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!

Love is, Part Two: Love is Kind

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Love is kind.

It looks after others' interests.

It doesn't hold grudges.

It serves instead of demanding to be served.

It keeps no record of wrongs; it isn't easily angered.

 

kind

adjective

1a of a sympathetic or helpful nature 

  • was helped by a kind neighbor
  • they were very kind to us

b of a forbearing nature gentle 

  • kind treatment of animals

c arising from or characterized by sympathy or forbearance 

  • a kind act
  • a kind smile

2of a kind to give pleasure or relief 

  • cooled by a kind breeze

3: chiefly dialectal affectionate, loving

-Merriam Webster

 

LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

Our world isn't particularly kind.

People lie, cheat, and steal to make a name for themselves, to get to the top, to impress others, and to try to make themselves happy.

Unfortunate things happen to us all-- whether in the form of disappointments, loss, betrayal, or unfulfilled dreams.

Encouraging, isn't it?

Stick with me.

Although our world isn't necessarily full of kindness, we can be.

We can be a light in a world of darkness.

 

BE THE KINDNESS

You've probably heard the quote from Gandhi that says, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." There's a reason it's so popular! Our world needs people ushering in change, and we can't wait on others to do it for us.

It might be hard to be kind, especially toward people who don't return our kindness, but what's the alternative? To join in with the hate, apathy, and dissension? I don't want any part of that, and I'm thinking you're probably sick of it, too.

So we get to be the light. Notice that I said, "we get to be." Yes, it's a responsibility, but it's also a privilege. 

We get to choose how we respond.

We can respond in anger, in frustration, in irritation.

Or we can respond in grace, mercy, compassion, patience, and kindness.

I know I want to be known for the latter. What about you?

 

PRACTICING EVERYDAY KINDNESS

Thinking of being the change we wish to see is lovely, but it means nothing if we don't live any differently in light of it.

So how do we live more kindly?

We choose to respond to others the way we would like them to respond to us. I know that when I'm having a bad day or when I say something I instantly wish I could take back, I'm always hoping others will be gracious in their response. Just because I may say something insensitive doesn't mean I'm prepared to handle an inconsiderate response.

And just because others say unkind things to us or around us or about us doesn't mean we have to respond in kind. We can excuse ourselves, refrain from debates, refuse to reply with a stinging remark of our own, and give ourselves permission to not have to have the last word.

We can be careful with how we engage with others-- both in person and online. Social media has wonderful perks in allowing us to stay connected to our people, but it offers people a false sense of security and anonymity, causing many to say things they wouldn't say in person.

As soon as one person starts slinging the vitriol, the whole thing goes downhill. But we can refuse to participate. We can hold our tongues. We can abide by our mother's old adages: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

 

Are you skilled at practicing kindness toward those around you? Do you have any tips or tricks to remaining kind when others aren't? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Later, lovely!Jessie.png

 

 

It's Not Rocket Surgery

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I over-complicate things. Is anyone else guilty of that? Good. Join the club! You are welcome here.

In trying to live more naturally and simply, I wanted to get rid of all my plastic food containers, switch out all my makeup, find natural shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, laundry detergent, hand soap, dish soap, and replace all my paper towels and napkins with cloth ones. Talk about a huge (and expensive) undertaking!

I had to remind myself that living more naturally and simply was a process, a journey. 

I wasn't going to get there overnight, and there was no use in fretting over each decision or the amount of time it took me to reach my goal. It was also more wasteful to dump all my old products without trying to use them up first. I couldn't afford to replace everything all at once, and I decided to finish off what I had and slowly make the transition.

 

BREAK IT ALL DOWN

It wasn't really all that complicated when I broke it down.

1. Use up what I have

2. Find nontoxic, cruelty-free brands to shop

3. Transition from traditional brands to natural brands as things run out

Pretty simple, right? But it wasn't at first because I had way over-complicated it.

I thought it had to be this big production. I thought I had to take a stand for natural, simple living and eco-friendly products. It was like it was my responsibility to educate everyone around me about the choices I was making and why they should make them, too. 

Sheesh! It sounds ridiculous and egotistical when I write it that way, but that's how it was. And do you know what? That wasn't the only time I did it!

 

ROUND TWO

I also had a hard time transitioning to healthier food habits. My food preferences conflict pretty dramatically with many of the people I spend my time with, and I felt like I needed to explain and justify my choices and softly (or maybe not-so-softly if you were on the receiving end) encourage them to make healthier choices.

But do you know what I've realized? 

We're all happier when we make our own choices without feeling pressured to fit into someone else's idea of what we "should" do.

And if my friends or family members or coworkers would rather eat differently than me, that's their prerogative! But that also means that I can eat in the way that's best for my lifestyle and my body without feeling the need to have what everyone else is having.

Again, it's not that complicated unless I make it complicated.

Eat what makes you feel good.

 

SIMPLICITY FOR THE WIN

As I've seen in my own life, simplicity wins. 

Simplifying my approaches to natural living, healthy eating, as well as other things, has allowed me to follow through more effectively and with less stress. And I haven't been as much of a crusader for my causes. I have my opinions, and I'll share them when asked and when appropriate, but I've stepped off my soap box and let other people make their own choices.

Simplifying also has allowed my decision making to be simpler because I know what's most important, what I stand for, and how I want to live my life.

It's not rocket science. It's not brain surgery. 

In short, it's not rocket surgery. 

 

Have you ever overcomplicated things? How did you straighten them out? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Later, lovely!Jessie.png

Learning Lately: Winter 2017-2018

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I'm joining Anne Bogel and Emily P. Freeman in noting the things I've been learning every season, and today I'm sharing my winter 2017-2018 collection with you!

 

There is a lot of power to be found in just trying.

I've been doing a lot of mindset work over the last several months, but especially the last month or two, and it's been so good for me! I hadn't realized how much I tell myself I can't do things or that things are just too hard. Doing so leaves me completely unmotivated to even try to accomplish whatever task is before me. 

