Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The winds of change...

Two and a half months. That's how long it has been since I posted on this here little blog.

I have been writing. Just, ya know, not here.

There are a few reasons for this.

First, we have a couple life-changing events coming up, but none of them were public knowledge until recently. So, although they took up massive amounts of mental/creative/writing space, I was unable to post any of them here.

Second, once the decisions were made about said life-changing events, my daily routine started looking a lot different. And I helplessly (or intentionally) watched as blogging slid further and further down the list of priorities.

Third, well, there is no third. Just first and second.

So what are these big changes that have kept me from my blog? Here goes...

1. I am moving. Blogs. I am moving blogs. Is that how you say that? Anyway, in about 8 weeks I will no longer be posting here at my12hats and will be moving to another soon-to-be-disclosed blog that fits my life and my role and my blog direction a little better. My12hats has been feeling, well, ill-fitted for a while. I no longer have twelve hats. I have learned - through much trial and error and loss and crisis of identity - that I have one hat. I have me. And "me" doesn't change with my role or "job." More to come..

2. I am moving. Houses. Cities. States. We are moving from our beloved Memphis, TN to our beloved Athens, GA.  My heart is torn. So sad to leave the city and the church and the people that have shaped us and loved us and poured into us over the past five years. But so happy and relieved to finally head "home" to our families.

3. We're having a baby! What's that you say? Didn't I just have a baby? Why yes, yes I did. Nine months ago, to be exact. That baby and this baby will be 16 months apart. Am I panicking? A little. Am I excited? A little more. Am I grateful? There are no words. I was once told I would not be able to have children. So now, to find out I am carrying our FOURTH healthy little heartbeat... there are literally no. words.

So that's it. Those are our big changes. The next few weeks will be full of doctor's appointments, packing boxes, craigslist ads, moving trucks, last hoorahs, tears, excitement, and - unfortunately - very little blogging.

But stick around, my friends, because once the move is made, the new blog will be posted, and oh what fun you and I will have.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Where Hustle Meets Flow

I'm calling it. 10:34am on Friday morning, and I'm calling it. February's hustle is a bust.

I haven't lost any weight. But I haven't gained any. So that's something.

My daily Jesus time happened today. For the first time since February 9. Ugh.

And clearly, the blogging has not happened. Not even three times a week.

I went to bed last night feeling defeated. Feeling like I have lost momentum. Feeling wilted and heavy - like kale that has been boiled too long.

I went to bed, telling myself that February was a wash, and March will be better.

But this morning I have new perspective.

Because last night I had a dream. I dreamed that I was asleep. I was asleep between the paws of a lion. I was asleep, resting sound and comforted, in between Aslan's front paws, resting my head on his mane, under his chin. Feeling the rise and fall of his chest as he kept watch, and I slept.

And I woke up this morning and remembered something. Something I learned long ago in the middle of my depression. Failing at one thing (or two or three) does not make me a failure. Failing at one thing does not define me or label me.

Because I did hustle this month.

I got my family of five, plus the dog, packed and loaded and relatively happy so that we could enjoy a trip to the mountains. And when we returned, I got my family of five, plus dog, unpacked and unloaded in a relatively timely and peaceful manner.

I cleaned my house. Like, the whole thing. Every. Room. I don't think that's ever happened before.

I hosted overnight company in my home for a week. And I loved it. And enjoyed it. And didn't stress about the dust bunnies one iota.

I opened up my home and my heart to two Connect Groups. Women who are overcoming Anxiety and Depression. And families who are seeking to parent their children with Grace.

I tried a new class at the gym.

I paid off debt.

I kept a relatively clean minivan (canIgetanamen from the minivan section?).

I hustled. A lot. More than most months, I think.

Yet somehow I dismiss all of that because, you know, I didn't do three things perfectly.

But waking up this morning, after sleeping all night in the bosom of the Lion, I know that His grace is sufficient for me. That His power is made perfect in my weakness.

I know that my life is not defined by a number on the scale or the stats from my blog or even the amount of time I dedicate to His Word.

Because He doesn't just meet me during my quiet time. He meets me when I'm rocking a snotty, fussy, sick baby at 2am. He meets me when I am the snotty, fussy, sick baby at 2am. He meets me when I'm doing the umpteenth load of laundry and looking at umpteen more loads that need to be done. He meets me when I'm grumpy with my family and impatient with the mess. He meets me when I'm waking up in the morning, making mental lists of all the things that must be done before my head hits the pillow that night.

He meets me in my sleep, when I am wilted and heavy and feeling like a failure.

So here at the end of February, my hustle doesn't look like what I thought it would when I started on February 1.

But my house is clean. And my heart is at rest. And my God meets me where I am.

And that, my friends, that's worth more than all the hustle in the world.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Attitude Determines Altitude, and other cliche's about the way we think

I have a bad attitude. Seriously. That's all there is to it.

My attitude? 

It's been in the pits for three days. Behold, it stinketh.

Here's what happened. At least, here's the short version of what happened.

My house was clean after Christmas. (As we have discussed, when I say "clean" I really mean "I-have-kids-and-a-dog-and-an-arts-and-crafts-addiction-so-my-house-is-never-more-than-85%-clean" clean.) But still, it was clean - ya know - for me.

Then we found out we are moving. We don't know when (exactly). We don't know where (at all). We just know that sometime between now and June, we're moving. And suddenly, I have lost control over our year.

And in my attempt to control something, I started cleaning out closets and drawers and attic space.

Then I got sick. In the middle of all the projects. Remember this

For ten days, I wallowed in feverish, achy agony.

And when the fever and the agony were gone, there lingered a cough and a sinus infection. It still remains.

Then there was a trip to the mountains. Which I loved, but which required the loading and unloading of all the peoples and animals in our home, plus their stuff.


So, basically what I'm saying is that life happened. Nothing terrible or tragic. Nothing life-altering or traumatic. It's just the stuff of life.

But life keeps getting in the way of my plans.

My plan was to eat healthy and homeschool and keep the house clean and always be kind to my husband and never lose patience with my kids and read lots of books about all the things and cook better meals and organize every corner of the house and train the dog not to bolt out the front door and make homemade organic baby food and run a 5k and spend time with Jesus everyday and never get behind on laundry and take meals to people who are sick and develop the important relationships in my life and cultivate new friendships and do. all. the. things.

But life happened. It got in the way.

So now my attitude about life, stinks.

And all this - the stuff of life - is causing me to reevaluate some of my hustle. As much as I would love to cook a healthy, homemade, "real food" meal for dinner every night. Sometimes I'm sick. Or tired. Or busy.

As much as I want to hit the gym everyday, there are days when just taking a shower is an achievement to be celebrated.

As much as I want to have a clean house and creative homeschooling and long conversations with good friends, there are days when clean undies, a few worksheets, and a quick text are all I'm capable of.

Life happens.

And if my plans don't allow life to happen, if my plans get thwarted every time life steps into the game, if my plans make life feel like an interruption... well, maybe I need to change my plans. Because life, it happens. And that isn't going to change.

I don't really have an answer today. Maybe this is just a confession.

My attitude stinks. And somehow I need to figure out how to merge my plans and my life

In the meantime, my awesomely amazing hubby has taken all three kids to the zoo. So I'm going to get my booty off the couch, throw on some workout gear, and do the kind of cleaning that works up good sweat and counts as fitness points. How's that for merging plans with life?

Hustle on, my friends. Hustle on.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

What's On My Nightstand?

Confession time: the title of this blog is deceptive. The truth is that my nightstand is currently covered in clean, folded towels that somehow landed there when I got thrown off course on my way to put them in the bathroom closet... six days ago. It also has baby Tylenol. And a pair of fuzzy socks. And a half empty water bottle (or is it half full?). And my phone charger. And a picture of our wedding day, covered in a 1/4 inch of dust. And a fork. Not sure what the fork is for.

