Shining the light of God's word into our confused world.

Category: Doing Life (Page 1 of 6)

An Expanded Place

This past not quite a year and a half has been tough to get through. It’s been a long season of walking through some hard things, facing painful things from my past, having the blinders removed around certain family narratives and unhealthy dynamics, and letting myself experience the painful emotions that I’ve denied and stuffed down and ignored throughout most of my life.

Throughout this journey I’ve come to realize that I have C-PTSD, and how that has impacted my physical health, as well as my emotional and spiritual health. Together with my husband, I’ve walked through anger, intense hurt, grief, feelings of perplexity and confusion, anxiety, and at least one bout of severe depression. But through it all, I’ve also experienced healing and growth. I’ve learned how to silence the mean voices in my head, ignore the lies and replace them with truth, reject the labels that have been placed on me throughout my life and shed the identities and expectations others have tried to force on me.

Last fall, my husband and I were given an opportunity to move to the Ozarks of Arkansas, a place we’d talked about off an on over the years in a “wouldn’t it be nice to live there some day” kind of way. It seemed like it was being orchestrated by God, and it still appears that way. We’re renting a home on a large acreage in the middle of the woods on top of a small mountain near a lake, miles and miles from civilization. Our house has woods on one side and large expanses of fields and grass on the other three, with a vast view of the sky where we often see eagles circling overhead. Whenever I step outside, I take a deep, cleansing breath and think of all the times King David praised God in the Psalms saying, “You’ve brought me to an expanded place.”

I believe God brought us here to give us the room we needed in order to heal, to rest, to grow into who He meant for us both to be, free from the forces and influences that have always hindered us and held us back and kept us (or at least me – I don’t speak for my husband) in an unhealthy place of striving to be pleasing and acceptable to people instead of to Him.

As I write this, I’m in a much better place. Lately I’ve been feeling calm and settled in a way I can’t remember ever feeling before. I’m crying far less often and laughing and smiling much more easily. I’m having an easier time knowing my own mind and making decisions and speaking up about what I prefer instead of staying quiet and going along to get along. I’ve reached clarity about some decisions I’ve been going back and forth on for years, unsure of what I actually wanted and afraid I wasn’t allowed to want it, finally confronting that fear and naming my desire. And with that clarity has come a deep sense of peace, even as I acknowledge that my decision might not have the outcomes I hope for and could very possibly lead to a lot of pain.

But I feel assured that, even if that turns out to be the case, God will be with us, walking us through it and holding us together, not letting us break but making us both stronger and using it all for our good.

Part of this newfound sense of peace and wholeness – really, all of it, probably – is due to coming to a single, important decision: do I believe in God’s goodness or not? I realized that I haven’t always, but decided that, ultimately, I do. And that if He is truly good, with no darkness in Him at all, then He is completely trustworthy, even when whatever I’m going through is the opposite of good. That He is good, and powerful, and faithful, and no matter what happens I can absolutely trust him to turn it around and purpose it for good. Even when it hurts like hell. Even when my heart is breaking.

The other thing is that I’ve learned –am learning, really, but getting better at it – that I don’t have to hustle and strive to achieve the life that I want for myself and my family. I’m always having to learn this lesson, and I’ve said no to hustle before, but it’s always so easy to get swept up in my goals and trying to accomplish my own plans and lose sight of what I really want, which is a life that’s free of hustling and striving in which I can simply work steadily at my own pace doing work that fulfills me and uses my giftings to accomplish His purpose.

I mean, just last month I was complaining about feeling overwhelmed because I forgot that I’m in a marathon and was running like I’m in a race.

But I was gently reminded that it’s okay to slow down. I don’t need to hustle. The Lord is my provider, and I have everything I need. He’s not going to let me miss out on any good thing He has for me.

And I’m also discovering that the more time and effort I put into seeking Him, the more I’m finding myself and the life He has for me.

I don’t know how long we’re going to be calling this place home. I don’t know what our future holds. And for the first time ever, I’m okay with that uncertainty, because I know and trust the One who holds our future. I’m living out this simple, quiet life one day at a time, seeking my assignment for each day, offering my work to Him, releasing my hopes and plans and leaving the outcomes up to Him as He orders both our steps. I’m more fully present in the here and now than I’ve ever been before, enjoying this season of life while anticipating with joy and hope where He’s going to lead us and for once being at total peace with having no clue where that will be.

But wherever He leads us, I know it will be beautiful.

“You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life. As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment.” – Psalm 16:11, VOICE

Here’s to Knowing Yourself, and to New Beginnings

I was shocked when I pulled up this blog and realized how long it’s been since I last wrote something here. I never intended to take such a long break. There were many times, early on, when I thought of something I wanted to post about here, but I just didn’t have the energy. And then I realized how much I needed the extra white space that not blogging added to my life, so I decided to leave it be, and that turned out to be a much-needed decision.

