Advent Heart, Part 2: Advent Attitude

adventattitude.png

ADVENT HEART

I won't be creating a wreath or lighting individual candles on a dedicated display this year as Christmas arrives, but I will be intentionally slowing down and remembering what this season of anticipation is all about. I'm focusing on the meaning of the season more than the traditions.

Since I didn't grow up observing the tradition of Advent, I enjoy learning a little bit more about it each year. I even have my sights set on making or getting some sort of an Advent calendar next year! 

For this year, I'm going to focus on making time to sit with Jesus, talking to Him, praying to be more like Him, and committing all of my life to Him.

 

[In case you missed it, this is the second post in a series about Advent; you can catch up on the first post in the series here.]

 

KEEPING THE FIRST THING THE FIRST THING

Maintaining an Advent heart doesn't mean being a Grinch about cultural Christmas things just because they don't celebrate Christ. It just means that you keep the real meaning of the season top of mind.

That will look differently for each person. For me, it means still baking Christmas cookies, but not every weekend. 

Of course, it means going to my family's Christmas get-togethers on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

It also means serving with my family at Feed My Starving Children on a Saturday during the Christmas season as a means of giving back. 

It means watching Christmas movies because I love them. They're full of magic, love, reconciliations, happy endings, and laughter. But the second they become anything less than enjoyable, I switch to something else. I watch them because I want to, not because I'm supposed to.

 

OBSERVING THE HOLIDAY WITH GRACE

Observing Advent also doesn't mean being so hung-up on the traditional ways of celebrating (or any one particular way of celebrating, traditional or not) that the underlying meaning comes in second place.

No matter how we celebrate, let us not forget that the point of Advent is to reflect and prepare for the coming of Christ. It's not ultimately about the candles, wreaths, or calendars. It's about our hearts and Jesus Christ.

There is no single right way to observe Advent, so may we all extend grace to others who celebrate it differently than we do and be open to learning and adapting our traditions as we grow.

 

Stay tuned for the rest of the series, where I'll dig deeper into Advent and what it looks like to have an advent heart!

 

Do you have any Advent traditions that you observe? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

Resources:

"Why Do Christians Celebrate Advent?: Prepare for the Coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas" by Mary Fairchild, ThoughtCo.

"What Is the Advent Wreath?: Learn the Symbols and Customs of the Advent Wreath" by Mary Fairchild, ThoughtCo.

"The Tradition of Advent" whychristmas.com

"What is Advent? An Introduction to Advent" by Mark D. Roberts, patheos.com

The Sacredness of Self-Care

Sacredness of Self-Care.png

[Jesus] recognized His need for solitude, to be with His Father, to rest. What would happen if this practice became a priority rather than something we lessen to “luxurious” or for those who are weak. What if solitude, rest and self-care went from something that we physically needed, to something our spirits actually wanted? If the creator of the universe took one day to “rest” then is it really that impressive to slave away for seven? Why do we feel the need to work harder than Jesus? His life was not only full of meaningful work, creative design, miracles, travel and compelling messages but teeming with friends that He broke bread with. He made time for strangers, and to party at weddings, so, perhaps we can give ourselves the freedom to do the same. Jesus didn’t try to heal, feed or befriend the whole world during His three-year ministry career, so why do we yoke ourselves to a dream of accomplishing all of our life goals by our 30th birthday?

Time alone with God and self-care need to be more than an ideal that we are shooting for—“maybe next week when things slow down.” We must find a way to make it happen and resist the urge to think that in order to be successful, in order to be influential, in order to fulfill our purpose we need to do it all—today. -Malinda Fuller

Why do we relegate self-care to our list of "luxuries"? Why do we treat it like it doesn't matter and let it be the first thing to go when things get crazy?

Life is crazy. Life is probably always going to be crazy. There are seasons in which it seems to be more hectic than others, but from what I've seen, it pretty much fluctuates from "normal crazy" to "ridiculously crazy.".

In the midst of the holiday season we're currently in, our to-do lists take on a mind of their own, controlling our schedules, our pace, and our priorities. But the things we have to accomplish aren't always the most important things.

We need to quit putting off self-care until "we have more time." We need to make the time.

When we're not taking proper care of ourselves, we can't properly take care of others.

We need to be filled up before we can be poured out.

This holiday season, I encourage you to take care of yourself by setting aside time to refuel-- whatever that may look like for you. For me, it looks like eating some dark chocolate while watching a Christmas movie, curled up on the couch with a fluffy blanket. Or taking an hour to read part of a good book, or inviting a friend over to make dinner and dessert. But it can also look like carving out time for a run, going to see my family, getting to bed early, or making Christmas crafts with friends.

Self-care can take on many different forms, but it doesn't matter much what it looks like. It just matters that we take time and intentionally care for ourselves so we can be our best for the people in our lives.

If you've ever snapped, rushed, hushed, or mumbled your way through a family gathering around the holidays because you were tired and stressed, you know what I mean.

This Christmas, let's take better care of ourselves in the name of our sanity and our relationships with our people, okay? Okay. Good. Glad we agree. Now I'm going to go read a book!

 

 

 

Further reading:

10 Simple Ways to Practice Self-Care by Amanda Kohr, Wanderlust

Hustle, Rest and the Real Example of Jesus by Malinda Fuller, Relevant Magazine

 

Advent Heart, Part 1: The Meaning of Advent

advent heart.png

Advent, advent, advent. I'm hearing that word everywhere these days.

But what does it actually mean?

I didn't grow up in a church that observed the traditional Church calendar holy days (except for Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter). 

Advent is new to me.

 

WHAT ADVENT MEANS

"Advent is a period of spiritual preparation in which many Christians make themselves ready for the coming, or birth of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Celebrating Advent typically involves a season of prayer, fasting, and repentance, followed by anticipation, hope, and joy.

Many Christians celebrate Advent not only by thanking God for Christ's first coming to Earth as a baby, but also for his presence among us today through the Holy Spirit, and in preparation and anticipation of his final coming at the end of time." -

There are three different advents, or comings, of Christ. He came first as a little baby to Bethlehem. He also comes to us now, if we will welcome Him into our lives. And He will come again one day.