But when I flip my thinking around and remind myself that even if it's hard, I can certainly try before quitting, I find I can do more than I thought! Now, I haven't been able to do everything I attempt to do, but I can do more than I would have with a more negative attitude, and that's a big win for me!

 

Instrumental music isn't terrible.

As a person who only played the recorder by force in elementary school and only practiced the piano under duress for less than a full year when I was ten, I've always loved vocal music. I took choir for several years and loved it. But this has always left me with a negative impression of instrumental music. I always thought it was the boring cousin of music with words. 

But as I'm doing more writing and deep work, I can't always handle having music with words going in my headphones. It's just too much. I get distracted by my desire to listen to the words instead of focusing on what I'm doing. So I started dabbling in piano covers (like the ones from the Piano Guys-- love!), and I got hooked! I certainly haven't given up my favorites with words, but it's nice to know I don't have to discount a whole genre!

 

Sometimes you have to lean into your fear.

Our fear can certainly warn us away from danger, but sometimes it just means we should slow down a bit while we move forward, so we know what we're headed toward and prepare accordingly. It doesn't always mean we have to stop or turn around and run full-speed in the opposite direction.

I haven't always tolerated change well, and I have a propensity to shy away from things that scare me or make me uncomfortable, but I'm learning to lean into it. It's in the discomfort, in the space outside of my comfort zone, that I grow, learn new things, experience new things, and create new things. I don't think anything great was ever achieved without a certain level of fear and change-- and courage to move forward anyway. So here's to leaning into it, to feeling the fear and taking a step anyway!

 

Paper planners are still cool.

I switched to electronic calendars and a to-do list app (which I love) a few years ago to try to conserve paper, and because I honestly thought I didn't need a paper planner without school assignments to keep track of anymore. After all, I was an adult. Why would an adult need a paper planner?

Well, I've taken a dose of humility and admitted that I need more than just an electronic calendar and a to-do list app. I need my handy dandy paper planner. I tried the bullet journal first, and that provided a wonderful space for all my note-taking and brainstorming for various things, but it didn't have a calendar, and things got too easily lost without being tied to a timeframe.

So, as I prepared to jump into 2018, I decided to get a paper planner. I actually had to get a couple different things to put together something that would work for me, but I'm loving what I came up with! It has monthly and weekly pages with plenty of room for plans and to-do lists, and it also has planning sheets for each month, with space to write goals, celebrations, events, and things to remember. And I added blank notebooks to keep track of all the other things I write-- gratitude journaling, quote lists, places to go, ideas for my business. 

It's helped me stay so much more organized, and I'm loving it!

 

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

Later, lovely!Jessie.png

Love Is, Part One: Love is Patient

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This is the first post in a series I'm starting this month about love-- what it is and what it isn't. Stay tuned for the rest of the series!

 

Love is patient.

Patient:  adjective  pa·tient  \ ˈpā-shənt \

1bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint

2manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain

3not hasty or impetuous

4steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity

(Merriam Webster)

 

I will freely admit that my patience often runs thinner than I'd like. When I'm stuck in stop-and-go traffic. When I'm waiting for the person in front of me in the check-out lane to load their groceries faster. In the middle of the 5-7 business days it takes to get a much-anticipated package. When I keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

Patience is hard.

But sometimes the hard thing and the right thing are the same (did I just quote The Fray? Yes, I believe I did!).

I appreciate it when other people are patient with me, but my first reaction when put in a situation that calls for patience is often instead one of impatience. Surely, that's not a fair standard to operate by.

 

WHAT PATIENCE LOOKS LIKE

Patience looks like enduring hardships without complaining about how hard they are to everyone around us. It looks like carrying our responsibilities, obligations, struggles, and difficulties with as much grace as we can muster-- not in a prideful way that communicates that we don't need any help, but in a way that says, "by God's grace, I can get through this with my head held high."

Patience looks like taking a deep breath before replying in anger or frustration when the people around you-- irate customers, annoying children, rude strangers, or people you know and love in their sporadic insensitive moments-- are driving you bananas. It doesn't help to fly off the handle (hopefully we all know that), but if we're not careful, that may be our knee-jerk reaction. Patience requires that we pause first to consider how we respond so we can be more kind.

Patience looks like waiting-- waiting for our dreams to become reality, waiting for our circumstances to change, waiting for that long-awaited day to come-- and making the most of the in-between time, trusting that God has a purpose for it and that it's not wasted time.

 

HOW TO GROW IN PATIENCE

Notice when you're being impatient. That's the first step in changing your behavior. Acknowledge your lack of patience when it arises so you know where you have room to grow (but give yourself grace; we all are works in progress!).

Pray for patience. There's a well-known phrase in certain Christian circles that says, "if you pray for patience, God will give you opportunities to exercise it." You may not directly be given buckets full of extra patience, but you will be given situations in which you can, by the grace of God, cultivate extra patience. And isn't that better anyway? Anything worth getting is worth the work. If we just got it without working for it, we wouldn't appreciate it as much.

Develop a habit of patience (I say as much to myself as I am to you, believe me!). If we were to decide right here and now to just take five seconds to breathe and consider how we respond, I think we would find ourselves exercising a far greater amount of patience, self-control, and compassion. Will you try it with me?

 

How do you grow patience? I'd love to hear from you in the comments here, or on my Facebook page!

Later, lovely!Jessie.png

January 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 January 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 got a couple new devotionals for Christmas, so I feel like I'm reading a bunch right now, but my favorite at the moment is Annie Downs's 100 Days to Brave. I love how she uses Scripture and stories from her life to encourage us readers to pursue bravery in our own everyday lives-- and in small, manageable ways we might not otherwise have called brave.

I've also been reading more of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series (The Well of Lost Plots and Something Rotten), and as sort of tangential reads,  The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn and The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman, which I'm not into as much. I also started Essentialism by Greg McKeown, but I'm not very far into it yet, so you'll have to check back in later about that one!

I also read The Hollow City by Ransom Riggs, which I loved. I can't wait to continue the series! And I read Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, which I thought was very good! It made me think about life from the perspective of someone with an illness that prevented them from interacting with the outside world, which was very interesting.