My books are actually all over the house. One on the end table next to my couch, for reading while I'm feeding the baby her bottle. Two of them are sitting on a shelf in the bathroom, next to the bubble bath and the Jake and the Neverland Pirate figurines. One is on my phone. The same one that's on my phone is also waiting for pickup at the library (I just can't get use to the whole new-fangled reading-on-an-electronic-device thing. Give me the musty smell and leafy pages of a library book any day.)

But... if I were the type of person who kept a perfectly tidy and well dusted nightstand with plenty of room for reading materials, these would be the books I would place there for the month of February:

1. The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life by Tory Johnson.
This one is fairly self-explanatory. Tory is a TV personality who was basically told to lose weight or lose her job. So she lost the weight and kept it off. This is her story.

2. The Anxiety Cure by Dr. Archibald Hart
I'm leading a church connect group on anxiety and depression, and I cannot tell you how nervous I am. (And the irony that my anxiety connect group is giving me anxiety is not lost on me, fo sho.) It's the first time since My Great Depression that I have reached out to others, face to face, to share my story and ask them to share theirs. For obvious reasons, I won't be relaying details here in the blogosphere, but suffice it to say, I'm super excited to study this book together and gain a few more Tools for the Toolbox.

3. Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel
Yet another church connect group the Hubs and I are leading. This is a book I read about once a year, and it's definitely one I recommend to all parents, regardless of your kiddos' ages. The premise is that we are to parent our children the way God the Father parents us, His children - seasoned with lots and lots of grace. This book opened my eyes to what grace really is, and I was surprised to find that grace includes (but isn't limited to) discipline, guidance, and boundaries. Such a great read, and I'm excited about sharing it with other families in our church.

4. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
This is a novel that was recommended to me by a friend. I'll give you fair warning: it is not a family-friendly book. I would venture to say, based on what I've read so far, it's probably more a PG-13 book. Having said that, Roberts is an amazing and inspirational writer. I find myself highlighting lines in the book just because of how beautiful they are and because I think "Shoot, I wish I had written that." Ya know? Anyways. I'm still in the middle of the book, but if you're interested in reading it, check back with me in a week or so, and I'll fill you in on the deets.

So that's it for February. I'm lining up the March books now (going for 3 nonfiction and 1 fiction.) If you have any recommendations, I'm all ears. Post them below in the comments.

Note: Please do not post sappy Christian romance novels. I admire their authors, but I'm not a fan of their style and probably will not be reading any this year.

Peace out and hustle on, my friends!


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Day We Quit Homeschooling

We started this school year (our first year of homeschooling) with all sorts of charts and schedules and high expectations. I read books and mapped out timelines and planned and planned some more.

I printed pictures of all the tasks in our "morning routine." The kids colored and numbered the pictures and put them in order on a huge chart.

My plan? To have the entire routine finished so that "school" could start by 9am.

Oh. And I should never have to remind or "nag" the kids to do it because, you know, it's on a very readable picture chart.

We would start the day with a Bible lesson, the Pledge of Allegiance, daily scripture, The Lord's Prayer, then onto handwriting, language arts, and math - all before lunch.

After lunch would be the "fun" subjects - history, science, music, and art.

Don't forget reading to the kids. And Chloe should read on her own for 30 minutes too.

Wait. Then there's outside playtime or "PE."

And bread. I should make homemade bread, right? And let the kids help me so they can be learning fractions and such?

But then there has to be time for things like housekeeping and meal-making, right?

Oh, and a baby. I should probably do things like change her diaper and feed her.

Wait. I need to make time for my husband too. Must be cute and make-up'd and happy to see him when he walks in the door.

For that matter, everyone should probably be happy, at least 90% of the time.


We tried this, for like a month. Then we struggled through our second month, only accomplishing a handful of the assigned daily tasks, and ending each day feeling like a failure. The third month, I changed our demanding curriculum and kept plugging ahead with the rest - exhausted and stressed out.

My kids were learning math and letters and history and science. They were also learning that mom is mean when she's stressed. That if a worksheet didn't get done in the allotted time, the "whole days is thrown off schedule." That math is something "we have to get through" and art has to happen in "art class."

By Thanksgiving, I was pretty much scraping the bottom of the energy barrel and feeling like I wasn't teaching my kids anything except to hate learning.

So we quit. We spent December baking cookies and going to the park (on nice days) and the library (on rainy days). We made a huge board game for my hubby's Christmas present - which included hand-painted pictures, physical challenges, and more creative engineering than I thought possible from a four year old. We put a big "X" over all the schedules and lists and simply wrote three words: "No Screen Time." They could use their hours for anything they wanted except watch TV or play on the iPad.

And you know what? It was amazing.

They took blank copy paper and made paper dolls. Empty toilet paper rolls became a hot commodity as they created "spy glasses" and bird houses and animals and "turtle tunnels" (poor Charlotte the Turtle).  Chloe got to pick out any book she wanted at the library, and she ended up reading the entire Junie B. Jones series. Maple started memorizing her math facts, simply because she loved to "surprise" her daddy with what she knew each day when he walked through the door.

And me? I took a deep breath. And felt our entire home relax. And fought the part of my brain that was telling me it wasn't enough, and that I was damaging our kids, and that they would be "behind" in their schooling - forever.

So now it'sFebruary, and I think we have found a happy medium between hustle and rest. We have a curriculum for math, literature, language, and spelling. We have allotted screen-free hours each day where they get to choose which subject they want to work on.

I am often pleasantly surprised to find that Chloe has chosen math. Because we take our time. And we breathe. And if she doesn't get it the first time, no big deal. We'll move to a different subject and try again tomorrow.

Maple ends up doing a lot of painting and coloring - which is actually a huge accomplishment for a little girl who never likes to sit still for more than a couple minutes at a time. And she's learning her ABC's and 123's as an unexpected side effect of Chloe's lessons.

And me? I still have days when I'm stressed and frazzled when my hubby walks through the door. But they are few and far between (and often happen at the same time of the month every month, ifyouknowwhatimean.)

We have days when we don't do any "formal" schooling. And we have days that are packed with worksheets and finger paints and math songs and "place value" blocks and poems and impromptu spelling quizzes. And both days - the "off" days and the "on" days - are exactly what they need to be.

And this makes me think about the rest of my life. The song By Your Side by Tenth Avenue North keeps drifting through my head over the past few days:

Why are you striving these days?
Why are you trying to earn grace?
Why are you crying?
Let me lift up your face;
Just don't turn away.

Why are you looking for love?
Why are you still searching,
As if I'm not enough?
To where will you go child?
Tell me where will you run?
To where will you run?

I often find myself striving. Making lists. Goals. Unrealistic and demanding daily, spiritual, and life schedules that I'll never be able to live up to.

And as I look at our home now that we quit "homeschooling," I wonder what would happen if I quit striving in other areas. What if my hustle looked less like hustle and more like flow?

I don't really have an answer for this tonight, except to say this question is part of my February hustle.

I want to know.

What part of my hustle brings strife? What part brings peace?

What part leads me in passionate pursuit of Him? And what part leaves me feeling ashamed and incapable?

I want to hustle smart. I want to hustle hard. I want to hustle in the name of being better, not just being busy.

For tonight, I'm putting aside my hustle and spending some time seeking Him. So here's to the hustle. And to the flow.

Hearty Veggie Soup, a winter recipe

Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike cold weather? I'm a summertime girl, through and through. Give me flip flops and sun screen any day. But, alas, I live in Memphis. And in Memphis, we have two seasons: Summer, and Gray. Blech. Cold, overcast, dry, gray days - I loathe them.
So I have to find ways to warm up our days of cold and yuck. One of those ways is cooking. Specifically, cooking soup. Specifically specifically, cooking vegetable soup.

Photo creds to my friend Nicki. Thanks, friend!

