Why We All Need an Off-Season

Recently I have been writing a lot about motherhood things, but today I would like to spend some time on running.  It has been nearly two months since the marathon, which is a bit crazy to me. Time is moving. In those two months, my running has been very minimal.  I have been very slowly returning to it. I still take a few days off from running per week and have only had two longer runs (10 and 12 miles, respectively) since the race.  And I am totally good with this slow return back to higher mileage and greater intensity.  I am embracing this off-season. I am approaching this topic of the off-season from a running perspective, but the truth is, no matter what we do, we need time to step away from the high intensity of it all.

Just within the past couple weeks I have become more consistent with my runs.  I have mentioned this on here before but I will map out when and how much I will run on Sunday before the week gets going.  Even if it is just me writing down mileage in pencil in my floral planner, you better believe I will hit that mileage.  If it is written, it is happening. It is this type of intensity and commitment that really got me through the tough days of marathon training when I did not have a team or a coach.  

Mother and son in the ocean together.
Recently, I have been doing a lot of this.

Make Adjustments

Two Fridays ago, I adjusted my mileage.  That day I was supposed to run 6 miles.  The run started later than I typically like, and it was already incredibly hot out.  I was pushing the jogger and within my first few steps I could sense it was going to be a bad run.  That first mile is usually a pretty good indicator for me on how the rest of the run will go. In mile one, I already felt so sluggish and weak.  I could have pushed through and ran the full 6. Instead, I listened to my body and in the middle of my park loops told Hudson that we were running home.  I told him that mommy was hot, tired, and weak. I made an adjustment.  

In college, it was all about pushing and proving.  This mentality is something that is still within me.  To some degree, I love this about myself, but there are days where I need to remind myself that I am not a collegiate runner or a pro runner.  I am a mom. I can have days off, days where I run less, days where I just jog. This holding back and listening to my body is hard for me. I am running such low mileage right now without any workouts, and if I am honest, I feel guilty. It feels like I am slacking, and that I should be doing more.

Female runner running in sports bra on running trail.
And not a lot of this.

Make Future Goals

These feelings are rather funny because I literally have no need to run at all. I have no coach or team, but these pressurized feelings that have been placed on running seem to not easily be shaken. And I am okay with this to some degree.  I feel like I still have a lot left in my legs. I want to still push and prove; however, it is just going to look different and there will be more adjustments, especially in these months where the focus is not all about training. I have a few other things on my plate right now that I am prioritizing over miles.

Right now, I am just running to run, but currently trying to figure out a couple races to put on the calendar before Boston!  That is one big, exciting thing that I have not mentioned on here yet. Two weeks ago, Lance and I registered for the Boston Marathon.  This has been the goal motivating me since the spring and it is so exciting to see it all coming to fruition. It is 7 months away, which worries me slightly because who knows what will happen in those months, but if it is aligned with God’s will, I can’t wait to show up to the start line at Boston.  This date of April 20th excites me because it gives me a clear indicator of something to train for and it will help pull me out of my current off-season.

All this to say, set big goals for yourself.  Chase after them wholeheartedly, but don’t be afraid to adjust along the way.  Don’t be afraid to run slow to eventually run fast. Don’t be afraid to run less to eventually run more.  It is so easy to let the dreams and goals take over. It is easy to feel like we should push, push, push. But we all need an off-season.  We ultimately, need to slow down.

Off-Seasons are for Everyone

This relates to you if you are a runner or not. We need time away from high intensity and high output. We need a season that is off. If you are like me, you will keep running, keep doing the thing that you love, but it will not takeover your days in quite the same way it does when you are in the peak of training.  These off-seasons are tough because it feels like too slow and too low, but I firmly believe it is these times that will ultimately allow for big things to happen for later seasons to come.  

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.