 

QUOTE:

"Brave people don't stop hearing the whispers of fear. They hear the whispers but take action anyway." --Annie F. Downs, 100 Days to Brave. SO GOOD, you guys. I'm loving the discussions of bravery in this book and all the things I'm thinking about as a result of it (and the things I'm doing or preparing to do). I encourage you to pick up your copy NOW!

 

MOVIES: 

I've been watching Reign on Netflix after absolutely LOVING The Crown. It's not as good as The Crown in my opinion, but it's somehow sucking me in nonetheless.

 

SONG: 

I'm loving Most People Are Good by Luke Bryan. It's just such a good reminder to look for good in the world and in people around you!

 

FOOD: 

I made some really good baked oatmeal (that a friend practically BEGGED to get the recipe for, asking how closely I guard it) and some really tasty zoodles with basil pepita pesto! And I think my favorite for the month was the peanut noodle salad (which I made without the chicken and with more veggies). So good!

 

MEMORIES FROM JANUARY:

This month, I went with my college roommates back to our college town and stayed in an Air BnB. It was my first time using Air bnb, and we had a great experience! It was really cold, so we didn't get to walk around campus or town much, but we did drive up to the lookout on the bluff, see the new student center, and swing by the river for old time's sake. It was such a sweet weekend full of wonderful friends.

 

LOOKING FORWARD TO IN FEBRUARY:

I'm looking forward to the mission trip to Corpus Christi, TX, that my family is going on with my parents' church. We're going for about a week, and we're partnering with Reach Global to assist in rebuilding and restoring houses damaged in last fall's devastating hurricane. I'm so grateful for all the support we received-- our family is fully funded for the trip, and the team as a whole is well on its way! If you would like to support us, please be praying for safe travels and opportunities to build relationships with the homeowners.

 

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

Resolutions, Part 4: Blinders

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Stay in your lane.

Run your own race at your own pace.

Pay attention to where you're going, not where your neighbor, friend, sister, or brother's friend's hairdresser is going. It doesn't matter; you're not going that way. You're going your way. Focus on that.

 

LASER-FOCUSED

Accomplishing your goals takes a great amount of dedication. It means saying "no" to some things so you can say "yes" to better things.

In short, it takes laser-like focus.

It takes acting like a racehorse with blinders on, focused only on your single lane of the racetrack.

You have to be so committed to your goals and your journey that you're okay with turning a blind eye to what others are doing or telling you that you should do.

In my own life, this has looked like not worrying about missing out on new movies or TV shows that everyone else is talking about because I'm choosing to spend my time doing other things I enjoy more or watching things that make me happy (like Disney movies).

I choose to not worry about the fact that some people are going to grad school while I'm working; I could have chosen that path, but I didn't. And it does me no good to fret over having chosen the "wrong" path. 

When I paid off my debt a few years ago, I had to be willing to cut costs in every area of my life in order to devote more of my money to paying off student loans and my car loan. I gave up shopping for anything besides necessities like groceries for about 8 months, and while I wouldn't say it was easy, it was definitely worth it!

 

A SPOONFUL OF MY OWN MEDICINE

It's easy to say those things, but much harder to follow through with it. 

I'm sure you've seen, just like I have, that it's hard to not get distracted by the shiny things in our peripheral vision-- things like what our friends are doing with their lives.

I know that I've personally gone down too many rabbit holes trying to see how other people run their businesses, structure their websites, and show up on social media. At a certain level, doing so is healthy and functions as inspiration.

Beyond that point, it verges on obsession with doing it the "right" way (as if there was one right way) and procrastination as I put any kind of action on hold while I look and look and look some more.

But it's a waste of time to focus on their journeys and ignore our own. Of course, they can inspire and encourage us, but ultimately, we have to make the choices that are right for us and commit to our own journeys.

 

REMAIN FAITHFUL TO YOUR MISSION

I've said it before, but I'll say it again. It takes commitment to your "why" to follow through. It certainly takes a great deal of motivation to put on blinders and move through life just focused on your path without getting distracted by all the shiny, glittering things on the sidelines.

But strong, compelling "whys" can motivate us to do great things, to reach new heights, to create great change.

When you start losing sight of your goal, remember why you're doing it. Remind yourself that while your friends' paths are completely valid, you are not on their path.

Your paths may run parallel or cross for a time, but ultimately, you're on your own journey, headed toward your own goals and dreams. And if you keep those end results in mind, you'll be more likely to reach them without getting sidetracked.

You can do this, friend! You can stay committed. You can reach your goals and achieve your dreams! I believe in you!

 

How do you stay laser-focused on your goals and dreams? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

Later, lovely!Jessie.png

Fighting Fear

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Fears. We all have them. And we let them hold us back from doing scary things.

Some of those things, like touching a hot stove or diving into a shallow pool, are good. We definitely shouldn't do those things. We all know that.

But some things, like writing a book, starting a new business, or beginning a relationship, are good things that we shouldn't let fear hold us back from.

The Turquoise Home
The Turquoise Home

We let fear paralyze us when we believe its lie that tells us we're not good enough, smart enough, accomplished enough, thin enough, pretty enough, popular enough, rich enough, important enough, loved enough, or any other version of enough.

But what would our lives look like if we felt the fear and moved forward anyway?

 

FEELING THE FEAR

We can't completely shut down our fear. Fear does warn us of potential dangers. It would be irresponsible to completely silence that little voice inside of us that tells us, "Stop! This is dangerous and scary!"

But that doesn't mean we have to live every moment of our lives in fear. We can acknowledge it and see what it has to tell us and yet not let it control us.

Fear is just like other emotions in that if we don't acknowledge it, we won't be able to deal with it and move through it. If we're in denial about our fear, we're already fighting an uphill battle.

 

BEFRIENDING FEAR

I'm learning that it's so much healthier for me to be brave enough to call my fear by name, admit what I'm scared of, and pray for the strength to face it.