I love a good vegetable soup. I make mine with beef. And lots and lots and lots of veggies. So much so, that my husband says it's too thick to be called vegetable soup. He says, technically, it's a beefy stew.

I say that there are too many vegetables to be called a "beefy" stew. Seriously, it's 85% veggies, 10% broth, and 5% ground beef. Totally not a beefy stew.

But whatever. If that's the worst of our disagreements... hahahaha... oh, never mind.

Here's the thing about this recipe: you can pretty much throw in whatever you want. I use three carrots. But maybe you really like carrots and want to use six? Do it! Want chicken instead of beef, or want to go strictly vegetarian? Cool!  Or maybe (like me) you love onion and want to throw some in there right at the beginning. Go for it! (I don't put onions in mine because I'm the only person in my house who likes them. So sad. Frowny face.)

There are a few ingredients that I think simply make the soup (oh, how I heart okra and kale!).  I will note those below. But maybe you disagree? Leave your comments below and let my tens of readers know how you make your veggie soup!

Finally, because I usually make this in the winter, I use frozen veggies. But if you're a summer soup kind of individual, by all means, make a trip to the farmer's market and get some freshness. Yum yum.

So without further ado, here's my recipe for Hearty Veggie... Beefy... Stew... Soup... Stuff:

Step 1: It's Not That "Hard" (the hard veggies)

2-3 Large, raw carrots, diced
2-3 stalks of celery, diced
1 bag frozen baby lima beans
1 bag frozen speckled butter beans
(My mama told me about these, and now they are a MUST for my veggie soup. Although I have used frozen black eyed peas in a pinch, the speckled butter beans have such great flavor and never get "mushy" like other peas do when they're cooked for too long.)
1 bag frozen corn
Salt/Pepper (Just a little, at this stage!)

Dump everything into large stock pot with a few tablespoons of olive oil (just enough to lightly coat all the veggies). Then let those babies sweat! The key here is to cook them over a low heat, completely covered, letting all that steam soften them up and sweat out the flavors.

Let these continue to sweat until soft. My "test" is: if I can easily cut through a piece of carrot with a spoon or rubber spatula, they're good to go.
Step 2: Roux the Day
Sprinkle with 2-3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and toss until all the veggies are coated.
(I learned on the cooking channel that this is creates a "roux." It allows your soup to thicken up without the "flour-y" taste or clumps. Learn something new everyday, eh?)
For a gluten-free option, you can totally use cornstarch instead or just skip this step altogether.  No biggie.
Step 3: Oh, "Broth"er.
2 boxes of beef broth.
I love the taste that beef broth adds to the soup. My favorite thing is to use the leftover "juices" from a pot roast to make a beefy flavored broth. HOWEVER, I have also used chicken broth (canned and homemade) and vegetable stock (for my vegetarian friends). It all works!
Also, if you only have a can or two of broth? No big deal. Just add water and a little salt and let it cook down.
Whatever you use, throw it in the pot with the veggies, give it a good stir, and bring it to a low boil.
Step 4: Time to Beef Up.
1 lb. Lean Ground Beef
This is one of those "have to have's." It has to be lean beef, otherwise you'll end up with grease floating on top of your soup.
So here it is: throw the whole thing in the boiling soup, raw, and break it apart while it cooks. Yep. That's it. No "browning" the beef in a second pan. Ain't nobody got time for that. This makes really crumbly beef and also releases the "fats" into the broth, giving it even more beefy flavor. Yum! Let the soup boil until the meat is no longer pink, then reduce to a simmer.
If all you have in the fridge happens to be a fattier beef (75/25, etc.), just brown it, drain it, rinse it, and add it to the soup. It'll still work.
Also: leftover beef from a pot roast makes excellent soup.
Step 5: Let's Soften Things Up a Bit (the soft veggies)
2-3 Large Kale Leaves, chopped
2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced (This is approximately 3-4 russet potatoes or 5-6 small red potatoes.)
1 bag Frozen Okra
1 can diced tomatoes, including juices OR 2 large, fresh tomatoes, peeled, diced and smushed (like, literally, cut them up and "smush" them with your hands.
1/2 jar of spaghetti sauce
2-3 sprigs of fresh Thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
A "Handful" of fresh parsley, chopped (If you don't have any fresh, just leave it out. Dried parsley does not do it justice.)
All of these are essential. All of them. You must have them all.
Ok. The truth is that I have made veggie soup without all of these before, and it's still pretty tasty. But each of these ingredients adds a "key" flavor that makes this soup so very scrumptious, I hate to leave any of them out.
Add them all to the simmering pot, and let it continue to simmer until the potatoes are soft. (Remember the carrot spoon test I mentioned above? Use it on the potatoes to see if they're soft enough.)
Step 5: Let's Spice it Up
Salt and Pepper to Taste. Depending on your choice of broth, tomatoes, and spaghetti sauce, you may need a little or a lot. (Homemade broth, fresh tomatoes, and homemade spaghetti sauce will probably require more salt and pepper. Boxed broth, canned tomatoes, and "Ragu" type spaghetti sauce may not require any salt, and only a little pepper. Just taste and add, taste and add. Plus, it gives you an excuse to eat some right now instead of waiting for dinner!)
Optional: If I'm just cooking for me and the Hubs, I will add a 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of cayenne pepper. We love that little kick that gives this soup an extra little sumpin sumpin.
That's it! Super easy, super tasty, and super full of good-for-you stuff. I sprinkle a little parmesan on top and serve it with sweet cornbread muffins.
Make yourself a pot today, and turn this cold, nasty day into something enjoyable! Or, better yet, come on over to my house. We'll eat and chat and pretend like it's 75 degrees outside. Okay? Okay.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Stay Tuned for our Regularly Scheduled Programing

I didn't batch my posts this week and figured I could write them throughout the week.

Clearly, that didn't work.

But today is not the day for me to focus on blogging. Sorry, folks.

Unless some crazy inspiration strikes, I'm probably taking the rest of the week off. Hoping to have something posted by Sunday night.

Coming soon...

The Day We Quit Homeschooling

A "Hearty" Veggie Soup Recipe

The One I Haven't Mentioned

What's on My Nightstand (My 2014 Book List)

Love, on Valentines Day

See you next week! Until then, keep on hustlin'!

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Day Depression Saved Me at the Gym

I am not usually one to broadcast my physical feats on the internet. And that is mainly because, well,  I don't have any physical feats to broadcast on the internet.

But today is different, my friend.

Today, I have a story to tell.

It's probably not a big deal to most. I'm sure there are people out there - runners, athletes, buff gym dudes - who do this on a daily basis and don't think much about it. But for me, it was new and painful and awesome and painful again.

But first, let me go back a couple years.

I have talked before about the amazing benefits of having a great counselor on your side when you're battling depression. Mine was Keith. (If you live near me and want a really great counselor, email me, and I'll give you his information.) Keith and I spent several of our sessions together talking about why I was in this depression, and more specifically, why it had hit me like. a. mac. truck. instead of coming on gradually, as is usually the case.

Eventually we determined that I had a fear of emotional pain. If something painful happened in life, I would pick myself up by my bootstraps and run as hard and fast as I could into the Next Big Thing. A new job. A house project. My kids. My church. Whatever. I dove head first into anything that wasn't the thing that was causing me pain. I ignored pain. And ran from it. And pretended like it wasn't there.

Then Keith said this: "What you have to realize is that pain is just another feeling. It will come. You will feel it. And it will leave. It won't kill you, but not dealing with it might."

I have written before about how Keith taught me to deal with feelings of failure or inadequacy: here and here.

But this statement about pain opened me up to a whole new level of understanding.

Physical pain is literally your brain saying: Hey you! Pay attention to this area!

Break your foot, and your brain sends pain to your foot to say: Dude, pay attention to your foot. Something's going on down there.