Just as the Jews needed a Messiah some 2000 years ago, so do we today.

Advent is essentially a time of slowing down and a time of preparation. It's when we ready ourselves for the coming of Christ. 

 

ADVENT WREATHS AND CANDLES

"Advent is the season of preparation for Christmas. During these four weeks, an Advent Wreath is traditionally used to represent aspects of spiritual preparation leading up to the birth or coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

The wreath, typically a circular garland of evergreen branches, is a symbol of eternity and unending love. Five candles are arranged on the wreath, and one is lit each Sunday as a part of the Advent services.

Each of the Advent Candle colors represents a specific element of spiritual readying for the celebration of Christmas." - ThoughtCo

Each of the colors symbolizes something, too. The pink candles represent joy, the purple symbolizes repentance and fasting, and the white represents purity and light.

An Advent wreath (or crown) is a circle of garland representing eternity, on which the Advent candles are arranged. During Advent, one candle is lit each Sunday as part of the Advent series, each one representing something different.

1. Prophecy Candle (purple) - lit in remembrance of the prophets (like Isaiah) who told about the birth of Christ. It "represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah." - ThoughtCo.

2. Bethlehem Candle (purple) - this candle symbolizes love, and can also be a symbol for the manger.

3. Shepherds Candle (pink) - represents joy.

4. Angels Candle (purple) - represents peace.

5. White center candle (lit on Christmas Eve)- represents the light of Christ that came into the world, and also purity as Christ is our perfect Savior.

 

ADVENT CALENDARS

There are many different forms Advent calendars can take, but they all have the capacity to present small gifts, pictures, or surprises to whomever opens each door, drawer, or bag on each day of Advent. They allow us to stop, note, and celebrate each day leading up to Christmas.

Nativity scenes can also function as an Advent calendar of sorts. Many of us (myself included) are accustomed to setting the whole set up at once, but you could choose to set it up in stages, allowing the figurines to reflect the pilgrimage of each group-- adding a member a day to draw it out, or first Joseph, Mary, and the camel; then the innkeeper, shepherds, and sheep; and finally the wisemen. There's room for creativity here!

 

WHY CELEBRATE ADVENT?

"First, I found that observing Advent enriched my celebration of Christmas. Taking four weeks to focus on the hope of Christ’s coming made me much more joyful when I finally got to celebrate it. The more I got in touch with my need for a Savior, the more I rejoiced at the Savior’s birth." - Mark D. Roberts

In our fast-paced, materialistic, "do more" culture, it's all too easy to think that we have to be doing all the things. We have to put up the tree. We have to bake the cookies. We have to buy presents for everyone from our hairdresser to our mailman to our grocery clerk, and we have to wrap them all beautifully-- like individual works of art. All the Christmas cards have to get sent out, and sent out early. We have to cook an elaborate meal for our family and keep the house clean. We have to attend all the parties and maybe even throw one or two ourselves. We have to be cheerful and kind and servant-hearted 24/7.

That's an awful lot to pile on our backs, don't you think? What if we embraced the idea of Advent as a reason to slow down, let go of all the "shoulds," and just focus on Jesus?

What if we didn't spend all our time shopping for presents, emptying our bank accounts, and worrying about whether or not we remembered to get all the gift receipts? What if, instead, we just set aside time to read the nativity story, sing some Christmas carols, and remember what the season is all about?

 

 

Stay tuned for the rest of the series, where I'll dig deeper into Advent and what it looks like to have an advent heart!

 

Do you have any Advent traditions that you observe? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

Resources:

"Why Do Christians Celebrate Advent?: Prepare for the Coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas" by Mary Fairchild, ThoughtCo.

"What Is the Advent Wreath?: Learn the Symbols and Customs of the Advent Wreath" by Mary Fairchild, ThoughtCo.

"The Tradition of Advent" whychristmas.com

"What is Advent? An Introduction to Advent" by Mark D. Roberts, patheos.com

No More Waiting

no more.png

Are there things you've been wanting to do for a while that you haven't started doing because you're waiting for something else to happen? Is there a chance you're just making excuses for yourself because you're afraid to start or don't know where to begin?

I've found that to be true in my life upon several occasions. I make excuses and wait for arbitrary signs or changes to come about before I'm willing to move my own two feet.

"I'll invest more in community when I have more time." (I'll never have any more time; it's only a matter of how I use it.)

"I'll support that organization when I have more money." (Even when I get more money, I tend to spend proportionally more to increase my standard of living along with my paycheck.)

"I'll finish that painting, crochet that blanket, or pursue that new artistic endeavor when life is less busy." (I fill all the time I give myself for any of my tasks.)

"I'll have that tough conversation when the time is right." (The time is never right.)

We make so many excuses, hiding behind explanations of waiting for one thing or another to make ourselves feel better by taking the responsibility off our shoulders.

But no more.

We only get one life.

We too often waste large portions of it waiting when we could be moving. Even when our circumstances are out of our control, there are always things we could do.

We can find ways to make the most of the in-between time, taking whatever steps we can toward our goals and dreams, not getting in our own way by making excuses and limiting ourselves to all-or-nothing thinking.

New Year's is fast approaching us, and I don't know about you, but I don't want to set resolutions only to break them a few weeks into January. Next year is going to be different. This month is going to be different, for that matter. I'm not waiting, and neither should you!

If you're looking to get a leg up on this goal-setting thing, then allow me to suggest my Goal CRUSHING Coaching, which I'll be starting in January! I'll walk you through the steps to set good, personalized goals that work for you and are attainable and sustainable. And I'll help you reach them, each step of the way!

And if you don't want to wait until January to get started (I feel you there!), I'm going to be hosting a webinar about goal-setting in just a couple weeks, so stay tuned for more information about that! (You can get updates by signing up for my email list, following my Facebook business page, or following me on Instagram.)

Later, lovely!Jessie.png

Learning Lately: Fall 2017

Learning Lately.png

I'm joining Anne Bogel and Emily P. Freeman in noting the things I've been learning every season, and today I'm sharing my fall 2017 collection with you!

 

Sometimes you have to move even when you're not ready.

I like to have all my ducks in a row before I make a move. I like safety nets, sure things, step-by-step plans, blueprints, and if all else fails, a solid Plan B.

