Joyful Living, Part 3: Chasing Everyday Joy

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My mom used to call me "Pollyanna" sometimes when I was growing up. Do you get the reference? Yep, that little blonde girl played by Hayley Mills who was constantly playing her "gladness" game and driving everybody around her completely crazy!

But for all the times she irritated others, she also inspired them to see the best of things and see opportunities to bless others. Her positive outlook and incessant joy radiated from her and impacted those closest to her. So I don't know about you, but I'm honored to have been compared to her!

 

A LIFE CHARACTERIZED BY JOY

I don't always feel much like Pollyanna these days. It's easy to get bogged down with stress and frustration and to-do lists. It's much harder to hold onto joy and gladness.

But I realized not too long ago that I don't want to be remembered for what I've accomplished. I want to be remembered for loving and encouraging others, for radiating and spreading joy. That's the legacy I want to leave.

And that means I have to choose joy everyday. That means I have to prioritize joy and love over accomplishments and productivity. That means I have to remember what's most important and let go of what isn't.

That means I have to pursue joy and look for it everywhere I go and in everything I do. I still have to wash the dishes and do the laundry, but I can look for joy in them. I still see the hard things in the world and in the lives of the people closest to me, but I choose to believe that God is still good and there is still reason to be joyful.

If I want my life to be characterized by joy, I have to live joyfully every day. Otherwise stress and busyness take over before I know it! Our small, daily choices become our habits, so if I want to be a more joyful person, I need to make regular decisions to seek and choose joy.

 

FINDING THE JOY

Much of chasing everyday joy is figuring out what it is that brings each of us joy. For me, it's a beautiful sunset, time spent with friends and family, really good food, pretty flowers, good music, and good books, just to name a few.

What brings you joy?

A child's smile?

A beautiful sunset?

A friend's deep belly laugh?

Hearing your favorite song come on the radio?

Getting to sleep an extra thirty minutes?

It's amazing, isn't it, the power such simple things have to bring us such profound joy?

In light of that, perhaps we can remember that joy can be found in the simplest of things, if only we would take the time to pay attention. Things like these are all around us, just waiting for us to enjoy them!

 

IT'S IN THE LITTLE THINGS

Joy is waiting for you in the little things all around you: time to yourself, nailing a presentation or project, crossing things off your to-do list, a coffee date or phone call with a friend, a sweet unexpected message, or hearing your favorite song on the radio. 

If we're not careful, we might take those things for granted and not see the immense amount of joy they can bring us. We might let our difficulties and stress overshadow the joy these things can bring about within us. Or we can choose to pause and celebrate each and every one, no matter what else is going on in and around us.

 

CELEBRATING SMALL WINS

Do you know what else can bring us joy? Taking a moment to celebrate how far we've come. It's easy and normal to get so caught up in our projects and goals that we don't see how far we've come until we're done. But each step towards finishing or accomplishing our end goal deserves a little celebration! That's how we keep up enough momentum to keep going and maintain joy throughout the process.

Think about it. If you're trying to pay off all your debt, but you're not planning on celebrating at all until you're completely finished, you'll be waiting for a while, deferring your joy. But if you celebrate for each loan you pay off, you'll see your progress more clearly and keep your spirits up the whole time! Instead of focusing on just how much farther you have to go, you'll be able to better appreciate how far you've already come.

There's always going to be room for improvement, and we're always going to have some sort of challenges in our lives, but that doesn't mean we can't be chasing joy at the same time! We can make the most of our situations and find the greatest amount of peace and rest in knowing there is always something to be joyful about, always something to be thankful for, if only we would pause for a minute to see it.

 

What's bringing you joy today? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

And if you're interested in pursuing a life of greater joy with other women, check out my group!

Later, lovely!Jessie (1).png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources:

Happiness vs Joy - www.diffen.com

Joy - VS - Happiness by Sandra L. Brown, Psychology Today

5 Ways to Make Time for What Matter Most

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You're busy. Your to-do list is never-ending. By the time you check off the fact that you sent that email to your boss and finished, you've remembered that you have to add more: run to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription, pay the electric bill, call grandma, make dinner. Trying to get it all done starts to feel as impossible as herding cats.

There are just too many demands for your time. From your family. From your work. From your health. From your home. From yourself, as you juggle thoughts of what you could and should be doing.

How much time do you spend doing what you want to do?

Do you spend more time working than with your family? Is the way your time is divided up the way you want it to be?

 

1. List out your priorities.

What matters most to you? If you're anything like me, you think you have a good grasp on your priorities, but I'm going to challenge you to take a few minutes to write them down. It's one thing to say you have your priorities straight; it's another to actually have to write them down in order, as a numbered list.

Where does your family fall? Your relationship with your significant other? Your job? Your faith? Your hobbies?

Unless you choose to share your list, you're the only one who is going to see it. So be honest. You can only have one top priority, and it matters that you know what it is.

I'll go first. My priorities are:

  1. My faith in Jesus Christ.
  2. My relationships with my real-life people.
  3. My health.
  4. My work as a purposeful life coach.
  5. My relationships with and interactions with people outside of my inner circles (including social media).

 

2. Pay attention to how you're currently spending your time.

I'll be the first to admit it's really easy to spend our time doing trivial things because it's convenient and fun. I spend more time on social media than I'd care to admit, and I could spend a whole day reading, but that's not always the best use of my time.

When I first began trying to live purposefully, I thought I didn't have time to focus more on relationships. My schedule was full. It was one of those "I'm busy; sorry, I can't" sorts of things. I had just accepted my busyness as an inevitable side effect of living an adult life.

But I wasn't busy doing the best things. Notice I didn't say I was busy doing bad things. I was doing good things, just not the best things for me in that season, according to my priorities.

In order to notice that and be willing to change, I had to first open my eyes to how I was really spending my time. Until I wrote it all down, I hadn't realized just how much time was spent on certain things, like social media, watching Netflix, zoning out, checking email, or checking for the best deal before I purchase something on Amazon.

If you're serious about dedicating more of your time to what matters most to you (and who isn't?), then I encourage you to fill out this time tracker I created so you can pay more attention to where you're currently spending your time and begin to think about what could change to better align your life with your goals.

 

3. Embrace time blocking.

Multitasking might be a buzzword, but it's not the most efficient way to get things done. Sometimes we can do two things at once, like walking and chewing gum or listening to music while washing the dishes. But when it comes to things we have to focus on, we can only pay attention to one thing at a time. 

One solution to help me focus on one thing at a time in the midst of a world full of distractions is to create specific time blocks in my schedule for certain activities. I work from a specific time in the morning until lunch, when I take a break to eat and relax, and then I go back to work until my self-imposed quitting time. Within that time, I commit to working on one project at a time, giving myself half an hour to finish this project, or an hour for that one. Having a specific length of time helps me focus on the task at hand because that's the only thing that time is dedicated to. 

I work out for an hour after I wake up five days a week. It's not something I even have to think about. That's what that time is for. I attend church gatherings on Sunday mornings; that time is dedicated to that purpose. And I find that it works for plenty of other things, and I think you will, too! It helps with focus because I know what I'm supposed to be doing, and anything else that comes up can be handled when I finish the task at hand.

 

4. Enlist help.

Nobody can do it on their own. Believe me, I've tried! I'm independent to a fault, but I'm learning that I need help. I just can't do it all by myself. And none of us should feel the pressure to try to do it all by ourselves.

We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and we're better together. So if you're not so good at keeping things organized, maybe your coworker could help you out. Or if you prefer cooking meals to cleaning the house, and your roommate or spouse would rather clean than cook, maybe you could split up the roles.

Or perhaps you just hate cleaning your house and resent the amount of time it steals away from you; you could outsource the work and hire someone to come clean for you so that you can spend more time with your family and friends.

Some common ways to delegate and outsource are:

  • hire a virtual assistant
  • hire someone to clean your house
  • buy the food for your next party instead of taking the time to make it
  • use a meal delivery service or subscription
  • have your spouse or kids chip in on the cleaning
  • put together a team to help you with your project

To put a different twist on it, you could consider doing a task with a friend. If you both need to grocery shop, for instance, and feel too busy to grab coffee, you could go on a grocery shopping date! It might seem like less fun, but you could make it fun by racing to see who can get all the items on their list first or who has to backtrack aisles fewer times. And you get to both accomplish the practical task of getting your shopping done while investing in a relationship that matters to you, so it's a win-win!

 

5. Start saying "no."

When you reach the point where there's too much on your plate that you can't just delegate or outsource, you've reached the point where you're going to have to let go of some things.

Everything you say "yes" to automatically requires a "no" to something else, but so many of us (myself included at times) try to say "yes" to everything.

It's just not sustainable. 

When my life and calendar are too full, I've learned that the only realistic solution is to take some things away. I have to start saying "no." 

I was in way over my head in high school, going part time to the community college for classes, participating in National Honor Society, working at the local coffee shop, going to youth group, serving as a leader with our youth group, leading in the children's ministry, helping with the children's musical, trying to stay faithful to a weekly Bible study, not to mention trying to spend time with my family and friends. It was just too much! But I loved it all, so I pushed through. It was one of the most stressful seasons of my life simply because of the pace I was required to keep. I nearly ran myself into the ground. I didn't sleep well. I didn't eat well. I didn't have much of a social life at all. It was rough in so many ways.

When I started college, I knew I had to live differently. Of course, I was drawn to many of the same things. But I didn't join them all. I chose to participate in leadership for my student organization, but I said "no" to joining the worship team. I joined just one student organization, even though others sounded like fun. I worked fewer hours and slept more. I didn't do it perfectly (nobody does), but I did it better. And it was far more enjoyable and far less stressful because I chose to be more careful with my "yes" and "no" responses.