This has been a crazy year, to be sure. Here’s a quick recap of the highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be):

  • In January my mom had a stroke. She spent a little over a week in the hospital and then they sent her home sick with a stomach bug, so my husband and I had a pretty intense first week of being her full time caregivers. Thankfully, things got easier for all of us once she got over that bug, and she made such great strides in her recovery that within a month she was able to mostly do for herself.
  • A lot of drama ensued in the aftermath of the stroke which I’m not getting into here for the sake of other people’s privacy. I’ll simply say that it was eye-opening.
  • For a multitude of reasons, my husband and I moved again toward the end of February, into a travel trailer in the middle of the country. God met my desire to try living tiny and to get a do-over at trailer life (following a stint living in an Airstream during my college years that didn’t go so well) in a way that demonstrated both His amazing grace and provision and his sense of humor.
  • It turns out that, while living tiny is quite cozy and has many advantages, it’s sometimes a little too cozy for two introverts and also has a number of disadvantages. After nearly six months of this experiment, we’re both feeling ready for a house-sized home, and we’re currently in the process of looking for one.
  • In the space of that six months I’ve managed to finish editing and eventually launch one novel, revise another, and get yet another a little more than half-way written.

But mostly, I’ve spent the last six months or so healing from a not insignificant amount of emotional trauma inflicted during that first drama-filled month of the year, and working to figure some stuff out. Mostly, I’ve been working to figure myself out. It’s been a journey that has included a lot of praying, a lot of reading–both the Bible and other helpful books–a lot of journaling, a lot of crying–both to God and to my husband (who has been the best friend and partner I could ask for in the midst of all of this, despite working through his own hurts) and silently to myself–and a lot of learning to just sit with my feelings and let them be, neither denying them nor trying to force myself to get over them too quickly.

And along the way I’ve discovered some very important things about myself, including lies I’ve been believing and allowing to shape my life, unhealthy behaviors and areas in my own soul that I needed to work on, and what is actually true about me and about my life.

One of the things I figured out, with help from the book Reading People by Anne Bogel (Disclaimer: that’s an Amazon affiliate link, and I’m required to tell you what you already know, which is that if you use that link to buy something I’ll get a tiny commission and you won’t get charged anything extra), is that as a certified INFP I tend to have boundary issues that sometimes make it hard for me to know where I end and other people begin. This can make me easy to influence and it means I have to be very careful about the influences I allow into my life. But it can also mean that sometimes I unconsciously latch onto other people’s dreams or visions and mistake them for my own, and also unconsciously mimic what other people are doing. Sometimes I catch myself imitating someone else’s mannerisms, or their voice or writing style, and it can be hard to figure out how much of what I produce is them and how much is actually me.

I bring this up because it bears on why I ended up taking such a long break from this blog. That little epiphany led to another one, which is that that’s what was happening with this blog and why I was so unsatisfied and exhausted by it. I had surrounded myself by these awesome lady bloggers and even though I really had no ambitions of my own to be a Capital-B Professional Blogger, I realized that I was mimicking what they were doing and pushing myself after a goal that wasn’t actually mine to go after, and I needed to just stop.

So I did.

And I took a long time, and I prayed a lot about it, and figured out exactly who I am, what I want, whether I actually want to be blogging, what I actually want to get out of it and, more importantly, what I hope to give by doing it.

So here I am, ready to get back in the saddle, armed with a lot more clarity and a much stronger sense of self and of purpose.

Don’t expect a regular or consistent post schedule. That was the deal I made with myself when deciding whether I missed this enough to take it up again: that I would post when I have time, if I feel like it, and if not in either case, I will have zero guilt about it, because this is not my job. I’m here for the joy of it, and because I want to share what I’ve been learning and what God has been doing in my life so that you might be ministered to, and because we were all made for fellowship and sharing and sharpening each other, not for tucking all of our thoughts quietly into the pages of a journal. Not that there’s not a place for that — I have a newfound love of journaling. Journaling has absolutely been giving me life during this season — but the wisdom I’ve gained deserves to be shared.

I’m not the same person I was the last time I posted here.

I look forward to letting you all get to know the new me.

And I hope you’ll stick around for it.

PS – The pics are all from around the farm where we’ve been staying. Isn’t it beautiful here? It helps that I finally upgraded my phone to one with a decent camera. Here’s one more before I go:

What I Learned This Fall – 2017

Adobe Spark(2).jpg

I’m late to the party with this. I wanted to get it up by the last day of November, but I was in the middle of trying to finish my novel and everything else got pushed into this week so I could get that done, and now I’m playing catch up. But thankfully it’s not too late to join in and share what we all learned with Emily P. Freeman’s blog community.

It has been quite the educational fall. I’ve learned some big lessons, and had some real light bulb moments, and also learned some things that don’t really matter to anyone but me. This post would be too long if I shared a comprehensive list, so I’ll stick to the highlights, in no particular order.

