me.  So much so that I am currently reading A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough by Wayne Muller.  I have just begun so we will see if it helps me with this battle I daily fight of wondering if everything I do is ever enough.  I do not always end my days feeling like it was enough.  I sometimes end with a sad heart.  A tired heart.  A defeated heart.  This is the reality, this is real life.  But, this sad, tired, defeated heart can turn to the Lord and lay down the struggles and triumphs of the day and also the hopes for a better tomorrow.  I am so thankful for this hope!

 

 

A Letter to My Grandma

Last week was one of those very unexpected hard, hard weeks.  My 99 year-old grandmother passed away.  This woman was much more than just a grandma to me. She is one of the woman that has most inspired me to strive to be a woman of grace, kindness, and poise.  This past week I have been flooded with all my fondest memories of her.  While unfortunately a lot of them take place ten plus years ago, I am so thankful for her last years that I got to visit her in her nursing home.  Some of those last memories I have of her, while she no longer was quite as talkative or energetic, are still some of my fondest.  While not much went on and not much was spoken, I now treasure those last raw moments we had together on her bed, holding hands, and her telling me to “run along now…Lance is waiting for you.”  She was always so concerned with me getting home to him.  This was just who she was.  My heart aches.  I already miss her so much.  While I wish I could of written this letter prior to her passing, I wanted to share this letter in memory of my grandma (May 9, 1919 – October 24, 2018).

Dear Grandma,

Remember that night I called you to pick me up because my sister was sick and I wanted to be out of the house? I remember that night so clearly.  I think I was probably just 7 or 8 years-old.  I can still see you pulling up in front of our house to pick me up.  To me, you have always been such a place of comfort and happiness.  I loved our evening together.  I remember driving to the Ralph’s to get popsicles.  I remember sleeping with you in your bed.  While I don’t remember this, I am sure you made eggs, bacon, sourdough toast, and half a grapefruit with a cherry on top for breakfast.  I love sourdough and grapefruits because of you.  Honestly, I don’t even particularly love the bitterness of grapefruit, but it is one of my favorite morning fruits because it reminds me of you.  Grapefruits now are much more than a pink, bitter fruit.  Grapefruits are happiness.  Grapefruits are peace. Grapefruits are fun (especially with a cherry on top).

I hope you know how much I love you.  As a little girl, I adored you.  As a young woman, I admire you.  I admire your strength.  You are one of the strongest woman I know.  Not everyone can make it 99 years.  I know that is a long time, and I know those latter years were probably not your favorite, but you endured.  You held on and even in the harder last days, you laughed and you loved. You even met your first great-grandson, Hudson.  I was so touched by the amount of gratitude you demonstrated in being able to meet him.  You just kept repeating his name, and stated how lucky you were.  We are the lucky ones.  We have been so blessed by your life, grandma.  You have taken such good care of all of us, and continue to do so as Lance, Hudson and I live in your house.  Now that you have passed, in some ways it has been hard living in your old house.  However, I am also thankful for it.  I am daily reminded of you as I look out the kitchen window and see the purple flowers (purple was one thing we always had in common).  I smile as I play with Hudson and Nala in the side yard and think about you chasing after me as a little girl.  I feel your presence as I prepare dinner for our family in the kitchen using the very same rice cooker you used to make so many delicious meals for all of us.  While at times, my heart feels so heavy as I look at all the things that remind me of you, my heart also feels so much gratitude for your life, for the fact that I had 24 years with you, and for everything you have done for our family.

Not only do I admire your strength, I admire all the skills and talents you possessed.  You were so incredibly gifted. While it has been years, dinners at your house were always my favorite. I loved all the Japanese flavors you always incorporated.  There was something about the food you made.  Even something as simple as eggs, it always seemed to taste better coming from your kitchen.  I can still remember picnics we had with you and grandpa.  You would make a certain type of chicken. It was the most delicious chicken. These memories now are faint because these picnics were about 20 years ago, but I loved them.  I loved being with both you and grandpa and I loved that chicken you made.  Besides your food, you also made beautiful blankets.  I think your knitting largely helped keep your brain so sharp.  When I packed for college, I can remember one of the few things I packed that I felt like I needed was the beige knitted blanket you made me.  This might have been one of the last things you knitted.  It was around my sophomore year that I decided I wanted to learn to knit.  At the time I did not make the connection, but reflecting back, I am certain this was because of you.  I was only able  to make a knitted rectangle, but I hope to one day pick it up again and make blankets just like you.

Of all that you taught me, the piece that sticks with me most is the way in which you loved.  You loved with such an open heart.  You loved your family, your friends, the Dodgers, playing cards, the color purple, and hummingbirds.  You loved everyone in your life so well, and you were loved so incredibly much.  I think back to the day you picked me up when I could not stand to be in the house because my sister was sick.  I think that memory is so imprinted in my head because it captures the abundant love you had for me and the equally abundant love I had for you.  This love will never stop. I will forever love you, grandma. Thank you for everything.

P.S. I cannot wait to show Hudson the pictures of you and him, and tell him about his amazing great-grandmother.

Love Your Granddaughter,

Kelli