Freedom from Busyness: Part 1 – Know (and Respect!) Your Limits

It was auction day at work. I needed to leave extra early that day to make sure that I had time to park in a field far from our office, catch a shuttle, and still be at my desk on time. The thing was, I was already late. Habitually, I would sleep until the last possible minute, throw myself together, and careen out the door at a time that would get me to the office at exactly 8 a.m. No sooner, no later.

I sped along our country highway for approximately two minutes before I saw it: the telltale flashing lights of a police car in my rear view mirror. I was doomed. I knew the speed limit was 55 miles per hour. I knew I was going well over that speed limit. Now I would not only be late, but I would also most likely be issued a hefty fine for breaking the law.

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I knew my limits, blew right past them, and paid the price. 

Although I haven’t had a ticket since that long ago experience, I have spent much of my life living in a similar manner. I knew my limits – what I could handle while remaining healthy physically and mentally, but that wasn’t enough. I always needed to work harder, take the project to the next level, squeeze that extra event into the day, say “yes” to another commitment…the list goes on. In the end, someone would end up paying the price, whether it was myself dealing with tension headaches and exhaustion, my kids dealing with an exhausted, snappish momma, or my husband taking on extra work for an overextended wife.

The hustle and bustle of the average American life was not healthy for me or our family. I felt overwhelmed by our schedule and exhausted by the many demands on my time. I needed room to breathe, space in our schedule to go for a leisurely stroll or bike ride, and time to sprawl out on the furniture together watching a show. I needed change.

One of the first steps that I took toward a slower and simpler life was to know and respect my own limits. The old “oxygen mask” adage rings true in this situation: I needed to put on my own mask (in this case, respect my limits and take care of myself) before I put on my family members’ masks. I needed to establish boundaries as to what was healthy and manageable for me as a parent, chauffeur, employee, and all the other hats I wore every day.

How does one go about setting limits, though? What does that look like? Here’s where it gets a little tricky, because everyone is wired differently. As an introvert and highly sensitive person (HSP), my personal limits may look much different than those of an extrovert. However, there are some general questions that everyone can ask themselves when it comes to setting healthy limits:

  • Do I feel overwhelmed and exhausted much of the time?
  • Am I able to consistently spend time in God’s Word?
  • Am I spending quality, unscheduled time with my family on a regular basis?
  • Do I have time to pursue my interests?
  • Do I have time for those relationships that are important to me?
  • Do I have time to practice self care?

Take some time to think through those questions. Jot down some thoughts on areas where you would like to see change – more family time, more time to practice self care, etc. Next week we will start to tackle the nitty gritty on how to simplify your schedule and create room for a healthier you and a slower, simpler life!

 

 

 

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White As Snow

We woke up to a snow-covered world this morning. Honestly, the first words out of my mouth were, “What the what?!” (I claim no responsibility for any words that come out of my mouth before coffee.) But then I started thinking about it.

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Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. We go to bed on Good Friday with the heartbreaking knowledge that Jesus loved us so much that He would rather die in our place than spend eternity without us. That is a depth of love and sacrifice that we can hardly fathom, much less repay.

Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow. We wake up the next morning, and our world is literally covered in white. What a beautiful visual reminder of what He did for us! Just as He covered the ugliness of our sins and made us clean through His death on the cross, He covered all of the early spring ugliness with a clean, white blanket of snow.

So I am embracing the snow today. Thank you, Jesus, for this beautiful reminder of what You have done for us.

Blessings on your Easter weekend, everyone!

Choosing the Slow Life

Several weeks ago, my youngest daughter spent almost the entire day sitting in a lawn chair, perched high atop a small mountain of rocks and clay. Bundled up in warm clothes and her winter gear, she sipped soda while watching a new house take shape around the corner from us. Constructions workers were buzzing around like bees while a crane set wall panels into place with precision and grace. It was one of the happiest days of her life. She was fully alive in the moment, engaged in the experience and enjoying it to the fullest.

Fast forward to that weekend. Each day was an empty square – no commitments, no plans – a rare occurrence and pure bliss. Apart from a little Saturday cleaning and Sunday morning church, we spent the weekend resting, reading, and pursuing interests both individually and together.

This is what I want for our family.

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A life rich in experiences that resonate with who we are as individuals and as a family. A life that is intentionally slow but full of opportunities to explore, learn and grow. A life where not only do my kids have freedom in their days to be creative and imaginative, but where my husband and I also have space to pursue our dreams and desires.

That sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

The truth is, though, that developing a life like that is challenging in today’s culture. In a world that worships busyness, it is dangerously easy to be swept up in a current of people running here, there and everywhere. There are so many wonderful opportunities available and so much pressure to be involved. Is it even possible?

I think it is.