    Some things you could consider saying "no" to are:

    • mopping your floors frequently (who will notice?)
    • putting together a beautiful table setting when you have people over
    • redecorating for every season
    • making homemade food for every potluck or friend with a new baby
    • keeping up with new technology and gadgets
    • having the perfect Pinterest-worthy party for every occasion
    • that new project that would take more of your time and energy, but isn't something your heart's really in
    • joining the HOA board, the PTA, the new team at work, or any other team you're not invested in

     

    6. BONUS: MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS

    One more thing we can all do to make more time for what really matters to us is to minimize distractions. We might think they're outside of our control, and sometimes they are (like children running in, calling your name, or an urgent email that demands to be handled ASAP), many times we can control the demands put on us to some extent.

    One of my favorite ways to minimize distraction in my life is to limit the notifications I receive. I only allow direct messages to me (Facebook messages and text messages) to show up on my lock screen. All the notifications about likes, comments, follows, and the rest go unnoticed. I don't need them interrupting me. My life has been so much more peaceful without constantly being notified when I get an email or a like. And it hasn't hurt my business or relationships one bit because I have dedicated time to check and respond to anything that does need my attention. 

    I also like to use the "do not disturb" feature on my phone when I'm going to sleep and when I'm going to be deep in work mode for a little while. Or when I just need a break, if I'm really being honest. I have it set up so that a few select people's messages and calls can get through (like my immediate family and a very close circle of others) so I'm not unreachable in the event of an emergency, but it keeps my phone from lighting up, buzzing, or making chiming noises all night while I'm trying to sleep or when I'm trying to record a new video or write an outline for a book.

    I've found, too, that it helps me to try to turn off other distractions, like music and TV, when I need to really focus. I'm not good at tuning them out, and while I've gotten better at handling background noise for certain tasks, there's something to be said about quieting our environments.

    So if you feel yourself being pulled in too many directions, along with writing out your priorities, evaluating how you spend your time, using time blocking, delegating, and saying "no," I suggest minimizing your distractions. Then you will find that you've made your work more efficient and made more time to do what really matters most to you!

    And if you're trying to live with more intention and joy so you can live the kind of life you want, I'd love to have you check out my Facebook group: The Joy + Full Living Community!

    Later, lovely!Jessie.png

    Joyful Living, Part 2: Joy Despite All Circumstances

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    It's no secret that our world and our lives are full of hard times, hurt, and more stress than we ever expected to endure.

    How can you be happy when there's so much hurt? How can you smile when things seem to be going wrong left and right? How can you be grateful when life is so hard?

    Those are some tough questions. I've heard different versions of them, but they generally trace back to similar lines of thinking.

    People want to know how it's possible to have hope and joy in the midst of difficult circumstances, whether ours or the world's. 

    So how do we hold onto hope and joy in the midst of hard times?

    At the risk of sounding trite, we remember that joy isn't dependent upon our circumstances or the state of the world around us. Our joy comes from a deeper place, from a Person who isn't shaken even when everything else is.

     

    CHOOSING TO CHOOSE JOY

    In my experience, it comes down to choosing joy every day, regardless of circumstances.

    When I was approaching my college graduation, I was in one of the most stressful seasons of life I've ever experienced. I was about to leave the safety of the predictable student life I'd lived my whole life up to that point, walking away from a strong community I loved, leaving a city I'd fallen in love with, and headed into a season full of unknowns.

    Needless to say, I wasn't very happy about it. But I chose to pursue joy, to believe that God had it all worked out, and that even though my heart was breaking and my mind was frazzled from so many failed attempts to pin down a job post-graduation, I was secure because God was in control.

    It wasn't easy, and it wasn't a decision I made just once. I had to make it again every day. And sometimes every hour.

    Even though I had no idea what was ahead of me, I knew God would go with me. I still praised Him. I may have also yelled at Him and gotten incredibly frustrated with Him and his timing, but I also knew I could be frustrated and still praise Him. I could be irritated with my situation and still choose joy because my situation didn't change His character or my security in Him.

    In that season, I had to choose joy each day. Some days I had to choose to choose joy, reminding myself that I always have that choice. It's not an automatic thing. It's a daily decision to pursue joy instead of fear. I didn't know how things would play out, but I knew they'd somehow be okay in the end.

     

    HOLDING TIGHT TO THE PROMISES

    What helps me hold onto joy is remembering God's promises. It's like there's a silver lining to everything because I know He's faithful to fulfill His promises, including Romans 8:28, which says that He's working everything together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose for them. So I can rest knowing He's got this, whatever "this" might be in the various seasons and situations of my life.

    He has promised to never leave us or forsake us, to be with us always. And sometimes that's what I cling to the most. I don't always have to know how it's going to work out in the end; it's enough to just know that I'm not alone.

    He promises in Galatians 6:9 that if we keep going, if we don't give up, we will reap a harvest of blessing "at just the right time." It's taken me a while to realize that blessing might not look the way I expect it to or want it to, but if I keep pursuing Him, serving Him, and loving others, there is always some sort of blessing involved.

    He delights to give us good gifts, He came to give us abundant life. Obviously, those things also come alongside and amidst difficulties and struggles, but they are such precious gifts from Him, and I'm learning to recognize them as such and pause to cherish them and give thanks for each one.

    And when I focus on the blessings instead of the stress and pain, I can find greater joy in the midst of my circumstances. It doesn't remove the pain or whisk me away from challenging situations, but it gives me greater perspective and reminds me that God is still good.

     

    HOW I WANT TO LIVE

    For me, it came down to deciding how I wanted to live my life. I decided years ago that how I live my life is more important than what I do with it. No matter what happens, no matter where I am or what I'm doing, there are certain things that I want my life to be characterized by.

    I choose joy because that's how I want to live.

    I don't want to be consumed by fear or anxiety. I want to rest knowing God's got it all under control, even when I can't see how it's all going to play out.

    I don't want to be negative, focusing on all the hurt and stress in and around me. I want to see the positive side, find the joy, and be able to share joy and encouragement with those around me.

    I don't want to rush ahead or lag behind, grasping at straws or fighting to hold onto things of the past. I want to make the most of the season I'm in right now and hold things with open hands, joyfully accepting whatever God chooses to give and take away.

    I don't want to feel pressured to make everything work out by my own strength (that's always the messier way to go). I want to let go and let God deal with the nitty gritty details of weaving together the tapestry of my life and His work in the world into something beautiful.

     

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    How do you want to live your life? Do you want it to be characterized by greater joy? I thought so. I've created a Facebook group called The Joy + Full Living Community for people like you looking to live full lives that are joyful, peaceful, and meaningful, and I'd love for you to join us!

     

    Later, lovely!Jessie (1).png

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Resources:

    Happiness vs Joy - www.diffen.com

    Joy - VS - Happiness by Sandra L. Brown, Psychology Today

    How to Not Be a Productivity Addict

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    Hi, my name is Jessie, and I'm a productivity addict.

    I love to-do lists and planners. 

    I sometimes add things to my to-do list after I've done them just to get the satisfaction from checking them off.

    I'm task-oriented more than I am people-oriented.

    I'm not claiming that those things are good or the right way to live; I'm just admitting that's how I'm wired.

    It's hard for me to feel like things are worthwhile sometimes if they're not productive. If there is nothing to me to measure, no tangible results from my effort, did I really do anything at all?

    I read Emily P. Freeman's book A Million Little Ways a while ago, but this quote really stuck with me:

    "I am bound to my own usefulness, bigheaded with my own accomplishments, crushed by my shortcomings. I am capable of making beautiful art, but I am also capable of turning the art into something it was never meant to be. I miss the presence of Jesus in my current moments. I miss the soul breath. I miss the smallness, the doorway through which I must walk to find freedom from the ever-moving treadmill of life...I have forgotten my truest identity. I am a poem, but I live tethered to my programs." -Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live

    I know deep down that I'm more than just what I can accomplish, more than the metrics and status and numbers, but that knowledge flies in the face of our accomplishment and accolade-driven culture.

    I want to believe that I'm more than my job, my awards, my title, my net worth. But how can any of us do that in a world that places such high value on those things at the apparent expense of others?

     

    RIGHT PERSPECTIVE

    The thing that's helped me more than anything else has been choosing to change my perspective. Yes, it's nice to have a prestigious job (I assume), a large salary (probably), or some fancy award or popularity (maybe? I hear those come with unwanted strings), but they're not the only things that matter. And I'd like to think they're not even the things that matter most.

    So what does matter most? Our character. Our love. Our kindness. Our righteousness. Our relationships. Our art.

    To put it succinctly: our identity in Christ.

    In Him, we have everything we will ever need. We have security, love, grace, forgiveness, provision, protection, guidance, community, and a promise of eternity with Him in Heaven. What more do we need? (The answer is nothing.)

    And once we know who we are, we can come to understand what we were created to do.

    We were created as God's masterpieces, which is a truth I just can't get over. He created us as His workmanship, as art created to create art. We've been made in His image, endowed with gifts, which means we're artists, too, whether in conventional or unconventional ways. We've been given unique sets of skills and talents --unique expressions of our art-- to use to glorify Him and serve others.

    My worth isn't found in the number of things I accomplish on any given day or the title attached to my name. I have nothing to prove, and I am free to spend my resources-- my time, money, and energy-- investing in things that really matter, not just on the things that this world tries to tell me matter.

     

    CHOOSING PEOPLE OVER PRODUCTIVITY

    At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if we've crossed off everything on our to-do lists if we haven't invested in relationships.

    Art and relationships don't function on a schedule or fit neatly into a to-do list. They're bigger and harder to confine than that. They run deep in our blood and our bones. They are what we were created to pour into, to give our lives to.

    If I cleaned my whole house, prepped food for the week, created all my marketing material, fit in a workout, and ran to the grocery store, I wouldn't be any more competent, successful, or loved than I am right now. And I wouldn't feel any more satisfied because when it comes down to it, those aren't the things that really matter.