Marathon Training Tips

So you want to run a marathon, but you have no idea where to start? Then, you are in the right place. I am going to break down my training to give you some tips and inspiration when creating your own plan. The idea of 26.2 miles can feel very daunting, even for someone that has been a runner for over 10 years. The key is to start small and build from there. Especially if you do not regularly run, you cannot just jump into high mileage and workouts. You need to slowly acclimate your body to the mileage. There are tons of training programs you can access online. A popular one is the Hal Higdon training programs, which I am linking here. There are different plans based on the type of runner you are. I think these plans can be a great starting point, but I also think it is important to craft the plan to your specific body and life. Don’t be afraid to get a plan and then make the proper adjustments that make sense for you. Don’t be afraid to change around days or to increase mileage on certain days and take days off when you are struggling. I am not training with the same intensity I did in college; therefore, I am not in as good of shape. However, this is one of the first times where my body feels genuinely good and strong. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I am in charge of my own training. The truth is, you know your body best. If you are disciplined, there is no better coach to have than yourself. Who knows your body better? With that said, no one should train for a marathon alone and isolated. Even if you are largely making decisions on your training, you should still absolutely consult with someone else to make sure you are on the right track. Marathon training is hard work, if possible, find a tribe that helps keep you motivated and consistent.

If you are postpartum and beginning to train for a marathon, you can go back and read my specific tips for postpartum marathon training, here.

Today, I want to give more specific training tips for marathon training. I am not a coach or by any means a marathon expert. This is my first ever marathon! So, I get it, maybe not the most credible, but there is this quotation that makes me feel a bit more credible when it comes to marathons:

“To run your best marathon you have to be in your best 10K shape. To be in your best 10K shape you have to be in your best 5K shape.” -Randy Thomas, Women’s XC Head Coach at Boston College

I have lots of experience when it comes to training for fast 5Ks. This is really the base of good marathon training, but of course the mileage and longer steady states must be added. So this might be my first time training for a marathon, but I have years of 5K training under my belt. I also believe a huge aspect to good marathon training is patience. You can’t jump into that 20 mile long run. You have to build and build and patiently await the 26th mile. It will come, and you will be ready.

These tips are definitely more geared to the busy person that is trying to squeeze marathon training into an already hectic schedule. This is for those that love running, but running is not everything. This is for those that want to hit their goal, whatever that might be (BQ, sub-fill-in-the blank hours, or just crossing that finish line), but do not want training to take over their lives. So if you’re still with me, and saying yes, yes, yes, that is me, then here are 5 tips to consider when beginning to marathon train:

Start Where You Are

There are tons and tons of training plans to choose from, but I think one of the best ways to create a training plan that works for your body, is starting exactly where you are and slowly building from there. I am not going to get into the technicalities of the training plan because there is so much variation based on running background, but I think a general rule of thumb is to start with what you have been doing. So for example, if before you decided to run a marathon, you were running 4 miles, 4 times a week. So, 16 miles per week. Start that as week 1 of training. In terms of start date, that will also vary based on running experience, but as long as you aren’t going from zero running, 4 months out is plenty of time to build. If you are going from literally not running at all, I would give yourself an extra month to just work on getting used to running occasionally. Back to my example. If you start with week 1 at 4 days of running per week, averaging about 16 miles, then each week, you will want to slowly increase by no more than about 4 miles. Again, this is a very basic way of thinking of it, but that number 4 was a helpful tool to help me build. I also started at running 4 days a week. I naturally increased this to 5 and then to 6 days a week. You will reach a point where it is easier to increase weekly mileage by having a really easy 4-5 mile run on one of the days you typically took off. You will also want to choose the maximum volume you wish to hit. There is definitely a point where more miles is not necessarily the answer to a faster marathon time. This is known as the law of diminishing returns. Choose your number and try to not go over it. This is again very much based on experience and your personal body, but for me, I am finding that 60 is a good number. Again, I have built to this type of mileage and I have only hit 60 for the first time about 6 weeks out from the marathon. I am staying at 60 for about a month of training and then will taper (cut back on mileage) last 2 weeks before the race. While this is definitely not crazy high mileage for a marathon, I know my body, I know my life, and right now 60 is what makes sense.

Designate a Day for Tempo Runs and Long Runs

And stay consistent! Every Wednesday is my workout days. I am at the point that I don’t even think about it. I just know that Wednesdays I need to push myself. I also then know that Thursdays and Fridays, I recover and just run based off of effort. That leads to the big long run days, which I choose to run on Saturdays. I treat Saturdays with extra care and importance. To me, these are the most important days of training. I think it is essential to have this type of training rhythm. Our bodies are smart and I believe they respond well to the same patterns over and over again.