  • I learned that I’m a Highly Sensitive Person, or HSP, and also that that means something a lot different from what I thought it did.
  • I also finally nailed down my Enneagram number. Turns out I’m a healthy 9, aka a peacemaker, which actually makes total sense in light of my childhood.
  • Turmeric is a super spice. Did you know this? It has so many health benefits that I’m trying to include it in just about every meal now.
  • As much as I’ve always resisted housework and cleaning, I’ve realized that a certain amount of cleaning and doting on my home actually gives me life.
  • Relatedly, I’ve also realized that caring for my home is actually a worthy use of my time and energy, and not just a distraction from worthier things.
  • Sadly, we learned that our dog has heart and lung conditions that will likely drastically shorten his life, barring miraculous intervention. He came close to dying when we found this out, but thankfully he pulled through that only to turn around and come down with an infection that made him seriously ill. But he also pulled through that and now he acts like he’s got a new lease on life. He feels so good that it’s easy to forget he’s basically got a ticking time bomb in his tiny chest. So we’re walking that line between processing our sorrow over his condition and prognosis and trying to enjoy him while we have him and make the most of each day we get to spend with him. Meanwhile, he’s teaching us a lot about living in the moment, taking each day as it comes and not fretting about the future, and not taking anything for granted.
  • I learned that singing is a learned skill and not an inherent talent, and that just about anyone can actually learn to sing well with discipline and practice, just like they can learn to play any other type of instrument. Supposedly. I’m putting that assertion to the test but I’m not anywhere near to posting the results on YouTube anytime soon.
  • I learned that I still need to slow down and be more discerning about the things I allow to fill my plate. I’m still figuring out how to discern what the wrong things are so I can say no to them and leave more room in my life for the right things.
  • I learned that I’m not supposed to be a faith blogger–at least not in this season. You might have noticed that I haven’t updated in a while and that’s why. I realized I was running ahead of God with this blog, and that He never asked me to turn it into a ministry, or to build a second, more “Christian” platform for books He might give me to write someday. After a lot of prayer and soul-searching, I’ve realized that I’ve let this blog–which was initially only supposed to be a personal blog to hold the things I want to share that aren’t really appropriate for my author blog–become a distraction that’s pulling me away from the assignment God actually has for me: writing the books He’s actually given me to write and growing my already-established author platform.
  • Relatedly, I figured out that there’s no need for me to split myself into two author personalities, which is what I’d been doing. Somehow I got it into my head that if I was going to write Christian non-fiction someday — a vague desire based on a feeling that I’m eventually supposed to put my testimony into writing, although I have no idea which part of my testimony or when this should happen or even what that looks like — that I needed a more “Christian” platform than the one that exists for my more secular fiction writing. But God’s been showing me that He can use the platform and writing He’s already given me and that I don’t need to dress it up in culturally Christian clothes in order for it to serve His purpose and be used for His glory, as long as I’m willing to surrender it all to His will. I can actually be my weird, geeky, fantasy-and-horror loving self and God can still use that, and still use ME. Isn’t that great?
  • I also learned that setting something down for a season doesn’t mean I’m setting it down forever. I actually figured this out regarding my infertility struggles, realizing that I needed to stop carrying that burden and lay it down, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up hope or that the time will never come to pick it up again. It’s the same for this blog. For the time being it’s going back to being just a personal blog, but the time may come when I’m supposed to make it a priority again. Then again, it might not. We’ll just have to see where the Lord leads me.
  • Subsequently, I also learned quite a bit about online book marketing and promotion.
  • And I learned that I have to be careful not to let marketing and promotion become an obsession or idol in my life. The trick, for me, is not to look at analytics or worry about numbers, to just do the necessary work and trust God for the results.

So that’s what I learned this fall–or some of it, anyway. What did you learn? Tell me in the comments or, better yet, write your own post and add it to the linkup!


A Biblical Case for Simple Living

The Apostle Paul extolled the virtues of living a quiet life, and Jesus Christ himself taught that we shouldn’t chase after material goods, but focus instead on serving others and nurturing our faith. Indeed, during his earthly ministry, Jesus seemed to embrace a lifestyle of minimalism and simplicity, trusting God for his every earthly need.

While the Bible doesn’t command us to live simply, it makes a case that simple living can make us more content.

What is the simple life?

Whether you call it minimalism, essentialism or simple living, the philosophy boils down to the same thing: Eliminating the unnecessary things from your life that distract you and consume your time, money and energy.

Here are some signs that your life has become too hectic, and you might benefit from simpler living:

  • You feel exhausted and burned out
  • You skip church because you need to work, or because that’s your only time to rest
  • Debt prevents you from tithing or giving
  • Spending time with your family is something you have to squeeze into your schedule
  • You can’t find time for your health and your hobbies

Read the rest at Brightpeak Financial blog!

In Which I Figure a Few Things Out

I’m on a never-ending quest to make my life easier, as are we all, I’m sure. Which is why when I have some “A-ha!” moments I feel like I should share them, just in case there’s someone reading this who struggles in the same area(s) I do and who might benefit from my discoveries.

(The rest of y’all probably figured this stuff out a long time ago and are shaking your heads wondering why I’m so slow on the uptake.)

Anyway. These probably could have waited for my next “What I Learned” post but that won’t happen until winter and I want to get these things down while they’re fresh. And mind you, there’s nothing particularly mind-blowing or groundbreaking happening here… but still, it might help someone. So here we go.

1. Smaller, more frequent meals are better for me. Probably.

Writing that recent post on PCOS motivated me to bring myself up to speed on the latest research and re-examine my eating habits in light of the most up-to-date information, and I realized that the way I’ve been eating hasn’t been good at regulating my insulin. I mostly follow the Zone diet, and a properly zoned meal should keep me satiated for five to six hours, but this hasn’t been happening. Instead I’ve been getting hungry after about three hours, and since I can’t stand to be hungry AT ALL, I go ahead and eat a snack, thinking that I need to elevate my blood sugar. I did not realize that probably the reason I’m hungry is because my insulin is too low, which means I’ve not been managing my insulin resistance.

One reason for this is probably that I eat too much bread. I thought I was doing pretty good about eating bread and grains in moderation, but then Aldi stopped carrying their gluten-free bread. Which meant I had to stop buying gluten-free bread, because all the other brands cost more than I’m willing to pay. And not having it made me realize exactly how much I’d been depending on it to make up a meal.