And if you ignore it. If you numb it or try to power through it, you run the risk of making it worse.

Emotional pain is the same. Something injures us. A broken heart. A stab in the back. A painful tongue-lashing. And our spirit sends pain signals: Hey you! Pay attention here! Take care of this area before it gets worse!

So now I know. Painful memories pop out of nowhere. I can't push them down with a new project and jelly donut. I have to take a moment. And I feel it. I let myself cry if I need to. I pray and journal and sometimes call a close friend. I process it in the ways that work best for me, and then I let it go. Sometimes that means forgiving someone. Many times it means forgiving myself.

Pain is just another feeling. It will come. You will feel it. And it will leave. It won't kill you, but not dealing with it might.

So what on earth does this have to do with my night at the gym?

Let me tell you.

I stepped into a "Ball" class for the first time ever tonight. It's one of those classes where everyone is gracefully rocking and squatting and bending and push-up-ing on a huge exercise ball.

Everyone except me, that is. I was more falling and rolling and grunting and chasing my big ball. But that's not the point.

The point is that I had a moment in class where I thought I was going to die. Literally, right there in front of all the graceful ball balancers, I was just going to keel over and die. There were five reps left, my arms were shaking, I could feel the ball ever so slightly slipping from beneath my feet. And I knew in that moment - this is how I'm going to die.

Then Keith popped into my head.

You know those moments on cartoons, where a cloud hovers over the character's head, and a person in that cloud says some crazy profound thing that echoes a little bit and is exactly what the character needs to hear so he can do whatever he needs to do in that moment?

Cloud. Keith. Echo. My head.

"Pain is just a feeling. It will come. You will feel it. And it will leave."

And then I knew I wasn't going to die. Because pain can't kill me.

And then I knew something else. I knew that my depression - all that dark and heavy and gross and ugly pain - it has changed me.

I am not who I was. I am stronger. I am wiser. I am a fighter. I am not afraid of pain.

And by the time I thought through all that, I had made it through those five reps. And I didn't die.

That is the point.

Friday, January 31, 2014

January Recap

So here it is, the end of January, and what do I have to show for my month?

1. I am officially 10 lbs down. A kajillion pounds to go.

But more than that, I have learned that exercise can be fun, and that my entire life is healthier if I can squeeze a little activity into my days.

2. I have blogged 18 times in January, all the while asking: why did I commit to this?

And ultimately, I have decided that somewhere, at some time, someone will have a story that needs to be told. And when that place and time and person show up on my doorstep, I want to have my craft so finely honed that I am capable of telling that story to the masses. Or to just a few. Or to whomever is supposed to read it. In the meantime, I am recording our days. Taking time to remember the beautiful moments and process the difficult ones.

3. I have spent time with Jesus almost everyday.

With this part of the "hustle" especially, if it doesn't happen in the early morning (even if it's while the kids are eating cereal watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) then it won't happen at all that day. Also, it's like taking a vitamin. I may not notice a huge difference if I miss one day, but after two or three or four days, I feel weak and tired and out of sorts. Regardless, He is with me, and He's always waiting to sit and have coffee the next morning.

4. February is a-comin'. Tomorrow. And I'm ready to build on what I have already "hustled" in January.

5.  I have signed on for a second month of "Hustle" with Jon Acuff. If you have some goals for this year - be they big or small - can I encourage you to do this? You get daily emails from Jon with specific instructions that help you achieve your goals, plus an awesome online community of encouragers and dreamers (via facebook). Do it! Now. Seriously. Sign ups end today. This is not a request.

6. We got our YMCA membership yesterday; so my "30 minutes of daily movement" will increase to "30 minutes of movement 4 days a week, AND 1 hour of movement at the Y, 3 days a week." My goal is still "fun" here. So I'm looking at classes and swimming and any machine that will give me 1 hour of uninterrupted TV time (hello, bike!)

7. I will continue my daily quiet times, but would like to add some extra time once a week (preferably on my Sabbath) to just be. Quietly listening. Worshipping. Whatever. I want to set aside weekly time with no agenda except to sit at His feet.

8. I think I found a good blogging rhythm (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). But I want to work on "batching" my writing and planning my topics and posts in advance.

Then there are a couple new hustles that will get added this month....

9. House and home. Did I mention we are moving in the next few months? We don't know exactly when or where yet, but I want to get every area in my house organized and cut down to the necessities. More on this later.

10. Family. Wife to my husband. Mother to my kids. I want part of my February hustle to focus on these relationships. It won't be huge or life-changing (it can't be, with everything else that's going on this month), but it will be intentional and life-giving.

So that's it. Overall, I'm pretty pleased with how January has gone down. Here's to February and new goals and small changes that bring big results. Hustle on, my friends.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Life in Pictures

I was flipping through my phone pictures today and was overwhelmed with nostalgia and gratefulness. I love these little snapshots of our life here in Memphis...
Penelope caught RSV over the holidays. This was Christmas Eve Eve (the 23rd), right after treatment in the ER. She's just chillin' like nothing's wrong. Crazy cute kid.
Thanks to an awesome craigslist find, I officially have an Exepedit bookcase from Ikea, solidifying my title as a homeschool mom.
Right now, I'm diving into a couple books for our church's spring Connect Groups. But once I'm done with those, this will be waiting. I'm stoked.
This Christmas was the "Year of the Scarf." I think I got seven, and I LOVE them all. This is one of my favorites. Yum.
We got sick of paying to have the dog washed and groomed. So we "hired" our kids to do it. The whole idea totally grosses me out, and the girls get a real bath as soon as it's done. But, they love it. And the dog loves it. And I love not paying $45 for a dog bath.
This is my Maple Anne helping hand out bikes on our church's Big Serve Day. It's blurry because she couldn't be still. She bubbles over with excitement, and I'm hooked.
And these are her healthy eyes. The very ones we prayed for while she was in the hospital with an unknown infection. God is good.
Singing in the kitchen. "Let It Go."
Do you see all those dark specks in the sky? Those are birds. Check out the left hand horizon. Do you see how the line of birds go on and on and on? It's like nothing I've ever seen before, like a river of birds that flows over our house for about 20 minutes every day around 4:30pm. Crazy birds.
If I ever can't find my Chloe Jane, I start looking in one of her many "reading corners." My little introvert loves her some quiet space and a good book. Near and dear to my heart on so many levels.
Random, crazy, beautiful moments that make up our days. It all goes so fast sometimes.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Small Victories

Last week, I went to get some size 4T blue jeans out of Maple's drawer so she could have something decent to wear to the playground.

First, her drawer was so packed full, I had to smush the clothes down just to open it. Then, I pulled out a pair of jeans with holes in the knees. Then a second pair, with holes in the knees. Then, I pulled out a third pair of jeans, with a broken zipper. I stuffed all three pair back in the drawer, and decided to opt for a pair of leggins.

That night, I went to find some pj's for Chloe. And the same thing happened. Overstuffed drawers, holy mismatched pajamas (batman!).


Then. I went into their rooms, where I saw their laundry baskets, overflowing with dirty clothes. And I thought, even if I did get everything washed at one time, where would it go?

Next thing I know, I'm drifting through space and time to our apartment in Korea. We all shared one dresser and one closet. And it wasn't even a walk-in closet. Chloe had seven "everyday" outfits and two "church" outfits. Same for me. Same for the hubby. Except he only had one "church" outfit that he wore every weekend.

And you know what? It was enough.

And it was easy, even without a dryer. 

My wandering mind was jerked back to present-day reality when I heard Chloe say, "I can't find anything to wear."


I totally understand and know the feeling of walking into one's closet and saying such a thing, but something about that statement - in my state of mind - sounded like a challenge.

So the next morning, I officially announced a "No Schoolwork Day" in our homeschooling world. The announcement was met with cheers and hoorahs...

