Day 13-You Never Change

Y’all, I’ve been smitten.

I’ve been a fan of Jamie Ivey’s Happy Hour podcast for a while now and this week’s episode…my oh my.

If you aren’t familiar with Jamie, she and her husband Aaron live in Austin, TX where Jamie runs this amazing Podcast, speaks and writes and Aaron is the Worship Pastor at The Austin Stone Community Church.  The Ivey’s also have 4 adorable children! 

This week on the Happy Hour, Jamie interviewed Jalessa McCreary another worship leader at The Austin Stone.

So of course, I’m almost in tears listening to her story (it’s eerily familiar to my own and I want to be her new BFF now) and then come back to the office and check out all the upcoming music from the new Austin Stone album coming out tomorrowThis Glorious Grace. 

So when I heard this one–I knew it was coming right to this page.

I mean, really.  You Never Change.  How perfect for my 31 days of change series. I can’t even begin to process all my thoughts and emotions about this song.  I’m sure there will be more on this soon.

Day 12-Feeling behind

So perhaps you’re feeling behind today. Like I could since I’m posting the 12th entry here on day 15. But I’m learning more and more that God has us right where He wants us in this moment.

This summer on our road trip out west, we got up early to see the sunrise at Arches National Park. We left the hotel around 4:30 am not sure how long it would take us to find the Windows section of Arches.  We found it pretty quickly but had to sit and wait.

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We weren’t sure if we were in the best spot once we got to the top of those stairs. We sat for a while, questioning as more and more cars pulled into the parking lot to get a spectacular view of the sunrise.

We decided to venture around an unbeaten pathway and ended up where we landed.  You’ll see a photographer getting what I’m certain was a much better photo of that sunrise that I did below.

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After we took in this beauty, we went back to our initial spot after checking out a few other things along the way and it was still gorgeous.

Lesson learned-sometimes we may think we need to move, shuffle, be busy and we may question if we’re in the right spot–right job, relationship, role or season in life–or if we’re behind. But what I’m learning is that the sun will still rise and set each day regardless of where we are.

Even if we’re behind.

Check out my other #Write31Days challenge entries here.

Day 11-Rest…in it’s practical form (Part 2)

After hitting “publish” yesterday I kept thinking of a few other things that have been helpful throughout this everyday Sabbath journey.  Some of them are actual “to-do’s” but many of them are mindsets that are helpful to transition into.

Check out Part 1 here! 

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  1. Plan your evenings to plan your mornings. This has been really pivotal for me.  When I was working hard to establish an early morning routine, I learned from Hello Mornings the impact of planning your evenings has on the success of your morning routine. I still do my best to have that early morning routine, but what it taught me were some tangible things that you can do in the evenings to make the most of my mornings. Set a bedtime alarm just as you would a wake-up alarm.  This gets you in the habit of going to bed or putting down devices/screens/turning off TV, starting the bedtime routine at a certain time. Being that we live about 30 minutes out from where most of my evening activities might be, I know that generally I need to be leaving an activity by 8:30 pm in order to make my evening alarm a possibility.  And on Tuesday nights when I have the early morning Wednesday meet-up and am leaving my house by 6pm, I do my absolute best to not schedule anything the night before, making it a perfect “Home Night” of the week. And if I am out later and end up in bed later, then I adjust and get up later the next day.
  2. Practice saying “No:. Much of what I’ve mentioned has alluded to some sort of boundary. Sometimes we can think of a boundary as a way to keep something in or keep something out. I’d like us to frame it as a way to protect something. Saying “no” is a boundary of protection. As parents and caregivers we want to protect those we love but often we neglect to protect ourselves from things that are draining, time sucking, life-pulling activities. Saying no is a way to protect yourself from that. And those who love you most will be absolutely thrilled that you’ve said no. They might be disappointed at first, but they’ll get over it eventually and hopefully understand when they see the tangible difference in your life and countenance. Remember, you owe no one an explanation in your No. Only you can control is what you say Yes to, and there’s only time for so many yes’s in one day.
  3. Know you’re gonna miss out on some stuff. When you say no to things, yes, you’re protecting something, but sometimes, practically that means you’re missing out on some things. Good things. But let’s shift our perspective. We are gaining some great things. More time to take in our surroundings. An opportunity spend quality time with your family. Being home to cook more–likely a savings on the budget and our health. Focus on the positive rather than what you may be missing. Also know that everything is a season. Things change. You may be able to say yes to that as seasons change. And that’s more than okay.
  4. Stop the comparison game. This one is tough, I’m not gonna lie. It’s so easy to look at the Jones’ and see all that they are saying yes too. Volunteering in the community. Hosting friends over for dinner in their home. Always looking energized at school pick up. Serving on that school or church committee. But we never ever know what is going on in someone’s heart. Moreover, God created you individually as YOU–no one else can serve the roles that only you can.
    Only you can be the employee, spouse, parent, friend to those people in your life. What are the roles only you can fill–go do that and forget the rest. And yes, I know it’s easier said than done.
  5. What you are giving your own life, soul, family and VIP’s is worth it. Comparison, saying no, missing out, having to go to bed early–it’s all worth it. What are the the priorities in your life? What are those roles only you can fill? No amount of regret or despair or frustration can come from missing out on something big in a family member’s life. Let’s not forget our own life and soul. So often, especially as women, we are always the last on the priority list. I’m learning more and more that I must take care of myself in order to better take care of those I love.