At any rate, I read on a number of nutritionist websites that women with Type 1 PCOS (which includes insulin resistance) sometimes do better eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. So I’m giving that a try. Specifically, I’m eating a meal consisting of two Zone blocks (that means roughly 14 grams of protein, 18 of carbs and 6 to 8 of healthy fat) every three hours, until my last meal of the evening, which is the normal three blocks. I’m just starting this today, so whether this is actually the right thing for me is yet to be determined. But so far I’ve been more satisfied, more energetic and more clear-headed. Also, while planning out a couple of days’ worth of meals (I don’t think I’ll need to meal plan once I get used to eating this way, but right now not knowing what I’ll be eating for all those scheduled meals makes me too anxious not to plan ahead), I realized that this is going to make it a lot easier to avoid bread and grains*, since I won’t need to eat as many carbs at each meal. So this might just solve two problems at once. Win!

*By grains I mainly mean wheat and anything with gluten. I do okay with oats, corn, rice, etc. as long as I have them in moderation.

2. It’s better to focus on one big task per day.

I thought I was doing pretty well with a daily rhythm that allowed a little room to do a little bit each day on several projects. It made me feel like at least each thing on my project plate was getting attention and making a little bit of progress every day. Sounds good, right?

But this week, since I’m still fighting off this cold or whatever it is, I cut myself some slack and only scheduled one big project task per day. This week that means blogging on Monday and Tuesday, pitching articles and freelance work on Wednesday and Thursday, with Friday set aside for working on my novel. And you know, I think this is actually a lot more effective. I’m only a few days in but I’m making major progress and actually finishing things ahead of schedule, leaving me more time for things like researching what I should be doing for my health and loving on my home and family. I think I’m going to keep this up for a while and see how it goes.

One tweak I’m going to make is to try and front load each weak with the projects that energize me and give me life, and save the more draining stuff for the back half of the week. I used to think it was best to get the draining stuff out of the way first, but then I’d be too drained for anything else. So for me this means book writing on Monday, blogging on Tuesday and Wednesday, and article pitching/writing on Thursday and Friday. Which brings me to…

3. I can schedule time for freelance writing and pitching every week.

Y’all, this has been a revelation. I am SO, SO grateful for my freelance writing work, but one of my biggest frustrations is that it’s sporadic and unpredictable, which makes it difficult to plan. Currently I write regularly for three corporate blogs through two different agencies. One of these agencies just posts assignments in batches once or twice a month, and there’s no regularity for when this happens. The other one will have a monthly idea pitching window for each client–again without much regularity–and whether or not you’re assigned work depends on whether any of your ideas are accepted.

Since I’m someone who thrives on steady rhythms and a certain degree of predictability and regularity in my schedule, this unpredictability has been driving me crazy. There are few things that drive me up the wall more than having to drop everything and change my plans at the last minute.

Y’all. I don’t know why this never occurred to me before, but I finally figured out that I can schedule time for pitching and writing articles into every week–AND that I don’t have to wait for a pitch window or writing assignment from my current clients. I can pitch and submit articles to prospective clients, too. This really should be obvious, because this is how most freelance writers make their living, and I’m kind of an idiot.  But now that I’ve remembered this very basic thing about being a freelancer, not only will my schedule be more predictable and sane, but maybe I’ll also make some more of the monies. One can hope.

If you’re wondering how this last thing might apply to your life, since it’s pretty specific to mine, here’s the main point: if there’s an unpredictable thing in your schedule that’s driving you crazy, then schedule time for that thing every week, or every day if that’s what it takes. Maybe when that thing isn’t actually in play, you can spend that time doing something adjacent to that thing to help you be ready when the thing crops up. Or just consider that time free time to use however you want when you’re not having to actively do the thing. Either way, when it comes time to do the actual thing, then it won’t be a big deal because you won’t have to drop everything and adjust your plans around it. There will already be room for it in your week.

So I hope that helps.

Is there anything you’ve recently figured out that’s made life a little easier or more sane? In the spirit of sharing and helping, tell us about it in the comments!

Link Roundup: Fall Minimalism Edition

Happy fall, y’all!

This week has been a week. Not a terrible week, but not a great one, either. It started out great with a super-productive Monday, but on Monday night our refrigerator started making unhealthy noises and, sure enough, by Tuesday morning everything had begun to melt and thaw. So that was tons of fun to deal with. I also had a lot of freelance writing that I needed to clear off my plate, and I’ve been feeling pretty run down all week, to boot. I kept telling myself that it was just allergies and that I just needed to press on, but today I’m throwing in the towel and admitting that I’m actually sick.

It’s not all as bad as it sounds, though. For one thing, seeing as how we’re renters now, this refrigerator thing is just a minor annoyance rather than the full-blown crisis it would have been when we were homeowners. And we still have our old fridge in storage downstairs, which we were already using for overflow (our apartment fridge was pretty small), so we just had to tote all our food down there. The replacement fridge won’t arrive for another two weeks, and having to run up and down the stairs all the time to get our food is less than convenient, but I’m just thankful that that’s the biggest thing we’ve got to worry about in this situation.

At any rate, I had a thoughtful post all planned out for this week, but here are some links relating to minimalism and simple living instead, because keeping it simple is all I’ve got the energy for.

The Minimalists are giving away two of their books, including Everything That Remainswhich has been on my wish list since I watched their documentary earlier this year. Click here and scroll down a bit for details on how to download free PDF versions of the books. It’s easy and doesn’t even require signing up for anything. (PS – that Amazon link is an affiliate link. If you decide to buy a Kindle version or a hard copy of that book, if you get it through that link, I’ll get a small commission that will go toward supporting this site, and you’ll get my gratitude as well as a great book.)