...until I told them to bring me all the contents of their dresser. And their closet. And their laundry baskets.

When all was washed and put into one place, our living room was overcome with piles and piles of little girl clothes. Pink sweaters and sparkly skirts and leggings and those darn holy jeans.

One badly photographed corner of the chaos:

Now, five days, one migraine, and a tummy bug later, all kid clothes have been sorted and put into their proper piles. 
Eight "everyday" outfits (including church clothes).
Two "messy day" oufits (for art and mud and such).
So if you were to walk in my door right now, you would see unswept floors, a sink full of dirty dishes, overflowing trashcans, and a mom-has-been-sick-all-weekend kind of mess in every room of the house. BUT... if you took the time to open the drawers and closets. Dude. You'd award me housekeeper of the year.
Okay. Maybe not. But on this Sunday night, I am choosing not to focus on all the things that didn't get done. Instead, I see the mammoth of a project that was tackled and conquered in the midst of a crazy five days.
And even in that, in the perspective, there is a small victory.
And even a small victory is not a defeat.
I'm still hustling, y'all.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lessons From My Twenties (part 2)

If you missed the first installment, hop on over here and check out the first five life lessons.

Otherwise, read on...

10 Lessons I Learned in My 20's
That I Hope to Carry Into My 30's
Part 2
6. Hard work trumps intelligence. As I typed that last line, I totally butchered the spelling of intelligence and had to look it up. I think I just proved my point. This is a lesson I regrettably learned late in my twenties. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I've got a fairly decent head on my shoulders. I made good grades in high school and in college. I can usually figure out how to do things - be it a job, technology, or a new recipe. But, when I look at the failures of my twenties, most (if not all) of them were directly due to a lack of effort - not a lack of smarts. I'm tempted to make a list of my failures just to prove it to you, but after thinking better of it, I've decided you'll just have to trust me on this one.
7. Pursue excellence, not perfection. There is such a huge difference between striving to be better and striving to be perfect. Perfection holds impossible standards. Excellence sets the bar high, but leaves room for grace. Perfection can only be achieved by perfect people. Excellence can usually be achieved by hard work (see #6 above).  Perfection asks: "What did I do wrong?" Excellence asks: "What can I do better tomorrow?" Perfection leads to depression and self-loathing. Excellence leads to anticipation and momentum.
8. Seeking advice = wisdom, not weakness. I was 22 years old when I had Chloe, my firstborn. I was surrounded by women who loved me and my baby - my mother, aunts, grandmothers, cousins. All who had gone before me in motherhood and were/are fantastic mamas. But if any one of them handed down some hard-won advice, I bristled. I thought I should have it all figured out, and every kind suggestion felt like a blaring reminder of my shortcomings. Nowadays, if the comments pass the haters test (See lessons 1-3), I hold onto them for dear life. Someone who loves me cares enough to risk offense and help me hack life? Bring it on!
Proverbs 15:22, "Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed."
9. The best time to start a healthy lifestyle is right now. Helloooo!!!! I'm talking to you 20-year-old-newly-married-pre-baby-bikini-wearing me! LISTEN UP! It's never easier to be healthy than in your early twenties. After about 25, the hill gets a lot steeper (more steep? Whatevs.) That being said, I'm also talking to you almost-30-year-old-yoga-pant-wearing-mama-of-three me. Carpe diem, and all that. 
10. Jesus is my source. If I could write a letter to 20-year-old me and give only one piece of advice, it would go something like this: "You will spend  most of your twenties drawing from multiple sources - your husband, career, money, houses, friends, titles, grades, travel, and more. It's a natural part of life. But the most important lesson you can learn is that all of those sources - all. of. them. - will dry up at some point or another. Only one Source will sustain you when all the others fail. Only one Source doesn't ever dry up. And if you're not tapped into that Source, you're in for a world of hurt - mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually. So tap in. Daily. Be intimate with the Source. Gain all you need from Him, and the rest is just gravy.
So that's it. Those are the biggest lessons of my twenties. Oh that I can take hold of them, drag them into my thirties, and multiply them. Here goes...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Lessons From My Twenties

Hey y'all. I'm turning 30 in like eight weeks. Yes, I am.

I have to tell you, a couple years ago, the idea of 30 scared me to death. In my mind, a person should have her stuff together by the time she's 30. She should have some semblance of an idea as to what she's doing with her life. She should be, ya know, put together and all that.

As the Big Day approaches, I find myself less disappointed about what I'm not, and more excited about where I'm going.

I look back at the past decade - with all its changes and turmoil and challenges - and I think, "I survived." And not just that. I learned a thing or two that I hope to carry into the next 10 years. Not that I have figured out how to do these things perfectly, but I at least learned some truth about them. And knowing is half the battle, amiright?

So lets get this ball rolling, shall we?

10 Things I learned in My 20's
That I Hope to Carry into My 30's:
Part 1

1. Forgiveness is a choice, and often must be chosen over and over again. As a child, most of us were taught that when someone says, "I'm sorry" the proper response is either, "I forgive you" or "It's okay." In my twenties, I learned that "I forgive you" and "It's okay" are actually two very different things. "It's okay" says: what you did to me is allowed and not a big deal. "I forgive you" says: what you did was huge and hurtful and cruel, but I will not be held captive by it - I will choose to let it go. Often, we have to make that choice before we feel it. And then five minutes later, we have to make it again. And the next morning when we wake up, we have to choose forgiveness again. And a week later, and a month later, and a year later, and a decade later, and a lifetime later. And every time we choose to forgive, we take another step toward freedom from the hurt and bitterness. The choice comes first. The feelings follow. It's not about letting "them" get away with it, it's about letting me get away from it.

2. "Haters gonna hate." Or, as Michael Josephson more eloquently put it: "When someone is nasty or treats you poorly, don't take it personally. It says nothing about you, but a lot about them.” Ah, what a hard-earned lesson. When someone says something hurtful to me, I have learned to ask a few questions:
First, does this person love me and have general good will towards me? Clue: if they are talking about you, and not to you, the answer is probably no. If they care enough to talk to you about it, move on to the second question.
Second, is it possible that what they are saying is true? Do those jeans make your butt look big? Does your attitude need an adjustment? Do you really need that third glass of wine? A friend will tell you the truth in love; so if they passed the first question, take a minute to evaluate if what they're saying could be true.
Third, can I (or should I) use this statement to make myself a better person? Some things are the truthful, but still hateful. "Those jeans make your butt look big" is one thing. "You have a huge butt" is another. If the person saying it passes question one, and it's the truth, ask if there's anything you can do to change it. If not, move along.
If something being said to (or about) you doesn't pass all three of these questions, chalk it up to the haters. And recognize that what they say has little to do with you, and a lot to do with them. With that being said...

3. Don't give mental or emotional real estate to the haters. Ok, so I totally recognize that my first three lessons are all about dealing with the world's meanie heads. But for me, unforgiveness and poor relationship choices held me back for a loooong time. And what I came to realize is this - a lot of the hurt in my life could have been avoided if I had simply chosen not to believe what the haters said about me or to me. In my twenties, I had a "friend" who used qualifying statements like "It's the truth!" or "I'm just calling it like I see it!" as an excuse to say hurtful things. I believed the things that were said. I took them to heart.  I believed this person when they told me I was unattractive because I was overweight. I believed when they told me I was a bad parent because my children whined. I believed when they called me a "b**ch" because I was too opinionated. Here's the thing about the haters and the things they say: They are only partial truths. Yes, I was/am overweight. That part is true. But I am beautiful, and my husband is attracted to me. Yes, my children whined on occasion. But they are loved and cared for and taught right from wrong - I am a good parent. Yes, I have strong opinions, but God can and has used my passions and convictions to stand up for injustice and give voice to the voiceless. You see what I mean? Partial truths do not The Truth make. My mental and emotional real estate is valuable, and ain't nobody got time for that junk.