So a few more practical tips on how to make this lifestyle change to one of margin, self-care and space.  All things that I’ll take more of these days!

Check out my other #Write31Days challenge entries here.

Day 10-Rest…in it’s practical form (Part 1)

So this rhythm of rest that we’ve adopted–what does that look like actually? I thought I’d share just a few things that have helped me change on this journey to being over-busy to being intentional and creating space for physical, mental and emotional rest and health. Yes, we do our best to Sabbath each week, but I’ve found that it’s just as much the day-to-day that makes me feel I’ve experienced rest or not. Sabbath isn’t just something that was intended to be practiced weekly, but daily, in small ways.

Please know I am not an expert and many of these are still a work in progress.  

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  1. Create breathing room-I don’t schedule things back-to-back in one night. A few years ago, my Wednesday nights went from 5pm-10pm with three meetings after being at work all day.  Although the meetings were energizing, I was so physically exhausted I couldn’t follow up on any of the things that I was to do, or process the good work that was happening in these meetings. Even now if I I have more than one thing on the calendar in one evening, I don’t schedule them back to back. I leave space to breathe. To pay attention to the sunset as I drive. To arrive early. To run by the half-price bookstore or Target. To make a phone call. This has been truly monumental and I’d say that it’s been the most long-standing change made.
  2. No more than two activities in an evening-this might seem impossible for you, but just as I learned that the breathing room was important, I’ve learned that the more I pack into my schedule, the less present I am with those things. Even good things. Or seemingly mindless things. For example, I may have a chiropractor appointment, a meeting and need to visit my mom all in one night. To be honest, the thing that probably would get nixed is visiting my mom. Or I would go and be rushed or not fully present. I liken it to a piece of a pie. If I have 4 things to do every day–I can give the best of my attention to those four things. So with the above example, I also add in work and personal/home care and I’ve got a pie 5 things–each slice is a little smaller and my attention is lessened.  If I cut one out, then I’ve got 4 pieces and all is well. Sometimes it’s the small changes that make the biggest impact.
  3. One weeknight with nothing on the calendar– this has been hard.  But probably the most necessary.  This is the night that is open on my calendar other than the note that says “Home night”.  That day (or sometimes the one before), I can decide how I want to spend it. That’s the key–it has to be something I want  to do.  Sometimes, I’m in a state of wanting my house more clean or wanting to have no unfinished laundry hanging over my head. Sometimes the want is a bath. Or Call the Midwife. Or a walk. Or water aerobics. I also try and make this a night that Lew is working.
  4. Balance of productivity and rest on the weekend. When you’re renovating a house and you and your spouse both work full time (one working shift work at night) sometimes you have to take what you can get. I will say that I think balancing out the productive and rest is key.  It can be quite easy to see a fully open weekend and already have a huge list of all that you want to accomplish on whatever project you may be working on. Or perhaps it’s work outside. Or cleaning the house. Or prepping for the school project. Or even good, fun things–going to the orchard, the football game, dinner with friends, birthday party, etc, etc. The list can always go on. And even the good things leave us exhausted. So maybe it’s one day of work on the house and the next of rest, family time, celebrating, etc. Or mornings of productivity and fun evenings.  There has to be balance though or else I come straight back into the work-week flat-lined.
  5. Sabbath-So that Sabbath state. In the traditional Jewish sense, Shabbat was from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. In doing a little refresher research to make sure I had my facts straight, there is even a Sabbath app that will tell you the exact Sabbath times for your location. I’ve read several book on Sabbath over the years (and hope to do a refresh soon) on some of my favorites. One of the books that resonated the most with me was Sabbath in the Suburbs, by Rev. MaryAnn McKibben-Dana. It was practical. And talked about how to observe Sabbath with a family and soccer and church responsibilities and friends and all those fun things we listed above. So how do I even define Sabbath? Her definition has stuck with me:

    Am I making forward progress on something?

    Now, we can over-analyze this to death.  Your knitting or coloring or even playing solitaire is making forward progress, but it’s also relaxing and probably something you don’t do every day.
    So in a nutshell, my definition of Sabbath (traditionally) is from sunset one day until sunset the next (sometimes longer) and includes not making forward progress on anything. I’ll get even more practical about what our Sabbath looks like later today! (And yes, I took yesterday off from forward-progressing this 31 day series for Sabbath).

Books I’ve enjoyed on Sabbath:

I realized I had more to say on this topic so check out part 2 here!

Check out my other #Write31Days challenge entries here.

Day 9-Rest

My journey to find true rest is has been that-a journey. I’ve always been one to have many irons in the fire, even in high school. I was once in a musical in high school, working part time, leading the choir and singing at church and it was just too much. I had to quit something because all things were suffering-including my grades. And of course the musical-which was the most fun-was what had to go. 
So these days I’ve been learning the importance of rest and work and how they go hand in hand. Our work must come from a place of rest. When we take time to observe the sabbath, rest, spend quality time with those we love, lay down our phones, we are truly able to pour ourselves more into our days of work. And sometimes that means saying no to some really good things-things we even enjoy the most.    

 The transition requires patience and persistence. I’ve been trying to lay down my phone on Sundays-be present, engaged but sometimes if I’m honest, I’m lonely, bored and searching for something on the other side of the screen to fill that void. 

So this change takes discipline and that’s not always easy. But I know when I truly engage and be present and lean into the rest, I’m such a better human. 

Day 8-New Perspective

Sometimes we have to physically do something to instigate change.

After a long week of battling a cold, not getting much sleep, I ventured to enjoy my Friday.  I put on my favorite pair of Red flats that scream fall to me, some comfy pants and a favorite new tunic, hair in a top knot and I was gonna have a great day.

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Then a phone call on the way to work that wasn’t so fun.  30 minutes of my morning taking all that intention and positivity and seeing it swirl down the drain.

Walk to work thinking I’ll wrangle some coworkers to head to Starbucks.  I’m gonna need the caffeine and the walk will probably help.

No one could go.

More swirling.

Then I remembered that I had the power to change my attitude about this day.  No one can make it better or worse but me. It’s all about  my attitude and perspective. Nothing anyone else does or says can control this.  It’s all about my perception of the situation.

I got my headphones and started on my way to Starbucks  by myself. This song I heard earlier this week kept ringing in my ears so I pulled it up.

