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.

The Quote That Started It All...

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