Be Kind to Yourself

When I wrote this post for SheLoves, it was easy writing about the discomfort. That seems to be part of life, right? Leaning into the discomfort. Something didn’t feel complete about the piece. I worked on it, sent it to a friend, and finally sent it to my editor, thinking it was all about discomfort. And then I remembered the most important part: Be kind to yourself. I added in that imperative piece and it all came together. That seems to be the hardest part for me – remembering kindness to myself. I hope you’ll remember that today. Be kind to yourself.

Here’s an excerpt of the piece. I hope you’ll head over to SheLoves to join the conversation!

We stretched at the end of our weekly workout, faces on the mat, right hands extended, left arms stretched under our bodies, kind of in child’s pose. I’m sure there’s an official name for this stretch but I don’t know it. I do know it feels awkward and amazing, all at once. Just as the stretch feels more awkward than amazing, our instructor encourages us saying, “Lean into the discomfort while still being kind to yourself.”

Anyone who has taken any sort of yoga or workout class has probably heard something along those lines — lean into the discomfort. After an hour of movement, I often want to skip the stretching. I want to stop, change into clean clothes, move onto the next part of my day, and check off the box of healthy living. But that wouldn’t be kind to myself—mentally or physically.

But taking the time to stretch and lean into the discomfort is what allows me to healthfully go on with the rest of my day. It’s this kindness that keeps me from getting hurt and is why I keep coming back to class, week after week.

I’ve been thinking about this phrase in other areas of my life lately. How am I leaning into the discomfort of life as I stretch my thinking? How is that discomfort preparing me to take what I’m learning and go back into my daily routines?

I’m in a creatively quiet season right now. At first, when the words were hard to find, I welcomed the space, knowing that sometimes we need to stop and listen before we can produce. But months have gone by and that quiet is turning to discomfort. How long will this last? I’m starting to push against the discomfort, questioning my abilities and purpose. Head over to SheLoves to read the rest and join the conversation!

What are some ways you are remembering to be kind to yourself?


Engaging in Uncomfortable Topics

Sometimes the idea of befriending the checker at the grocery store or volunteering with refugees seems too daunting. It may be outside my comfort zone to strike up a 32075671conversation in the park or I may not have enough extra hours to volunteer somewhere. Does this mean learning about people who believe differently, who look differently, or who are in a different economic bracket is out of our ability?

This is what I love about reading. I may not be able to have coffee with every refugee or march in every demonstration but I can get to know people outside the news headlines and stereotypes through a well-written memoir or well-researched novel.

Earlier this year, I compiled a list of books to help see the “other,” but I thought I’d add a few to it today.

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
If you want to read more about immigration and refugees.
This powerful collection of short stories focuses on Vietnamese immigrants who have been displaced and affected by the Vietnam War. Honestly, this is a group of immigrants I don’t think about much. They aren’t in the news; the war ended before I was born, so it seems like history. However, it’s not ancient history. Our involvement in this war has shaped the way we view the military and our world responsibility today. These stories made me think about the lasting impact of our foreign policies and the displacement involved.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
If you want to read more about women’s rights, equality, and oppression.
This was a well… difficult book to read. Most of these fictional short stories included some sort of sexual abuse or violence. They were incredibly hard to read. The reason I always recommend Roxane Gay is because she does not tie up these stories with a neat, redemptive bow. She keeps them incredibly raw and real. After the recent #metoo stories that flooded social media, I think we could all do with a bit more discomfort and openness to hearing the stories of abuse survivors.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
If you want to read more about police engagement in predominantly black neighborhoods.
This book follows the story Starr, a high school girl after she witnesses her best friend shot in a “routine traffic stop.” It’s an incredibly timely book and, while it will make many people uncomfortable, I think that’s the point. Thomas does a good job of bringing the lasting reality of police bias and resulting misconduct to life. This is a young adult novel and, like most YA novels tie everything up with a tidy ending. I guess, at 15, I wanted that type of ending too, but I need to remind myself when I start to roll my eyes.