We are approaching April and May, which rank right up there with November and December as being the busiest months of the year at our house. Easter celebrations, end-of-the-school-year activities, birthday parties…all good events that are worthy of our time and attention. It’s also spring time – our Midwest winter is finally melting and giving way to all shades of green. After months of shivering in parkas, our bodies are longing to stretch and absorb warmth and vitamin D in the beauty of God’s creation.

How do we strike a healthy balance of school, celebrations, family time, and still find time to rest and rejuvenate our bodies and souls? Over the next several weeks, we will be exploring how to choose a slow life amidst a whirlwind culture. We will be evaluating different areas of our life that can lead to a slower rhythm overall, regardless of whether we work full time, part time, or are at home.

I want to enjoy the upcoming months. I want to sit on that mountain of dirt with my daughter and share in the wonder. I want to celebrate loved ones and be fully engaged in each moment and activity. I think it’s possible. Do you?

 

 

Why I Encourage My Husband to Watch March Madness

Guys, there’s this whole March Madness thing going on right now, and I don’t have much of a clue what it’s all about. I know there are brackets involved, which require very serious contemplation and weigh heavy upon many sports-minded souls. There are upsets that can wreak irreversible damage upon said brackets. I know there are phrases thrown around like “Sweet Sixteen,” “Elite Eight,” and “Final Four.” And, as with any sporting event, there should be a bevy of beverages and snacks.

That’s about the extent of my knowledge, and honestly, that’s about all I care to know.

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What I do know is that I want my husband to watch March Madness. Now, before you unfollow my blog, hear me out. I haven’t always felt this way; in fact, I used to resent the time he spent watching sports. I didn’t grow up in a sports-minded family, and the idea of someone choosing to spend a sunny afternoon glued to the TV was foreign and disconcerting to me. I admit that during the early years of our marriage, I was often resentful and even angry about the few hours he would spend watching college football or NASCAR.

Over the years, though, God has worked on my heart and allowed me to see these truths about my husband:

  1. He works hard to provide for our family. We have been a single-income household for the past decade. He has worked long hours in challenging environments in order to ensure financial stability for our family. On top of that, he has put in many weekends remodeling our house for years, so that we could save money by doing the work ourselves.
  2. He finds it enjoyable and relaxing. I don’t find sports enjoyable or relaxing – I relax by diving into a good book or sometimes watching a TV show. He would rather spend an afternoon scraping his fingernails along chalkboard than watch an episode of “Call the Midwife.” However, we both understand the importance of giving our bodies and minds the opportunity to relax and rejuvenate, and we are respectful of the fact that we relax in different ways.
  3. He has his priorities straight. He has a clear set of priorities and lives them out on a daily basis: God first, family second, and sports third. I know that he chose to take a long walk with me this weekend over watching basketball, and that he turned on “House Hunters International” not because he was itching to watch it, but because he knows it is a show we enjoy as a family and it sparks interesting discussions. I know he will always choose family over sports, and so it is an easy decision to bless him with the opportunity to catch some extra sports time.
  4. I get to read more books. To be truthful, I’m not entirely unselfish about this whole March Madness thing! If he is indulging in some extra sports viewing, I have zero guilt about indulging in some extra reading time. I read an entire book while he was watching basketball this weekend, and it was delicious.

So, if you happen to stop by our house this coming weekend, don’t expect him to answer the door – my hope is that he will be too engrossed in basketball to hear the doorbell. For that matter, I might not answer the door, either – I have a sweet stack of library books calling my name. The most you can probably hope for is that our dog will greet you at the door, but don’t hold your breath. She likes March Madness because it means she can sleep next to me while I read. 🙂

Clinging to the Immovable

Once upon a time, not too many years ago, I served on the worship team of a small country church. They had a need for both vocalists and accompanists – I happened to have experience in both. It seemed like a heaven-ordained opportunity to serve, except for one small thing: I was in the midst of dealing with severe anxiety.

My anxiety would manifest itself in the form of shortness of breath and, more often, spells of vertigo. The vertigo would come upon me unexpectedly and at inopportune times, but was more likely to happen while under stress. Just being in front of a group of people was stressful, much less singing or playing piano. It was a prime situation for vertigo to strike.

I was determined that my anxiety would not prevent me from serving, and so I developed a coping mechanism: the piano. Heavy, solid, and virtually immovable, that piano wasn’t going anywhere. I, on the other hand, was not nearly as stable. So, I would position myself in a spot where I could cling to the piano the entire time I was on stage, knowing that no matter how I felt, I had a firm object that would help me stand strong.

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And you know what? It worked. I spent many a Sunday morning desperately clinging to that piano with sweaty palms, trusting that the strength and solidness of the piano would help me remain upright.

Do you ever feel like that? Like daily life is a precarious thing, and at any given moment a situation might set you reeling? I know I sure do. Life is unpredictable, and there isn’t always a piano available for me to hang on to!

Here’s the thing, though: we have something even better than a piano. Always with us, never forsaking us, is our solid, unchanging Father in heaven. Matthew 28:20 tells us that He is “with us always, to the very end of the age” (NIV). In Joshua 1:9, He promises that that “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (NLT). And in Malachi 3:6, He flat out states, “I am the Lord, and I do not change” (NLT).