A new phase of Project 333 begins in October, and I’m hopping on the train–or trying to board, at any rate. If you don’t know what that is, the short version is that it’s a capsule wardrobe challenge in which you try to live with just 33 pieces (including shoes, jewelry and accessories; workout clothes, lounging-around-the-house clothes, sleepwear and underwear don’t count) for three months. I spent this morning cleaning out my closet and figuring out my fall capsule wardrobe and managed to get it down to 42 items, but I’ve still got a week left to decide what else to eliminate.

This is a good post by Joshua Becker examining whether a good criteria for deciding what to keep or discard from your life is whether or not it “sparks joy.” I have thoughts and opinions about his thoughts and opinions regarding the Konmari method, and that was originally going to comprise this week’s post. But I couldn’t muster the energy to write about it coherently, which is why now you’re getting links. But his post is worth a read.

Finally, you probably already know about Emily P. Freeman’s new podcast, The Next Right Thing, but I thought I should mention it just in case you missed it. This short podcast — each episode is only about 15 to 20 minutes long — is meant to help “create a little space for your soul to breathe so you can discern your next right thing in love,” and it’s so, so encouraging and inspiring. If you struggle with overwhelm and decision paralysis, this, my friend, is the podcast for you.

Do you have any relevant links or recommendations you’d like to share? Be sure to leave them in the comments! And let me know if you want to tackle Project 333 with me, too. Meanwhile, I’m going to spend the weekend with my feet up, reading and watching Netflix in between naps and drinking copious amounts of Throat Coat tea.



What I Learned This Summer

It’s time for another post about what I learned this season! Which is good because I’m having an unexpectedly hectic week and otherwise I would’ve skipped posting this week. Which brings me to my first item:

  1. I don’t have to operate on anyone else’s schedule. This is something I finally figured out after allowing myself to sloooow dooown this summer. Of course there are deadlines and obligations and commitments that sometimes require me to work with other people’s schedules, but I don’t have to stick to a self-imposed schedule that I self-imposed out of a sense that I’m just supposed to, or out of a sense that if I don’t people will be unhappy with me. It helped to realize that these are imaginary people I’m trying to please because actual flesh-and-blood people don’t really care that much about these things.
  2. Mosquitoes find me delicious. This isn’t actually a new discovery, but living in the city and spending most of my time indoors I kind of forgot how they’re drawn to me. Since we moved back out to the country and we’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors, I was reminded with a vengeance. Which brings me to…
  3. There are several reasons why mosquitoes find some people more delicious than others.
  4. Community is good (drama and tragedy, not so much). I’ve mentioned before that the neighborhood we moved back to is where I grew up. I’ve also waxed nostalgic on this blog (or possibly my other one) about what a tight-knit community this was when I was a kid, and lamented how that’s been lost. Recently, there’s been an effort to bring back a sense of community, and neighbors have been reaching out and making more of an effort to know each other, all of which is great. But all of this was spurred by a couple of houses moving in that violate the neighborhood covenenants–50 year old covenants that a lot of the newer residents didn’t even know existed–all of which has resulted in a lot of fighting and drama, which is not so great.What’s worse, a couple of weeks ago one of our elderly residents was murdered in her home, and the sheriff’s department has no idea by whom and they have very little to go on. This is the first time ever in the half-century of this neighborhood’s existence that something of this nature has happened here, and it’s unsettling to say the least. One good thing coming out of this tragedy, though, is that everyone’s been laying aside their differences for the sake of reviving a neighborhood watch and developing a program to check up on our elderly neighbors and do our best to keep each other safe. Having just moved from a place where this sort of crime was sadly commonplace and only made people more withdrawn and untrusting of their neighbors, this is a refreshing thing to see.
  5. I’m a renaissance soul. I recently figured this out when I read this book, and it explained so much. Another name for this is scanner personality. I always thought my ADD was the reason I could never be happy just focusing on one thing, and why I’m always trying to cram so many different projects and interests onto my plate. But it turns out that it’s just my personality. Good to know.
  6. God’s will for my life is not that complicated. During my summer slow-down I read a lot of good books, one of which was Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin DeYoung. It gently (and sometimes not so gently) points out that this idea that there is a single, perfect path that God has laid out for us and it’s our job to discover that path by praying and agonizing over every big (and not so big) decision, seeking signs and refusing to make a move until we get a neon sign from Heaven telling us which way to go is not actually Biblical. I’ll be writing more about how this book helped me get over a lot of fear and actually start making decisions again in a future post, but if you’re stuck because you’re afraid of making a wrong move, this book is for you.
  7. It’s possible to be depressed and grateful at the same time. This is also a future blog post, but it’s worth mentioning in case there’s anyone reading this who, like me until recently, is struggling under the misapprehension that being depressed makes us ungrateful and bad Christians (this is one of those beliefs that I illogically apply to myself but not to other people. How often do we do that? Refuse to give ourselves the grace or cut ourselves the slack that we happily extend to others? Maybe we should all knock that off). But the truth is that we’re complex creations who are capable of feeling multiple things at once, and it’s entirely possible to be glad and grateful about answered prayer in one area while at the same time struggling with feelings of sadness and depression, and this does not make you a bad Christian. 
  8. True crime podcasts really are addictive. I passed on Serial when it was all the rage, and I’ve also skipped all the copycats, instead favoring Serial-style fictional mockumentaries with a fantasy/horror bent. But recently I decided to check out an investigative podcast called Up and Vanished, about the 2005 disappearance of teacher and former beauty queen Tara Grinstead from her small town in Georgia. And I’m totally hooked. I’ve been binging this podcast every chance I get since I first started listening last weekend. You should listen to it, even if you think true crime podcasts aren’t really your thing.