    But if I take time to read my Bible, spend time praying for my friends, family, the world, and myself, and if I invest time and energy in relationships by sacrificing my to-do list for time with friends, then I feel like my time was truly well-spent. And if I choose to focus on encouraging others, living with joy, working hard to write uplifting words, and share the joy I've been given, although I may see no measurable results by way of more followers or monetary gain, those things matter because they're pouring out of the gifts and art inside me. 

    No, those things don't create any tangible results. No, there are no metrics to use to measure the worth of that time. But those aren't the most important things. Relationships are. Art is. People are.

     

    REMINDERS

    I find that it helps me to keep my goals and priorities in line when I remind myself of my real identity through some affirmations. I have some of them on my to-do list as a recurring item so I see them everyday.

    Some people write them on sticky notes or on their bathroom mirrors where they can see them everyday. I encourage you to take these or create your own affirmations and put them where you can see them everyday to remind you of the truth of who God is and who you are.

     

    I am a beloved daughter of the King of Kings.

    God is in control.

    God is my strength, my provision, my solid ground.

    I was made to encourage and love others.

    I always have a choice.

    I am pursuing joy in all things.

    I have nothing to prove.

    People matter more than things.

    Presence matters more than perfection.

     

    Today I hope that you are reminded, too, that people matter more than things, that productivity isn't the highest thing we're called to, and that you are more than what you accomplish or attain. 

    And if you're unsure what your gifts and talents are, what your art might look like, I'd love to chat with you about it!

    Later, lovely!Jessie.png

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Further reading:

    A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman

    [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!]

     

    Joy-Filled Living, Part 1: Defining Your Joy

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    So maybe you made a New Year's resolution back in January to have a better attitude, to snap less often at your kids, to exhibit less road rage, or to complain less.

    How are you doing on those?

    Now, none of those were specific resolutions of mine for the year because I picked one word to focus on like I always do. But that doesn't mean those aren't things most of us (myself included, except for the kids part) could stand to work on.

    But how do we do that?

    Well, friends, I'd like to suggest that those behavioral differences could come if we would first make some heart changes. Namely, if we focused on living more joyful lives. If we lived with greater joy, we wouldn't complain as much. We wouldn't be so quick to snap at others. We would have better attitudes.

    So are you with me? Are you willing to lean into joy in the hopes that both your heart and your behavior might experience a little change for the better?

     

    WHAT JOY IS

    Let's start at square one. What is joy, anyway?

    Unlike happiness, joy is not based on circumstances. Happiness is more of an outward expression of feelings of elation or excitement, while joy is more of an inward feeling.

    Further, happiness is usually a temporary feeling based on outward experiences, while joy is a more stable, lasting feeling resulting from inward circumstances.

    Happiness is external. It's based on situations, events, people, places, things, and thoughts. Happiness is connected to your hope for a relationship or your hope for a future with someone.
    ...Happiness is future oriented and it puts all its eggs in someone else's basket. It is dependent on outside situations, people, or events to align with your expectations so that the end result is your happiness.
    ...But happiness is not joy because joy is not external, it can't be bought and it is not conditional on someone else's behavior. In fact, joy is not contingent on anything in order to exist. - Sandra L. Brown

    Joy isn't ignorant optimism or just looking for the best in things. True joy acknowledges the bad, the difficult, the hurt, but knows that's not the whole story. 

    Living with joy means having an eyes-wide-open view of the world and our lives. It's not blind to what's going on -- either to us individually or in the world at large. Rather, it takes them in as pieces of a bigger puzzle, seeing that there is more to the story than we could ever know, and placing our state of mind and emotions separate from our circumstances.

     

    WHERE JOY COMES FROM

    Like faith, joy comes from believing in what we cannot see. 

    Our joy is found in knowing that God's got it all under control, knowing He's with us, helping us. I, for one, find it incredibly comforting to know that I'm not alone and that I'm not responsible for working everything out! I can rest assured knowing my Heavenly Father is in control and I don't have to be (phew!).

    Joy also comes from knowing God loves you and has abundantly blessed you with good things, even if you've also been given challenges and hardship-- seeing both and choosing to believe you're blessed and taken care of, that you can give thanks even in the hard times.

    Starting a business is hard, and it comes with its fair share of obstacles and challenges. But it has also come with so much joy, and I wouldn't trade that for the world! When I start getting frustrated with the technical side or the trial-and-error approach to figuring out marketing tactics, I remember that I get to do what I love and I'm building a business to help other women live joyfully, simply, and intentionally, to live lives they love! 

     

    WHAT JOY MEANS TO YOU

    So what does joy mean to you? What does it look like in your life right now?

    Well, friend, I don't know your story, and I don't know where you're at right now. But I do know a few things about how joy could impact your life and mine.

    Gratitude. Simple gratitude. By adopting an attitude of gratitude, we're automatically choosing to focus on the good things that exist in the midst of the challenging things. Of course, it doesn't take away the challenges, but it reminds us that there is good in the world and good in our lives.

    Joy means choosing to focus on the good. I realized somewhat recently how often I complain about the difficult things in my life when my friends ask me how I'm doing. I thought I was just being honest, and I was actually proud I was willing to tell them more than the perfunctory "I'm fine." But I want to go beyond sharing just the negative, hard stuff. I don't want my times with them filled with only negative talk.

    So I've committed to sharing the good things with them. Not in a fake way, and not to the exclusion of the hard things I need to talk about or process or request prayer for. But first and foremost, I want to be a light, a person of joy, a person who ushers in grace and truth and encouragement. And that means talking about the good things, reminding others that there are good things. Because it's only by talking about the good things, only by sharing our joy, that it's really complete. And it's only in sharing the joy that we get the opportunity to bring joy to others.

     

    What does joy mean to you? What does it look like in your current circumstances? I'd love to hear from you in the comments, or you can shoot me an email at jessie@notesfromjessie.com!

     

     

    Later, lovely!Jessie.png

     

    Resources:

    Happiness vs Joy - www.diffen.com

    Joy - VS - Happiness by Sandra L. Brown, Psychology Today

     

    How to Live a Great Life

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    It would be a travesty to have a life about collecting pretty things — instead of recollecting that we were made for greater things...You were meant for greatness — and greatness is about serving greatly. - Ann Voskamp

    We were made for great things! There is more in store for us than merely surviving, plowing through our work weeks to get to the weekend, prepping our meals, paying the bills, and going through the motions.

    We can do more. More importantly, we can be more.

    I think that most of us living in the West would agree that our lives, as a whole, are pretty good. We have been abundantly blessed, and we are privileged to have everything that has been given to us. But are our lives great?

    What even makes them great, anyway?

    Is it accumulating more stuff than our neighbors? Or getting the biggest houses and newest cars? Or climbing the corporate ladder and making six figures?

    I have none of that stuff, and I would like to think that my life can be great without them.

    In fact, I believe that all of our lives can be great without those things! 

    There's nothing wrong with material things or accomplishments, of course, but they're not the be-all, end-all of our lives.

    We need something more to sustain us. All of our wealth and possessions can be lost as easily as they were gained. They're all empty in the end. So what are we really living for?

     

    LIVING WITH PURPOSE

    We were all created for a purpose. We're not accidents. There's a reason each and every one of us is here, on this earth, and in our specific circumstances.

    Mine is to encourage women to live joyfully, simply, and intentionally. That's not tied to any material gain or status. It's what drives me. It's what helps me stay focused on what really matters, keeping my eyes on the bigger picture.

    It's what reminds me to serve.

    We're all here to serve in some way. We've all been given different sets of skills and talents, and the purpose we're here to fulfill is to use those gifts and talents to serve others and give glory to God in doing so. That's what makes our lives great!

    So people who use their carpentry talents to build houses can have great lives.

    People using teaching talents to manage classrooms full of impressionable young minds can have great lives.

    People with nurturing talents who are humbly serving their own families and raising up the next generation can have great lives.

    It's not about what it looks like from the outside, but what's going on on the inside.

     

    MAKING OUR LIVES GREAT

    So the challenge is to discover what it is we're gifted in and to find a way to use our gifts to meet the needs of others as our gift back to God.

    Our lives are made great when they're lived for His glory.

    We don't have to compete with the people around us for status and worth. We're already loved beyond all measure, and we have nothing to prove. But because of the great love God has for us, we're called to live a life of obedience to Him and service to others.

    Isn't it amazing that we're all created with different combinations of talents? How wonderfully God worked together all the pieces of His body so that we can complement each other. And when we work together to glorify Him and love one another, that's when our lives are truly the greatest. That's when we're doing what we were created for. That's the best there is!

     

    So what were you created for? What skills do you have? How can you use them to serve others and live a great life?

    Are you unsure? No problem! I'd love to hear from you! I have some coaching packages created for that very purpose! You can book a call to chat with me to see if we'd be a good fit for each other.

    Later, lovely!Jessie.png

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Further reading:

    Go Ahead: Why You Can Give Up on the Goal of a Beautiful Life by Ann Voskamp

    Steps to Simpler Living, Part 4: Sticking to Simple

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    So you've made the decision to pursue a life of greater simplicity. Good for you, friend!

    Maybe you've decluttered your whole house, said "no" to some extra commitments, and started meal planning every week.

    But now you're struggling to keep going. Where do you go from here? What's next?

     

    [This is the fourth and final post in a series of steps to living a simpler life. You can catch up on the first, second, and third posts in the series if you missed them!]

     

    ADOPTING RHYTHMS OF SIMPLICITY

    When it seems hard to cling to our goals or changes we're trying to make, it's often because they haven't become our habits yet, fundamental parts of our lifestyles.

    I've found it incredibly helpful to adopt new rhythms that encourage greater simplicity in my life. Picking out my clothing for the week on Sundays. Packing lunch for the next day when I'm putting away dinner leftovers. Batch cooking breakfasts so I don't have to decide what to have every day.