I can't even express to you how freeing it is to admit my fears to trusted friends. In naming my fears, I take away some of their power over me. It's like saying, "I know you're there. I see you. I hear you. But you aren't going to win today." Welcoming fear into the conversation like another person seated at the table makes it so much easier to address because I'm no longer hiding from it or pretending it isn't there.

And by engaging in this kind of vulnerable dialogue with close friends, I get the support, accountability, and advice I need to work through my fear. Some of my friends have been where I am and can give practical advice. Some continue to walk by my side and regularly ask how I'm doing. And some just listen and pray for me. All of those things are so powerful, and I wouldn't have them if I didn't name my fears and be brave enough to share them with others.

(And if you're looking for friends to provide that kind of support for you, I have good news! I have group coaching packages available where you can meet with like-minded women to set goals, create plans to achieve them, learn from others, gain greater perspective, and have the kind of support and accountability we all need to accomplish our goals and live lives we love!)

 

FIGHTING THE FEAR

Sometimes fear keeps us from doing stupid things, but sometimes it holds us back from taking risks we should be taking.

For instance, I was scared to move home after college without a job lined up. I would have loved to stay in my college town and avoid moving home into a completely unknown world, but I didn't. I chose to do the hard thing and move home anyway. And I'm so glad I did! That season of life and lack of a full-time job was what allowed me to jump in and help start Clarity Church, and I wouldn't trade that experience for anything.

Once I've acknowledged my fear and shared it with friends, I have to choose how to respond to it. In many cases, that has meant moving forward anyway. Now, I'm a naturally cautious and anxious person, so I don't say this lightly. I know it can be incredibly difficult to feel the fear and move forward anyway, but I'm telling you that the results are so often worth it!

Of course, I'm not talking about making stupid, reckless, or downright dangerous decisions. Our fears in those situations are well-grounded and should be listened to (I'm talking about abusive situations, facing bears head-on, and playing chicken in cars). But there are also times when our fears just mean we should slow down a bit and be careful and intentional in our approach (things like quitting a job, starting a new business, beginning a new relationship, or moving to a new city).

We don't have to live in fear. Our fears certainly don't have to control us. But they are there, and they are real. We feel them for a reason, and we aren't doing anyone any favors when we completely ignore them. So let's start listening to what they have to teach us and move forward anyway.

 

How do you fight fear in your life? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Resolutions, Part 3: Motivation

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"I'm just not motivated enough to eat healthier or work out." 

"I would do it if someone else made me."

"I just can't motivate myself enough to get off the couch and go for a walk."

Cue ALL the excuses why we don't do what we want to do.

"I'm too busy."

"It's too hard."

"I don't know how."

I'm calling us all out here. We all make excuses for our behavior, or lack thereof.

And it's this habit that's stalling our progress. If we make excuses instead of following through and taking steps toward our goals, we're not getting anywhere.

 

OVERCOMING THE EXCUSES

In order to truly overcome our excuses, we need some deep motivation. We'll last much longer if we want to eat healthier for the sake of our health than if we just want to drop a few pounds.

Much of this starts with rewriting our internal dialogue. Instead of giving our excuses and believing them, we need to combat them with more positive self-talk, which I talked about a couple weeks ago at the beginning of this series (no worries if you missed it, you can catch it here).

I'm a big fan of finding your "why"-- your deep motivation to be who you want to be and do what you want to do. It's the kind of motivation that reminds you that everything you're doing is worth it because the end result will be so amazing!

When I'm in the middle of decluttering my home, I remember that I want a more simplified, joyful home. I don't want to be surrounded by stuff I don't use or like. To me, it's well worth the work to have a home I love and to have more time and space to breathe because my home is filled with fewer things.

So what's motivating you? What matters the most to you? What's pushing you to make changes in your life?

How can you use that motivation to overcome your excuses?

 

INTERNAL MOTIVATION

Motivation comes in multiple forms. Setting goals for yourself that are just for yourself (meaning you don't share them or do them to benefit others) is just one way to do it.

You can adopt an encouraging mantra, like, "I CAN do this!" or come up with a reward system for yourself. You can continually remind yourself of your "why." You can create a vision board to inspire you. Do whatever works for you!

One thing I've done is create a reward system for myself. If, for instance, I work on my business for an hour when I'm just not feeling it, I tell myself I can read for half an hour or watch a show as soon as I finish. It gives me just the little extra nudge I need to do what I need to do but don't always feel like doing.

 

EXTERNAL MOTIVATION

For some people, it works better to have external motivation. Wanting something for themselves just isn't quite enough.

Consider who would benefit from you reaching your goal. If your goal is to work more efficiently by cutting out distractions, one result could be having more time to spend with your friends and family. If you're working to live a healthier life, you'll likely inspire others to do the same, have more energy to spend with others, and live a longer life, giving you even more time to spend with your loved ones.

If that doesn't work, get some accountability!

You can work with a coach or trainer, allowing them to help motivate you to stick to your goals. They can work with you to develop a plan you can stick to, and they can function as your personal cheerleader along the way.

You can also pursue less formal accountability by joining a group. You can find one online (Facebook has groups for everything!) or in person. Knowing that you're surrounding yourself with like-minded people pursuing similar goals can give you the understanding and support you need to achieve your goals.

One thing I know many people struggle with is motivating themselves to work out. They want to do it, but when the alarm clock goes off, they just hit snooze. They're not motivated enough to get out of bed on their own. They need a little more encouragement than what they alone can give themselves. That's when I suggest group fitness classes, because then they have workout buddies who are counting on them to show up, and the days and times are pre-determined, so it can easily be put on their calendars.

And if you're looking to work with someone, either one-on-one or in a group, I highly encourage you to check out my coaching packages! I even have one created specifically for CRUSHING your goals!

 

How do you stay motivated to reach your goals? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

When Progress is Slow: Finding Patience and Grace in the Journey

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Sometimes it seems like real change is so far away that you can't even see its shadow. You're chasing it at breakneck pace only to feel it elude your grasp once more. Why does it seem that progress is so often so slow?