Be Particular About Pace

Depending on your goals, pace will play a different role into your training, but regardless if you are going for the Boston Qualifier time or want to hit sub- 4 hours, pace is important. Again, lots of theories on how to pace, but based on my college training I am used to using VDOT pacing. Here is the link to the best VDOT calculator. I love this method of training because it makes pacing very straightforward. Even if you have not run a race recently, you can put your goal marathon time in and it will calculate your pace for the race, but if you click on the “Training” tab next to the “Race Paces” tab, it will give you the mile pace for easy/recovery runs, T-pace (threshold or tempo pace), I-pace (interval pace, so think mile repeats), and R-pace (repetition pace, so think hard and painful). If you get anything from this whole piece, this should be the takeaway. This is a great to make sure you are on target to hit your goal pace. Final thing on pacing, pay attention to it on workout and long run days, but really try to go off of effort on the other training days. On my easy runs I rarely look down at my pace. There is something to having runs where pace is not the focus, just feeling good and getting in the miles.

Train on Terrain Similar to Course

Know the course you are running ahead of time. Each course is different, so do your research to find out what type of course you will be dealing with (flat, hilly, rolling, down hill). Based on the course, make sure you are getting in runs that expose you to those elements. If you are running a really hilly course, it doesn’t make sense to only run on flat surfaces. Find the hills in your area and incorporate them into your runs. You can also incorporate hill workouts by doing harder effort hill repeats. The best situation of course, is to get to train on the course, but for most of us, this is not always possible. Even if the race will be your first time on the course, try to replicate it as best you can on training runs.

Take Days Off!

Your body needs rest. It is easy to fall into the more is better trap, especially when you are training for 26 miles, but your body needs proper rest to be able to absorb training. I am the type of person that sometimes struggles with rest days, especially when I am anxious about hitting my goal time. It really helps me when I think about taking days off from running as a way to get better and help my body absorb the training. Changing your perspective on rest and days off make it so much easier to allow your body the rest it needs. I often think about how an extra 8 miles will not do me that much more good, but it can definitely cause injury or burnout.

I hope these tips can help as you start your marathon training! If you do have a marathon on the calendar, I would love to hear which one and how training is going. Leave a comment below!

Starting Slow, Finishing Strong

This mama needs to start slow.  In college, I used to be able to roll out of bed, slide on my shoes, and hit the pavement at a 6-something-minute pace.  Emphasis here on used to.  The funny thing is that college for me was not even that long ago, I am just three years out, but my sense of pace has already greatly shifted, both in a literal and figurative sense.  My pace in terms of running has definitely changed.  My current pace now is what I used to think of as a slow, shakeout run.  But it is not just running, it is an overall life pace that I can feel is shifting as I type this.  In college, it was about going.  It was about jumping into cold pools before the sun rose.  It was about midnights in libraries and drinking coffee at 1am.  It was about miles and miles; pages on pages; words upon words.  It was all about speed and getting things done.  Trust me, I am still all about getting things done and accomplished, but my pace is entirely different.  I need to start slow.  I need to warm-up.  I need to lie in bed just a few extra minutes and wake up as I read just a couple pages.  I need to sit and sip in silence.  I need to stay in pajamas just a bit longer.  I need to hold my baby and not worry about my to-do list for just a few moments longer.  I need to take it slow.

I am all about the slower starts, the lazy mornings, the clear schedules.  My whole essence thirsts for the slower pace.  This easing into things is becoming essential to me.  It is essential for how I run and also how I live.  The danger in this, however, is when we stay in the slow and never learn to shift gears into the uncomfortable.  I start slow, but I never finish there.  While starting slow is key to me, shifting gears into uncomfortable speeds is also required.  I was reminded of this inherit need for speed (ignore the cliche rhyme) last week when I returned to the track.  My feet literally have not touched a track in just about 3 years.  Last time I was on a track was June 2016 in Kansas for my last collegiate 5k.  So, it has been some time.  And I could feel this separation.  I was doing a 10 by 400 meter workout with my dad so kindly agreeing to take my splits.  The first one felt raw and scary and too fast.  The second, third and fourth felt like I had made a mistake in choosing to workout at the track.  The fifth and sixth one felt completely numb, yet still painful.  But it was the seventh one that made sense.  It was in that seventh 400 meters that I hit my stride.  I felt back at home.  I remembered the turns and the straight aways and where to settle and where to push.  Don’t get me wrong.  The 7th-10th 400 were still painful and uncomfortable, but by number 7 I knew I would finish.  I knew I would not slow down.  Is this not life? It is hard, hard, hard, and then you hit a point of endurance.  It does not necessarily get easy, but it becomes endurable.  You become stronger, more confident, and more fierce, that by number 7 you know you are not stopping.

