At this current stage in my life (young child, working full time), my ideal night (almost every single night) would be to put on stretchy yoga pants and stay at home. It is very rare that I want to make the effort to do anything at all.
I know this “having a young child” phase is just a phase, and let me tell you - it is real…full of exhaustion and added responsibility and added things to manage and more. However, I find myself using the “having a young child” situation as an excuse for many things.
Because I have a young child, I make excuses so that I do not have to:
• Have people over for dinner
• Actually pick up the phone when someone calls (or call them back)
• Make an effort to talk to our neighbors
• Do something thoughtful for a friend I know needs it
• Ask someone I don’t spend as much time with to do something
Yes, having a young child is overwhelming, and it demands all of me, all of the time. But, I allow it to also be a crutch I use to bypass many things that I feel the Lord calling me to do…it’s just so much easier to do nothing!
And let’s be honest, for lots of us (myself included), it’s not just during the “young child phase” - I made excuses before my son was even born when I was working long hours at a demanding job, or when I had a lot of “change” going on in my life due to moving, or when it was really cold and I just didn’t want to get out.
Being intentional is hard work. It requires forethought and planning. It requires you to do things even when you’re tired. It requires you to think about someone else besides yourself, even after long, hard days that demand so much of you.
But, I really don’t want to look back on this season in my life and see how devoid it was of love. Because, to me, being intentional is about showing love.
What are ways we can be intentional, or “glow” love locally to those around us, even in difficult seasons?
Here are some things I am planning to do this month:
• Send a card (in the mail!) to a friend
• Take half of a batch of cookies (I'm already making) to the older neighbor across the street
• Invite someone I don’t necessarily know as well to come over for coffee
• Text someone I haven’t talked to in a really long time just to let them know I am thinking about them
• PRAY for someone who pops in my head
• Invite someone to go out to eat with us (no house cleaning then!)
• Send a book I recently read to someone I think will really enjoy it
• Cook a meal for a new mom
I hope by giving myself a goal and writing things down that I will be more intentional this month….each of these should take me less than 5 minutes to complete (well, except the cooking ones, but I’ll already be cooking for our family, so pretty easy).
I am always surprised how doing one intentional thing stirs me to be more aware and eager to do another - once I start making the effort, I am more in tune to continue making the effort…which makes it all easier.
Do you struggle with being intentional during certain seasons of life? What are small ways you are more intentional?
I am in the middle of reading Manage Your Day-To-Day, a book I am really enjoying that shares some really interesting insight from multiple creative minds on using your time wisely to do your very best work.
Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project mentions in her chapter that she keeps a long list of “Secrets of Adulthood”, which are a list of lessons she has learned as she grown up. One of her best secrets is, “What I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while."
I love this, and can’t help but think about how it relates to our spiritual growth.
So many times I put off doing certain “God things” because the situation is just not right - my child woke too early, my child is being too loud, the dishes are overflowing, the dog hair covering my entire house is out of control. Until I can get the perfect situation, I can put off the task…and many times that includes prayer.
I love Rubin’s advice - doing something every day is what is important. A belief in this is partly why I organized the Praying for Husband journal like I did…giving you a verse to pray every day. Praying is important, and doing it every day matters so much more than doing it once in a while.
What things matter so much to you that you do them everyday?
It’s been a month of great books over here! So many I just flew through (because I enjoyed them so much), and so many that have me thinking long after reading them. Make sure to check out my Books page to see all book posts.
Favorite Books Read this Month:
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: I loved this book. Written by a lawyer in Alabama working with death row inmates across the country, he details story after story of individuals, not just mere prisoners. I saw the Gospel message in his view of mercy and my perspective greatly changed based on this book. Highly recommended.
A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner: I really loved this book. The author did a great job of weaving an amazing story of hope and resilience in the midst of two tragic events almost a century apart. This is definitely one of the best books I have read in a while.
The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken: I read this book based on a recommendation from Gretchen of Life Lived Beautifully, and boy, I was glad I snagged it. Detailing how Christians are persecuted across the world, it was amazing to learn how God is moving and working in people being beaten, put in prison, and killed for their faith. I learned so much I didn’t know.