What are some novels that have helped you learn about uncomfortable topics?

BackyardThis post is Day 21 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

The Courage to Unlearn

Whenever I’ve flown across the ocean, there’s a moment when I’ve looked down and only seen water. It’s a different feeling, knowing that there is no land for miles and miles. IMG_5455I’ve never taken a long boat ride or a cruise, but I wonder what that feeling of losing sight of the land is like? Knowing that one is truly out to sea?

I am at my best when I am learning new things. When I remember that my life experience and outlook are limited and that I need to dig in and listen to more stories, I feel alive and active.

This week has been incredibly busy but incredibly filling. From discussions that are shifting my view of the narrative arc I’ve always had of the Bible to learning about next steps in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; from Voxing about books and travel and cultures to teaching English language learners the meaning of Small Talk, this week has been filled with a lot of conversations and perspectives that are giving me pause and creating a shift in my thinking.

I’m reminded of the Andre Gide quote,

One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore.

Andre Gide, The Counterfeiters

In so much of my thinking and perspective, I love taking small day-trip sails out into new waters but I usually keep the shoreline in sight. I find security in being tethered to what I already know and perceive.

What I’m learning is the importance of going out farther, deeper, without the safety of the shore. That takes courage and a good, knowledgeable guide but I’m feeling more and more ready to take what I’m learning to some new levels. When I do this, my outlook is kinder and more empathetic. It’s certainly uncomfortable, unlearning and relearning, but I think this path of discovery is worth that.

What’s something you’ve had to unlearn recently? How do you balance growth and discovery?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “discover.”

BackyardThis post is Day 20 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

The Practice of Kindness

When we moved into our neighborhood, there was an empty field next to our cul-de-sac. I suppose it was only a matter of time before our neighborhood started growing, just like everywhere else in the city and suburbs. Now, part of our daily routine is to walk over to look at the tractors.

IMG_6768At least two or three times a day, Elle likes to check on the progress. The workers have become enamored with her and have even offered to let her drive the tractor, whenever she’s ready. (The verdict so far is that it’s too scary!!)

We wave, say hi, and make friends. It’s a small act, but every day a smile seems to make a difference and the men love asking her questions and telling me about their own kids. They invite us to look at their progress and tell us where to stand for the best view of the giant machines at work.

Yesterday, we were walking home from school and the girls got into an argument over an umbrella. Elle threw herself on the ground and Bea sulked off toward home. I kept an eye on Bea and was finally getting Elle situated when Bea rounded the corner. By the time we got home, I couldn’t find Bea anywhere.

She wasn’t in the house. I called out back. I ran around our cul-de-sac. I asked the workers if they had seen her. They immediately stopped what they were doing, hopped in their trucks, turned the flashing lights on, and patrolled the neighborhood.

As it turned out, Bea was sitting in the side yard, “taking a quiet moment.” I ran back to the construction site to let everyone know that Bea was found.

This had me reflecting on the practice of kindness. My first inclination isn’t to make friends with random workers nearby. But, they’ve been our neighbors, in a sense, for the better part of a year and will be around much longer. I love that Elle came to look at tractors but created a friendship in the meantime.

It’s made me think about natural relationships that I may be overlooking. Who are the moms I see frequently at the park? What about taking time to get to know the checker at the grocery store who opens his aisle specifically for us? (Elle has a way with strangers!) How am I showing kindness, loving my neighbor, getting to know them a bit more?

I just finished taking a class about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. I have a lot of thoughts swirling around but one takeaway was remembering the practice of kindness. It’s hard to vilify someone you actually know. It’s hard to demonize people you share dinner with or talk with about your kids. When we intentionally practice kindness, even to those who seem to be an enemy, how does our perspective shift?

I’m a fan of the underdog and tend to side with them first and foremost. But I’m learning to stop, to listen, and to remember to show kindness, even when it seems too difficult.

I suppose kindness is like most things in life. It seems to come easily and naturally to my kids, who rarely see strangers for long. It becomes more and more difficult, the older and “wiser” I get. It takes practice to reintroduce this requirement.