It is a great balancing act to create a life that holds both the slow and the burning speed.  It takes trial and error.  There are days that will feel too slow and days that have way too much intensity.  So you adjust.  You learn.  You create good patterns and break the ones that always put you into ruts.  I am learning that timing and structure are key elements in helping me balance the slow with the quick.  Here are 5 things that help me achieve this balance:

  1. Start Day Slow

I need to start my days at a very slow pace.  If I know I have a commitment or somewhere to be early, I get up even earlier to allow for the space to wake up.  I no longer can just roll out of bed.  I need time.  I need coffee.  I need scripture.  I think a huge part of being able to work hard throughout the day is allowing the start of the day to be slow and gentle, not rushed and frantic.

2. List and Schedule 

I am a list-oriented person.  I really struggle when I do not have lists to guide me.  I am always at the grocery store or Target, with a list in hand.  Even if it is the smallest errand, if I don’t write down: puffs, detergent, tea, and salad, I will become distracted or waste time.  Lists keep me focused.  I need them.  The same is true with my days.  As a teacher, I was my most productive self because I have the schedule of bells ringing throughout the day that kept me extremely structured.  As a stay-at-home mom, I must create these bells on my own.  For those mamas that work in the home, it can be so easy to waste our days.  It is essential to list out the “work” that must be done.  Not only list out what needs to happen in that day, but schedule it in so you know exactly when it will happen.  This helps keep me focused, so when I am doing the work elements, I am not thinking about yoga class and when I am in yoga, I am not thinking about laundry or dishes.  This is the ideal mindset and I don’t always succeed, but this is the goal.  List and schedule, so the lines of work and rest don’t run and bleed into each other.

3. Commit and Don’t Back Down

For me, one of the most important practices when balancing working hard and resting well is making sure I stay committed. It is so easy to back down and choose the easy route. It is so much easier to not do the hard work. It is also very easy to skip your time of rest and choose to do “the more important” things. Achieving balance happens best when we keep our commitments. Once I start backing out of commitments, I easily begin to fall into ruts. Even on the crazy, full days, if I have a workout scheduled, I need to follow through. It is that simple.

4. Schedule Rest 

This is one I am trying to currently figure out. Rest does not come naturally to me. I am learning that if I don’t schedule it, just like I would something important, like a meeting or a workout, it won’t happen. Some days I follow through and take this time of rest seriously, while others I ignore it and prioritize other things. Part of starting slow, and finishing strong, means that there also must be a middle time of slow and quiet and calm. For me, this does not usually mean taking a nap at 1pm. It looks more like grabbing a book and getting off my feet for 15 minutes. It looks like stopping. It looks like sitting. It looks like espresso in my favorite mug right after Hudson falls asleep for his final nap. It ultimately looks like surrendering to the Lord and relying on His strength, not my own work and capabilities and production.

5. Finish Strong

In a race, the goal is always to finish strong. No matter how fast you started or even if you lost a shoe in the first 100 meters, finishing strong is what matters. Just like certain runs, I end my days on burn out. I collapse. I stop. I trudge my feet. This is not what I want for my life. I want to end each day stronger than when I woke up. And sometimes I fail. I hit a wall and waste hours watching the Bachelor. I hate how I do this, but it is the truth. I don’t always finish my days strong. I sometimes, oftentimes, crawl into bed, emptied and exhausted and fixed to a screen. The best ways for me to avoid this place is to set limits on work and screens, so by 8 or 9 pm, I can fill up, spend time with Lance, and rest in knowing that enough has been done. If I don’t have clear time limits, I can quickly crumble into a place of weakness and mindlessness.