4. I can choose my thoughts. (Prepare for an onslaught of quotes and statistics.) My pastor preached on this topic a few months ago. Here are some stats from my notes from that message: The average person has upwards of 60,000 individual thoughts in any given day. 98% of them are exactly the same thoughts as the ones they had the day before. On average, 80% of those thoughts are negative ones! After hearing those numbers, I decided to start some serious thought control. I was in a serious pattern of negative thinking (see above: believing the haters), and it took (and is taking) some effort to work my way out of that pattern. It goes something like this:
- Recognize negative thoughts and call them out: Hey you! Miss Negative Nancy! I see you lurking in the corners! Get over here!
- Assess them using the questions from #2: Are they in your best interest? Are they truth (and NO partial truths)? Can you change them?
-If they don't pass the test: kick 'em to the curb and replace them with scriptures, with songs (Katie Perry's "Roar" is an awesome mental tool. No joke.), with affirmations, whatever works for you.
- Remember that Miss Negative Nancy will try to come back. Martin Luther said, "You cannot prevent the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair." The thoughts will come back, we can't prevent that. But we do have the power keep them from settling in and making a home.

5. Intentions matter. Actions matter more. "It's the thought that counts" works if you are giving a gift that didn't turn out as you expected; it doesn't work if you give nothing at all. It's the same in life. You can plan to lose weight, to remember a birthday, to call someone back, to quit smoking, to be a better friend. And the planning - the mental preparation - does matter. But it only matters if it is followed by actually losing weight, sending a birthday card, making the phone call, putting down the cigarette, or making time for your friend. Clearly, I haven't figured this one out perfectly. But I'm believing that having numbers 1-4 under my belt gives me the mental preparation and clarity to actually move forward and DO it in my 30's.

Want to know the last 5? Come back tomorrow! Until then, hustle on!

Monday, January 20, 2014

The winds they are a-changing

Do you ever close your eyes and see your past few days flash before them? I don't mean in an it's-the-end-of-the-world-and-my-life-is-flashing-before-my-eyes kind of way. I just mean in a my-brain-is-processing-too-much-at-once-and-I-can't-turn-it-off kind of way.

I'm experiencing the second kind.

Hello, my name is Brandy, and I don't do well with change.

I'm not sure when that happened to me. I used to thrive on change. I loved travel, and people, and horizons, and all things new.

Before we moved to Memphis (over four years ago now), my husband and I had moved eight times in our seven years of marriage, and I loved it. Just as I would finish decorating a new place, it would be time to pack up and move to the next. If we ever settled into one place for too long, I would start to paint random walls and rearrange furniture, just to give myself the feeling of being in a new place.

Somewhere in our second year here (during the middle of our Damascus Road Internship) that desire began to shift in me. It was a scary shift. I felt the Lord asking me, "What if?" What if He asked me to stay somewhere 15 or 20 years? What if He planted us somewhere and told us not to move - ever? What if we were not called to pioneer, but to homestead? How would we respond?

Slowly, over time, the shift happened. I can tell you exactly where I was sitting and what I was doing when I heard Him ask, "What if?" But I can't tell you how or when my heart changed.

At the time, I reluctantly replied: "Where you go I will go. And where you stay, I will stay." Although I hoped and prayed it was a "sacrificing Isaac" kind of test.

Now, two years later, I find myself longing for home. Not for a particular city or house, rather for a place to be planted. A house to grow old in. Space for my kids to be kids - outside and free. A garden I can plant in the spring, with confidence that I will still be around for the fall harvest.

I am tired of change. I am tired of the unknown.

The past few days have been a flurry of job interviews (for the hubs), house hunts, schedule conflicts, and hard choices. When I close my eyes this evening, all I can see are flashes - like a speeding slide show - of the many decisions we are in the process of making.

I pray and remind the Lord of all the things I want. Space. And roots. And permanency. And peace. Close to friends. With room to breathe. Near my church. But out of the "city." Big enough to grow a family, but small enough that we don't grow apart.

And in that moment I am reminded: my desires are not always His desires. While I do believe that He gives us the desires of our hearts, I also know all too well that my heart can sometimes be wicked and selfish and hardened and small. So rather than worrying so much about what I want, I will seek Him with my whole heart. I'm in the market, with all its trappings. I can choose the cheap trinkets, or I can choose intimacy with Him.

Let tomorrow worry about itself. Tonight, for the last few minutes of my day, I choose intimacy. On earth, as it is in Heaven.

"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." - C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Little Ones I Love

Chloe Jane - My firstborn. She is a beautiful example of a lion and a lamb. She is gentle and tenderhearted. She cries at movies and when she witnesses the pain of others. To truly "discipline" her rarely includes anything other than talking with her about how her actions make the other person feel. She loves to snuggle and melts into my arms when I hug her. She's quiet and creative and loves having time to herself (much like her mama in that characteristic). A lover of books and art and soulful music. Then, out of nowhere, she flashes a bold streak. Like a lioness, she is focused and determined and not afraid to roar. She's stubborn to a fault, but it often plays in her favor. She makes up her mind she is going to try something new - and succeed at it - and she does. No one can convince her of her ability before she's ready, but once she has it in her mind, there is no stopping her. The kid's got guts. Her laughter is one of my most favorite sounds in the world. She is beautiful and fearless, all wrapped up in gentle and tender. She is captivating.

Maple Anne - My little firecracker. In our home, she is audacious and uninhibited. She sings at the top of her voice, speaks with gusto, and flies around the house, half-naked, in an unbridled flurry. She plays hard and works hard and loves hard. It's rare to coax a snuggle out of her. But when she gets in her mind to hug me, I can expect two little arms squeezing so hard that they are shaking, and a long, wiggly kiss on the cheek that usually ends with a raspberry. She takes everything in stride - the good with the bad - and has resilience out the wazoo. While she is gutsy and bold at home, she is reserved and observant in the "world." She enters into new territory curious, yet cautious. She watches - with sparkling eyes - all the dynamics of the space and people, and usually hides in a coloring sheet or quiet game until she finds her footing. Like a fairy or nymph, it's rare to catch her "true form" outside of her natural habitat, but when you do, she is mesmerizing.

Penelope June - My sweet little bundle of contradictions.  She lights up if I look in her general direction, and when we jiggle her belly, she curls up into a little ball and squeals with laughter.  Her sisters are her favorite toys. Her father is her calm place (believe it or not). And the dog is her greatest source of entertainment. She loves faces and people and raspberries and baby talk and tickles and snuggles - until she doesn't. Then she's done. And when she hits that point, her only comfort is a cool, quiet room with little or no stimulation. If she is ever fussy beyond consolation, she simply wants to be left alone. And in that quiet space, she once again finds her center, and makes her way back to that happy, giggly baby. A sweet little bundle of vigor and life. She is my sunshine.

And those are the little people who have taken over my world and turned me inside out. I love them, in all their similarities and individuality. They are my adventure. 

"You are my I love you"
 - by Maryann K Cusimano

I am your parent you are my child
I am your quiet place, you are my wild
I am your calm face, you are my giggle
I am your wait, you are my wiggle
I am your audience, you are my clown
I am your London Bridge, you are my falling down
I am your Carrot Sticks, you are my licorice
I am your dandelion, you are my first wish
I am your water wings, you are my deep
I am your open arms, you are my running leap
I am your way home, you are my new path
I am your dry towel, you are my wet bath
I am your dinner you are my chocolate cake
I am your bedtime, you are my wide awake
I am your finish line, you are my race
I am your praying hands, you are my saving grace
I am your favourite book, you are my new lines
I am your nightlight, you are my sunshine
I am your lullaby, you are my peek-a-boo
I am your kiss goodnight, you are my I love you

Monday, January 13, 2014

10 Things About January 2014

So last night I totally outlined a nice, well planned, thoughtful post.