 

ROSE-COLORED GLASSES

We tend to forget that we've gotten to our current circumstances slowly. It took time for us to learn what we've learned, build the habits that we have, and achieve what we've achieved.

We can't duplicate our success or remedy our mistakes in the blink of an eye.

Progress and change take hard, consistent work. Periodic spurts of energy aren't enough to sustain our goals and dreams. They require constant attention and care, and continual influx of time and effort.

We do ourselves a disservice by thinking that committing to a goal once is enough to sustain us through the hard work required to achieve it. We must regularly recommit ourselves if we hope to be successful in our aims.

 

MINUTE-BY-MINUTE FRAMING

Instead of just committing to our goal once and then setting it on autopilot, what would happen if we reconsidered our goal and our ability to take steps toward reaching it on a smaller, more consistent basis?

I think we would feel less pressure and experience less burnout. Old habits seem overwhelming when we consider how powerful they have been for so long. But if we can battle against them in smaller pieces, we can overcome them. We just can't try to bite off more than we can chew.

Our habits won't all change in a day or a week. Some might take a month or two. Some might take a year or more. That's okay. We have to give ourselves grace for the journey.

The best way I've found is to focus on the present, to ask myself, "what can I do right now to work toward my goals, to work toward becoming who I want to be?"

Stop thinking about how hard it’s going to be tomorrow, or next week, or on your family vacation in April. You can’t tell the future. You can’t know what your cravings will be (have they always been persistent and consistent? Probably not); you can’t say how much energy you’ll have to exercise tomorrow. For all you know, you might be stronger and more committed with each passing day. Thinking about the future—and assuming that healthy eating and exercise will always feel as hard as it does now—is where we derive so much suffering when we’re trying to change.

Here’s what you can do instead:

When the feelings of anxiety overcome you, whispering weakness and doubt, stop and ask yourself, “Can I do it right now?”

Can I ride out this craving just for this moment—this hour?

The vast majority of the time, the answer is going to be yes, you can do it now. If you have to crawl through the day minute by minute, hour by hour—asking yourself “Can I do it now?”—do that. Make it through by staying present and committed to the hour in front of you. - Andie Mitchell

 

PRACTICING PATIENCE

We can't go from sitting on our couch all day to running a marathon the next. It's crazy to think that we can get a big promotion without doing the hard work to earn it.

But we don't have to lose steam as we chug along toward our long-term goals. Yes, progress is hard. Getting up day after day and maintaining our determination is difficult. But it's not impossible. We just have to take it one step at a time, one day at a time.

But we can do it! With a little patience and grace for ourselves, we can take consistent steps toward reaching our goals and living our best lives as our best selves. Who's with me?
 

I'd love to hear how you extend patience and grace to yourself when progress seems slow in the comments! Feel free to share!

 

 

Further reading:

The Question to Ask Yourself When You Want to Quit by Andie Mitchell

Resolutions, Part 2: Focus

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Mid-January is upon us, and with it, many of us are beginning to feel all squirrelly about our goals and resolutions. They're starting to feel harder and harder, and we might even be forgetting why we made them in the first place or if they're worth sticking to.

 

This is the second post in a series about resolutions. In case you missed the first post, you can catch it here.

 

FOCUSING ON WHAT MATTERS

There's nothing quite like spending quality time with friends and family or completely crushing a work or personal project. But those things don't just happen. We have to be very intentional about spending time on them in order to achieve them.

If we're not careful, we can spend more time focusing on and attending to what appears to be urgent rather than what's truly important. Allow me to explain the difference.

Urgent things appear to be important because they're right there in front of us: a looming deadline on a project, that mess on the kitchen counter, that email that just arrived with the little exclamation point emphasizing its urgency. 

Important things matter because they are inherently valuable-- they lie close to our hearts. They impact our lives. These are things like taking care of ourselves, spending time with our loved ones, and doing our real, big work.

Sometimes things can be both urgent and important (like doing your taxes come April), but oftentimes, they are not the same thing. And just because urgent things are on the top of our to-do lists and right in front of our noses doesn't actually mean they're important.

Focusing on what matters means recognizing the difference and allocating our energy accordingly. It means dealing with emergent things quickly to move on to the more important things waiting on the sidelines, choosing to expend most of our energy there. It means sometimes putting the so-called "urgent" things on the back burner to instead focus on more important things sometimes (or even maybe throwing those "urgent" things out the window from time to time, demoting them, stripping them of their status, and removing their power over us and our time).

 

PRIORITIES

We all have only twenty-four hours in the day. And within those hours, we can only do so many things, so we have to choose what things we care most about doing.

I have a tendency to try to squeeze too many things into any given timeframe. If I have a Saturday morning free, I will likely try to fit in time reading my Bible and praying, a workout, cleaning the whole house, doing four loads of laundry, making breakfast and lunch for the week, and putting all the dishes away.

Now, I don't know about you, but I can't actually do all of that in a single morning. Maybe you're Superwoman and you can (if so, you go, girl!), but I think most of us have overcommitted in similar ways at one point or another-- even if it's just to ourselves.

But when we overcommit, we don't give enough of our attention to any one thing because we're trying to do too many things. To fix the problem, we need to decide what matters most, what deserves our attention the most. 

So, what matters most to you? What is it that you want to spend more time doing? Who is it that you want to spend more time with?

What's holding you back from spending your time, your life, the way you want to?

 

DISTRACTIONS

It's all too easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole of social media, get caught up answering emails or cleaning the house, or let our to-do lists rule our lives. But I think we would all agree that those things aren't the most important things.

So how do we stay focused with so many distractions?

We go back to our priorities and choose to refocus on what matters most to us. We time block our days so we're devoting specific segments of time to our most important tasks, ensuring that they get done. In that way, we're protecting them (and ourselves) from constant distractions.

Of course, unexpected distractions do come up, and we have to deal with those as they arise. But we can prepare by setting aside time to turn off our phones (or at least put them on Do Not Disturb mode), turning off the TV, and setting our to-do lists aside when we want to spend concentrated time with our friends and family or on completing a specific task or project.