    Your rhythms might not look like mine, but that's okay! It's not about imitating anyone else's application of simplicity; it's about figuring out what works best for you.

    What daily rhythms would make your life simpler? How could you eliminate some decisions, extra work, or extra time spent doing tasks you don't have to be doing over and over again?

     

    SETTLING INTO SEASONS

    Our lives happen in seasons. It might not always seem like it, when a season drags on for too long or goes by too quickly, but there are definite periods of time that can be characterized by certain circumstances, moods, life stages, or struggles. No matter what season you find yourself in, there is a way to integrate simpler living into it. It just might look different than it did in the last season or different than it will look in the next one, and that's okay!

    All too often, I find myself wanting to hold onto old patterns just for the sake of, well, simplicity. And maybe safety, too, if I'm really being honest with myself. But some habits fit in one season and not in another. And if I hold to them too tightly, they end up not simplifying my life, but actually complicating it because I'm trying to force ill-fitting actions and habits into a season they weren't meant for.

    When I choose instead to embrace the fact that life happens in seasons and make the most of the season I'm currently in, I can better find rhythms, routines, and actions that will simplify my life and reduce my stress instead of adding to it.

     

    THREE BIGGEST THINGS

    Each day, you can only get so much accomplished. There is a finite amount of time in each day, despite our wishes to the contrary. So it is paramount that we decide what things we're going to prioritize.

    One way I like to keep my priorities straight is to not overload my daily or weekly to-do lists. I have a planner (it's this one) that has space for monthly goals, weekly checklists, and notes for each day. I write big-picture goals on the monthly pages, which I break down for each week, focusing on the biggest things I want to accomplish that week. But then I take it a step further and assign time-sensitive tasks to specific days. I'm careful, though, to not overbook or overcommit myself by assigning too many tasks to any single day, for I know that's a surefire way to stress myself out.

    I heard of another writer listing out her top three things to focus on each day (and there are planners that have this function built in, if you're interested), and I follow that loosely. Until the top three things are taken care of, I don't add any more to the list. It keeps it manageable and far less stressful. It keeps it simpler. And isn't that what we're all looking for?

     

    GRACE UPON GRACE

    No matter what, we are not perfect people. We are all fallible humans. We make mistakes. And often when it comes to other people making mistakes, we're quick to forgive. But we're typically less willing to forgive ourselves.

    On this journey of simpler living, as in all things, we're going to have to be willing to extend ourselves some grace. 

    Because this isn't a one-and-done kind of thing, we need to accept that there's a bit of a learning curve. And even when we feel like we've finally "got it," there's always going to be more to learn and more room for improvement. That's not a bad thing, either! We don't want to become complacent, right?

    In order to keep growing in our lives, we have to be continually challenging ourselves. But as long as we keep trying, keep getting back up, keep our eyes fixed on our bigger "why," we're doing it right. We don't have to reach some Pinterest-worthy end goal to feel proud of ourselves. Just committing to the work is a win!

    So let's remember that this life, this path of simpler living, is a step-by-step process, not a shortcut or get-rich-quick-scheme. It's a new perspective, a lens, an attitude, and a posture to adopt as we walk through our lives. And not a single one of us is going to do it perfectly. It's going to look different for everyone because it's customizable, and it's about making your life more focused on what matters to you. There's wiggle room, forgiveness, and heaps of second chances. So don't forget to give yourself some grace along the way.

     

    What helps you stick to simplicity? I'd love to hear from you in the comments or via email (jessie@notesfromjessie.com)! 

     

    Later, lovely!Jessie.png

    March 2018 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 March 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:

    I've been reading Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, which reads surprisingly fast for such a long (959 pages, you guys!) book, and despite the pro-Confederacy perspective, it's been very intriguing and eye-opening to life in that region in that era.

     

    QUOTE:

    "By believing against all odds and loving against all odds, that is how we are to let Jesus show in the world and to transform the world." --Frederick Buechner

    Isn't that beautiful? We let Jesus show in the world-- and TRANSFORM the world-- when we just choose to believe and love against all odds! That kind of attitude flies directly in the face of our culture that's so saturated with news of hurt, anger, and disaster. It forces us to choose bravery instead of playing it safe. It requires that we take risks and give away pieces of ourselves without knowing how things are going to play out. But it also promises that all of those things will be used if we let them, and isn't that far better in the end?

     

    MOVIES/TV SHOWS: 

    I've been catching up on The Good Doctor (it's really hard for me to actually keep up with shows that are currently on air), and I like the twist is presents to the stereotypical hospital drama.

    I also watched the most recent season of Once Upon a Time, which I love, but it seemed even more convoluted, which made it hard for me because I like to multitask, and it demanded a lot of my attention this time around. Still very good, though!

    I went to see I Can Only Imagine with my family, and it was pretty good, too! I wasn't familiar with the story, which is essentially the biography of MercyMe's vocalist, Bart Millard. It was at times funny, poignant, touching, sad, and beautiful. 

     

    SONG: 

    I can't get Cory Asbury's song Reckless Love out of my head these days, you guys. It literally has been on a loop for the last couple weeks. We sang it in our community group one week, I heard it on the radio in my car, and we sang it at church, all in the span of a few days. And then I stumbled upon the acoustic version on YouTube. So good!

     

    FOOD: 

    I've been going through leftovers a lot this month, trying to use up what I have instead of just making new things all the time, so I haven't been too creative in the kitchen lately. But I did make a delicious shrimp biryani dish that my friends and I loved!

     

    MEMORIES FROM MARCH:

    This month, I spent even more time with friends and family, celebrating various birthdays. It was so much fun to see everyone and get to enjoy one another's company. The best was my sister's 25th golden birthday, which I got to help a lot with. We went all out with the black and gold decor and lots of treats for all the guests. It was a great time!

    I also started working on my coaching business full-time, which has me excited for all the opportunities to help women live more joyfully, simply, and intentionally!

     

    LOOKING FORWARD TO IN APRIL:

    I'm looking forward to a girls' night with my college roommates, a potential reunion with another college friend, and getting to help my cousins move once their new house is finished!

    I'm also going to be launching a new course (read: labor of love, passion project) I've been working on! I'm putting together a course to help women live joyfully, simply, and intentionally by clearing out the clutter, figuring out their finances, managing their time, and living lives guided by their unique purpose and priorities. You can learn more here.

     

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

    Steps to Simpler Living, Part 3: How to Start Simplifying

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    Imagine you're standing in front of a giant mountain of stuff you're expected to take care of-- deadlines, bills, toys, dirty socks, unwashed dishes, unread emails, social invitations, family obligations, social pressures, and a ticking clock to top it all off.

    Or maybe you don't have to imagine. Maybe that's an accurate picture of your life right now.

    You want to tackle it. You need to tackle it.

    You want to cut some things out and streamline others. You crave a life where this mountain no longer exists, where all the little pieces are in their places.

    You know simplifying is the answer, but how do you go about doing it?

    Last week I talked about determining what simplicity means to you, and creating a mantra or a manifesto to be clear about what a simplified life would look like specifically for you. But you still have to act on it in order for it to make a real difference. So that's the focus today.

    [This is part three of a series about simpler living. To catch up on the first two posts in the series, go here and here.]

     

    ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR SITUATION

    Before you get too far, you have to take stock of where you're already at. You can't move forward if you don't know where you're currently standing.

    What stage of life are you in? Are you just responsible for yourself, or do you have other people who rely on you to take care of them? Do you have freedom and autonomy, or are you part of an interdependent family? Is this season of your life better characterized by youthful independence or adult responsibility?

    What does your current family situation look like? Are you single? Married? Married with little kids? Big kids? An empty nester?

    How about your living situation-- what's that like? Is it a calm and quiet place for just you, or do you have a bunch of little kids running around, making messes, adding to the chaos and the clutter? Are you surrounded by stuff that's just yours, or does some of it belong to someone else? 

    What kind of time and energy do you have to put toward your goals right now? If you have a lot of family commitments and other people to take care of, this is an opportunity for you to acknowledge that not as a burden but as a piece of the puzzle for this time in your life. 

    I started my journey to simpler living when I was fresh out of college, living with friends, completely independent, and only responsible for myself. It made it easy to begin, but I wasn't accountable to anyone until I sat down and wrote my manifesto with a friend. There are benefits and challenges with each stage of life and specific situation; you just have to know where you're at so you can make the most of your own circumstances!

     

    IDENTIFY OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH

    In this season of your life, I want you to take an inventory of how things are really going. Take a moment to be really honest and consider where there might be room for growth and change.

    What's working? What isn't working?

    I've asked myself that in the past when I felt dissatisfied with how things were going in my life-- namely, when the ache of losing the community I had in college got to be too painful to ignore. I realized living without solid support and without people to live life with wasn't working for me, and I had to do something about it. But if I'd ignored that ache, or not taken the time to figure out what was causing it, I would have gone on feeling like something was missing but not done anything to change it.

    What's causing you the most stress right now?

    I know there are probably multiple stressors in your life, but what seems to be the most pressing one? Is it financial strain? Time constraints? Too many irons in the fire? An inability to keep your home clean or find any number of lost items amid the chaos? A health struggle?

    Shortly after graduating, I felt overwhelmed with my student loan debt. I mean crazy stressed out about paying it back, not just mildly concerned about the length of time it would take. I was thinking about it constantly, worrying about whether I would even be able to pay them off. I knew at that point that I had to make some changes so I could pay it off and get that burden off my shoulders.

    Based on the mantra or manifesto that guides your life and decision-making, what needs to change so that your home and life are better aligned with your values and goals?

    How can you shift things and make small, incremental changes so that the things you're focusing on and pouring your time, energy, and money into reflect your priorities and values? What do you need to focus more on? What do you need to focus less on? Is there anything that you need to let go of altogether?

    These are now your goals, the things you can focus on as you begin to lead a life of greater simplicity.

     

    JUST START SOMEWHERE

    When it comes to starting anything, the hardest part is often taking the first step.

