When You Don’t Feel Like It

All day I have been planning on sitting down to get some writing in. It is now nearly 9 pm and these are the first words I am creating all day, minus the numerous text messages I sent out. The thing is I could of easily squeezed in an hour of solid writing, but instead I dilly-dallied, I mindlessly scrolled and consumed social media, and I watched unnecessary drama on the Bachelorette. The task of writing has been in the back of my head all day, but I seemed to put everything ahead of it. The 9 miles, the loads and loads of laundry, the dirty dishes, the grocery list, the dinner, the banana bread, the party planning. I think what I really needed today was to write. I needed quiet. I needed time alone, time to string words together. I needed the steady rhythm of finger tips tapping away. I needed to sort things in my head through. I needed reflection and revision. This is what I needed. But instead, I avoided it. I clicked on Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, Netflix. Anything, but write. I did not feel like it today. I did not want to write another post that only my husband, mother, and a few kind people will read. I did not want to write today, but here I am, at 8:50 pm, writing. And with each passing word, I feel better. That is what I want to talk about today. How do we do the things that are good for us, even on the days or weeks or years when we simply don’t feel like it? That is a loaded question. And to be honest, I don’t really have an answer, but I have a few thoughts.

Right now you could probably name a handful of things you don’t feel like doing. I sure can. Going on a run. Making the bed. Folding all those loads of laundry I previously mentioned. Emptying the dishwasher. Waking up early. Eating healthy. Being kind. Reading a book. Writing. And the list could go on. Those last three might be the most surprising, but if I’m being honest, right now, kindness does not feel natural to me, nor does reading or writing. Here’s the thing, if I lived my days off of my current feelings, not much would get accomplished. I would eat a lot of sugar, watch Grey’s Anatomy, and be alone in my room. That’s the truth. Clearly, my feelings can’t be trusted. Watching endless hours of hospital drama and consuming lots and lots of sugar is not a recipe to a fulfilled life. This is why I have such a problem with the phrase “follow your heart.” Follow my heart? Really? My heart can’t be trusted. It’s broken, sinful, selfish. My heart will lead me astray. Every. Single. Time. Sure, it might feel right in the moment, but long term, the feelings of my heart won’t satisfy. Only Jesus will. I need to follow Him, not my heart. And the thing with Jesus is that He is in the business of people and serving. So following Him, naturally revolves around these two things. For an introvert, this is not always easy. Following Jesus is not always the easy thing to do, it actually rarely is, but it is always the right thing. My heart can’t be trusted, but He certainly can.

So, returning back to that question. How do we do the good things, the things our soul longs for, even when that is not our natural inclination? I think the first part to answering this question, is learning how to differentiate between what our human heart longs for and the calling of Jesus in our lives. This is a good time to mention that I do believe that these two things can and should line up at times. This is the mark of a mature faith that is immersed in the Word. However, I am coming more from a post-vacation mindset. We just got back from a trip to NYC. We had the best time, but I fell completely out of normal rhythms. We squeezed a ton into our few days into the city. We even made a relatively detailed itinerary to ensure we got all the things we wanted to eat, see, and do in. We had full, fun days. We stuffed our faces with lobster rolls and cookies the size of our faces. We rode the subway back and forth, all over the city. We ran along the Hudson River, did loops in Central Park, and walked all over. My Fitbit has never hit such high numbers. We did all the things, but there was a sacrifice. My quiet, morning devotional time. That vanished. We forgot to include that in the itinerary. And if I’m honest, it put me into a bit of a slump. I forget how important some of my daily patterns I place into my life are. I need time alone with God. I need to be in the Word daily. My heart gets weird without this. I become lazy. I desire tv over discipline. Especially as I recover from this post-vacation hangover, my daily patterns and routines become even more important. I need to get back into these rhythms. I need to wake up early, even though I definitely do not feel like it. I need to open my Bible, not Instagram. I need to write, even when the words seems to not be there. I need to run hard, even when I want to just stay in a comfortable pace. And most importantly I need to love. I need to love and serve the people in my life, even though what my heart really desires is to retreat and be alone. There are seasons where everything I listed above comes so much more naturally. I leap out of bed. I enthusiastically open my Bible. The words come easily. The miles do too. And kindness is my attitude of choice. However, again, if I’m honest, there are more days where this is not the case. This is where patterns of discipline become so important. I write a lot about routines and daily rhythms, and the reason is because they keep me on track. They help me to do the good things I need in my life, even when I don’t feel like it.