But life doesn't always work that way. Sometimes having one foot in the past while trying to take a step forward just leads to a really painful splits that isn't sustainable. Sometimes you have to cut ties, burn bridges, or take the leap without knowing exactly where you'll land.

I'm not advocating irresponsibility or complete recklessness, but rather prayerfully trusting God to provide and guide us forward as we seek Him and His plan for our lives on a season-by-season basis.

 

Simpler is often better.

I'm working to find the "perfect" balance (which doesn't really exist, anyway) between busyness and slowing down as I head into the Christmas season. I have so many things I typically try to cram into the month of December in the name of tradition, celebration, and obligation.

But I'm getting stressed just thinking about that. I don't want to arrive on the other side of New Year's as a drained, exhausted shell of my former self. I don't want my holiday celebrations to feel like obligations. I don't care to do, do, do anymore.

I want to be intentional about how I spend my time all year round, but it becomes the most clear this time of year, when there are so many things vying for my time. I'm beginning to realize that less is more and simpler is better.

This year, I have no grand dreams to make a lengthy Christmas bucket list of activities. I refuse to pile a mountain of "shoulds" upon myself, including expectations to attend all the parties, watch all the movies, make all the goodies, or any other typical holiday festivities. 

Instead, I'm choosing to show up to the things that are the most important. I'm going to cherish the time with my people-- Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my extended family, a bridal shower for a friend, and some sporadic Christmas movie-watching of only the very best.

 

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Okay, I know it's cheesy, but I like cheesy. I'm hosting a friend's bridal shower this weekend, and I could run the whole show by myself, but it's been such a relief to have a handful of generous, kind friends step up to provide some of the food for the shindig. It takes a significant amount of pressure off my shoulders that I wasn't even aware I was carrying!

As an independent, introverted person, I'm characteristically bad at asking for help, but I'm working on it because I know just how necessary and beneficial it can be.

 

Focusing on gratitude makes you more grateful.

For the month of November, I did an Attitude of Gratitude Challenge, where I shared Facebook Live videos every day, talking about what I'm grateful for. I also posted pictures to Instagram to share more of what I'm giving thanks for. The daily practice of focusing on gratitude (and having to come up with new things to give thanks for) forced me to look more closely at my life through a lens of thankfulness. It made me far more thankful for everyday things and experiences, and it took my focus off the little things that would ordinarily have driven me crazy. I'm so thankful for it! ;)

 

Change is hard, but good.

Even when I'm instigating it, change can be really difficult. But I know it's good for me. I'm working on developing some better habits (like reading more and binge-watching Netflix less, letting my body digest my food before I decide whether I want more, and cultivating a more positive, confident attitude), and doing so is no joke. It takes a lot of motivation and persistence to really change habits that have been around for a while. And I'm learning what it takes to conquer them. 

If you're struggling to change habits or if you're setting goals/resolutions for next year (it'll be here before we know it!), I invite you to join me for Goal Crushing Coaching starting in January to help you set and stick to your goals once and for all!

 

 

What have you been learning lately? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

November 2017 Favorites

I thought it would be fun if I took a moment each month to let you know what things are currently striking my fancy, so here goes the November installment! 

[This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting Notes from Jessie!] 

CURRENT FAVORITES:

BOOKS:

This month, I read The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith, Anything by Jennie Allen (I'm still reading this, tbh, because it's taking me a while to really process it), My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, I See You by Clare Mackintosh, 1984 by George Orwell, and To Live is Christ by Beth Moore.

 

QUOTE:

"Don't be afraid to give up the good and go for the great." - Steve Prefontaine. I'm coming to realize how often decisions aren't between good and bad, but rather good and better. So I'm choosing to be willing to give up the good in order to get what's great.

 

TV SHOW: 

I stumbled upon The Lazy Genius's Gilmore Girls binge list, and I watched the "lover's guide," but it didn't feel like enough, so I proceeded to watch almost the entire series over again. It's just so good!!!

 

SONG: 

"Legends" by Kelsea Ballerini-- or really anything by her! I'm just really loving her voice lately.

 

FOOD: 

I made some really good pumpkin granola, and it's especially good served with coconut yogurt and bananas (and maybe some dark chocolate chips!).

I've also been roasting all the fall veggies for various get-togethers, and they've been so good! I made some (pretty darn good, if I do say so myself) guac for a couple different groups of people, and it was gobbled up so quickly I wish I'd made more!

 

PODCAST:

Pursuit with Purpose from Melyssa Griffin has been such a good listen! I first became familiar with Melyssa through her wealth of information about utilizing Pinterest for business growth, and when she started a podcast, I jumped on the bandwagon! Her episodes are focused around the idea of what it means to live a life of purpose, which is right in line with my own goals, and they're so entertaining and inspirational. I highly recommend it! Even though it comes from a business-minded person and she discusses applications in business, it's completely applicable in our everyday lives, too.

 

MEMORIES FROM NOVEMBER:

I had a mini roommate reunion at my friend's house, and it was such a sweet time spent with good friends. We don't get together very often any more, and I always love it when we can carve out some time to catch up on one another's lives and enjoy each other's company.

Thanksgiving is my second-favorite holiday (Christmas is first, obviously), and it was so good! My family went to the Walk to End Hunger at the Mall of America once again (it was our third consecutive year taking part; it's become a great tradition!) and had lunch at my grandma and grandpa's house. And, of course, my sister and cousins and I went shopping on Black Friday, per our long-standing tradition. It's always so much fun!

 

LOOKING FORWARD TO IN DECEMBER:

I have bridal shower for a friend that I'm planning with some other friends, and I'm really looking forward to it! I love weddings and party planning, so this is right up my alley!

Of course, I'm also very much looking forward to Christmas. I love how everything gets special and magical this time of year, how people look for ways to serve and love others. My family goes to Feed My Starving Children every year to pack meals, and we're working on picking out gifts (like chickens and goats) to send through World Vision. They go to families in need, to help them get on their feet and provide for their families. I've also been loving putting together Christmas presents for my people, and I'm excited to give them!