 

Do you have any tips or tricks for staying focused on what matters most to you? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Slow and Steady

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We've all heard the story of the tortoise and the hare, right? The two are racing, and the hare thinks he can win because he runs faster than the tortoise, but when he stops to rest because he's so far ahead, he falls asleep and ends up finishing after the tortoise, who slowly ambled his way through the whole race.  The tortoise had consistency on his side. He was persistent and moved at a pace he knew he could sustain. 

Despite the fact that we heard this story as kids, many of us live like the hare, not the tortoise (I know I do!). We plow through life like it's a competition to see who can cross the finish line first. 

 

LIFE IN THE FAST LANE

Our lives weren't meant to be lived in hyperdrive. We weren't made to be running at full speed all the time. 

But we do. We work full-time, volunteer or commit to groups and clubs, try to tackle our mountains of house projects, bills, and other tasks, and still somehow see our friends and families. We work, work, work on one thing or another from morning till night day after day, never feeling like we have enough time to do everything we want or need to do.

That kind of living just isn't sustainable. It inevitably leads to burnout, like the hare's need to nap in the middle of his race. 

When I was in high school, I went to school both at my local high school and my local community college, and I worked 3-4 days a week, participated in church activities 3-4 days a week, and somehow managed to get all of my schoolwork done. My closest friends expressed concern for my health and sanity during that season (it wasn't the whole of my high school career, but a large chunk of it), and looking back, I still don't know how I made it. I do know I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have because I was so overwhelmed with the number of things on my plate.

And I don't want to live like that anymore! Who's with me?

 

RETHINKING HOW WE LIVE

What if we chose to live more like the tortoise? What if we made a conscious decision to slow down, focus on the here-and-now, and not rush forward toward tomorrow? 

What would our lives look like if we committed to a more sustainable pace?

Maybe we'd cherish more small, daily moments with our families. Maybe we'd say "hi" to our neighbors instead of rushing into our houses when we get home. Maybe we'd put our phones away and focus more on the world around us than the online world that so often distracts us. Maybe we'd commit to fewer things, get more sleep, and have more lazy Saturdays to read a book, go for a stroll, or spontaneously grab coffee with a friend.

Perhaps everything would change. Perhaps nothing major would. But it's worth a shot, isn't it?

Of course, some seasons are busier than others, demanding more of our time. And responsibility requires that we prepare for the future. But that doesn't mean we don't have to hasten its arrival. 

So here's to slowing down as much as it depends upon us, taking our lives one step at a time instead of rushing ahead, seeking lives that are less complicated and more joyful, and committing to enjoying the adventure!

Resolutions, Part 1: Self-Talk

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The way we talk to ourselves has a profound impact on our lives.

We are all deeply loved by our Creator. So why are we so very hard on ourselves?

It affects our perspective on life, our general outlook, our resiliency, our growth, our ability to handle our own mistakes, our attitude, and our relationships with others.

I know I'm guilty of not-so-positive self-talk. Is anybody else with me? Not that I'm proud of it. I know it's not a good thing. And yet somehow I keep doing it. I need to pay more attention to what I'm telling myself (and maybe you do, too?).

 

WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE

We're our own worst critics. (I know that's definitely true for me!)

Have you found yourself saying any of the following?

"I can't do this."

"I'm never going to be able to do that."

"I'm not as good as her."

"I wish I was more like him."

"If only I could be ____, could have ____, could do _____, then I would be happy."

Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, it's easy to compare our lives with others', but what we don't see are the 12 pictures they took (with double chins, smeared makeup, bedhead, and socks with holes) before the one that made it (with the perfect filter, posed just right, and paired with a witty caption) online for us to see. 

We see all the nitty-gritty details of our own lives, but only the highlight reels of most other people's. And we're far harder on ourselves when we think we have to measure up and compete with the Joneses. So let's just give ourselves a break and do our own thing.

So what if we have a smaller following, a messier home, an uglier meal, or a more boring day? Who's to say that's worth less? Today I'm giving you permission to love your life just as it is.

 

STARTING TO CHANGE

Behavioral change starts with a change of belief.

Trying to change outward manifestations of our beliefs is ineffectual at best and definitely more tiresome and frustrating when we slip back into old patterns because the underlying beliefs haven't budged an inch in the right direction. It's like treating the symptoms instead of the illness.

When we were little, our parents would often tell us to do things just "because they said so." And while that logic might have worked when I was six, it doesn't stick very well now. I do much better when I understand the reason why I'm doing something.

Trying to change my habits goes the same way. When I'm trying to eat healthier, it doesn't work to just remind myself that eating plates of cookies isn't good for me. It's far more effective to remember that eating too many sweets leaves me feeling less than stellar afterward.

 

SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECIES

We're setting ourselves up to fail when we think negative thoughts about ourselves. Of course, we need to acknowledge the areas in which we're weak, but they are opportunities for growth, not reasons to punish ourselves or dwell on our shortcomings.

And when I believe that I can't do something (like changing my habits, adopting a new one, or reaching a goal that seems a little far-fetched), then I'm building a roadblock for myself, one more obstacle to have to overcome to reaching my goals: myself and my own wrong beliefs about my abilities.

 

TURNING THINGS AROUND

When I catch myself thinking negative things, I try to turn them around. I go back to what I know to be true. 

"I can do all things through Him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)

"All things are possible with God."

"Don't give up without trying."

"Progress over perfection."

Not all of these create night-and-day differences in my attitude or my ability to achieve my goals, but they're certainly steps in the right direction. When I believe in myself (and in my God), I'm no longer shooting myself in the foot, holding myself back from doing and becoming more.

 

What helps you engage in more positive self-talk? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

And if you're looking to turn your self-talk around as a goal this year or as part of a goal, check out my Goal CRUSHING Coaching! I can help you get there!

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I Think I Can, I Think I Can

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“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” ― Henry Ford

 

HAVING FAITH IN OURSELVES

When it comes to implementing changes, our attitude matters a great deal!

I know if I don't have faith that I can accomplish something, I don't put forth as much effort. I'm liable to quit faster and try with less than all of my might. I make excuses. I throw in the towel. Sometimes I give up even before I begin!