Cinder & Scarlet by Marissa Meyer: Seeing Modern Mrs. Darcy mention this series multiple times, I decided to give it a go. The cover of Cinder just turned me off - not my general “style” of read, but I read both of these books in 3 days. Just fun reads that keep you guessing…will most definitely be reading Cress this month.
Because He Loves Me by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick: Another book recommended by an Instagram friend Kristin Schmucker, this book really honed in on the big problem of whether we leave Jesus out of our daily Christianity. Parts of her book hit home in big ways, as I often find myself pursuing a victorious Christian life instead of Jesus.
Bonhoeffer by Eric Metexas: I have had this book for a few years and haven’t picked it up due to its daunting size. It took me about 100 pages to get into to, but then I was hooked. I loved learning about how the church was affected during Hitler’s reign (something I knew nothing about). So glad I didn’t put this off any longer, even though this book is a beast!
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery: I so glad I picked this book up after many years. I hadn't read this book since middle school, and for the most part, did not remember much of the story. I loved Anne’s spunky attitude and constant positive attitude - she’s a character you just cheer for throughout the story.
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Earle Stegner: Another book I have wanted to read for a while and finally got around to reading. This story isn’t going to hook you with an amazing story line and lots of suspense; just a wonderful novel about friendship and how to changes over time. Well-written prose and great characters.
Other books read this month:
• Things a Little Bird Told Me by Biz Stone: really fun and funny read on how Twitter came about
• The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani: definitely not for me; too graphic in a way that was frustrating and not redeeming
• Veronica Mars by Rob Thomas: really fun and exciting mystery-type novel
• Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: did the audiobook on this one; story of tragedy and racial prejudice but I found it actually very hopefully by the end
• Return on Relationship by Kathryn Rose & Tim Rubin: quick easy read on the importance of relationships within social media
• Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala: really amazing and convicting read on praying (and expecting) big things from God
• Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson: great stories with good advice on putting God as central in different areas of your life.
What have you been reading this month?
When my husband comes home after work and asks me how my day was, I have noticed that my feelings towards my day often hinge on how closely the day lined up with my expectations. If I stayed on track while getting a lot done on my to-do list and knocking out a big project during my work time, then it was a good day. If my son didn’t nap and I got bogged down in responding to e-mails instead of working, then it wasn’t a good day. My feelings towards my day revolve around my productivity.
Recently when reading Because He Loves Me by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, a quote from her book just really jumped out at me:
“I know that none of us would just come right out and shout, ‘Stop meddling!’ at the Lord, but we frequently say it…my plan has become my god; I am an idolator. I worship my idea of a successful day, my right to decree how its every moment will go.” (128-29).
And oh, isn’t this so true? I do worship my plan for the day. I worship the to-do list I set in the morning. I worship my proficiency in accomplishing tasks on time. I worship my productivity in multi-tasking while playing with my child.
By the way I live my life each day, I am essentially telling the Lord to “stop meddling!"
I leave myself no room for the unexpected and no room for intentionality. But isn’t that what God calls us to throughout all of Scripture?
We’re called to be servants (not perfectionists). We are called to work faithfully for Him with all of our heart (not working for my to-do list). We are called to show hospitality and love others (not protecting my time to get my stuff done).
By running my life on proficiency, I am leaving no room for God to move.
I must allow margin in my schedule so that accomplishing tasks is not paramount to spending time with a friend who might need someone to listen. I must allow grace to abound when my son might need one-on-one attention for a huge part of a day that I feel justified in having “me time.” I must give room to decree this moment as God’s so that frustrations of going off schedule do not cause me to feel downright angry.
If we treasure the things of the kingdom, if our focus is on Christ in all we do, if we really focus on the goodness of God, our days can refocus on eternal glory, not productivity. We can see joy (because we see Jesus) even when things don’t go as planned.
Do you have a hard time centering your days (and your feelings toward your day) on productivity? How can you leave room for God today?
The richest fruit of God’s work in our hearts would be evidenced by increasing humility and dependence on Christ for everything, rather than in a ‘victorious Christian life.’ - Extravagant Grace
A victorious Christian life can sometimes be:
God calls us to:
Can we choose today to stop letting our “victorious Christian life” activities (while well meaning and good) keep us from Christ? Can we let the Gospel invade our life today, instead of our list of things to “get our Godly act together”? Can we see Christ, not our own merit?