I'm not a Christmas-music-before-Thanksgiving person, so now I'm excited to get into full-blown Christmas mode! My sister and I haven't figured out the best place to put our Christmas tree yet, but I can still play all the carols and redecorate the mantel!

 

What were some of your favorite things this month? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

thanksgiving.png

In the midst of the busyness of basting the turkey, cleaning the house, finding all the leaves for the table, and trying to keep everyone happy all at once, it's hard to remember that today is supposed to be a celebration of gratitude and plenty.

I know I need to be reminded to exercise gratitude more often, and what better day than Thanksgiving to set aside some time to do just that?

This prayer is one that comes in the middle of the stress and busyness, from a heart desiring rest and restoration, not one that has this whole "attitude of gratitude" thing down pat, but is striving to adopt a more regular habit of expressing thankfulness. My hope is that it offers you some space to consider all that you have to be grateful for and maybe some words to get you started.

 

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

Lord God, I thank You for this moment to pause and count my blessings.

I thank You for giving me so many blessings to count, although I take many of them for granted.

I am grateful for my health, for making it safely and soundly through another year, even if it was stressful at times.

I thank You for the wonderful people You have surrounded me with, and for using even the most challenging interactions and relationships to stretch me and teach me.

I am grateful for the wonderful memories this last year has brought, and thankful for the hard times that taught me valuable lessons.

I am glad that I am free to make mistakes and learn from them, that I have been given the gift of grace.

I praise You for Your consistency in a world that is anything but constant.

I thank You for those who have poured into me and taught me over the years, for they have helped shape and guide me to the person I am today.

I am grateful for the opportunities and challenges You have placed along my path, for they have taught me to look to You and rely on Your strength, and they have grown me in ways I would never have otherwise experienced.

I am thankful for the most basic of necessities that sustain my life: clean water, regular meals, a roof over my head, and clothes on my back.

I thank You for providing me with such a wonderful community and support system, in which I see more and more of Your character every day.

I am glad I have a reliable job providing for my practical needs in the present, no matter my dreams for the future.

I am thankful for the opportunity to dream for the future.

I am grateful for my unchanging identity in You, as Your beloved, providing me with the certainty that I am forever accepted and loved, no matter what.

I thank You for new mercies every morning, and for Your reminders in the sunrise and sunset that signify a new day, a new opportunity, a fresh start.

 

Today, and every day going forward, may we all be just a little more grateful for all we've been given.

 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

The Goodness of Grace

the goodness of grace.png

I think we undervalue grace. We pursue justice relentlessly, wanting people to get what they deserve-- for good or bad.

But is that all there is? (The correct answer is no, there's not.)

 

EVERYDAY GRACE

Think about it. Consider a time when you didn't get what you deserved, and it benefitted you.

I can think of a time when I messed up a shipping order at work, failing to put in the order on time to get a part shipped out to arrive at the time it needed to arrive. The normal consequence of that issue would be having to reschedule the visit, paying for the "failed attempt" for cancelling with the technician, and having to call the store (all embarrassed and apologetic about the error). 

Long story short, our shipping department and project manager came through. The shipping department worked above and beyond to get the shipment out anyway, contacting the carrier repeatedly to work out the changes. And the project manager worked with the technicians to switch a couple other things around to make it work out after all. Their work and willingness to work with my mistake saved me a headache and having to deal with the extra charges we normally would've incurred.

I was so thankful! I didn't expect it from them, and they pulled through for me anyway, and I didn't have to deal with the consequences I normally would have.

That's just a small example of grace.

 

GREAT GRACE

How about the fact that we've been forgiven by the perfect God who created us, sees us at our worst, and loves us anyway? How about the fact that He has given us the gift of His Son's sacrificed perfect life so we don't have to earn our salvation ourselves?

That's grace, my friends.

 

GRACE UPON GRACE

Not only are we saved by grace, but we're given so much more grace than that! It's not a one-and-done deal. 

It's grace upon grace upon grace upon grace.

Everyday, we're given more grace. We're given grace for our mistakes, our shortcomings, our setbacks, our failures. We're given grace for our perfectionism, pride, anxiety, and fear. 

All this grace is ours if only we'll just acknowledge it and rest in it. It's all there for the taking. May we see it, accept it, and cherish it.

Attitude of Gratitude, Part Three: The Practice

attitude of gratitude (2).png

Okay, okay, okay, so we know we're supposed to give thanks and be grateful and all that, but how do we do that when it seems like life is too crazy busy and full of hard things?

 

CREATE A HABIT

Everything becomes easier once it's a habit. If you don't have to think about doing it, it's more likely to get done.

It's hard to start new things, but once we create habits around them, we do them more consistently. Think about all the people who try to start working out at the beginning of the year. Because it's a new thing for them, it's hard to get out of bed and pick up the weights or go for a run. But for those who have been doing it for years, it's not so hard. It's normal for them. It would feel strange and like something was missing if they didn't get up to exercise.

 

CONNECT IT TO SOMETHING ELSE

Think about it. When was the last time you forgot to put your pajamas on before going to bed or put the carton of milk back in the fridge after pouring it over your cereal? Those activities are connected to other activities, so you don't even have to think about doing them.

What can you connect a practice of gratitude to? Do you go for a walk regularly? Maybe you could think about what you're grateful for when you're walking. Or perhaps you could incorporate it into your morning or evening routine somewhere.

 

WRITE IT DOWN

One great habit to increase the frequency of our gratitude is to write down what we're grateful for. I've been so much more grateful since I started writing down things I'm thankful for in my bullet journal. I have a few pages dedicated to the practice, and seeing the list grow inspires me to keep going with it.

There's something almost magical about writing things down. The act of writing them down makes them more memorable; we actually commit them to memory better that way.

And when we have a list that we can look back on later, we're reminded that there is good in the world, even when it seems like there is only chaos.

 

TALK ABOUT IT

Another form of accountability and a way to create greater consistency is to challenge yourself to post on social media. I am in the middle of my own personal Attitude of Gratitude Challenge. I'm recording Facebook Live videos daily and sharing photos on Instagram to share what I'm thankful for, and that simple practice has forced me to think much more about what I'm thankful for and why.