If I'm in the middle of a run or a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout and tell myself it's just too hard, I will probably just stop. Granted, there are times when it might realistically be a bit too challenging, but quitting isn't the answer. Usually it's just a cop-out. I don't want to put forth the effort sometimes and find myself making excuses that allow me to stop and take the easy way out.

Telling myself I can't do something or that something's too hard creates a negative self-fulfilling prophecy, draining me of my motivation and energy, effectively keeping me from reaching the very goals I'm claiming are too lofty to reach.

 

HELPFUL REMINDERS

Maybe there is some magic in the mantra of the Little Engine That Could: "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can."

Reminding myself that I can face my challenges head-on and work hard to overcome them gives me just that little extra bit of oomph I need to succeed.

Sometimes I still fall short of my goals, but I make it farther before I quit and find it easier to get back up and try again when I remind myself that I am capable.

I'm trying to catch myself every time I think, "I can't do this" and correct my thinking to more true statements like, "I can do this," "I can at least try," and "I have to try first before giving up." 

I owe it to myself to put in the effort before giving up. If I don't push myself to new heights, I'm never going to accomplish my goals or see any real change. (And I have a pretty good feeling you wouldn't, either, and just might need that little bit of motivation to start rethinking your own inner dialogue of "can't.")

 

PREPARING FOR SLIPS & MISSTEPS

It also helps to take into account the things that might go wrong. This sounds counterintuitive when trying to build confidence and bolster motivation, but it actually makes us more likely to press on when things inevitably get more difficult than we imagined.

If I go into something blindly and stumble, I might get discouraged by how unexpectedly difficult it is and want to quit trying. 

If, on the other hand, I know that it might be challenging because I'm not yet as strong as I could be, as patient as I could be, or lacking a little in self-discipline, I'm aware of the areas of growth that are open to me, and more prepared to work with them when trying to reach my goals.

In trying to eat healthier, I know I have issues with eating too fast (and therefore too much in one sitting), so I'm working on going slower.

As part of my goal to grow my business, I'm recognizing my short fuse when it comes to learning new technology and giving myself a timeline to keep me on track and allowing breaks when I need them.

 

 

What helps you motivate yourself to reach your goals?

 

Further reading:

To Reach Your Goals, Imagine You Already Tried and Failed by Brad Stulberg, Science of Us

December 2017 Favorites

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

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

CURRENT FAVORITES:

BOOKS:

This month, I read Anything by Jennie Allen (which wrecked my view of comfort and surrender in the BEST way!), All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (very good!), Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (good, but very long), and A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (soo good!!).

 

QUOTE:

"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for." - Epicurus

 

MOVIES: 

I've been watching Christmas movies like they're going out of style (and, please, if they are, don't tell me; I don't want to know!). My favorites are Eloise at Christmastime, It's a Wonderful Life, and Elf.

 

SONG: 

Of course, what kind of a Christmas fanatic would I be if I didn't listen to all the Christmas music this month?! My favorite song is probably O Holy Night, but I have several albums and artists I like, including Pentatonix, Michael Buble, Josh Groban, and of course, classics like Burl Ives and Nat King Cole.

I have a couple different Christmas playlists I created on Spotify (here and here), a peaceful piano one created by Spotify itself, plus one more "chill" one from Kendra Adachi (The Lazy Genius), so I've been set up pretty well for the season! Check them out if you're looking to have better Christmas music curated for you for next year (or if you're one of those people who doesn't stop listening to Christmas music just because Christmas is over; I am).

 

FOOD: 

I made some really good veggie chili for my community group that made so much I had tons of leftovers (a win-win in my book!). 

 

MEMORIES FROM DECEMBER:

I loved decorating for Christmas, watching Christmas movies with friends and family, enjoying lots (too much at times) of great food, and celebrating the season. I also thoroughly enjoyed hosting a bridal shower/bachelorette party for a good friend of mine and going to her wedding!

I went to a couple of great concerts this month, too. I went to the Needtobreathe concert with some friends (and bumped into more friends there), and the next night, my family went to the For King & Country/Casting Crowns Christmas concert! It was quite a weekend of great music!

My best friend and I also got to record some videos to share at our church during the Christmas Eve service (to let people know what's coming up, etc.). We filmed some of the original introduction videos for our church four years ago (!!), and it was so much fun to do it again!

 

LOOKING FORWARD TO IN JANUARY:

I'm looking forward to my no-sugar challenge (championed by Lindsay at Pinch of Yum), because it's just what I'm going to need after eating all the cookies this month and feeling a little over-sugared. I have no problem eating sweets when they're balanced with more nutritious foods, but I tend to overdo it over the holidays, and taking a break from them is going to be so good!

I also have a roommate reunion in January, and I'm so excited to get to spend some time with my dear, sweet friends. I don't get to see them anywhere near enough, and I cherish whatever time I do get to share with them.

 

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

Advent Heart, Part 3: Advent All Year Long

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[This is the third and final post in my Advent Heart series. In case you missed the first two, you can catch up on them here and here.]

 

POST-HOLIDAY FUNK

Have you ever noticed how the general mood changes dramatically after the holidays are over? There's a different feeling in the air come January, one of regret for having overspent or overeaten, fatigue from so much time spent in close quarters with extended family, and disappointment that the fun and frivolity of the holidays have faded back into the busyness and grind of daily life.

Who wants that? I know I don't! Sure, I love Christmas (it's hands-down my favorite holiday), but I don't want it to be the only time of year that I enjoy. I don't want to be Buddy the Elf for one month of the year and the Grinch the rest of the year. No thanks!

But what's the solution? How can we possibly transform our attitudes and lives the rest of the year, too?

 

SLOWING DOWN

The holidays are a season of slowing down and savoring our time spent with friends, family, and God. We can bring more of that into our daily lives by creating a habit of taking things a bit slower and focusing on what's really important to us.

During the Christmas season, we tend to spend more time with our friends and family, which is also something we can work on. People matter more than things. We know this, but we don't always live like it. We can prioritize our people throughout the year. 