What did you learn this summer? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! And if you like lists like this, be sure to head over to Emily P. Freeman’s blog to see what she and her readers have all learned over the summer. ♥

The NO List

In my last post I talked about essentialism, the discipline of eliminating the non-essentials from your life so that you can say yes to what really matters to you. I’ve found that as helpful as it can be to write down the things I want to say yes to, it’s also helpful to make a list of the things I’m deliberately going to say no to. So I thought I’d share my NO list for this particular season of my life. Here’s what I’m saying no to right now:

  • Facebook and Twitter marketing. I have a Facebook author page and Twitter author account, but currently the only activity they see from me is when my new blog posts or Instagram pictures get pushed to those accounts.
  • Pinterest. I mentioned in my last post how there were things I’m “supposed to” be doing as an author and blogger and Pinterest (along with Twitter and Facebook) is one of them. I just don’t enjoy Pinterest anymore since they changed their algorithms and my home page is just the same recommended and sponsored pins over and over again. I just want to see what my friends are pinning! Anyway, Pinterest is just no fun anymore, and using it as a marketing tool requires more time and effort than I’m willing to give right now.
  • My Facebook timeline. If I get on FB at all these days it’s to check in with groups and check my messages. Speaking of…
  • Facebook Messenger. I don’t have enough memory on my phone to install this app but I wouldn’t install it even if I did (so everybody can go ahead and stop sending me invitations to do so, thanks).
  • Twitter. I keep an eye on notifications so I can respond to ats and mentions, but that’s about it.
  • Audio and video. This is another area where anyone with anything to promote is strongly encouraged to participate, especially on Facebook and Instagram. But this is so far outside my comfort zone and I’m giving myself permission not to worry about it right now.
  • Coloring my hair. That’s right, y’all — I’m letting my “wisdom highlights,” as my friend Becky calls them (*waves* Hi Becky!) grow out. Partly because I missed my natural shade of copper blonde and partly (mostly) because reapplying henna once a month was a huge pain that always took up the better part of a weekend. I thought I’d be at a point where I’d need to chop off my hair to get rid of the henna by now, but thankfully it’s faded to the point that there’s not an obvious demarcation line. Which brings me to…
  • Cutting my hair. I wore it short for about four years, which meant cutting it about once a month. But now I’m ready to try long hair again. It’s currently about an inch past my shoulders and I’m loving it–wisdom highlights and all.
  • Makeup. For years now I’ve only bothered with makeup when I’m going out, which doesn’t happen a lot, but now even when I do wear it my routine is pretty minimalist–just enough beauty balm and concealer to even out my skin tone, a tiny bit of cream blush, mascara (just on the top, outer lashes) and lip gloss (full color lipstick if I’m feeling fancy).
  • A rigorous cleaning routine. Of course, my “rigorous” is already a lot of other people’s “lazy,” but while I’m in a season of writing a book, I just do the bare minimum needed to maintain my habits and keep things fairly tidy and not gross.
  • An elaborate bullet journal. I love my bullet journal. I would have a hard time doing life without it. If you ever watched Mystery Science Theater 3000, there used to be a character who carried his brain around in a plastic tub. That’s what I feel like when I carry around my bullet journal. But my bullet journal exists to serve me. I do not exist for it. Sometimes I like to take the time and effort to make it pretty. But for now it’s minimalist and basic, and I keep it in a 99 cent composition book (albeit a pretty yellow one), and that serves me just fine.
  • An editorial calendar or blog schedule. This is another one of those things you’re “supposed to” do when you have a blog. I was doing that during the first half of this year and it’s part of the reason I felt so burned out. So for now I’m just posting when I have time and when the Spirit moves me, and I’m going to let that be enough.
  • Elaborate meals or meal prep. Thankfully, I only have to cook for myself. My husband and I follow different diets and different eating schedules so we both cook mostly for ourselves (although he enjoys cooking more than I do so sometimes he’ll cook special meals for the both of us). So I can keep it really simple. My meal prep usually involves cooking enough of a meat and a side (or a one-dish meal I can throw together in a skillet) for several nights and then eating that throughout the week, throwing in a steam-in-the-bag frozen veggie or some fruit for a little variety. On weekdays, breakfast is usually refrigerator oats that I set up in about two minutes the night before, and lunch is typically some form of healthy DIY grown-up lunchables–i.e., nitrate-free deli ham with gluten free crackers, avocado slices and some fruit or grape tomatoes.
  • Talking on the phone. This has been on my NO list back before I even consciously had a NO list. I just really hate the phone, you guys.
  • Unpacking. Since moving in last March, we’re probably somewhere between 60 to 75 percent unpacked, and that’s good enough for now. The rest will happen as needed or when we’re in the mood. There’s no need to make it a priority.
  • Politics and culture wars. Just no.
  • Local politics. There is drama in my neighborhood, y’all. Not the “joint raid by several law enforcement agencies on the drug cartel member across the street” kind of drama that we moved to get away from, but the “Somebody put a mobile home on a lot and that violates the covenants and now we have to have neighborhood meetings to decide what to do about it before this place transforms into a trailer park and home values plummet and now everybody’s fighting over whether to start an HOA” kind of drama. I’m trying so hard to say no to getting involved (we’re just renters anyway so we don’t really get a say) but it’s so hard not to get sucked in.
  • Staying up late. I’m a night owl by nature, but my husband’s an early riser and I usually wake up when he does. I’m often tempted to stay up to read or watch something but I know if I do I won’t be as effective as I need to be the next day. So I don’t.
  • Netflix. I love watching stuff, but for now, there’s just so much other good stuff–mainly books and podcasts–that I’d rather spend my time consuming.
  • Music practice. I have a guitar, and I feel bad sometimes about not practicing it, but again, right now there are other things I’m more passionate about that I’d rather spend that time on, and that’s okay.
  • Reading bad books. If it’s not grabbing me by the first 100 pages or so I have no qualms about putting it down and never finishing. Life’s too short and there are too many good books to get through.
  • Reading books just because they’re popular. Just because everybody’s talking about them doesn’t mean I’ll like them, and see above re: life’s too short.
  • Going out and socializing very often. My husband and I are both introverts and homebodies and that’s okay. We’re both past the age where we feel like freaks or losers if we don’t have somewhere to go. We don’t go out just for the sake of going out and we no longer feel the need to apologize for not enjoying big parties or staying out late.