I also love talking to others about what I'm grateful for and what they're grateful for. I still remember sitting with former roommates a year ago and sharing three things we were all grateful for each night that we were together. It was a practice I was new to, but it was such a sweet time together as we literally counted our blessings. My family also goes around the table on Thanksgiving to share what we're thankful for, and I love hearing from each and every one!

 

Do you have a practice of giving thanks regularly? What helps you stay consistent? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Giving & Giving Back

Giving & Giving Back.png

Are you looking for products that you can buy for yourself or friends that also do good in the world? I have been keeping my eyes out for such things recently, wanting to spend my dollars wisely, and I've found some really good options!

WHY IT MATTERS

Giving gifts (and even getting a little something special for ourselves) is a fun part of showing love for our people. Many of us like to give thoughtful gifts, and what's more thoughtful than a gift that gives back? Choosing to support organizations that do good in the world benefits not only the recipient of the gift, but also the people running the organization and the people (often grassroots entrepreneurs and artisans making a living after going through terrible circumstances) get back up on their feet and provide for their families.

 

THE TENSION

It's sometimes hard to feel like you can do it all-- or at least that's how I feel. I want to support quality companies who donate proceeds to supporting people who really need the support. But that doesn't always fit within my budget. So I've looked into some more economical ways to support worthy causes and get what I'm already planning on getting for myself and others-- it's a win-win!

Choosing to be intentional with where I shop is part of what it means for me to live purposefully-- I want to give my dollars to companies that are doing good in the world whenever I can. And I want to help others do the same!

 

THE ORGANIZATIONS

Cora is a feminine product (okay, let's just say it: it's tampons) subscription service that provides organic, vegan products on a quarterly basis for you so you don't have to go to the store or buy ones with questionable ingredients (after all, you're putting it inside of your body). The company also provides products for girls in developing countries who don't ordinarily have access to them, which allows them to go to school and live normal lives instead of missing out every time they get their cycle.

Love Your Melon is a hat company that many of my friends (and my sister) are really fond of. They make a wide array of hats and accessories that are perfect for winter!

I recently bought a couple dresses, a sweatshirt, and a pair of earrings from a company called Amma's Umma. They donate 50% of their profits to support adoptions, which is incredible! And their clothes are some of the softest I've ever worn! I truly love them.

I've also gotten some really good products from the FMSC Marketplace, which is a division of Feed My Starving Children. They have Christmas ornaments, wall hangings, jewelry, coffee, and more. The sales go towards providing meals for people in developing countries, and it tells you when you go to add something to your cart how many meals it will provide.

 

Other ideas:

Sseko Designs - shoes, bags, & more!

Cedar and Cypress Designs - beautiful jewelry!

Mercy House Global - jewelry, home decor, gift boxes, & more!

Krochet Kids - hats, headbands, accessories, & more!

Mercy Candle Co. - soy candles & boxed sets with AMAZING scents!

Imagine Goods - shirts, bags, aprons, napkins, & more!

Noonday Collection - gorgeous jewelry & accessories

Soma - waterbottles

 

Happy shopping, everyone!

Attitude of Gratitude, Part Two: The Purpose

attitude of gratitude (1).png

Why give thanks?

Why express gratitude?

Does it really do any good to keep track of what you're thankful for or go around the table at Thanksgiving and share (to which most of the people gathered will inevitably reply, "I'm thankful for my friends and family," 'cause that's just how it goes)?

Expressing gratitude does make a difference.

Don't believe me?

 

PERPSECTIVE CHANGE

Choosing to focus on what you're grateful for changes your outlook. Instead of seeing only what's challenging or difficult about life, it highlights the good things, both big and small. It forces you to remember that no matter what's happening, there is still good in the world.

Instead of seeing a closed door as the end of something you were hoping for, you can view it as a redirection toward something that will be even better. When faced with the option to grumble about having to drive to your vacation destination instead of fly, you can choose to rejoice in the fact that you get to go on vacation and make the most of the extra time with your fellow passengers!

I've done this recently with my business. The book I published at the end of May got some good traction right away, but since then hasn't been doing too well in terms of sales (that's putting it lightly, friends). At first I was really disappointed. I had been hoping it would do really well and be a good source of extra income.

But I chose to see it instead as a springboard for the rest of my business I've built since then, an amazing sort of business card, and component in establishing my credibility. The work I spent on it was not lost. Its value is not determined on the number of sales it does or doesn't get. I'm choosing to still value it and all it has taught me.

 

MINDSET SWITCH

You can't be moaning and groaning about your plight and expressing gratitude at the same time. It's like trying to be both asleep and awake. If you're giving thanks, you're choosing to switch from thinking about the negative to instead think about the positive.

I've found that adopting a more thankful, positive mindset can be the singe most important thing in overcoming obstacles. When I think the challenges I'm facing are impossible or too difficult for me, I'm in effect giving myself an excuse to not try as hard as I otherwise would.

When I approach challenges and obstacles with the knowledge that I can overcome them, if not by my own strength and grit, then by the grace and strength of my God, then I can move mountains.

It's like shining a light into the dark depths of a basement. It makes things less scary and intimidating. It doesn't change the fact that the darkness is there, but neither does it deny the existence of or the overwhelming power of the light.

 

ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT

When you adopt a regular practice of thanksgiving, it changes you from the inside out. You begin seeing more things that you can be thankful for. They were already there, but because you know believe that there is good in the world, your eyes are opened to them. It makes you more joyful, because you trust that there are good things even in the midst of the bad things. Choosing gratitude helps you see the glass as half-full instead of half-empty.

When I'm constantly thinking of negative things, I find myself feeling very touchy, grouchy, and irritable. The littlest thing can feel like the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. Last week, I had trouble (lots and LOTS of trouble) opening a jar of salsa. I'm talking 20 minutes spent trying to wrench the thing open with all the tools at my disposal. I ended up walking away and coming back to it later, only to find out it was still stuck.

I kept trying, again and again and again, because I felt like I had really put in the work and I REALLY wanted that salsa after all my efforts to open it. I did finally get it open (after another 10 minutes), and it was that much sweeter for having waited so long for it.