What promises! What hope those words bring to an unstable, ever changing world!

These days, I only find myself on stage occasionally. When I can feel the anxiety starting to build within me, rather than leaning on a piano for strength and assurance, I choose to lean into the words of the worship songs. Rather than fearing an episode of vertigo, I choose to trust in the promises of God, that He is present in the moment and that He will carry me through.

The Quiet Work of Healing

Things have been pretty quiet on the site this week, not because I haven’t been working on posts, but because the one I’ve been working on has been so. very. hard.

This week (February 26-March 4, 2018) is National Eating Disorders Awareness week. I don’t talk about it very often, but some of you know that I was diagnosed and struggled with anorexia nervosa during my college years. Therefore, this week is particularly near and dear to me.

I fully planned to share my story this week. In fact, I have the draft for part one saved in my files. I came very close to publishing it, except for the still, small voice that kept saying, “Not yet.” It wasn’t the voice of fear; while it has been very challenging to revisit that time of my life, I have no fear in sharing my experience. Rather, it is a sense that I should hold off, as if the story isn’t quite finished yet. I don’t know exactly how it will all play out, but I DO know that when I sense that still, small voice, I believe it belongs to the King of Kings and you bet I listen!

In the meantime, this week has been good for me. I’ve visited hard places and revisited memories that I’ve kept locked away for 20 years. It’s been exhausting and painful and awful and healing. I’m so very thankful for where God has me today.

Incidentally, my family and I have plans this spring to visit the area I lived when I developed my eating disorder. (That’s not the purpose of the trip, thank goodness!) It’s a lovely, quaint area and we are all looking forward to it. I know it is going to bring up more memories, and I’m ready to sit with them and work through them. I am looking forward to seeing places that are part of a painful past, rejoicing in where God has me today, and making new memories with my sweet family.

I encourage you to visit the National Eating Disorders Association’s website and familiarize yourself with the risk factors that may contribute to an eating disorder. And if you suspect that a loved one or yourself may have an eating disorder, please have the courage to seek help for yourself or learn how you can be a support to your loved one.

And someday, I will share my story. When He says it’s time.

 

Freedom From Stuff: Part 2 – Capsule Wardrobe

Okay, let’s just start with this very important disclaimer: I have never been a fashion expert. I was befuddled by the art of tight-rolling jeans in grade school, never owned a pair of Z Cavaricci jeans, and eschewed skirts and dresses for at least a decade during my school years. Oh, and let’s not forget my obsession with black clothing in sixth grade. Oy.

Fast forward to my 30’s, and life was much more complicated – not only did I have to decide what I was going to eat, wear, and do each day, but I also had to make those same decisions for two other little people. Every. Single. Day. Throw in homeschooling, parenting, working, and running a household, and I was overwhelmed by the daily plethora of decisions that had to be made.

Enter the capsule wardrobe. The concept is simple: rather than looking at my wardrobe in terms of “outfits” (this shirt goes with these pants), the goal is to develop a carefully curated, scaled-back wardrobe of interchangeable items that I love.

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This was not an overnight change, but rather a change in mindset moving forward with my wardrobe. I had always shopped with the mindset of “I need one shirt/pants to match with the item I am buying.” My new approach is, “Do I have at least two shirts/pants/cardigans to match with the item I am buying?” If the answer is no, then there’s a good chance that I won’t buy it, as it won’t prove to be versatile enough for my wardrobe.

Right now, my daily uniform consists of a pair of leggings, a shirt, and a cardigan. This is a general overview of my closet:

  • Five pair of leggings: one black, one gray, two denim jeggings, and one pair of burgundy (because I’m wild like that)
  • Six tunic-length cardigans: one gray, one tan, one cream, one black and white, one navy, gray and cream, and one gray and white striped
  • Five tunic-length shirts: one burgundy, one gray, one navy, one aqua, and one floral
  • One black dress (because hello, winter)
  • A half dozen cowls and a few statement necklaces
  • Three pair of boots: one black, one brown, and one floral
  • Two sets of comfy clothes that are banned from view of the general public 😉

That might seem sparse to some, or excessive to others. Some say there is a magic number of items to have in a capsule wardrobe; I think it really depends on each person’s comfort level. What I do know is that I love being able to walk to my closet and easily choose my outfit for the day in less than a minute.

So, how does one develop a capsule wardrobe or daily uniform? Rather than trying to muddle through explaining it, I recommend checking out these links for clear, detailed information and inspiration. I have been following Audrey at Putting Me Together for years – she has a classic, comfortable, modest and budget-friendly take on fashion. Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy is also a wonderful resource…both for a daily uniform AND reading material. Check out these links as a starting point:

Above all, enjoy the process of getting rid of what doesn’t work and developing a simplified system that works well for YOU!