That’s a pretty long NO list, and I’m sure it’s not comprehensive. I’m also sure that at least part of it makes me seem like a curmudgeon. 😉 But these are all things I’ve decided do not need to be in my life taking up my time and energy. What am I able to say yes to without these things? Not just writing more of what I want to write (as opposed to what I’m paid to write), but reading GOOD books, doing something creative every day, going outside more, spending more time with my family, being available for my mom, and for my friend who’s fighting breast cancer, and putting more thought and energy into decorating my home and making it the cheerful, cozy, inspiring place I want it to be. I have time to get enough sleep and exercise and be mindful about my health and nutrition. I also have more time to delve into scripture and meditate on it, to pray throughout the day, and to sit and think and dream and process big ideas. I have time sometimes to just BE, and to be good to myself, and to love the people in my life well. THESE are the things that matter to me.

What matters to you, friend? What are you willing to say no to so you can say yes to more of what matters? I’d love to chat about it with you in the comments! ♥

The Essentials of Essentialism

Recently, I joined the launch teams for two upcoming books–one by Jess Connely and one by Holley Gerth. I will talk about each of those books in future posts–two different posts, because it wouldn’t be fair to make them share–but today I want to talk about the fact that guys, I signed up to two different launch teams!

That’s a big deal, and here’s why: until recently, I would have seen the invitation to apply and thought to myself, “Wow, I wish I could do that, but there’s no way. I’m just too busy,” and let the opportunity pass me by. But this time I was able to respond to each invitation with a resounding YES without any hesitation or guilt.

So what’s changed?

The short version is, I’ve stopped giving so much of my time and capacity to unnecessary things. I’ve been working on not only clearing the physical clutter from my life, but also the mental and emotional clutter. And that has left me with more time and energy for things that really matter to me, things I really want to do, like getting to say yes to reading advance copies of books from amazing authors and helping to publicize them.

This is a shift that’s been happening in my life for a while now–for at least the past year–and this summer I’m starting to see a lot of fruit from my efforts to pare down my life to what’s essential. And now I want to tell you about some books that helped me get here.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown – This is the essential book on essentialism, which, in a nut shell, is the discipline of saying no to the things that aren’t actually important and get in the way of your goals so that you can say yes to the things that actually matter. The book deep dives into what that looks like and also how it can make your life both saner and more productive–like how not being pulled in a million different directions actually makes it easier to focus on the important tasks–as well as how to discern what is actually important from what isn’t and how to say no when it’s not. It comes down to understanding that everything is a trade off. Every time we choose to give our time or energy to something, we’re choosing to ignore something else. And if we don’t consciously decide which things to say yes or no to, other people will decide for us.

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman – I first read this book last year, and at the

time I devoured it as quickly as I could. I’ve been re-reading it this summer, and this time I’m taking my time with it, sitting with it and taking time to slowly process each new idea. Overall, this is a book about uncovering the art we were each uniquely designed to make with our lives in order to bring glory to our Maker. But there is a section on putting first things first that made me realize I’ve been giving priority to second things. There’s a quote from C.S. Lewis about this in the book and I’m going to go ahead and share it here:

Put first things first and we get second things thrown in; put second things first and we lose both first and second things.

I know when I let secondary things take over, I end up too tired and burned out to do anything. But when I put what really matters first–give it the first of my time, energy and focus–I not only have enough capacity left over for whichever secondary things are actually needed, but also better perspective to discern whether they are indeed actually needed.

Which brings us to…

The Renaissance Soul by Margaret Lobenstine – I just read this one last weekend. This is a book for anyone still struggling to answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a helpful guide for those struggling to settle on one career or vocation because you have so many different passions and interests. Maybe you’re like me. I’ve always known I wanted to be a novelist. I know I will always be a novelist. But I don’t and have never only wanted to be a novelist–I have at times also wanted to be a web designer, a graphic designer, a freelance writer, a professional crafter, an editor, a musician, a psychologist, a nutritionist, a marketing professional, a career academic, a college professor, and probably some other things I’m forgetting. And I have actually been (and still am) some of those things at times.