I realize this is a pretty small example, but it felt like a big one to me in the moment, when I was forced to choose to either give up in frustration and grumble to myself about the "stupid salsa jar" or take a break, gather up my (literal) strength, and return with fresh energy and renewed commitment and belief in my abilities to open said jar.

 

Why do you give thanks? Did any of these reasons strike a chord with you? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

And if you'd like to share what you're thankful for on Instagram, I encourage you to use the hashtag #attitudeofgratitudechallenge-- and you can find me and my posts about what I'm thankful for on my account: @jessiepierce019

Letting Go When You Can't See What's Ahead

letting go.png

Letting go is hard.

Am I right?

When we want something so badly that we're willing to fight, struggle, and strive to make it happen against all odds, but then, at the end of the day, have to let go anyway-- that's so incredibly difficult and painful.

It feels like such an acute loss.

The loss of a dream.

The loss of a possibility.

The loss of a chance.

The loss of an idea.

The loss of a future we created for ourselves.

So, how do we let go? And how do we possibly let go when we're not sure what's ahead? It's one thing to let go of plan A when we have a clear plan B, but when you've exhausted all your plans or unexpectedly had to let go of something you'd been clinging to, how do you move forward?

 

IN FAITH

Ultimately, it comes down to having faith in God's plan and His timing. Which really begins with having faith in Him. Do we believe He is who He says He is? Do we trust that He knows better than we do? Do we believe that no matter what happens, He is still good, and that His plan is ultimately for our good and His glory?

He is still good.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. - Psalm 136:1

He is in control.

"Abba, Father," He cried out, "everything is possible for You. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not mine." - Mark 14:36

He never leaves.

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. - Genesis 28:15
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And through the rivers; they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. - Isaiah 43:2

He cares deeply.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about what happens to you. - 1 Peter 5:7

He has a plan.

"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the Lord. "And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:8-9

He is trustworthy.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. - Proverbs 3:5-6

He is our hope.

"Those who hope in Me will not be disappointed." - Isaiah 49:23

 

ONE STEP AT A TIME

When I don't know how to move forward because I'm unsure of the path ahead, I remind myself that I only have to go one step at a time. 

Because I'm a planner (and admittedly a bit of a control freak), I would prefer to have the whole plan laid out before me. But it doesn't work that way. I'm only given one step at a time, so that's all I have to focus on.

Martin Luther King, Jr said, "Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."

 

IN COMMUNITY

Although our struggles and circumstances are often individual and personal, that doesn't mean we have to go through them all by ourselves. We weren't meant to do life alone!

Friends, family, and community members are in our lives for that very purpose-- to encourage, inspire, motivate, listen, point us in the right direction, give us perspective, and support us through life's ups and downs (and let us do the same for them). I encourage you to reach out to them!

 

What does your first step look like? Mine looks like taking a deep breath and reminding myself that everything is part of God's plan-- a plan created for my good and His glory, a plan that ends with love winning.

Attitude of Gratitude, Part 1: The Challenge

attitude of gratitude.png

Tis the season for gratitude. 

But it's easier said than done, right?

It's all too easy to get caught up in the frustrations of daily life-- traffic, running late, spilling your coffee, not finding what you wanted at the store, your alarm not going off... I could go on, but I don't think I need to. You know exactly what I mean.

There are so many things that can get in the way of our happiness and gratitude. But there are also many things that can make us grateful if only we would pay attention.

As we get nearer to Thanksgiving and then Christmas, I'm challenging myself and YOU to adopt an attitude of gratitude!

What does that mean, exactly?

It means practicing patience.

It means looking for the silver lining.

It means being a glass-half-full kind of person.

It means SAYING "thank you." 

For me, it means taking time to write down the things I'm thankful for on a more regular basis. I've always liked doing that, but I've gotten out of the habit lately, and I want to focus on it more with the holidays coming up since that's naturally a more stressful season.

So I'm starting an Attitude of Gratitude Challenge to be more intentional in writing down things I'm thankful for in this season.

Will you join me? (Stay tuned for more about adopting and maintaining an attitude of gratitude!)

October 2017 Favorites

I thought it would be fun if I took a moment each month to let you know what things are currently striking my fancy, so here goes the September installment! 

[This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase items through my link, I will receive a small commission. Thanks for supporting Notes from Jessie!]

CURRENT FAVORITES:

 

 

BOOKS:

This month, I read On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis, and I thought it was great! I generally do like dystopian books, but I found this one to be distinct from the others I've read because of the complexity of the characters, the plausibility of the circumstances, and the unique twist on events.

I also read Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery, which was adorably sweet. I read Before the Fall by Noah Hawley, too, and was deeply intrigued, gripped until the end when I finally found out what happened and how it all ended (it also was the last book I needed to complete my 2017 reading challenge courtesy of Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy!). And I finally read my own copy of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, despite the fact that it had been sitting in a pile of books at the foot of my bed for a year.

QUOTE:

"Am I being led by love or pushed by fear?" - Emily P. Freeman. Sometimes, I waver when trying to make decisions, not knowing which is the "right" choice. But considering what's motivating me to choose either option can be helpful in clarifying what the best option is for me in that season of my life.

TV SHOW: 

I just finished watching Mad Men, which I thought was okay, but not necessarily up my alley. I also got caught up on the second season of This is Us, which I'm a big fan of. 

SONG: 

"Bleed the Same" by Mandisa is one of my current faves. It's so inspirational!

FOOD: 

I made some pretty good pumpkin cinnamon rolls from this recipe, one batch for myself and another to share with my community for our breakfast-for-dinner night. It was a hit both times!

PODCAST:

I binge-listened to Amber McCue's podcast, The Modern CEO, which is fantastic! She gives so much great advice for entrepreneurs, and her tone is so upbeat!

MEMORIES FROM OCTOBER:

I celebrated a dear friend's baby shower, which was so sweet! I also got to spend time with my extended family, which is also a great time, especially since it's becoming less frequent.

LOOKING FORWARD TO IN NOVEMBER:

I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving the most, since it's always so much fun! There's so much delicious food, and my family is planning on doing the Walk to End Hunger at the Mall of America in the morning, so if you'd like to help us support Second Harvest Heartland's efforts to provide food to local families in need, we'd love your help!