Perhaps showing kindness to an enemy is just too much right now. But showing kindness to the construction workers down the street might be a good place to start.

Where can you practice kindness? Is there a tangible place you can stretch yourself a bit?

BackyardThis post is Day 19 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

Kindness Takes Courage

The way to Elle’s heart is sharing. When Bea gave her a cinnamon cracker, leftover from her school snack, Elle beamed the entire walk home, showing me the cracker and exclaiming, Bea shared with ME!

IMG_7052I don’t know when I started changing my language, but when the girls do things for each other, I use the word kind instead of nice. So when Elle showed me her cracker, I responded, That was so kind of Bea!

When I think about our family’s values, kindness goes much farther than niceness. Sure, I want my kids to be nice but I would rather that they are fiercely kind. One one level, these words seem interchangeable so I decided to look them up.

It’s no wonder I prefer kind over nice. The origin of nice comes from the Latin word nescire or “ignorant,” which evolved to the Old French word nescius or “foolish.” It wasn’t until the 1700’s that nice became synonymous with pleasant. (Merriam-Webster dictionary)

The word kind has a much different story, originating from the Old English word cynd which has evolved to kin, or family. (Merriam-Webster dictionary) If you Google kind, one of the definitions that comes up is “each of the elements (bread and wine) of the Eucharist.”

No wonder kind has so much more depth and substance! To be kind is to treat someone like family, to love them as kin.

I know that the ancient Hebrew text wouldn’t have used the word kind. In fact, the New International Version of the verse translates it as, “to love mercy.” The Message paraphrase reads, “be compassionate and loyal in your love.”

I suppose it’s a reminder that words and translations matter and that how we read a text depends on the lens in which we view it. However, I think I’m going to stick with “love kindness.” Kindness feels accessible to my everyday life. This doesn’t mean it’s easy or natural; but it’s a word I use naturally and one I can understand easily.

To me, kindness means sharing. Not just sharing our cinnamon snack cookies, but sharing life together. Sharing a meal, sharing in silence, sharing in heartache and joy. When I scroll through my Twitter and Facebook feeds and read countless women (and men) saying, #metoo, I sit in kindness, sharing their grief. When I read the news of natural disasters both here and abroad, I sit in kindness and sorrow for nations who don’t have the infrastructure to rebuild or assist quickly.

Sitting in kindness isn’t passive; it’s not sweet or gentle. Kindness takes courage to not shift into the more tepid niceness. Kindness might look obstinant or threatening to the status quo. Kindness might push back against oppression. But I don’t think kindness is aggressive or mean. Kindness is remembering the humanity in all sides of an issue or disagreement.

I’m learning that kindness looks like listening to both sides, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion or that I don’t stand with the oppressed. I beleive this fierce kindness can change the world, activiely bringing restoration.

How do you interact with words and translations? (Which Bible translation is your favorite?) How do you see active kindness in your community?

BackyardThis post is Day 18 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

Kindness Looks Different Every Day

I just finished writing my post about being kind to yourself when I completely flipped out on the family of disgusting pigs I live with. I have a fairly long fuse when it comes to building-blocks-1563961_960_720clutter and everyday filth. I quickly learned that nap time is my time and I rarely clean or do chores. The playroom is a constant source of stress but not enough for me to actually do something about it. I have an idealistic hope with realistic expectations of what living with young kids is like.

But when the end of my fuse is reached, there is absolutely nothing that seems right. Every speck of dust makes me think that we are wallowing in the depths of unhygienic dispair.

After skipping church for a much-needed pajama morning, we were herding everyone toward the car for some playground and pumpkin picking family time. I looked at our toy-strewn dining room table with crusted leftover sauce from dinner a few nights ago and the idea of leaving this house became too much.

Frank suggested I stay home and write. His go-to solution for these moods is that I need quiet time to read or write. And he’s mostly correct. After he drove the girls off, I recognized that I couldn’t write when I knew what was looming upstairs. So, I did a quick tidy, vacuumed, and wiped down the table. Our bathroom and kitchen counters still need to be cleaned. There are toys on the floor that I vacuumed around. Yet, it was just enough for me to be in a better space mentally.