Then tonight the baby decided she didn't want to go to sleep until 9:45pm. So here it is, almost 10pm, and that outline is going to remain an outline, and in my notebook, for the time being.

So due to the time constraints, and the lack of creativity not swirling around in my head, I present the list format:

1. I have lost 10 pounds since this thing started. My goal was to lose 23 pounds by my birthday in March, and I am almost at the half-way mark. What WHAT?!

2. I am consistently doing 2 out of my 3 things every day. Still can't drag myself out of bed early enough to squeeze it all in, but I'm loving the results of what I have been able to do.

3. Did you know there is a "right" way to walk? I mean. It's walking. I've been doing it for, like, almost 30 years. You'd think I'd have it down by now. I knew from my not-so-recent visit to a "professional" runner's store that I put more pressure on the outside of my feet when I walk. But what I just learned (thanks to my awesome friend Kelly) is that the way I walk can be corrected. Who knew? So here's the deal. I walked some hilly territory yesterday, while pushing a stroller - all the while, focusing on walking "the right way." I fully expected to have shin splints this morning, as is usually the case after a walk like that. But when I rolled out of bed, lo and behold, I had sore calves (something I can't ever remember having, ever) and no shin splints. AND I had my best time ever. Even with the hills. Even with the stroller. So now I'm sold. I am totally researching and watching YouTube videos on the "right" way to run and walk. Who knew, right?

4. Babies are fun. This 4-6 month range is definitely one of my favorites. Sleeping all night. On a fairly regular schedule. Old enough to have personality, young enough to lack an opinion... or mobility. Right now it's bubbles, and raspberries, and coo's, and squeals, and giggles. There's nothing in the world like a baby's belly laugh, and I'm getting them in every chance I get.

5. There are 2 months and 3 days left in my 20's. This was the topic of the blog post I outlined. So that's all I have to say about that tonight.

6. Has anyone seen kid snippets on YouTube? My kids are addicted, and I have been using the videos as rewards for getting schoolwork done in the day. Hi-larious.

7. Homeschooling has suddenly become easy. I don't know how long it will last, but I'm enjoying it while I can. Chloe is excelling in her reading, and she's not hating Math. That, my friends, is a small miracle. Can I get an amen? But more than that, she is becoming confident in her abilities, bold in her beliefs, and comfortable in her own skin. If she learns nothing else this school year, I will consider homeschooling a success.

8. Having said that, it looks like Maple will be heading to Kindergarten next year. She is definitely the social butterfly in our family, and she keeps asking when she gets to go to school. Nothing will be decided until we know what school system we're in next year. (Oh yeah, we're moving. We literally know NOTHING else right now, as we're waiting on several factors before we can even begin to talk details. But that's another post for another time.) Suffice it to say, we think she's ready for school, and we think she will thrive. She agrees, and that's something right there.

9. Brandon's dad gave us a Wii over the Christmas break. It has made every single night "family night" at the Thixton house. Our former bedtime traditions have been scrapped and replaced by a rousing game of Mario Party. It has been one of the best things we've ever done. Snuggled on the couch, sipping hot cocoa, laughing till we can't breathe, wielding our controllers, and threatening the lives of anyone who dares to take our bananas. We kind of rock.

10. Life is sometimes really difficult. So when there come those rare and beautiful seasons where everything is a little bit easier, I want to remember them. I write them down - not because I only want to present "the good stuff" to the world - rather, so that when the days are once again hard, I can look back and remember that the night does not last forever, and joy comes in the morning. This is a joyful season.

Good night, y'all. Hustle on.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

And we're back to this...

A couple days ago, Jon challenged us to cut our goals in half for the month. Ah, like music to my ears.

I was honestly running out of blog topics, and this has given me an opportunity to regroup and really look at what I'm trying to do, and what's keeping me from doing those things.

Right on cue, Jon sent us yesterday's challenge: Figure out your triggers. What will knock you off track? What keeps you from accomplishing your goals?

And then today's challenge: Make a plan for how to deal with those triggers.

So here it goes:

When it comes to my life in general, anything outside of a "normal" schedule gets me off track. This week, I watched a baby in my home for three days. She was sweet, and easy, and absolutely adorable. But the day after she left, I crashed. I did absolutely nothing that I absolutely didn't have to do. Absolutely.

So then when I woke up on Friday morning, my house was a wreck, I was a day behind on, well, life. I was able to get a lot done on Friday, but this Saturday morning, we're still feeling the effects of my "day off" in the middle of the week. (Ok, seriously, I'm going to do those dishes today. No, really.)

But the thing is this: I never, ever, ever - like, ever - have a week with a "normal" schedule. There's always something. Fun things. Like hanging with friends, going to the park with kids, taking a last-minute trip to the zoo. And not so fun things. Like doctor's appointments or car repairs.

So I can't blame, ya know, life for getting in the way of, ya know. life.

And I certainly can't use it as an excuse for just taking a day off in the middle of the week.

The more I have thought about this "trigger," the more I think the answer is found in the Word, and in something I have written about before.


Sigh. Months later, and I still haven't figured out how to do that. But I think if I had a guaranteed Sabbath each week, I could use that when temptation comes a-calling. I could say, "I have a Sabbath in 'x' number of days. I can make it until then!"

What I also know is this: Sabbath rest is so much better than "day off" rest. I don't know why. I just know that when I declare a day of the week my "Sabbath" and stick to it, I feel rested and at peace. When I randomly decide to take a day "off," I end the day feeling like a failure and making lists of all the things that could have been done during that "wasted" day. I often feel more drained at the end of those days than when I started.

So this morning I am resolved. I'm going to get my house in shape. I'm going to make a big pot of chilli for tomorrow's lunch. I'm going to do whatever I need to do today, so that tomorrow I can take a Sabbath. A real Sabbath. A holy day. Set apart.

I'm sure there are other triggers (I'm looking at you, facebook!), but those will have to wait for another time, another day. Because today has already been claimed.

Love you all! Keep on hustling! 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Today, Tonight, and Tomorrow

Today I...

... Overslept.
... Didn't wash my dishes or my laundry.
... Didn't make my bed.
... Fed my kids spaghetti-O's, from a can, unheated.
... Spent 65% of my time on the couch, with a heating pad, hoarding a Dove dark chocolate bar.
... Didn't exercise.
... Am only blogging because my husband turned off the TV and forced me to open the computer.

Tonight I...
... Am making a list of all the things I did right today.
.... .... like getting in a complete day of homeschool, even if it was from the couch.
.... .... like loving on someone else's baby, in my home, in addition to my own babies.
.... .... like drinking lots of water.
.... .... like making it through the day without going postal on any member of my family.
... Am grateful that I'm allowed to stay home, with a heating pad, and chocolate, and my kids.
... Am going to spend time with Jesus. 
... Am laying my head on the pillow, with no regrets. Honest.

Tomorrow I...
... Get a fresh start.
... Receive new mercies.
... Start my 2014 Vision Board.
... Reconnect with the energetic, non-hormonal, normal "me." 
... Love my family.
... Love my Jesus.
... Love myself. 
... Hustle on.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hope in the Hustle

I rolled out of bed at 6:07am. We're seeing some improvement, people. Yes, we are.

However, it is now 10:20pm, and I'm just now getting to the blogging part of the day. Oh well.

Today God has been reminding me to hope, even in the hustle, even in famine, even in the hunkering down.

I'm going to write some verses here. Bear with me.

From Genesis 12:

(1) God told Abram, "Leave your country, your family, and your father's home for a land I will show you." 
(4) So Abram left just as God said. 

[Abram arrives at the Promised Land]
(7) God appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your children.” Abram built an altar at the place God had appeared to him.
(10) Then a famine came to the land. Abram went down to Egypt to live; it was a hard famine. 