I'm also heading out to WI to a roommate reunion in November, and I can hardly wait! Those girls are some of my dearest friends, and I always cherish our time together now that we no longer live under the same roof.

What were some of your favorite things this month? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Laughter and Light

laughter & light.png

Whoever is merry and cheerful has always a good reason for so being, namely the very fact that he is so. Nothing can so completely take the place of every other blessing as can this quality, whilst it iself cannot be replaced by anything. A man may be young, handsome, wealthy, and esteemed; if we wish to judge of his happiness, we ask whether he is cheerful." --Schopenhauer

I felt convicted of having a negative, serious attitude when I realized that laughing felt somewhat strange and unfamiliar.

Geez, do I really not laugh that much?

No, I don't really. Not in daily life, anyway.

I like to think I have a decent sense of humor, or at least an appreciation for humor. I don't find myself to be especially funny, but I like comedies, jokes, memes, and funny YouTube videos.

But I realized I definitely have an opportunity to smile and laugh more than I currently do if I want to truly live a joyful, abundant life.

And I do want to live that kind of life.

So I'm working on being more lighthearted, smiling more, and laughing more often. I certainly don't want to be fake or disrespectful of others' problems and serious conversations, but I want to not take myself or my life (or my to-do list and penchant for getting so wrapped up in my own little world that I block out everyone else) too seriously.

This year, I read Gretchen Rubin's book The Happiness Project, and part of her aim for November (the month focusing on keeping a contented heart) was to laugh more. She said "It's easier to complain than to laugh, easier to yell than to joke around, easier to be demanding than to be satisfied. Keeping a 'heart to be contented,' I expected, would help change my actions."

There are so many things to be thankful for and to find joy in every day. I'm reminded of that when I go for walks at this time of year. From the bright sunshine to the crunching of leaves underfoot to the glorious colors to the smell of bonfires, it's all so cozy and beautiful. If I'm not careful, though, I'll take it all for granted.

As we move nearer to November and the holiday season, I want to be intentional about living a little lighter-- laughing more, finding joy in the little things, letting go, allowing small things to roll off my back, and choosing to persevere in faith. I want to make the most of the most wonderful time of the year. Will you join me?

Roots & Wings

Roots & Wings.png

Being grounded and yet untethered. Having a background and an unknown future with infinite possibilities.

Knowing where I came from and embracing the knowledge that I can go anywhere from here.

That's where I'm at right now, friends.

And I think if I were to be completely honest, that's where I've been for a while. I think that's what this season of life between college and full-fledged "adulthood" (whatever that really means) is all about.

It's about figuring out who I really am.

It's about figuring out what's really important to me.

It's about getting more perspective and remembering the world doesn't revolve around me.

It's about trial and error, adventures, and taking risks.

It's about saying yes and trying new things.

It's about finding my people.

It's about finding my place.

It's about creating new rhythms.

It's about redefining "home."

It's about growth, challenges, struggles, uncertainty, setbacks, and celebrating small victories.

 

If you're in that place, too, I invite you to join me for the journey. I don't know exactly what it's going to look like, but I'd love another friend to walk with me! And if you've been there before, I would gladly welcome any words of advice or encouragement!

Tell Your Story

tell your story.png

There is so much power in owning and telling your one-of-a-kind story!

Your story is unique to you. It made you who you are today. And it's worth telling!

 

FINDING FREEDOM

Do you know how much freedom there is to be found in owning and sharing your story? 

When you no longer let shame keep your story hidden in the deepest, darkest parts of your soul, you conquer it. You quiet the voices by using your voice. Instead of letting your story own you, you choose to own it.

Only by bringing things out into the light of day can we see them for what they really are. Perspective has a way of making big things seem small and small things seem big. It gives us fresh eyes and a renewed ability to see the good, the lessons, the growth that has come from our pasts, even if things were painful in the moment.

 

IT'S UP TO YOU

By choosing to be the one to tell your story, you get to decide how to tell it. You get the wonderful opportunity to frame it the way you want to. 

Where you begin it, what you include in it, and how you describe and explain the details of it are up to you. You have the power position here. It's your story, and you get to tell it to the world around you.

When I wrote the series of posts about my story here on Notes from Jessie, I got to decide what I included, what I focused on, what details I provided, where I began the story, and how I wrapped it up. Of course, there are plenty of things I didn't include (for the sake of time, privacy, or other reasons), and you have the power to do the same with your story!

 

INSPIRING OTHERS

We lead by example. We learn from the examples of others.

How many times have you been more willing to do something once someone else has gone first? A friend jumped in the pool first, proving it wasn't too deep. Your parents skated around the pond before you to demonstrate how it was done. Your brother or sister showed you how to ride a bike before making you try it yourself.

By being bold enough to share your story, you're empowering others to do the same. Your boldness inspires them to step out in boldness, too. 

 

So, what's your story? I encourage you to share it today, to own your story, choose how you're going to tell it, and inspire others to share their story, too!

A Reminder to Soften

a reminder to soften.png

Oh, how easy it is to spit out a witty comeback or a hurtful reply! Our world is full of painful examples of people reacting quickly to the things around them, often in rather unkind ways. I'm sure we can all think of times when we've said things we wish we could take back. Even if we don't mean to, our words have the ability to deeply wound those around us if we're not careful.

But how might that change if we just paused for a moment before replying and consciously tried to soften our responses?

What might our friendships, workplaces, homes, families, and communities look like if we responded more kindly on a consistent basis?

We certainly can't be perfect. We won't always know what to say. But I think we often can look back on things that came out of our mouths or off of our fingertips and see that we said the wrong thing.

But because we can't take back our words after we say them, it's imperative that we consider them just a little bit longer before we let them out.

We say and type out some rather nasty, condemning, insulting, hurtful things when we're not careful. May we begin choosing kindness, generosity, grace, and love instead.

My Vow to Soften

...I vow to listen to opinions – I don’t always have to be right.

I don’t always have to agree or have the last word.

...I vow to be more accepting of quirks, mannerisms, and differences.

I vow to be more accepting of tastes and styles unlike my own.

I vow to remember he is in the process of becoming; she is in the process of finding her way. And they are more apt to do it if I stop telling them how.