There is a time for the slow and a time for the head down, grinding, uncomfortable pace too. I have strong tendencies to live in the extremes. I have days where I stay in pajamas too long. I have days where I am-consumed with work and cleaning. Some days I get it terribly wrong, today might be one of those, but my prayer for today is that I can continue to strive at living a more balanced pace, so I can ultimately be more in-tune to the Lord’s will for my life.

 

 

To Read

This mama needs to read.  I think a lot of people can relate to this feeling of not feeling like they have time to read.  For me, reading can sometimes feel indulgent.  The act of just sitting down to read a book that is just for enjoyment can sometimes feel too much like vacation mode.  Isn’t it interesting that it is totally fine to read a book for fun on vacation, but when it comes to every day life it feels harder to justify? This is definitely true for me!  It is much easier for me to read a book that feels more practical, like a book on sleep training your baby or a book on church, but those fun memoirs and fiction books feel like the books I need to wait for until I am on vacation.  I have a feeling this is not just me.  I think especially as women, we can feel guilty for taking the time to do the things that fill us up when we know there is plenty of things that need to be done.  I am writing this because my own heart needs to hear it! This is such a lie and we need to take the time to just sit and read a book that is just for fun.  It does not always need to be a practical one or one that is very heavy on theology.  In the past month I have been learning to fall back in love with the act of reading just to read.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, I used to adore reading.  I would stay up past my bed time, reading with my little reading lamp under the covers.  Reading was my thing and it was something I actively thought about during my day.  I looked forward to time alone with a good book.  Since then, life has changed quite a bit.  I am much more tired than I used to be.  My mind is much more busy and anxious.  My to-do list much longer and more complicated.  A lot has changed, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is my desire and love for words.  For a while, I have ignored it, only picking up books when I had to.  I was really only reading the books we were studying in the classes I taught.  Who has time to read books for pure pleasure?  Not me! I am busy! I have more important things to do.  This was my false logic at the time.  I did not realize that by denying this desire to read that has always been there, I was really missing out on something that helps calm my spirit and gives me clarity and creativity.  It was not until this new year that I finally began to really read again.  Since then, I have finished three books that were purely for fun.  How did I do it?  I deleted Instagram.  I truly believe this one act has allowed me to get so much more reading done.  Now, instead of constantly checking my phone, I am opening up pages.  This act is such a small difference, but it has completely shifted my mindset and perspective.  Instead of mindlessly scrolling and feeling jealous and comparative as I see the pretty lives of others, I am giving my mind rejuvenation as I fill it with inspiring stories and words.  I almost always walked away from Instragram feeling down, but when I put down my book, I feel calm and rested and productive.  It is a small change, but it really is changing a lot for me.  For some, Instagram and social media is not an issue, but for me it absolutely is.  I cannot handle it well.  I over-consume it.  For me, it is better to just have it deleted.  For some, books are not the things that fill them up and give them rest, but whatever that act is, I think it is so important to identify that for you and replace it with whatever is tearing you down.

Reading is becoming even more important with a little one in our home.  I know how quickly kids learn to imitate others and I want to do my very best to model being more interested in words and stories found in books, rather than the stories my friends post on social media.  I think one of the best ways to show this to him is by reading as much as we can together.  Even in these early months, I have enjoyed reading books with Hudson.  When was the last time you read a children’s book?  Or The Jesus Storybook Bible?  Even if you don’t have kids, you should really pick one up.  It is amazing how much I learn in children’s books and how touched I am by them.  They get at my heart in a way that adult books don’t.  One of our favorite books to read is a Veggie Tales Book called, God Made You Special.  I so resonate with the pages in that book.  Especially the ones on feeling down and not liking a certain trait of oneself.  This is me basically every day.  Recently, I have been faced with really questioning God as to why he made my personality so shy and unsure at times.  For as long as I can remember, I have always been one of the quieter ones in the room.  I still get nervous to share in group settings.  My heart races when I feel like everyone is looking at me.  I over think before saying a word that by the time I do speak, my words are fragmented and shaky.  I have recently been wondering why God made me this way.  I often look at other people that do not struggle in this area.  I admire their confidence, boldness and outgoing nature.  It is so easy to wish we were made differently.  I know I do.  But this book, this book for children reminds me the truth that my heart so desperately needs to hear: God made you special.  My point in sharing this is to point to the fact that you don’t need to be reading Shakespeare or Hemingway or Austen to be deeply moved.  Sometimes all it takes is some Veggie Tales.  If you are anything like me, you could use less screens and more pages and words and chapters.  So, instead of thinking of it as an indulgent act that you will do if there is time, I would suggest pausing and taking the time to pick up a good book right now.  The dishes can wait.  Reading is more important.