There’s beauty in my brokenness, I’ve got true love instead of pain, There’s freedom though You’ve captured me. I’ve got joy instead of mourning.

You give me joy, down deep in my soul.

Never been so free caught in your love for me.  Never been more secure knowing your heart Lord.

Yes you do Lord. 

What do you need to do physically to change your perspective?  For me it was a walk, this song and a lovely Americano. Happy Friday friends.

Check out my other #Write31Days challenge entries here.

Day 7- tired 

Some days just get the best of you. Falling asleep on the couch at 7pm, non-stop day with no breaks and the belief that it just can’t only be Thursday. How can it not be Friday?

That’s where I am.

Lots of change these days. And I know it’s just the beginning.

Regardless of the season of life you’re in there are probably some things that have changed in your life that makes you feel crazy.

New job.

New relationship.

Changing seasons (hello allergies and head cold).

New schedule.

New home/town/church/community/safety net.

Regardless of your change you’re not the only one. The best thing about change is….change. It’s not gonna stay this way. That might be terrifying just as much as its comforting. Either way, know that things are going to be different. Be they better or worse, they aren’t gonna be the way they are now forever.

And that is so comforting.

Night night (at 8:15).

Check out my other #Write31Days challenge entries here.

Day 5-IF God is Real…

Two years ago I heard rumblings of the IF: Gathering a little over two years ago when my discipleship group (which many of us had journeyed together through Jen Hatmaker’s Seven Study) read this article on Jen’s blog.

We were enticed. None of us went to Austin that first year or even attended the IF: Local here in Lexington. But some of us watched from home. On our own. And boy….were we glad we did.

Seeing the passion for discipleship and the leadership of Jennie Allen and others on the leadership team, I was drawn to the humility, focus on Jesus and not on one individual, and the empowerment and challenge given to us to go into our own communities and build disciples.  What was IF about? Loving Jesus more.

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Jennie wanted to meet the folks planning local events when she was on the road speaking–so two of us went to Cincinnati one cold December day to have coffee with her super early before she spoke at a Christmas brunch. It was evident she was all about the local church, empowering women to be leaders in those churches and in their communities.

February came around and we hosted an IF local with about 50 women at one of the satellite campuses of our church–folks from all ages and different churches came. With much church support, we kept things simple and pure to point things to Jesus. We had a shoe-string budget, but our hearts and minds were full.  And boy, did things happen. People starting talking. Stepping up and leading. Two women developed a great friendship–as in went on vacation together this summer and are doing a bible study with their husbands.

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My friend Shannon and I had the opportunity to join with other local leaders for a gathering/training in Orlando about 3 weeks ago.  I’m still wrapping my mind around all that I learned.  All I can say is that I’m glad that this gal who was called into ministry in high school and has struggled with that for years now feels like she has a place.

I’m sure I’ll come back and revisit all the change that has happened in my ministry journey as well as what all was learned in Orlando.

From the words of a gal I’ve been following online:

IF is a beautiful thing…challenging each other to lean into Jesus – to dare greatly, follow Him boldly, and learn what means to live as Jesus lived – together. Community is the most beautiful thing.

Registration for IF 2016 opens today at 11am CST. There are tickets for Austin, but look at where you are–Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, the Northeast, out west, even overseas–there are IF Local gatherings near where you are and I hope that you’ll consider joining one–hundreds have already pre-registered. There’s another gathering this year in Georgetown and I may be hosting one in my home with that early morning crew I’ve been hanging out with.

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Like Jen said in her article over two years ago, I know women are craving something more–something different. Where we don’t just sugar coat our challenges and put on our Sunday best. We show up in yoga pants and no make-up and look one another in the eye when we say, “I’m struggling.”

That’s what I’ve found with IF. I hope you’ll join me and discover it as well.

Check out my other #Write31Days challenge entries here.

Day 4-Comparison to Obedience

Being pregnant makes you question everything.

Can I eat this?

Can I take a hot bath? (Not too hot, they say)

Is this stomach cramp normal? (yes, some women have cramps in early pregnancy–didn’t know that one).