Consider what matters most to you, and be willing to let go of the rest. Spending time baking cookies with your grandma matters more than a clean kitchen. Grabbing coffee with a friend is more important than getting in that extra load of laundry or finishing that project you've been working on.

 

OPEN HANDS & OPEN HEART

Generosity is something we can practice all year long. We give more freely throughout the holiday season, chalking it up to the "season of giving," but what if we were generous all year long?

What if we choose to hold all of our resources, plans, and time with open hands, willing to let God intervene how He chooses? What if we allow ourselves some wiggle room in our wallets and our calendars to give when needs arise that we're capable of meeting?

If we see a gift or an opportunity to bless someone, we can meet it regardless of what time of year it is.

 

COMPASSION & GRACE

One thing I love about the holidays is how much more grace people extend to others. Sure, there are people who get extra grouchy because they're under more pressure than usual to do all the things. But there are also many kind souls who work harder than normal to love and serve others, and that's something we can continue into the new year!

Much like making room for people in our hearts, calendars, and homes, consider what it would be like if we adopted a holiday-season type of grace and compassion for others.

The driver in front of you is going slowly? Maybe they're distracted by their to-do list. Someone says something unkind or without thinking of how you'll receive it? You can choose to let it roll right off your back, knowing they probably didn't mean any harm or that they're probably having a bad day.

Compassion, grace, and space are some of the greatest gifts we can give. And unlike even the best Black Friday deals, we have never-ending reserves of them if only we choose to tap into them. 

 

How can you choose to cultivate an Advent heart year-round next year? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Empty-Pocket Generosity

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Is it possible to be generous when you're broke or close to it?

How can you possibly give to others when you're not sure if you're going to have enough to cover your own expenses?

I've wanted to be more generous for a long time, and I'm grateful to now be in a position where I can be more generous. But there were times when all of my measly income was going toward student loans and living expenses. I cut all my extraneous spending for the better part of a year to knock out my debt. And that made generosity hard.

 

UNDERSTANDING GENEROSITY

You see, I've always interpreted "generosity" as "giving money." While that's certainly true in some cases, the two concepts aren't the exact same. Generosity can take on more than just one form.

gen·er·os·i·ty
/ˌjenəˈräsədē/
noun
1. the quality of being kind and generous:
"I was overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and neighbors"
synonyms:
liberality, lavishness, magnanimity, munificence, openhandedness, free-handedness, unselfishness, kindness, benevolence, altruism, charity, big-heartedness, goodness, bounteousness (Oxford Dictionaries)

While many of us automatically think of giving money when we hear the word "generosity," that's not the only way we can express generosity. 

One of my friends recently had a baby, and she and her husband expressed a great amount of gratitude for the kindness of others who brought them food. 

When I was in college, a couple of my friends lived in a dorm building that started on fire in the middle of the night, and we offered them our couch when they needed a place to crash, and then when the damage was determined to be too bad for them to move back, my roommate and I let one of the girls move into our double room with us.

She was unbelievably grateful to us-- both for our hospitality and our generosity. Even though we didn't provide for her in any way financially, we gave what we had-- a little bit of extra room, willingness to move furniture around, even taking out our couch to put in a bed for her, flexibility in figuring it all out, and an openness to a new roommate for the remainder of the term.

As you can see (and as the definition includes above), generosity is more about kindness, free-handedness, big-heartedness, and unselfishness. It means holding whatever you have --whether it's money, time, food, skills, clothing, shelter, or something else-- with open hands, willing to pour it out and share it with others whenever and wherever you can.

 

CREATIVE GENEROSITY

Maybe you're in a season of life right now where there's too much month left at the end of your paycheck. We could talk about whether there are ways to cut costs in various areas, but that's not where I want to focus today. Because maybe there aren't any ways for you to cut costs.

That doesn't mean there aren't ways for you to be generous.

Let's choose to think of generosity as more than just giving money.

Think of it instead as giving yourself, in some way, shape, or form, to help someone else.

What do you have that you could give to someone else? It could be physical possessions that you could give to a friend in need or bring to a shelter. Or maybe it's time you could spend volunteering with a nonprofit, in your kid's school, or with your local church. Perhaps you have valuable skills you could teach others?

We all have something to give!

 

HOLIDAY GENEROSITY

During this "season of giving," it can be hard to express generosity if our pockets are empty. We think the only way to show people we care is to buy them presents, the only way to support a worthy cause is to write a check or drop our change into the red buckets outside the store.

But that's not the only way to be generous. Generosity doesn't stop at the boundary of our bank accounts.

How can we be big-hearted in this season? How can we hold our blessings with open hands, allowing ourselves the opportunity and blessing of sharing what we have with others?

My family is once again planning to go to Feed My Starving Children in a few weeks to pack meals to feed people in developing countries. And we participated in my church's winter clothing drive to provide warmer gear for the children at the school where we meet every week. 

I shopped intentionally for my friends and family, picking out gifts I knew they would love that also gave back in some way. I love shopping through organizations that provide for women who are coming out of trafficking or building up a business to provide for their families or rebuilding a community, and I wrote a post a little while back about organizations that do just that, so if you're looking for some good gift ideas, check it out!

I'm also working to be more generous with my time in this season of chaos and busyness. I talked to a friend a couple weeks ago who expressed so much gratitude to me for "taking time out of my busy day" to talk to her when she needed a friend. I was a little sad that she felt I could have been too busy for her, but encouraged in realizing it was a small gift I could give her that meant so much more than it "cost," so to speak.

 

 

How can you be generous with what you have? Do you have any creative ways to impart generosity? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

Resources:

https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/

Advent Heart, Part 2: Advent Attitude

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ADVENT HEART

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

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

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

 

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

 

KEEPING THE FIRST THING THE FIRST THING

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

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

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

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

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

 

OBSERVING THE HOLIDAY WITH GRACE

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Resources:

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

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

"The Tradition of Advent" whychristmas.com

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

The Sacredness of Self-Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Further reading:

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

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