Coffee-Stained Seashells

Sundays are again becoming my very favorite days of the week.  I used to be all about Fridays, especially when I worked.  Fridays were always nights Lance and I went out for dinner and it was the beginning of time away from work and students and stress.  When we had Hudson, Friday night dinners out became less frequent.  We tried to continue with this tradition but it turned out that by Friday we both preferred to stay inside and not deal with the stresses that come with a baby in a nice restaurant.  I still love Fridays, of course, but they lost some of the meaning they once held to me.  Now, Sundays are my favorite.  Maybe part of the reason for that is I no longer have the dread of Monday, but I think it more has to do with the fact that we are more intentional with our Sundays.  Sundays used to feel like catch up days.  It felt like cramming a lot into one day.  Sundays were church plus everything else that did not get done in the week.  Now, they are church plus rest.  This past Sunday embodied this new intention.

I think my favorite part of these days are the fact that church and small group are the only two things on the agenda.  The hours between then can hold anything we want.  This particular Sunday we had less time than others, so we chose to get coffee and walk along the beach in Manhattan.  With coffee in hand, we walked right along the water.  It was low tide.  There was just the right amount of sun. There were people, but not too many because most were watching the football game.  There are moments I have when I feel this deep sense that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  This was one of those moments. I was present.  I was with my two favorite people (Lance and Hudson).  And I was not worried about producing or accomplishing anything.  All I was focused on were the beautiful seashells before me.  When was the last time you did something not out of obligation or necessity, but just because?  I know for me the answer to that question is not very often.  Walking along the shore, finding the most beautiful shells, collecting them in my empty coffee cup; reminded me that I need to fill my days more with moments like this.  I found so much joy in shuffling through the array of broken shells and misshaped rocks.  It gave my mind and heart pause.  It allowed the constant rolling voice in my head listing out the things that must be done to stop and fade away in the background.  Collecting shells at low tide on a Sunday afternoon might not be quite the thing that fills you up, but my point in writing this is to encourage you to find the thing that does.  Maybe it is going to a cafe to eat breakfast by yourself.  Maybe it is taking a long drive along the coast.  Maybe it is going antique shopping and finding a piece to make your home feel more complete.  It is freeing to allow yourself the permission to do things that do not always result in a measurable outcome.  It is okay to have moments that are simple.  It is okay to give ourselves pause and just focus on the shells.

When we got home, I opened up my Starbucks cup to find the three shells I collected.  There was a small amount of vanilla latte remaining, so the shells were stained with espresso.  The cup held an aroma of sea salt and vanilla.  It sounds slightly silly to put this into words, but opening up that cup and seeing those coffee-stained seashells I collected, brought me so much joy.  I washed them, hoping that some of that coffee scent would still remain.  I then placed them on the dresser in our room.  I laid each one out meticulously, giving space for each shell to shine on its own.  Some of you reading this, probably think I am crazy for doing this or even writing this.  I know it seems relatively insignificant and not fully worthy of even sharing, but I think it is.  I think it shows the importance of the little things.  It shows the value in doing the things that fill you up.  It shows that we do not need to spend a lot of money or do all the fancy things to enjoy our life.  Sometimes all you really need is to go down to the beach, or the park, or whatever quiet environment you choose and find something that bring you joy.  For me on this Sunday, it happened to be shells soaked in coffee.

I now look at these shells every time I am in our bedroom.  They are more than shells.  They are symbols of a life well lived.  Every time I look at these shells, I am now able to transport back to this Sunday afternoon.  Those shells will take me back to the waves crashing, the taste of a warm latte, the curiosity of Hudson as he takes it all in.  Those shells remind me it is okay to just wander.  It is okay to be spontaneous and not have every minute of the day planned out.  It is okay to just be.