I know I began by saying I didn’t fully have an answer to the question, but I think this is my answer. Establish daily, weekly, monthly, yearly patterns in your life and stick with them. Do them with a no matter what-ness attitude. The thing that I love about routine is that it takes away some of the thinking and decision making. This could be why I thrived in high school. A lot of my days were determined by a pre-existing bell schedule. The bells have faded away. Now, it is up to me to create the bells, the rhythms, the patterns. All this to say, vacation and stepping away from normal life is a good thing, but if you’re anything like me, it can be harmful to step away from the patterns that keep you grounded and rooted. So, when you don’t feel like doing all the things, check the patterns in your life, check what is taking up your minutes, check what it is you are consuming. Are you taking in Truth or bad television drama? It may seem like a small choice, but it is these little choices that make all the difference. It could be that you need to make just a few small adjustments to get back on track. Or, it could be that you just need to do the thing even when every fiber of your body and mind is fighting against it. This morning, I had a long tempo run I was supposed to do. I have done this tempo run for the past three Wednesday’s, except I missed it this past Wednesday due to travel. This small break in routine, made me really not want to run it today. And along with that deep, internal feeling of dreading something, there were things that happened along the way that made me want to choose the easy thing: skip the tempo. I was very close to choosing this option, but something kept tugging me along. And I did it. I did it even though I lost a contact in one of my eyes, the route I normally do was completely closed off, and my breathing was much harder than normal. And here’s the thing: my pace was slower than previous weeks, my focus was slightly fuzzy (probably due to the fact I had clear vision in only one eye), and I wanted to just stop basically every mile. But, I did it. To me, this tempo was my best so far in training. Again, it was not the fastest one. I actually felt the worst on this one, but I pushed through. I did not let go of my no matter attitude. Outwardly, not the best performance, but inwardly, it required way more focus and discipline than the days where the miles and pace were effortless. The thing I kept thinking about when I was running this morning was about how a lot of people can do the things when it comes easily, but what really allows you to stand out from the crowds is when you do it on the days where every part of you is fighting against it. This is where true character is built.

So, if you’re with me, and don’t feel like doing all the things, especially the things you technically don’t need to do, you should. Run when it’s the last thing you want to. Write even when the words flow as slow as molasses. Just start, and you will find your rhythm, it might just take until mile 9 or the 1,000th word.

Routines Pt. 1

For the month of February, Saturdays will be all about routines.  This will be a four part series exploring ideas for morning, midday, evening, and weekend routines.  I am all about routines, especially recently with baby H.  Are you with me?  Do you love routines too?  Read on, then!  Are you more of a go with the flow type of person and tend to be against routine?  Still, I would say, read on!  I think routines are obviously going to look very different based on lifestyle, but I do believe routines are essential regardless of life status.  We all need them.  From the college student to the SAHM (stay at home mom) to the CEO to the freelance photographer, even to your toddler; routines are for everyone.

The Morning Routine 

I used to believe to my very core that I was a morning person.  I lived for early morning wake up calls.  I loved getting up before everyone else.  I loved the quiet and the early morning coffee time.  Don’t get me wrong, I never leaped out of bed ready for the day (except maybe for a select time in college when I had less responsibility).  I did however, want to get up early and enjoyed it after I was out of bed. Then I had a baby.  I was no longer a morning person, nor was I night owl; I was not really sure what I was.  Maybe an afternoon person.  Is that a thing?  It took a few long months for me to realize that the lack of a morning routine was really messing up my whole day and leaving me feeling cranky, unproductive, and dare I say, mad.  Mad does not look good on me, or really anyone for that matter, but the early days and months of Hudson, I was not as joyful as I should have been.  There are many reasons for this shift in mood and attitude, but I do think a large part of it had to do with not having a good morning routine that put me in the right frame of mind to face whatever that day held for me.  What works for you is likely to be quite different, but here are 5 general tips to start building your morning routine that gets your day started right.

1. Set an Alarm

Trust me, I hate the sound of an alarm going off as much as the next person, but I learned that even when you don’t need to, setting an alarm is one of the best ways to start the day.  Why?  I think part of the reason alarms can be so important to a morning routine is because they help you start your day off demonstrating discipline.  We are faced with thousands of decisions per day, research even concludes that the average adult person makes about 35,000 decision in a day.  That is a lot of opportunities to either demonstrate discipline or not.  By choosing to get out of bed when your alarms rings, you are allowing your first decision making opportunity one in which you are saying yes to your day and no to the comfort of continuing to sleep.  We often focus more on the big decisions in our day like where we are going, what we are doing, and who we are seeing, but tend to not to give as much weight to the smaller ones that fill our days.  These smaller ones are just as important and can make or break a day. All this to say, that setting an alarm is important and actually listening to that alarm is even more important.  I definitely have noticed a difference with my days where I stop or snooze my alarm versus the days I get up right when my alarm sounds.  Set an alarm, get up early, start your day saying yes.

2. Make Your Bed

I have gone in and out of bed making phases.  I sometimes fall in the trap of believing the lie: “I don’t have time to make my bed”.  Time how long it takes to make your bed.  For me, it takes about 1 minute.  Granted, we have a pretty simple bed, you might be fancier with more throw pillows and such, but the reality is that making your bed does not take long at all.  No matter how crazy life can feel, we can always choose to make our beds.  It seems like a small choice, but starting the day by completing a task is extremely satisfying.  In the matter of the first 10 minutes of waking up, I have already made two positive choices.  Gotten out of bed and made it.  When the morning starts rolling and the anxiety begins to creep in that I am a failure of a mom/wife/person and can’t get anything done, I can at least catch a glimpse of our neatly made bed and tell myself, “You made your bed! You’re doing awesome!”.  Also, a point of clarification, when I say make your bed, I don’t mean just pull up the covers.  I mean really make it.  Fold the sheets precisely.  Fluff the pillows. Flatten out all the wrinkles.  Be able to step away, not only feeling like you accomplished something, but that you did it with quality and care.  This makes a difference.  Try it.