This book gives practical advise on how to not only identify and narrow down which passions actually fit into your life in the current season you’re in, but also how to organize your life to make room for them. But one exercise I found particularly helpful was one that involved writing down everything currently on my plate that’s demanding my time and attention and identifying which of those things help to further my goals and which actually serve to further the goals of others, even if it’s just perceived goals, even if the “others” in question is just the mean boss in your own head. In other words, which tasks are done solely to please other people, and what needs to happen for me to stop giving my energy to those things?

One thing that stood out on my list was book marketing tasks that I don’t enjoy and that don’t actually do anything to help me connect with readers and sell books. I’ve been doing them solely to please my publisher, or because authors are “supposed to” do these things. So I’m just not doing them anymore. That alone has freed up a ton of time and energy that I can devote to things that matter–like saying yes to book launch team invitations and reading books that can help make all our lives more enjoyable and sane. 😉

What about you guys? What are you saying no to so that you can say yes to what matters? And have you read any life-changing–or just super-useful–books lately? Let’s chat in the comments! ♥

How to Keep a Clean Enough House

how to keep a clean enough house

Note: Not my actual house.


Note: I’m digging into the archives so I can keep the content coming while I enjoy a summer break. This post was originally posted on June 6th of 2016, and I decided to share it because it’s a good complement to my recent Faithfulness series. For a more recent post from that series that covers more ground on this topic, click here.


I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that I’ll never be as good a housekeeper as my mom. Seeing as how I’ve made it this far in life without the cleaning gene kicking in, I have a feeling that the day I’m finally good at keeping a clean house will be the day I can pick up the phone and call in a cleaning service.

And do you know what? That’s okay. I don’t need to hold to my mom’s standard of cleanliness, and I can just go ahead and stop making that comparison right now. It helps to keep in mind that she was a full-time homemaker, and cleaning the house was her job–or at least a major part of it. I, on the other hand, am juggling writing multiple books, a blog, and a freelance career. It would be kind of insane to expect my home to look like I spend hours each day cleaning and decorating. I’m guessing the time and energy you have to devote to cleaning is also pretty limited. I finally made peace with these limitations by deciding it’s okay if my house is merely clean enough.

“Clean enough for what,” you ask? Clean enough that we don’t feel like slobs. Clean enough to ward off a feeling of embarrassment if someone drops in unexpectedly. Clean enough that my husband and I can relax and focus on our work (or rest) without being distracted by the nagging feeling that we should be making more time to clean. Clean enough that we can feel like actual grownups and not middle-aged adolescents.

So how do you keep a clean enough house?

First, you figure out what “clean enough” means for you. Obviously, the “enough” in “clean enough” implies that we’re not aiming for perfection, here. What’s the minimum that needs to be done in order to free you to relax in your own home and let go of guilt and embarrassment?

For me, that means keeping the bathroom clean, smoothing out the covers on the bed each day, staying on top of the dirty dishes, keeping the carpet vacuumed on a regular basis, and controlling the dreaded cat smell. It also means keeping an uncluttered and welcoming entryway so I can answer the front door without feeling like I need to apologize (full disclosure: currently my entryway does not meet this standard).

My clean-enough bathroom. Just don't look too closely at the floor.

My clean-enough bathroom. Just don’t look too closely at the floor.


My husband and I both have a pretty high tolerance threshold for dust and clutter, so these are not things I worry about on a daily or weekly basis. I dust and sweep the tile floors every so often when I get bit by the deep-cleaning bug, but I don’t sit around worrying about how to fit these chores in. And while we do make an attempt to keep the clutter contained, I think we’ve both made peace with the fact that as introspective creative types, we’re probably always going to live with a certain amount of clutter. Honestly, I don’t think I’d be completely comfortable in a totally clutter-free environment. I’d be too afraid of cluttering it up.

At any rate, the point is that your threshold might be different. Maybe you need to dust every day but making your bed isn’t even on your radar. Only you can decide what makes your home feel clean enough for you. So decide that, and figure out which tasks are required to achieve that minimal level of clean, and how often.

The second, and most challenging, part is, of course, implementation. If making time for cleaning chores came easily, you probably wouldn’t be reading this. So allow me to introduce you to the two-minute rule.

The two-minute rule is something I learned about recently from The Lazy Genius, and it is thus: if there’s a task that takes two-minutes or less, and you have two minutes to spare, go ahead and do it.

You would be amazed at how many housekeeping tasks can be done in two minutes or less. Here are the things I can do in that time:

  • Smooth the covers over the bed
  • Wipe down the bathroom sink and mirror
  • Swish cleaner around the toilet bowl
  • Scoop out the cat box
  • Pick up an entire trail of dog toys
  • De-clutter the entry-way table
  • Rinse out my dirty dishes
  • Put away my shoes when I’m done wearing them

That’s almost every chore on my “clean enough” list. The only thing on there that can’t be done in two minutes, vacuuming, only needs to be done once a week (once every two weeks . . . or more if I’m in a busy season) and takes up about thirty minutes of my weekend.

So you can see how this is totally doable, right?

What about you? Do you struggle to let go of a standard of cleanliness that’s driving you crazy? What makes your house feel clean enough? Got any nifty, potentially life-changing cleaning tips to share? Let’s hear about them in the comments!

« Older posts