I vow to regard “weaknesses” as unripened strengths.

Inner gifts can be nurtured when I stop plotting ways to alter, change, and “improve.”

I vow to greet my family and myself with a loving smile,

no matter what happened yesterday.

I vow to pause before correcting.

I shall take a moment to consider if the mistake even needs to be mentioned at all.

I vow to be a voice of encouragement in a demeaning world.

I vow to be a silver lining spotter in my family’s little world.

I vow to be softer today than I was yesterday—a softer voice, a softer posture, a softer touch, a softer thought, a softer timetable.

By being softer, I can hear more, learn more, feel more, and love more.

At last I will fully see his colors, her colors, and my own.

Perhaps it will be for the very first time.

The colors might take my breath away,

bring me to tears,

or offer long-awaited peace.

I shall soften in order to illuminate the colors of the soul.

I shall soften so the human being within me and beside me can shine. -Ann Voskamp

I truly couldn't say that better if I tried. May we all be willing to soften our hearts and our words, that we might better love ourselves, our people, and our world.

 

Further reading:

how to soften your sharp edges with just three simple words by Ann Voskamp

Going for the Goal, Part 4: Daily Doses

Going for the Goal- Daily Doses.png

This is the fourth and final post in a new series about setting and working toward your goals in a methodical way that increases your ability to achieve them. (And if you missed other posts in the series, you can catch up here!)

Have you ever gotten off track on your progress toward your goals because you simply forgot what you were working toward? (*raises hand*)

It's so easy to forget what we're intending to change because old habits die hard and thrive in our established routines. If we're not incredibly clear about our goals and diligent in implementing them, we'll fall back into our old habits and routines.

But there has to be a way to stick to our goals, right? There has got to be some way we can remind ourselves what it is that we're working toward on a regular basis.

 

WRITE IT DOWN

I've found that the number one key for me personally is to write things down if I really want to remember them, goals included. There's something about the connection between physically writing something down and committing it to my memory in a way that nothing else can.

I actually have memories of writing things down. In college, I took notes like a crazy person, not just because I would go back and read them again later, but because it helped me focus by committing the words I was hearing to paper. 

It's very similar to writing down my goals. When I write them down, I can better recall them later. There are too many thoughts and good intentions running through my head every day. If I don't write them down, they're gone just about as fast as I can say, "what was that?"

But just writing it down on some random scrap of paper to keep from forgetting it isn't enough.

 

PRIME LOCATION

Put your reminder somewhere you can see it frequently. The more you see it, the more you'll be reminded of what you're working toward, and the more motivated you'll be.

Make it the wallpaper for your phone's lock screen. Put a Post-It note on your bathroom or bedroom mirror. Prop it up beneath your computer monitor at work. Write it in big letters on a whiteboard or chalkboard on your wall. 

I don't know what location works best for you-- you can do it however you'd like. But I cannot stress this enough. State your goal clearly. Write it down. Put it somewhere you'll see it on the regular. And begin working to achieve it one small step at a time.

 

TELL OTHERS

If you really want to commit to your goal in a serious way, tell other people about it. When you say the words out loud and let other people in on your goal, it takes it up several notches. Now other people are aware of what you're working toward. They can encourage you and ask you how you're making progress.

I sometimes shy away from telling other people about my goals because I'm afraid of what will happen if I don't reach them. But then I realize that's just fear talking. And I remember that if I really want the encouragement and support I need to reach my goals, I have to tell other people. I can't do it alone. And I don't have to!

 

And if you want to get a kickstart on crushing your goals and gain clarity in your purpose, discover what your gifts are, find what meaningful work looks like, and learn to live a fulfilling, purposeful, and THRIVING life every day, join my FREE 7-day From Surviving to Thriving Challenge!

Start Right Where You Are

Start Right Where You Are.png

Many of us think we'll start doing things when we get older, wiser, get a better job, a bigger house, a more permanent community, or reach some other milestone. But where better to start than where we are right now?

If we keep putting off action, we might never act at all.

We don't have to wait for more money to be in our banking accounts or more open time on our calendars. We can start right here, right now.

No matter what we have, we have something to give.

The place between your two feet at any given time is your mission field. - Danielle Allen

 

START SMALL

Do you have an hour this week that you could give toward a coffee date with someone who just needs a listening ear? Do you have twenty minutes to shovel a neighbor's sidewalk or driveway? Do you have five minutes to get to know your coworker better and make them feel loved? Do you have five or ten dollars you can give to a charity you believe in? Do you have food or clothing you can donate to those who desperately need them?

Even if you think the only thing you can do is small in comparison to what you want to be doing or compared to what others are doing, that doesn't mean it isn't important. Every act of kindness, compassion, love, and service is important. There's no shame in starting small.

 

ON BEING ENOUGH

It can be easy to think that we're not enough. We're not old enough, not wise enough, not important enough, not connected enough, you name it. But let me tell you, we are enough. You and I, right here, right now-- we are enough.

We don't have to wait until we're older, smarter, richer, or more influential to start loving, helping, and acting. We have so much more than we acknowledge. We all have skills, resources, and voices. We have the capacity to love and care for those around us, no matter what else we do or don't have. We are enough.

 

DO SOMETHING

We've all been given gifts and talents that we're meant to share with the world around us. And we don't have to wait until we cross some arbitrary starting line to begin using them. Maybe we can't do everything we want right now for some really valid reasons, but just because we can't do everything doesn't mean we shouldn't do something.

So, start small. Start today. Pick one thing to do for someone else-- not because they have something to offer in return or because you'll be acknowledged for your kindness, but just because you have something to offer and because you can offer it. And then do it again tomorrow. And the day after that, and the day after that. Make whatever difference you can. Talk to others around you about coming together to do good things in the world. You may not be able to change everything, but you can change something.

 

And if you want to start changing your life, to make it more fulfilling and meaningful, I'd love to have you join my FREE 7-day challenge: From Surviving to Thriving!

get unstuck (1).png

Live a life you love!

Join my FREE 7-day challenge to get the kickstart you need to start living the life you were created to live!

 

Further reading:

Small Steps to Living Life On Mission by Danielle Allen, One Foot Coaching