3. Get Grounded

After making my bed, I cannot just begin on my to-do list.  I need to first ground myself.  Again this is going to look different from person to person, but the best and only way I know how to truly stay grounded and reminded of my purpose is spending time in the Word.  This will look different depending on the season I am in.  There have been seasons where I honestly was not in the Word.  And this greatly affected me.  Just like taking vitamins every day in the morning, reading scripture is a necessity for me.  I desperately need the Word of God to remind me who I am.  I need scripture to give me a more heavenly perspective.  Sometimes I read just a few verses, sometimes I read a Psalm, sometimes I read multiple chapters.  Regardless of season, the importance is being in the Word.  For me, part of my routine is also avoiding any screens in this early time.  Therefore, I always read scripture in the Bible during this morning time.  Again, this is just a personal choice, but I really enjoy physically opening it up.  About a year ago, Lance gave me the She Reads Truth Bible for a Christmas present.  I love this bible for many reasons.  It is pretty and inviting.  It has excellent devotionals interwoven throughout.  And the CSB translation feels very accessible to me.  Obviously, how your bible looks does not matter.  All that matters is the Truth contained within the cover, but there is nothing wrong in finding a beautiful bible, especially if it helps you get in the Word on a daily basis.  Maybe you are reading this and thinking: “getting grounded sounds great, but I am not religious.  I don’t even own a bible!”.  I could then go on to tell you that as an alternative, you could read a quotation that inspires you.  There is nothing wrong with that, but I feel like I would be remiss in not encouraging you to try reading scripture.  I love literature and I love a good quotation, but the words of an author simply do not compare to reading the living Word of God.   It is amazing how wherever I open up my bible to, I am met right where I am and given the words I so desperately needed to hear.  If this is something you have never done, I think the Psalms  is a great place to start.  Read just one verse, maybe read more.  God will meet you where you are.  He can ground you.

4. Find Your Morning Place

I sit in the same chair every morning.  I light the candle.  I pour my coffee. I sit in my flannel pjs.  Your morning likely will look different.  Maybe for you, you are already dressed in work attire and you are sitting in your car.  Maybe you are out walking on a trail.  Maybe you are lying on a yoga mat.  However you start your morning, I think there is something nice about creating a very similar atmosphere every morning, even if it lasts for just a few moments.  It does not need to get crazy.  It can be simple.  For me, it is a familiar chair, the flicker of a candle, and coffee.  Pick a couple things that will help create a morning environment that brings you peace and calmness.

5. Pray and Plan for Day

If you have just read a couple of posts, I think the fact that I am a woman of prayer and planning has come across.  I hope it has! If not, I am not conveying who I am very well.  My morning routine typically ends with me praying for the day and mapping out in my planner the tentative time schedule for the day.  I always start with gratitude.  I thank the Lord for giving me a new day.  I then pray for the things ahead in the day.  I pray for my attitude.  I pray for people.  And then I always end with love.  I tell the Lord of my love for Him and ask Him to help me better love the people in my life, and ultimately thank him for the love He has given me.  Also, just want to clarify this looks different based on the day.  This is real life.  I don’t want you to falsely get the idea that every morning I have a full block of time where I perfectly get to do everything I outlined above.  I don’t want you to think every morning I am in fervent prayer.  I wish I could tell you I was, but here’s the truth: some mornings, Hudson cries.  Sometimes (actually many times) I am interrupted.  Sometimes I don’t get to sit in quiet and converse with the Lord.  Sometimes my prayer time is simply “Lord, please help me” as I attempt to not break down as I try to console Hudson.  The point here is that, yes, some mornings I get amazing quiet time filled with scripture reading, reflection, and prayer.  Those mornings are great!  But the reality is that those mornings do not happen every day.  They may not even happen for days.  This does not mean that I throw out the whole routine and I hope I can get in good quiet time with the Lord tomorrow.  “Quiet time” does not always have to be quiet.  As I type this, I know that I am still attempting to learn this lesson.  I am learning to be okay with the noise and chaos and being out of control.  If I only prayed in the morning when I had 15-20 minutes of quiet, I would not be praying very much at all.  I hope these words can encourage you to be less focused on finding “quiet time” and more focused on communicating with the Lord regardless of how crazy or calm your morning looks.

Along with prayer, I also try to squeeze in a couple minutes of writing out time blocks for the day.  I am linking to a youtube video that has helped me re-think how I chunk my day.  She has some good insights that I found helpful.  Writing out my time schedule for the day, even if it does not go exactly as planned, helps give me direction and focus for the day.  By writing down what needs to get done, I am so much more likely to actually accomplish it! Also, sometimes I end up doing things that I did not initially write down, I try to record these once I finish them so I can give myself proof that I am in fact being productive, even on days I do not feel like I am.