    If you spend all your time worrying about where to begin tackling the obstacle in front of you, concerned about doing it wrong or messing it up or making mistakes, you'll never make any progress. At some point, you just have to do it!

    Just start somewhere! It doesn't matter too much where you choose to begin; it just matters that you make a decision and actually start instead of spending all your time worrying about where to jump in.

    You can tackle the biggest obstacle first if you're brave and want a challenge, or you can tackle a smaller obstacle or stressor and through that gain momentum for more. It's up to you!

    When I'm facing a lengthy to-do list, I go back and forth in my approach. Some days, I'll tackle the biggest, hardest task first so the rest of the day doesn't loom in front of me like a scary giant. Other days I start with something easy to work my way up to the hard stuff. All that matters is that I start somewhere and choose to keep going.

     

    APPROACH SIMPLICITY WITH SUSTAINABILITY IN MIND

    Once you've thought about where to begin, it can be easy to go full steam ahead, but I want to encourage you to pace yourself a bit. I don't want you running out of steam after a few days or a week; simplicity is a journey, a lifestyle, and I want you to be able to keep going long-term.

    So consider what you will be able to adopt as a part of a lifestyle, not some passing fad. What will you be able to do without going crazy? If you're simplifying your clutter, you might not be able to devote hours to it every day without losing your mind. But perhaps you could devote half an hour or fifteen minutes to it every day and find that more sustainable.

    What do you need to do right now, and what can wait? It's tempting to jump into the deep end and do all the things you can think of right away, but that's not a sustainable solution. Choose what you'll tackle now and what you'll save for later. This is especially helpful when considering what you can afford-- if you're buying staple items for a capsule wardrobe, switching out conventional products with natural ones, or replacing household furniture for better-quality pieces, you might not be able to afford to do it all at once. So choose where to begin, take a step or two, and continue to pace yourself, knowing you don't have to tackle everything at once!

    And finally, what routines can you develop to keep yourself going on your journey to a simpler lifestyle? Simplicity is something you have to keep choosing over and over again, so how can you integrate it into your everyday life? How can you simplify your current routines and make your life easier? 

    I like to simplify my to-do list by breaking it down into just a few things for each day so I don't get overwhelmed and so I have a much higher chance of accomplishing my tasks. I have created a routine of getting up and working out so I can live a healthy life without even having to consciously make the choice everyday-- it's just a normal part of my routine now. I also like to pick out my clothes for the week on Sunday so I don't have to waste valuable time and brain power each morning when I'm still half asleep and just wanting breakfast.

    Are there routines you can adopt to make your life simpler and your journey toward simplicity more sustainable? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

    And if you're looking for some inspiration, encouragement, and help in living a simpler life, I'd love to help you with that! You can learn more here.

     

    Later, lovely!Jessie.png

    7 Ways to Know if You're Prioritizing the Right Things

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    Do you ever wonder if you're putting first things first? If you're making time for the most important things?

    I second-guess my priorities from time to time (usually when I find myself wanting to stay in with a bowl of popcorn and the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy instead of going to some social function).

     

    IDENTIFYING PRIORITIES

    Let's start by identifying what your priorities are.

    How do you spend most of your time?

    What do you spend most of your money on?

    What takes up most of your energy?

    Now that you've taken a bit of a priority inventory, let me ask you one more question:

    How do you want to be investing your time, money, and energy?

    You get to choose, friend. But if you don't choose for yourself, other people are going to try to do it for you. Bosses and coworkers are going to ask you to take on extra projects that they see as important, friends are going to invite you to do all kinds of things they think you'd enjoy, family members are going to ask you all kinds of favors and expect you to go to every activity and get-together, old friends are going to ask you to go to coffee to reconnect, strangers on social media are going to try to get you to buy their products and services, and our culture as a whole is going to try to get you to buy into the lie that you aren't enough, that you need the next bright and shiny thing to make you happy.

    If you identify your own priorities for this season, this stage of life, then you wield the power. You then get to make decisions based on what's most important for you and your family, instead of giving the decision-making power to someone else.

     

    IDENTIFYING RED FLAGS

    If your priorities get out of line, it will be evident in your life in one way or another (or perhaps multiple if the first signs weren't too obvious). I know that when I've misplaced my priorities, I start to see little changes that will add up to some significant issues if I'm not careful.

     

    FATIGUE

    If you're trying to keep all of your plates spinning for too long without taking any time for rest, you'll wear yourself out. 

    We weren't made to be running, running, running without any breaks to rest and recover. If we live our lives at an unsustainable pace, we're going to burn out.

    If you're overtired and exhausted, it might be a sign that you've been trying to do too many things, going a mile wide and an inch deep, not accomplishing much of anything but still managing to wear yourself out in the process.

     

    STRESS

    If you've overcommitted or been trying to juggle too many things, shoulder too many burdens, or solve too many problems, you're probably feeling some significant stress. 

    When we let stress get too overwhelming, it can be incapacitating. It can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from causing ulcers to preventing sleep to actually increasing our risk for weight gain and illnesses.

    When we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, we're not in a position to do anyone any good. We are not solely responsible for holding everything together, and when we mistakenly think we are, we need to begin reevaluating our priorities and our goals.

     

    ANGER & FRUSTRATION

    I know that when I'm stressed, tired, and overworked, my patience grows thin. I become far more irritable and short-tempered.

    I'm learning to see these as a warning sign that things aren't right in my world.

    If I'm lashing out in anger and frustration, especially about relatively small or insignificant things, then I need to change something within myself. 

    In order to gain greater peace, patience, and kindness, I need to reorient my thinking and remember what's really important-- people, grace, love, kindness, joy. I need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and get some greater perspective.

     

    HUSTLE & HURRY

    When we try to do too many things all at once, we automatically feel like we don't have enough time or energy to do them-- we fall into a scarcity mindset.

    And because we believe these resources (our time and energy) are scarce, we hustle and hurry from one thing to another. We have full schedules, and instead of cutting things out to create room for rest, we dip out of one thing early or arrive at one thing late, constantly rushing, getting impatient in traffic because we're always in a hurry.

    If we have no buffer between activities, if we're always busy, always moving at a running pace, perhaps we have to take a moment to slow down and see where our priorities could use some work.

     

    SICKNESS

    Stress, fatigue, and constantly running around from one thing to another can actually run our bodies down to the point where we get sick. Colds, flu, aches and pains, and more can be caused or exacerbated by our lifestyle, especially when it comes to our stress and a lack of sleep and proper self-care.

    If we haven't been prioritizing rest, self-care, fun, and time with friends and family, we just might be putting ourselves on a path toward making ourselves sick. And that's never a good place to be. 

     

    EXCUSES

    When I'm stressed and stretched too thin, I start coming up with poor excuses. I say, "I don't have time to rest," "I'll catch up with them next month," or "I can handle getting only six hours of sleep; I'll be fine." 

    I know those things aren't true, and I know deep down that if I keep living my life that way, I'll hit a place where I have nothing left to give, a place where I crash and burn because I've been running too hard and too fast for too long.

     

    COMPLAINTS

    The last and most obvious way to notice when I've misplaced my priorities is when other people comment on it. It often starts out flippant or joking, but can progress to genuine concern when I've gone too far.

    If we start hearing people preface their statements with things like, "I know you're really busy, but..." we might want to take a step back and examine how busy we are, and how we convey our priorities to those around us. If our people think we're too busy for them, we're doing something wrong.

     

    IDENTIFYING OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH

     

    PRIORITY ADJUSTMENTS

    The beauty of establishing your own priorities is that you always have the freedom to change them!

    If your priorities have gotten a little out of alignment like mine are known to do, you can choose to alter them. You can set new goals. You can create new plans.

    Don't beat yourself up about it; just decide to change and move forward.

    So what do you want your priorities to be? How do you want to be spending most of your time, energy, and money? What do you want your life to be characterized by?

     

    MANTRA

    It's easy to forget what our priorities are when we're faced with mountains of to-dos. Something that helps me is shortening my priorities into something more memorable than a list.

    I like to create mantras, overarching statements that I can repeat over and over, things that remind me of the bigger picture, of the way I want to show up in the world.

    For instance, my tagline for my business (which really is an outflow of my worldview and goals for myself) is to "encourage you to live joyfully, simply, and intentionally."

    Do you see what I did there? I chose words-- joyful, simple, intentional-- to represent how I want my business to show up, to present itself, to come across to others. Those are the very things I'm prioritizing. And having that simple tagline allows me to say "yes" and "no" more easily because I can see more clearly which choices align with my values-- my priorities, my mantra-- and which don't.

     

    MANIFESTO

    If you want to take it a step further (and I suggest you do!), you can create a manifesto. You can start with your mantra and expand upon it.

    I created a manifesto several years ago and updated it more recently to reflect my current stage of life.

    I find manifestos helpful for a few reasons:

    • they're identity-driven-- more of a "this is who I am" statement than a set of strict rules
    • they're deeply personal-- they're not given to you by someone else trying to control you; you get to create your own!
    • they allow you to dictate how you want to show up in every area of life-- while mantras are great, they're not as specific or detailed as manifestos
    • they ground you-- they keep you anchored in your beliefs, ideals, and priorities, providing you with something to come back to when things get crazy

     

    PUTTING IT INTO ACTION

    Now that you've gotten the opportunity to identify any existing red flags that indicate your priorities might have gotten a little mixed up and gotten the chance to adjust them, it's time to put them into action! Come up with a mantra and/or manifesto for yourself so you can continually come back to your priorities and stay focused on what really matters. And don't forget to check back for more tips and tricks to help you live the joyful, simple, intentional life you're aiming for.

     

    Later, lovely!Jessie.png

    Steps to Simpler Living, Part 2: What Simplicity Means to You

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    Much like motivations to live more simply can differ, definitions of simplicity cover a wide range.