This fall, when reading the book Overwhelmed, the author Bridget Schulte talks about adding play back in to your life. She interviews people from Mice at Play, an organization whose goal is to help grown women learn to play again. With playdates like a 1940’s dress up photoshoot, a beach volleyball party, and even trying out the trapeze, Mice at Play wants to instill play back into the lives of overly stressed-out women.
I think play is hard. As a 30+ year old working-from-home mom with a preschooler full of abundant energy, it can feel like the daily energy to keep up with a fast-moving day is about all I can muster. To think about doing something more, even if it is for fun, just exhausts me.
And, if I do take time for myself, it is usually “productive” play time - reading lots of books, running, getting coffee with a friend I haven’t seen in a while…all good things, but typically purposeful-play.
But I think this idea of play is so much more…and even something encouraged from God. I think it starts with allowing the reality of the gospel to actually intersect with my everyday.
So much of every day life can feel like mundane - the laundry, the to-do lists, the cooking of food, the disciplining a preschooler. But God calls us to joy, to rejoicing, to an attitude of thankfulness, to hearts overflowing.
If we can see these mundane things as joy, would it free us up to play?
In Hands Free Mama, the author Rachel Macy Stafford tells a story about how she was about to have guests over for dinner. Twenty minutes before the guests were to arrive, she hops on bikes with her kids and pedals around the neighborhood. Instead of finishing the last details for dinner, Stafford chooses to let the stress go, and instead see the joy in the moment…choosing rejoicing instead of fretting, choosing an overflowing heart instead of perfection.
Can we do this in our own lives? If I could see everything in my life, even the average and the mundane, as abundant gifts from God, an overflowing of grace in providing even the smallest of pleasures in my day-to-day, my perspective could change. I could let go of what seems so overbearing…the cooking, cleaning, working…and rejoice in the day I have, allowing myself freedom to play.
I can then see play as a way to reflect that I am embracing this day given by the Lord, seeing this hour as nothing but blessing. I can be free to play outside of the "guidelines of productivity" because I can find joy in the fact that I have nothing more to accomplish - all has been accomplished for me already. I can play with abandon because the Lord has been gracious to me in ways that mean I don’t have to check off my to-do list to find my worth.
If the gospel is able to infiltrate the reality of my mundane days, I have freedom to let go…and just play.
Today, I could go down the slide with my child at the playground because my worth comes from God, not how put together I need to look. I could sit on the deck tonight with my husband and try to count the stars, because my efficiency in cleaning the house is not what defines who I am. I could choose play today because I believe that all is grace, all is finished, all is through Christ.
Do you find time for regular play? What do you find hard about letting yourself play?
It’s been a while since I have done a Best Friend Friday around here…so time for another. I’ve had a few people ask me recently about resources or ideas when starting your own company or starting a blog, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite books focusing on that topic. So, if you were my best friend, and we were sharing a cup of tea on my dog-hair covered couch, I would want you to know about these great books:
• Let’s All Be Brave: A wonderful book by a wonderful author, Annie Downs does a great job touching on how fear really holds so many of us back from doing what the we are passionate about. I read her book this fall before officially starting Glowing Local, and it was extremely influential in pushing me to trust God!
• Start with Why: This book by Simon Sinek was inspirational in so many ways when I read it a year ago. As a Christian in business, I want the Why of everything I do to be about Jesus. This book helps give you a great frame of mind for putting your Why into perspective - why are you doing what you are doing?
• We are All Weird: Super short read from a favorite author Seth Godin, this book really narrows in on niche markets, and how you don’t have to be everything to everyone. As Godin says, there is a new “era of weirdness” these days, and in business, it can be great to embrace that.
• Make It Happen: Just finished this excellent book by Lara Casey, and I keep going back to it over and over. We can chase money, self-glorification, others' perceptions, acceptance…or we can chase Jesus. A great read for anyone thinking about what’s important in business and work.
What great business books do you recommend, especially in regards to starting something new?