Even since this past Sunday afternoon, there have already been multiple times that I have forgotten about the shells and fallen back into the cycle of work and obligation.  This past week was filled with a lot of shoulds.  It was filled with a lot of lists and time obligations.  Unfortunately, there was not a whole lot of seashell collecting that occurred.  And this is okay.  I am human and quite frankly, it takes just a second for me to forget what I really need.  What I truly need is not found on lists or even in the form of a shell.  It can only be found in Jesus.  Just like shells can symbolize baptism, those three coffee-stained shells remind me that through the grace of God, I am made new.  My work will never be enough nor will it ever save me.  I have messed up 10,000 times already this week.  I have yelled at Lance.  I have been impatient with Hudson as I wake up for the 5th time in the middle of the night.  I get frantic as I am trying to feed Hudson and get dinner in the crockpot and get out the door in time for baby yoga.  I have very quickly forgotten about that peaceful Sunday afternoon where I was restful and just looking for pretty shells.  This is how sin operates.  We turn away and focus on our selves in an instant.  Thankfully Jesus offers us abundant grace.  Thankfully those shells do not leave and will be there for us next Sunday to return to.

Chocolate Cake & Blueberries

This mama needs chocolate cake and blueberries.  I am writing this on Sunday afternoon, and right before I sat down to begin writing, I cut myself a generous slice of vegan chocolate cake.  While I normally would not indulge in chocolate cake anytime before 6pm, I figured it is still my birthday weekend so chocolate cake at 3pm is allowed.  To give a little insight as to how my brain works, I chose to top it with a handful of blueberries to balance it out.  Now, blueberries are a perfect topping to cake, but I am more interested in exploring why I tossed those blueberries on.  I honestly did not even feel like eating blueberries.  I really just wanted my leftover vegan cake, but internally that felt too indulgent.  This is a small and silly example, but in a similar vein to my post last week on rest, I too often find myself adding something to what alone is perfectly good and acceptable.  Why is it so hard to just eat the cake?

Reflecting on this further, maybe adding the blueberries is a good thing.  There is something incredibly valuable in balance.  It probably would not be the best to eat cake alone every afternoon, but cake with some antioxidant-filled blueberries every once and a while is a good thing.  I need to start living my days more from this cake and blueberry mindset.  By this I mean that I need to incorporate more balance.  My Mondays and Sundays are in stark contrast.  For me, Mondays are cleaning days.  I spend basically the entire day cleaning.  Sundays are resting days.  Especially recently, I have tried to be much more intentional on the ways we spend our Sundays.  While I don’t think there is anything wrong with having days dedicated to specific things, there needs to be balance.  On Mondays, I usually end the day so burnt out because I spent the majority of my time cleaning.  Continuing with my metaphor, Mondays are all about the blueberries, but even Mondays need a sliver of cake.  Sundays are all about the cake.  No laundry.  Crockpot dinners.  No agenda.  However, a day full of cake is not good for us either.  We need protein.  We need vitamins.  We need color.  As I am currently learning, Sundays also need blueberries.  It can’t just be cake.  Balance is needed on a daily basis, but that balance is going to look different with each day.  Certain days, work will outweigh play and rest; others the rest will be the focus.  I think we can get into ruts when we forget the importance of balancing our days out.  We forget to add the blueberries to the cake.

Will the Sabbath be ruined if we sweep the floors?  Will the Monday cleaning day be ruined if I take a nap? I have a habit of functioning in a black and white mindset that does not leave room for in-betweens.  It is either all or nothing.  I am learning this is not a healthy way to live.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with occasionally having a big slice of cake on its own,  I hope to better strive at creating my days with greater balance that makes room for both the cake parts of life and also the blueberries elements because the truth is- they both are sweet on their own and even sweeter together.

Rest

This mama needs rest.  