    Now that you've chosen to pursue a simpler way of life, it's time to define what simplicity looks like for you!

     

    DEFINE SIMPLICITY ON YOUR TERMS

    Simplicity is just as much about what you do as it is about what you don't do, and it's different for everyone!

    Some people simplify by living in tiny homes. Some people simplify by limiting the number of activities their family engages in. Some people simplify by having meal delivery services take care of grocery shopping and meal prep for them. Some people simplify by using capsule wardrobes.

    Those definitions of simplicity are not all-encompassing or obligatory. You get to choose what simplicity means to you and how it works best for you and your family. After all, pursuing simplicity isn't meant to be another burden or thing on your to-do list. It's a way of life that can help you make decisions more easily, develop routines to save time and energy, eliminate the excess, and focus on what really matters.

     

    CHOOSING WHAT TO SIMPLIFY

    What things in your life need to be simplified?

    Let's put it this way: what areas of your life are too overwhelming or chaotic right now?

    Where could you use some peace? Some structure? Some order?

    Do you need to simplify your finances? Your calendar? Your shopping habits? Your errands? Your clutter? Your decor? Your hobbies? Your digital clutter? Your mindset and mental clutter?

    Take a moment to consider what areas of your life are causing you the most stress. What's working? What isn't?

    Chances are, there is more than one area in your life that could use a little simplicity (I know that's true for me!). But don't lose heart, friend! There's nothing wrong with you.

    I've been on this simplicity journey for a while, and I still have room to grow. I still want to simplify my paper clutter and my social media engagement.

    There's no shame in identifying areas for improvement. Don't be too hard on yourself; after all, you've opened your eyes to see them, and you have everything it takes to address them!

     

    PRIORITIES

    Identify what your priorities are. What area are you going to work on first?

    Sometimes it's tempting to work on the most outward areas first-- we think that if we make strides in areas that are most visible to others, it will make the greatest impact.

    But that's not always the case.

    Sure, we could focus on simplifying our calendars so we have time to spend with friends and family. It would make them happier, and it would make us happier, too.

    But what if what we really need to do is to focus on simplifying our finances first so we can make more time for our people? Or what if we need to simplify your mental clutter before we can tackle anything more tangible?

    Don't be ashamed of your current stage, where you need to start, or what you need to prioritize. This is about whole-life health, and it's a process. It's okay to start small if you have to.

    Start with whatever's going to make the biggest difference for you. Don't worry about what others are doing. This is your life. Keep your eyes on your own race, and don't let yourself get distracted or discouraged by what others are doing as they run theirs.

     

    GOALS

    Now that you know what your priorities are, it's time to set new goals for yourself. What specifically do you want to accomplish?

    Let's move beyond saying we want to get healthier, get more organized, or save more money. Those vague goals aren't doing us any good.

    If you don't get specific, you're not going to reach your goals because you won't have a well-developed plan to get there or any metrics to tell you how you're doing or when you've arrived. So get specific!

    What's your end goal in simplifying your finances? Do you want to go on a big trip next year that you have to save for? Then what total amount do you need? How much do you need to be saving every month? How are you going to save that extra money? When are you going to check in to see how you're doing?

    If your goal is to simplify your home and declutter, what specifically does that mean to you? Do you want to downsize? Do you want more white space and room to breathe? Do you just want to have a place for everything and everything in its place? What do you need to do to make that happen? Do you need help? Do you need supplies? What area of your home are you going to tackle first? What obstacles do you expect to encounter?

    I encourage you to get as specific as possible when deciding what your goals are. It makes them more real, more tangible, and more attainable. It also gives you a clearer picture of what life will look like when you reach your goals, which is a far better motivator than some vague idea of what it might look or feel like to accomplish your goal.

     

    WRITE IT DOWN

    I don't know about you, but I'm liable to forget anything that I haven't written down. I recently went back to using a paper planner (similar to this one) for that very reason. 

    It's even worse when I'm setting goals and trying to keep my priorities straight. If I don't take the time to identify them and write them down, it's all too easy to get lost in the regular demands of my day and be busy without being productive.

    There are too many demands put upon our time and energy for us to stay focused unless we're incredibly intentional about how we're spending our precious time and energy.

    If we're not careful, that poorly-timed email will take precedence over time with our family, that last-minute request will turn into an hour spent doing work that could've waited until tomorrow, that trivial worry will steal our sleep, and someone else's problem will become ours.

    Of course things will come up. Of course you will have to switch gears at times. Of course you should lend a helping hand when you can.

    But setting boundaries, establishing priorities, and taking the time to write down your biggest goals will help keep you grounded. It will help smaller problems to roll off your back as you keep your eyes set on what really matters. It will give you greater perspective. It will help you make decisions about what's most important, what can wait, and what can be delegated to others or abandoned altogether without guilt. In short, it will help you simplify your life and stay sane!

    So what does simplicity mean to you? What are your priorities and goals? I'd love to chat with you and even help you develop a plan to achieve your goals and simplify every area of your life!

    Later, lovely!Jessie.png

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    [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!]

    I've Been Doing It All Wrong

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    The first thing I'm usually asked when I meet someone new is "what do you do?" And I'm equally guilty of asking others the same thing. Our culture puts so much focus on people's vocations, and I've fallen prey to the trap.

     

    MORE TO THE STORY

    But the things we do for our paychecks are not the only things that make us who we are.

    For some of us, our day jobs aren't the things that hold the biggest places in our hearts. We may not want to be defined by them. They may only be placeholders and stepping stones and jobs paving the way to something else, allowing us to pursue what we really care about.

    Perhaps our hearts have been captured by things not included in our day jobs-- in our families, our hobbies, our volunteering, our passions, our side projects, our causes, our dreams.

    Those things have a way of showing more of our hearts and personalities than many of our paid jobs do. Those are the things we should be talking more about, the things we should be asking others questions about.

    Even knowing this, I still find myself asking people right away what they do for a living, as if that's the most important thing I can learn about them.

    I've been doing it all wrong.

     

    MISPLACED EMPHASIS

    I've been placing too much emphasis on what I do, and on what others do. What we do doesn't determine who we are. Who we are determines what we do.

    I've been making my life and my evaluation of time well spent more about work than worship. And that's just backwards. 

    My life -and your life- is not merely about what work I do. No matter how noble the work, it's all pointless if I don't do it lovingly, if I don't live lovingly. Otherwise it just fades into the background behind me. 

    At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how many things I was able to check off my to-do list. It doesn't matter how much money I made or how much I accomplished if I didn't do it out of love-- love for the people I'm serving, love for the people I work with, love for the God I'm ultimately working for.

    People don't remember what you did; they remember how you made them feel. They don't care what my title is or what your title is. All they want is our time and a piece of our hearts to be shared. 

     

    ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

    So when we meet new people, what are we supposed to ask? If "what do you do?" is the wrong question, what's the right question?

    I don't think it's that black and white. What someone spends 40 hours doing every week is still obviously a viable topic of conversation. But let's not let it stop there. Let's also ask other questions.

    Let's ask, "what do you like to do?" and "how do you like to spend your time?" and "if you could be doing anything right now, what would it be?"

    Let's ask, "what has captured your heart lately?" and "what have you been learning?" and "what dreams do you have for the future?"

    May we collectively dig deeper than each other's titles and positions to create a community of people who care about the things each of us holds dear.

    I'll start. Dear friend, what has captured your heart lately? What are your dreams for the future? I'd love to hear from you in the comments! Or you can shoot me an email at jessie@notesfromjessie.com. 

    And if you're not sure what captures your heart or what you're passionate about, we can chat about that, and I can help you figure it out!

    Later, lovely!Jessie (1).png

    Steps to Simpler Living, Part 1: Choosing Simplicity

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    After all, the first step to getting what you want is having the courage to get rid of what you don’t. - Yuko Henden

    Choosing minimalism and purposeful living is hard. It goes against the grain of our materialistic, bigger-and-better culture. It refutes the shiny but empty promises of the American dream.

    But that doesn't mean it's not worth it.

    There are many reasons people choose to pursue simpler lives.

     

    FRUGALITY

    Choosing to live more simply can save money!

    If we have less stuff, we don't need to have as much space to store it. For some, that can mean having a smaller home. For others, it can mean getting rid of an offsite storage unit. Or maybe it just means not buying so many storage containers to have to hold everything.

    No matter how it manifests itself, choosing to own fewer possessions as a step toward living a simpler lifestyle costs less financially.

    It also means buying less in the future-- fewer gadgets, replacements, bright and shiny new things. Because a simple lifestyle is grounded in the idea that more things don't bring more happiness, people who ascribe to a simpler way of living don't feel the need to continually buy more stuff.

    Instead of buying a new phone when they're eligible to upgrade, they might hold onto their old one that works just fine and put the extra money toward a nice meal or a day trip with their family.

    Where they might have before bought new clothes every time their wardrobe got boring, they now choose to enjoy the freedom that comes with having a closet full of their favorite items, even though there are fewer items in it, because it makes decision making easier and makes them happier to love everything they have.

     

    FOCUS

    Pursuing simplicity means having to choose priorities. We can't simplify without having to cut some things out in order to make room for others.

    Simplicity requires reducing. It demands focus on fewer things. As Essentialism author Greg McKeown says, "Less but better."

    The ultimate goal of a simpler life is one of less overwhelm, frantic living, and chaos that results from trying to do too many things all at once.

    Imagine having a to-do list for your day that has ten things on it. If you don't designate any one of them as a priority, how do you know where to begin?

    If you set five New Year's resolutions, how can you allocate enough energy to see them all through?

    If instead you prioritize your to-do list and resolutions (and in all likelihood, make them shorter as well), you'll find that you have more energy to put toward each one because your energy isn't being divided among so many different things.

    By focusing on some things, prioritizing them above the rest, we can do fewer things and do them better. Instead of spreading ourselves too thin, we can go deeper, invest more, and flourish in the areas that are most important to us without having to worry about the less significant things.