God told Abram to go. And Abram, in his amazing faith, picked up his wife and home and followed a new God to an unknown land. No questions. No doubt. No complaining. 

And when he got there? Famine. And not just any famine, a "hard famine." 

Can I just say, my heart twists up inside itself when I read that verse. Because I have been there. I have looked at life and said, "God called me here. And now there's famine in the land."

It's backwards. It doesn't make sense. 

But then we keep reading. (I'll sum up the next part.) 

Abram and his wife Sarai go to Egypt. Abram is scared he'll be killed because his wife is so beautiful. So he lies and says she's his sister. Pharaoh takes wife. Pharaoh is cursed.  Pharaoh learns the truth and is all, "What the heck, Abe? Why'd you lie like that? Take your wife and your junk and get outta town, yo!" 

Then Pharaoh gives them a booty-load of riches and sends them on their way. Back to the land God promised. 

Now this next part is pure speculation on my part, but as I read this passage, Abram's choices make sense to me. At least, I can understand where he might be coming from. 

He faithfully followed God into a land wrought with famine. If this God wouldn't protect him from that, who's to say he would protect him from a jealous, lusty Pharaoh? So Abram took matters into his own hands (a pattern we see over and over in his life, by the way). 

I get that. I understand self-preservation when God is clearly not following through on His promises. I have been there.  

But here's the thing. The famine drove them to Egypt, which lead them to Pharaoh, who gave them a gazillion dollars just to leave his country - to return to the Promised Land. (Ok, so I'm not sure it was exactly a gazillion, and I'm pretty sure they didn't have dollars. But you get my point.)

I guess what I'm saying is this, to you, to myself: don't lose hope in the famine. Don't lose hope when your faith falters. Don't lose hope when you take things into your own hands and royally screw everything up. Don't lose hope when you're afraid. Don't lose hope when God isn't fulfilling His promises. 

Because our God uses the famine. He uses the screw ups. He uses the fear. And He. Keeps. His. Promises. Above and beyond what we can imagine.

So tonight I'm going to bed, later than I should and with a list of unfinished tasks awaiting me in the morning. Regardless, I'm ending the day with this thought: I have hope for tomorrow. Hope for my future. And hope to see God's promises fulfilled. 

Goodnight, y'all. Keep on hustlin'.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Day 6: The introvert's hustle

Well, my alarm went off at 5:30 this morning. I rolled out of bed at 6:58am. Oops.

This getting up early thing is going to be even harder than I thought.

So here it is 1:25pm, and I am blogging in between feeding babies, giving homeschool instructions, and entertaining an adorable toddler. Time with Jesus may have to wait until bedtime - not my favorite time of day to do anything except, you know, sleep. And exercise may be wishful thinking... unless there is some miraculous moment when all the babes are asleep at the same time, and the kiddos workout with me.


Today's assignment was to decide on the "where." I pretty much did that when I decided the "how" and "when." In my living room, beside my fireplace, early in the morning.

It sounds so easy, doesn't it? Hm.

Anyways... today is our first official day back at "school," and I am loving the idea of having a regular routine again. Literature, math, and science are done for the day. Moving on to spelling, grammar, and art in a few minutes. The house is quietly humming away. It's busy, but steady. Just how I like it.

If only everyday could be like this.

I absolutely love days when we all stay home, quietly doing our work, playing, snuggling, and completely ignoring the outside world. To be perfectly honest, I love weeks like that, not just days.

And while part of my 5% is definitely found in loving on my family and keeping peace in my home, there's another part of my 5% that means reaching outside these four walls and building relationships with people other than the ones who live under this roof.

The thing is this: I am an introvert to the core. I have a very limited supply of relational energy, and require a good bit of "alone" time to recharge. So for me, every moment I spend investing in "outside" relationships is a moment taken from the relationship I have with my "inside" people - the ones in my home. And vice versa.

My husband and I have spent a good bit of time over the years learning how to budget our money and resources. We stick to a budget until it no longer works for us (jobs change, needs change, hence, budgets change). We tweak and perfect, until we find what works for our goals, and we do it.

Only now am I beginning to see the need for an energy "budget." I gain/earn energy through alone time and mental "downtime." I spend energy by loving on people and interacting with, you know, the human race.

So my life is usually a pendulum - lots of time investing in relationships means minimum homeschooling and even less housework. OR. Lots of time doing homeschool stuff and keeping a tidy house means not going out with friends, talking on the phone, or - I cringe to admit this - not even responding to text messages.

So somewhere in this year, I want to figure out how to do it all with excellence, because it's all part of my 5%. I want to learn how to fully invest in relationships while still setting boundaries to protect my "recharge" time and my home.

I want to burn bright, without burning out.

I have a feeling a lot of the answer will come when I can finally roll out of bed and do my three things with excellence. Jesus time, exercise, and blogging are all things that give me more energy and clarity. More energy = a bigger budget, and I'm all for that.

In the meantime, I just ordered a book that was recommended to me by a fellow introvert-friend. I'll read it and fill y'all in on the deets. It's going to be good.

For now, I'm happy to stay in my little bubble most day and venture out only when necessary (especially when it's FURR-EEEE-ZZIING here in the South). I'll work on my 5% here, while learning how to manage my 5% out there. It's all good, and full of grace, with no condemnation. Just workin' out my salvation, y'all.

So hustle on, dear readers, hustle on.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Day 5: The wrench in my hustle

I'm starting to get why we were instructed to pick only one thing. Today ends with two of my three items completed - blogging and Jesus time.

How fitting that today Jon Acuff told us to focus on the "When" of our goals - on a large and small scale.

He specifically recommended that we circle the "problem" days we might anticipate for the month, and work out a plan for those days.

Clearly, I need this.

I know already that my "problem" days are days that my husband is home (weekends, holidays, etc.).

I guess I should clarify that my husband is not the problem. It's simply that when he's home, things relax a little. And that fact, I don't want to change.

I love that we all sleep a little later, and ease into our day, and cook a big breakfast, and spend time outside (if it's nice weather) or playing family games on the Wii (if it's bad weather). I love days that he is home, but I also recognize that those are usually the days that I miss my quiet time, spend little-to-no time on my blog, and only exercise if it's part of our family plan (like walking around Shelby Farms or the zoo.)

When I think about the changes I want to see happen in 2014, I recognize that - in the long run - I probably will not blog on days when he's off work. I probably will not spend an hour or more working out at the gym. But "Jesus time" is a must every day.

And I have committed to doing all three, everyday, for 30 days. It's a season of hustle and push and stretch, and so I am committed to figuring out how to do it.

Once again, I think the answer is going to be found in the mornings.

We take turns "sleeping in" on alternate Saturday mornings. So I think my plan is to treat my "get-up-with-the-kids" Saturday like any other day, and try to get up 1.5 hours before anyone else does. That way I can go ahead and knock out my three items before the day even gets good and started.

On my "I-get-to-sleep-in" Saturdays, when I normally get to sleep until 9am, I will go ahead and get up at 8am in order to at least spend some time with Jesus and get in 30 minutes of exercise (the blogging part can happen in the evening after the kiddos are in the bed). Sure, I'm giving up an extra hour of sleep, but 8am is still 2.5 hours more sleep than what I would normally get during the week.

I am determined to figure this out. I want it all. Consistency. Energy. Character. Quality.

I want the patience and joy and vision that comes from spending time with my Jesus.

I want the energy and clarity and sense of accomplishment that comes with exercising.

I want the discipline and creative flow that comes with writing every day.

And I want to have ALL of those things without neglecting my house, my children, my husband, or my relationships.

It's 9:39pm. Nine minutes past my self-imposed bedtime, and only 21 minutes until my self-imposed "lights out" time.

G'night all. 5:30am comes early. Let's hustle!

The Quote That Started It All...

I myself have twelve hats, each one representing a different personality. Why be just yourself? - Margaret Atwood