Resting is something that does not come naturally to me.  I really wish it did because it is so important, but it doesn’t.  In the moments of my day that actually lend themselves well for rest, I seem to resist real rest in place of what I am calling “pretend rest.”  I think we all have a tendency to do this.  Last night, I had an unexpected window of free time.  This could have been an ideal time for rest.  I could of curled up and read more of my book.  I could have just laid down and turned on a show.  I could of just closed my eyes for a few minutes and prayed.  I could have done all these activities of rest, but instead I chose “pretend rest.”  I chose to fold the laundry, while watching “Tidying Up.”  What I really wanted to do was just lay there and watch Marie Kondo perfectly fold laundry, but that is too restful.  I must do that plus something productive.  Why do we do this?  In my life, I seem to always blend rest with what actually needs to be accomplished, which ultimately results in mediocre rest.  I don’t want mediocre rest. I want real rest.  I want the type of rest where you just nap in the middle of the day, not because you are sick, but just because.  I find the only time I truly grant my body rest is when it is fully in need of it.  When I am hit with terrible body aches and feel sick, then I can just lay there and rest.  However, if I am feeling good, I forget that I am still in need of rest in the middle of my days. I need to better grant myself permission to fully rest, not pretend rest.  Pretend rest looks like folding laundry and watching a show.  It looks like laying down while going through emails.  It looks like emptying the dishwasher while listening to a sermon.  Don’t get me wrong, these things listed above can be great ways to get things done while also relaxing or doing something more fulfilling, but I think the issue is when we deem these things as our true rest.  Rest plus something else cannot equal pure rest. Rest alone equals pure rest.  It is that simple.

I need a lot of grace in this area of my life.  I need to not just rest and turn everything off, I need to rest in the fullness of what God has already accomplished and done for me.  Everything I could do will never be enough.  It will never save me.  I am enough and I am saved solely through the grace of God.  I was reminded of this truth as I read Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:5-8 earlier this week:

“You are saved by grace!  He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift- not from works so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:5-8).

I feel like I can end this here.  There is not much else I can write that is not perfectly captured in those verses from Ephesians.  It is all God.  It is all grace.  And it is all good.  We are so little and are to-do lists are so insignificant to what has already been accomplished.  Therefore, there is no point in filling our time with pretend rest when what we truly need is to fully rest in the goodness of God and his ever-sufficient grace.

To Leave the Laundry

This mama needs to leave the laundry.  I am a list-type of person.  I easily become unfocused and overwhelmed when I don’t have a list to direct my day.  Even if I don’t have a physical list on paper, I feel like I am constantly carrying around a mental list in my head.  I am currently learning that I am writing these lists in all the wrong ways.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with a to-do list, if that list is not composed correctly or with enough breaks and rest and joy, that list is going to leave you burned out.  The way I write out my lists is that I think of all the practical things that need to get done.  Regardless of what day it is, I can almost guarantee that there will be dishes in the sink and dirty laundry in the basket.  These two tasks seem to be never-ending.  Once I list these things out, I tack on the things that really bring me joy, like writing this blog, reading my new copy of Homebody, and working on a scrapbook of Hudson’s first year, to the very end of the list.  I do this almost every day and the same thing happens nearly every day.  I don’t get to the things that truly fill me up and bring me joy.  The result? I end my days feeling exhausted, burned out, and ironically unproductive.  By doing the things that I have to do, I end not feeling as fulfilled or even as productive because the projects that really energize are left untouched.  While the kitchen is usually pretty tidy and laundry never sits in the basket untouched for very long, the scrapbook project I began sits in the corner of our bedroom neglected.  The books I’ve been looking forward to reading have piled up.  The empty room I have been looking forward to converting to a playroom gathers dust.

All this to conclude that I need to restructure how I write out my lists.  I need to start putting some of the things that really bring me joy at the top of my lists not at the very bottom.  I need to be more intentional about writing in things like pause, rest, play.  I need to be okay with occasionally leaving the laundry and instead picking up that book.  I need to fully let go of this false notion that in order to do the fun, fulfilling, and restful things; I must first accomplish the mundane and necessary things of life.  While the laundry of course must be done and the dishes must be put away and the dinners must be made; it is not always as urgent as I make it out to be.  Laundry can pile up for one more day.  Dishes can sit over night.  Dinner can come out later and be more simple.

The irony in all of this, is that I am still in the midst of learning this lesson for myself.  I have begun this post over a week ago.  I have been interrupted multiple times in writing this.  What were the interruptions? Laundry, a baby, dinner.  I know deep in my heart what I long for and could actually use, but I still do the things I feel are the priority.  I am still learning, but hopeful that I can slowly let go of the “have to’s” in order to embrace the “love to’s”.