     

    FAMILY

    Many people choose to slow down and simplify so they can spend more time with their families.

    When we're living on autopilot, caught up in to-do lists and ideas of all the things we "should" be doing in order to keep all our plates spinning and achieve whatever it is we think we should achieve, we don't consciously think about our priorities. We might work late every night to try to impress our boss. We might stress about having all the details just right for a family get-together. We might work and work and work to save money to buy a bigger house.

    But are those the things we want most in the world? And are we willing to sacrifice time with our loved ones in the process?

    Think about it. If we're trying to keep our cluttered homes clean, overfilled calendars organized, and lengthy to-do lists checked off, we won't have enough time left to spend with our people.

    If instead we cut out some of the busywork that keeps us from spending time with our family and friends, we'll find that there was enough time all along-- we were just spending it on the wrong things.

    Some people cut out extracurricular activities so their family can spend more time together instead of apart. Some cut out television so they can spend more time in conversation or playing games or taking trips. Some just get rid of the extra stuff so they can spend less time cleaning and more time laughing with loved ones.

     

    Simplicity is a journey, and it looks different for all of us. But it does require a choice. What makes you want to live a life of greater simplicity? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

    Later, lovely!Jessie (1).png

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Further reading:

    What To Do When Decluttering Makes You Feel Miserable by Yuko Henden, featured on Becoming Minimalist

     

    [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!]

    Upside Down & Backwards

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    Have you ever felt like your life had gotten turned upside-down? Like things weren't going your way or playing out the way you envisioned? When things go in an entirely different and unexpected direction? Broken dreams hurt. Rejection and redirection are painful.

    But that doesn't mean we can't learn from them or try to make the best of them.

    I'm not going to tell you that it's all okay because "everything happens for a reason." While I do believe there's a reason bad things are allowed to happen, I don't think it's that simple, or something I will ever fully understand this side of Heaven.

    Just because we don't understand the way things play out before us doesn't mean those very things can't be used for our good. It certainly doesn't mean that we should cower in fear and hold back from fully engaging in our lives because we're too scared of what might be lying around the next bend in the road.

    "We have a God who stands on His head, who does things backwards from the natural way of things. 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdowm of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle, for they will inherit the earth.' (Matt. 5:3-5)" -Emily P. Freeman, Grace for the Good Girl

    So let's press on, let's keep moving forward despite obstacles, despite surprises and challenges that come along the way. 

    Things won't always go according to our plans, but that truth can be liberating if you let it. Instead of being disappointed when things don't turn out the way we want, we can rejoice knowing we don't have to sort things out or hold them all together-- that's not our job, and what a blessing that is! 

    We're free to entrust our whole lives to a God who loves us so abundantly and wants what's best for us, weaving our lives into His ever-greater plans for the world, knowing that He is the one who will work it out; we don't have to worry about that. We get to just take one step at a time; we don't have to have the whole story written out yet-- we get to live it one chapter at a time. How beautiful is that?!

    So when it seems like our stories are taking unexpected turns or going backwards or flipping upside down, let's remember that we're not seeing the whole picture, and that our stories aren't over yet. When we get to the end, they'll make much more sense than they do now, from our point of view from the middle.

    Let's just commit to following God, the author of our stories, one step, one chapter at a time, trusting that He's writing a beautiful story, one that we are privileged to be a part of, one that we will be proud of and come to love in the end when we see how it all comes together.

    Later, lovely!Jessie (1).png

    Love is, Part Five: Love is a Verb

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    Love does.

    Love protects.

    Love trusts.

    Love perseveres.

    Love serves.

    Love endures.

     

    Love’s no wimp.

    Love defends the defenseless without a hint of defensiveness. Love disables bad habits and illuminates better choices. Love stands up for the afflicted. Love cooks for the hungry. Love weeps with the mourners. Love listens to the disheartened. Love steps away from the keyboard instead of typing an angry retort. Love bandages the bleeding. Love mends the broken. And unlike hate, love is eternal.

    Angela Nazworth, (in)courage

     

    LOVE ACTS

    Love isn't just a feeling. It's an action. Love does things.

    Have you read Bob Goff's book Love Does? If not, I highly recommend picking up a copy! It was such an eye-opening read that taught me that love is far more than we traditionally consider it to be.

    Love doesn't stop about just caring for someone or about something. It's more than that. It's taking action. It's fighting for something or someone. It's taking care of someone. It's standing up for someone. It's showing respect, kindness, and compassion.

    We might think we're being loving when we care about a cause that's close to our hearts, but real love acts on that passion.

    Real love finds ways to serve-- giving money to support an organization fighting to end hunger or trafficking, serving food at a homeless shelter, donating food to a food shelf, raising money for a fundraiser, going on a trip to lend a helping hand.

     

    LOVE SPEAKS

    We often underestimate the power of our words. But the things we say have great power.

    Think about it-- can you recall a specific time when someone has said something that bolstered your pride, gave you renewed confidence, or made you grin from ear to ear?

    On the other end of the spectrum, can you think of a time when someone said something that made you feel small, insignificant, unimportant, or unworthy?

    Words have power, and we can learn to use them for good. We can choose to build others up-- to love others-- with our words.

    We can give genuine compliments, offer up encouragement, and cheer people on instead of cutting them down or criticizing them. That's love.

     

    EVERYDAY ACTS OF LOVE

    It's easy to see the grand gestures of love-- people who commit their whole lives to serving and caring for others or donate huge sums of money to aid in relief efforts. 

    I don't mean to belittle those acts of love. They're amazing!

    But they're not always readily accessible.

    Some of us don't have the means to love like that. Or at least we don't think we do.

    But we all have something to contribute.

    We can choose to love those around us well, wherever we are.

    We can shovel a neighbor's sidewalk, bring food to a family with a new baby or hospitalized family member, send an encouraging text message, call an old friend or a family member, or help a coworker who's swamped with tasks.

    We can pay for the coffee of the person behind us at the coffee shop, bring some canned goods to a food pantry, or write a note to a service member overseas.

    Just because we can't do everything doesn't mean we can't do anything.

    We can love. We can act. 

     

    How can you show love today? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

    Later, lovely!Jessie.png

    February 2018 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 February 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:

    I've been reading more of (and absolutely loving, and occasionally discussing) Essentialism by Greg McKeown. If you haven't read it yet (I know I'm late to the game), I highly recommend it!

    I also read The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, which was eye-opening to life in the 1800s, especially since it was written from both the white and black perspectives. I read L.M. Montgomery's Jane of Lantern Hill, too, which was very sweet. I also read Ann Voskamp's The Broken Way, which was one of those books that wrecks your heart in the best kind of way as you ponder, digest, and begin to apply the wisdom within it. And the next book in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next Series, First Among Sequels, was an interesting installment, too!

     

    QUOTE:

    "You've got to be brave enough to be faithful, even when you don't want to be." --Annie F. Downs, 100 Days to Brave. I know I quoted this book last month, but you guys, it's just so good! But because it's from the same person and book as last month, I'll give you a bonus quote, too.

    "The ability to choose cannot be taken away or even given away-- it can only be forgotten." -- Greg McKeown, Essentialism. Another great read, full of tidbits of wisdom!

     

    MOVIES: 

    I've still been watching Reign this month (there are SO many episodes!), and I finally finished! So now I'm watching the second season of One Day at a Time, which is really good! It's funny and it covers a lot of sensitive issues really well.

    I'm almost always behind on shows, and am considering continuing Stranger Things. I had stopped after a couple episodes because 1) I just wasn't too into it and 2) it was too scary/creepy to watch before bed, which was when I was looking for something.

     

    SONG: 

    I can't get enough of Needtobreathe's song Walking on Water. Not only do I love them, but the lyrics to this one just really speak to my current stage of life, and it's been a bit of a lifeline for me.

     

    FOOD: 

    I made some delicious shrimp tacos to go with plantain chips and guac with my best friend, and it was all sooo good! I had made some cookie dough bites before she came over, and we snacked on those, too, which she promptly made after that to have more! They're so delicious!

     

    MEMORIES FROM FEBRUARY:

    This month, I spent a lot of time with friends and family, which was a lot of fun! It was certainly very cold for most of February, and the temptation to be a hermit was definitely present, but it was far more rewarding to spend time with my people.

    I also went to Corpus Christi, TX with my family and a group from my parents' church to partner with a local organization and assist with home rebuilding and restoring efforts after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. I'll write more about the trip later, but even the preparation was good-- we learned so much about missions, poverty alleviation, humility, flexibility, and having the attitude of a lifelong learner-- plus I got to hear my family members share parts of their stories I hadn't heard before!

     

    LOOKING FORWARD TO IN MARCH:

    I'm looking forward to my sister's golden birthday in March! We're working on party plans (which I love anyway), and I'm getting so excited!

    I'm also going to be starting to work on my business full-time, which is exciting! I'm putting together a course to help women live joyfully, simply, and intentionally by clearing out the clutter, figuring out their finances, managing their time, and living lives guided by their unique purpose and priorities. You can learn more here.

     

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

    Love is, Part Four: Love is Protective

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    Love always protects.

    Love doesn't dishonor others, isn't self-seeking.

     

    Do you know who's good at protecting others? Dogs. And moms. Moms and dogs. They know how to protect the people they love. They will fight for their loved ones till the cows come home.

    We all could learn a little something from them.

    Love always protects.

    It doesn't protect sometimes. It doesn't protect most of the time. It doesn't protect just when it feels so inclined. It protects always-- all the time, every time, in every way.

     

    PROVIDING PROTECTION

    What does it mean to protect others? 

    Some people do a pretty good job of protecting themselves, but others don't. And everyone could use a helping hand.

    Two people standing back to back have far more protection than two individuals standing by themselves. That's the power behind saying you have someone else's back-- you're protecting them from attacks they can't see coming; you're watching out for them in a way they can't very well do for themselves.