Can I lift that box, chair, etc or is it over the weight limit I’m to avoid?

As someone who has recently uncovered and named a struggle with mild anxiety, questioning everything can lead to being anxious about a lot of things. Not only has this impacted everything related to nourishing myself and a baby, but everything.

Is this the right decision?

How might this be interpreted?

What if this crashes and burns?

Is it even worth the effort?

I’m so grateful that for both of these lists and lists of inner questions, I have a tight circle of trusted friends who know me and know my tendencies. And this is the bottom line to what I’ve been told.  (Thanks to them and Momastary)

do the next right thing

I’m not gonna have all the answers. I certainly will make mistakes. But I just need to keep showing up.

This summer I showed up at a coffee shop in downtown Lex and wrestled through Jennie Allen’s Anything Study. As we wiped the sleep out of our eyes at 6:30 am, we admitted that many of our fears to truly saying “Anything” to God was the fear of perception of others. What if I do say “no” to that amazing retirement plan to go teach in a third world country? What if I get my Ph.D. and then don’t know what to do? What will my husband/parents/best friends think about this radical obedience?

I was reminded from someone in the group recently about one of Jennie’s statements from Restless:

Comparison is often why our important roles shrink to seem insignificant. Comparison robs us of the joy of obedience.

A lot of my anxiety comes from worrying about what other people think. Let’s be honest–we all do. We post something on social media and obsess over how many likes or comments we’ve received. We send an email and expect a response before any normal person would even have time to read the novel we sent.

I want to change my comparison to obedience.

Do the next right thing.

And then move on.  Close the browser, get back to work, go take a walk, pick up the phone or walk down the hall in my office and have a meaningful conversation with someone. Stop being so obsessed with trying to be accepted and know that I’ve already been accepted by Christ and that is all that matters.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.-I Peter 5:7

Check out my other #Write31Days challenge entries here.

Day 3-My Favorite Season

*Not sure what happened to this entry, definitely wrote and published yesterday but alas, nothing here…let’s try this again!

If you know me at all, you know that fall is my absolute favorite season.  There is something about the smell of apples and cinnamon and the crisp in the air that just warms my soul.  Long before the height of Pumpkin everything, fall has long stole my heart.

I love football, the food–chili, soups and warm dips (all football watching appropriate)–as well as squash, casseroles and warm beverages.  I love the temperatures–which leads to the clothing. Layers, boots, flannel and sweaters are all the norm. Now with this comes the retiring of flip-flops, shorts and sunscreen. All good things in their own right. Perhaps it’s my red-headed nature and the fact that the pool or beach has always been associated with sunscreen application on the reg, summer just isn’t my jam.

The biggest heart-warmer for me are the colors of fall. Red, bright orange, crisp yellow–they all attract my eye and make my heart go pitter-patter.  I love seeing the crisp coolness of fall out my window as I’m all cozy inside under a blanket with my favorite warm beverage of the day with my favorite book.

But what is fall really–it’s a season preparing for stopping. For death even. Harvest means that there are no more fresh veggies on my table–the last of the corn, tomatoes and zucchini grace my recipes and the influx of potatoes, pumpkin, stuffed squash are on the rise. Those with resilience. Why do I stop and take a photo of my favorite tree all bright in color knowing that it is on it’s way to death?

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How often do I stop in my own life and recognize the beauty of things slowing down, the change that occurs when I recognize my limitations and know that perhaps I’m called to hunker down, look out my window and remember.  Fall is a season that calls us to remember–see these dead leaves on the ground?  1) there’s beauty in that that no longer has a purpose and 2) it is a promise of what is to come.

Isaiah 43:19 says I am going to do something new. It is already happening. Don’t you recognize it? I will clear a way in the desert. I will make rivers on dry land.”

In order for something new to occur, we have to make space for it.

I’m making space.  And recognizing the beauty that comes with that.

Check out my other #Write31Days challenge entries here.