    But this doesn't just mean physical protection. It also means protecting people in other ways.

    It means standing up for others when they're being talked about behind their back.

    It means taking care to not offend with our words.

    It means respecting and protecting their time by showing up when we say we will.

    It means looking out for the best interests of others instead of just our own.

     

    HONORING OTHERS

    Love looks out for the interest of others and isn't self-seeking or dishonoring.

    Love doesn't only look out for number one, which goes against the grain in our individualistic culture.

    Love asks for permission and forgiveness.

    Love considers the needs and wants of others and works to meet them, protect them, and advocate for them.

    Love respects others and considers others as better than itself, not in a self-deprecating way, but in a way that devotes greater kindness, energy, and time to the other than to the self.

    Love sees everyone as worthy of kindness, respect, and a listening ear.

     

    WHAT PROTECTIVE, HONORING LOVE LOOKS LIKE

    That's all well and good, but what does this kind of love really look like in our lives?

    It looks like engaging in respectful conversations-- refusing to come back with a stinging reply, not taking the bait to join that argument, and hearing someone else's opinion without taking offense.

    It means standing up for those who aren't being heard.

    It means thinking of others' needs instead of just our own.

    It means not always having to have the last word or win every argument, but to prioritize living in right relationship over being right.

     

    How have you seen protective love in your life or someone else's? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

    Later, lovely!Jessie.png

    It's Time for a New Adventure

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    I'm quitting.

    Before you get concerned, I'm not quitting this-- writing words of hope and encouragement to you lovely readers, encouraging you to live and love your purposeful lives by living more joyfully, simply, and intentionally. This isn't going anywhere!

    I'm quitting my day job.

    What?! It's finally happening, you guys!!!

    It's been a dream of mine for years, in all honesty.

    I've been able to find purpose in that job in the form of serving my team and building relationships with them, but at the end of the day, I knew that job wasn't a great fit for me long-term. And it certainly wasn't the end of the road.

    It's time for a new adventure!

    So, what am I doing?

    I'm starting my own coaching business!

    I have one course called Discovering and Living Your Purpose available on Teachable.com right now, and I'm creating a new program called The Simplified Home: A guide to decluttering and simplifying your time, money, and home so you can have a more peaceful, beautiful home you LOVE. I'm SOOO excited to share it with you guys! It hasn't launched yet, but you can read more about it and reserve a spot for yourself here. You won't want to miss it!

    Of course, I'm going to keep writing here, and I plan to write more books.

    I'm going to slow down a little and work to create a more flexible schedule that prioritizes time with friends and family (you know, the things that truly matter).

    I'm going to pursue my passion for empowering women to live more joyful, simple, intentional lives by controlling their clutter, managing their time, figuring out their finances, and creating organized, beautiful homes they love!

    New things are always a little scary, and saying goodbye to people and a season is bittersweet, but I know I've been called to be brave and follow through with this tugging on my heart, so here we go-- adventuring into 2018!!!

     

    Have you ever taken a left turn and gone on a new adventure? I'd love to hear your story! You can email me at jessie@notesfromjessie.com, book a discovery call to chat, or find me on Facebook and Instagram. 

    Love is, Part Three: Love is Hopeful

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    Love never fails.

    Love perseveres.

    Love always trusts and hopes.

     

    hope
    verb  \ ˈhōp \

    1 : to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment
    2 : to expect with confidence : trust

    -Merriam Webster

     

    Love doesn't give up. It hopes and trusts through every circumstance.

    That sounds pretty simple, but what does it really look like in our lives?

     

    HOPING WITH EXPECTATION

    "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." - Hebrews 11:1.

    We can hope in things that won't happen, like getting a pet unicorn for a birthday or having it rain chocolate syrup, but those hopes are pretty pointless.

    But then there are things we can hope for.

    We can hope for compassion, forgiveness, and restored relationships even when things look dire. 

    We can hope for financial provision, physical healing, and opened doors.

    We can hope for perseverance, courage, and faithfulness to the end.

    We can hope for the ability to love in any and all circumstances.

    We can hope for a better situation, a better outcome, and the ability to better deal with whatever comes our way.

    We can expect these things. They may not always happen, but they certainly are possible.

    We can pray for them knowing full well that God is capable of doing them and infinitely more if He deems it to be the best possible course of action. But we also know He may choose another way, one that we may never understand-- in which case, we can hope for greater faith to still trust that He is God and He is good.

     

    HOLDING ONTO HOPE

    We're surrounded with reasons to not hope or to give up what little hope we have. Terrible, hurtful, discouraging things happen left and right, and it seems that no one is exempt from it. But that doesn't mean good things don't happen!

    And even hoping for good things can brighten our lives. Can you think of a time when you've been in a difficult situation, and yet knowing that everything would be okay actually helped you move through it with greater confidence and joy?

    I can! I graduated college with no idea of what I was going to do with my life and no job lined up despite my best efforts. I was pretty stressed out, to say in the least. It was tempting to get sucked into hopelessness, but I knew that wouldn't help me in the long run.

    If I did go down that slippery spiral into despair, I would've just thrown myself a pity party and wasted time feeling sorry for myself and angry with the world. And that would've helped absolutely nobody and accomplished absolutely nothing.

    I worked hard to continue hoping in God's provision and faithfulness. I remembered how He had provided for me before and trusted that He would continue to do so. And that faith, that hope, gave me the motivation I needed to keep trying, to keep going, to keep moving forward despite setbacks and obstacles.

    Hope is essential to our well-being. May we cling to it and pursue it even when things look hopeless at first. It's always worth it!

     

    How have you hung onto hope and pursued it when things look hopeless? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

    Live Wholehearted: Learning to Live & Love With All Our Hearts

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    Live wholehearted. Love wholehearted.

    It's what we were made to do. But it can be incredibly challenging and at times vague. What does it really mean to live and love wholeheartedly?

    [M]y friend Sarah always says that love is what happens when we show up in our lives with our whole hearts and this has totally transformed the way I think about love in my life. This means love has very little to do with anyone else and SO MUCH to do with me and how I decide to show up in my own life. In other words, if I am lacking love in my life, I have one person to blame: me. If I want more love in my life, there is one person who can turn up the volume on love: me. And we do it by speaking our truth, even when we’re worried about being rejected, by holding space for ourselves to feel whatever it is we feel, by learning to reach out for another person without letting go of ourselves, and again, by admitting our own need and craving for love—making space for it to grow in our lives.

    Love is less something we find than it is something we practice, less something we uncover than it is a pre-existing reality we become more and more aware of over time, less something we build than it is something we soften to.

    We do not have to fight for love or compete for love.

    We open to it and find it already exists in us and all around us and we have more if it than we ever dreamed possible. - Allison Fallon

     

    LIVING WHOLEHEARTED

    Living wholehearted means not holding back. It comes from a place of knowing who we are-- that we are fundamentally beloved. We were created to love and be loved.

    It means creating space for love in our everyday lives.

    Living wholehearted is the opposite of living and moving on autopilot. Living our lives on autopilot might seem safer, and it's definitely less work, but it's also far less rewarding.

    If we're living our lives on autopilot instead of being invested in them, we'll miss so many rich opportunities to engage in meaningful relationships, do important work, enjoy our time, and make a difference in the world. If we try to safeguard our hearts by locking them away or removing them from the equation, we take all the passion and joy out of our lives along with them.

     

    LOVING WHOLEHEARTED

    Loving wholeheartedly isn't reserved just for romantic relationships. 

    It means being wholly invested in all of our relationships-- with our parents, siblings, extended family, friends, coworkers, neighbors...everybody.

    It means understanding that, as Allison Fallon was quoted as saying above, if we're lacking love in our lives, the solution is for us to love more. It's like saying that in order to have a good friend, you have to be a good friend. 

    We all have the capacity to love those around us. We're all in a position to treat others with love, kindness, and respect. It's simple, but it isn't always easy.

    Loving wholeheartedly requires putting the needs of others above our own. It means being willing to go out of our way to do something kind for someone-- whether it's bringing a meal to a family with a new baby, shoveling your neighbor's driveway, or helping an overwhelmed coworker with their workload.

    Love serves. Love does. It's not complicated, but it does take thought and effort. For many of us, it's not the way we naturally show up in the world. But isn't it a better way? I certainly think so! Just imagine what would happen if everyone chose to be more loving, kind, compassionate, and service-oriented!

     

    CREATING SPACE FOR LOVE

    In our culture of criticism, judgment, and individualism, it can be hard to love others and feel loved by others.

    With the constant availability and false anonymity of the Internet, we're given endless opportunities to contribute to the hate, ignorance, and constant criticism of others and their work in the world.

    Just think about it-- how many times have you read critical comments on social media or ridiculous product reviews on Amazon? We are given so many chances to provide feedback and engage with others, and yet we use those opportunities to criticize, belittle, and try to force our agendas.

    What would happen if, instead, we chose to create more space for love? If we forced ourselves to pause before typing a hasty reply, a nasty rebuttal, or an overly critical review? What would happen if we remembered there are real people with real feelings on the other side of the Internet who will read our words? What would happen if we chose to be loving and kind instead, despite how others may offend us and act in ways that are not loving?

    Our behaviors don't have to be reactionary. We don't have to sink to the level of those around us when they're slinging the vitriol or gossiping in the corner.

    We can choose to create space for loving responses, kind words, encouraging messages, or at the very least, refrain from saying unkind things and remain silent when criticism wouldn't add anything valuable to the greater conversation.

    There's a difference between constructive, helpful criticism and criticism that cuts to the bone and knocks someone down a peg. I know it, and I'm pretty confident that you do, too. So let's start living and loving wholeheartedly, let's start being kinder with our words, and let's start creating more space for love.

     

    What can you do to live more wholeheartedly today? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!