I think it was Elizabeth Gilbert who said something along the lines that if you want to pursue creativity, you have to give something up. Meaning, there is not enough time in the day to write and clean and make beautiful fall memories and take a nap and exercise and…. We have to choose. We have to prioritize. We can’t have it all. (Does anyone know this quote? I googled all sorts of ideas but couldn’t find it.)

I need to remember this in my own path toward kindness. Sometimes (most times) being with my family wins above writing or cleaning or whatever else is on my to-do list. But sometimes, I have to skip the pumpkin patch so that I can vacuum and write and be quiet.

The vacuuming took less than ten minutes. Could I have done it another time? Sure. But, it was getting in the way of my outlook–toward myself, toward my kids, and toward my mental wellbeing.

I’m learning that there’s no prescriptive formula for self-kindness. What I need one day will be different from what I need another day. I need to remember this as I pursue loving kindness toward my neighbors. What they need one day won’t be the same isn’t what they might need on a different day.

As we learn to love kindness, I think this is important to remember. We are complex beings who need all sorts of different things. When we remember this and learn to shift with our ideas of kindness, perhaps we’ll understand each other a bit more.

How do you enter into a creative space? Do you have to have a clean workspace or are you ok with a bit of clutter? 

BackyardThis post is Day 17 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

Be Kind to Yourself

Love kindness. The second part of Micah’s famous statement tells us to love kindness. Not dandelion-463928_960_720simply to be kind or to show someone kindness, but to love it. I’m guessing that Micah meant love in the deepest, truest sense of the word. Not just I love autumn! but deep, spiritual, unshakable love.

Yesterday, I posted the song Be Kind to Yourself from Alright Alright. China wrote this song to her children, but I loved the lyrics for myself. The first verse says,

Be kind to yourself, ’cause who’s gonna stand up to you when you’re mean to yourself in your head?

Be good to each other, you are the gail for the sails.

Be noble for you are made of stardust

Shine on little heart shaped stars!

BE KIND by China Curtiss Kent, (c) 2015

I think it’s interesting that, as Micah relays God’s requirements he says to do justice and then love kindness. Those two don’t often seem to go together. Justice can be so stern, so unforgiving. Justice reminds me of courts, of activism, of loud voices.

Kindness makes me think of my girls, of friendship, of walks and coffee and relational things. I wonder if this is why God put those two together? Without kindness, justice is harsh, loud, abrasive. Coupled with kindness, justice is seeing through the lens of empathy and storytelling.

Kindness starts in our own heads and hearts. As China sings, who’s gonna stand up to you when you’re mean to yourself in your head?

When we are kind to ourselves, being kind to others comes more naturally. When we seek justice in our own lives, seeking justice globally comes more naturally.

As I learn more about this world and the injustices in it, I can feel overwhelmed. I need to remember to start small, and sometimes that means starting with myself. Kindness can be hard. It takes a certain bravery and vulnerability to recognize the need for kindness in our own lives.

I do know that when I am kind to myself, in my successes and failures, I am kinder to my little family. And they, in turn, are kinder in their interactions. It’s totally the ripple effect and yet, I can so easily forget it.

Today, I hope that you are able to stop and recognize areas in your own life that need a bit of extra kindness. However that looks, I hope that you are able to take a moment and fulfill that need to be kind to yourself.

How do you practice self-kindness? When do you know that you need to stop and recognize that important piece of care?

BackyardThis post is Day 16 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

A Blessing for Kindness

On Sundays, I thought I’d highlight a blessing to start our week. This week’s theme is kindness and this song from Alright Alright immediately came to mind. China sang it at our first MOPS meeting this year and I fell in love with the message she sings.


BE KIND – by China Curtiss Kent
Be kind to yourself ‘cause who’s gonna stand up to you when you’re mean to yourself in your head?
Be good to each other, you are the gale for the sails.
Be noble for you are made of stardust
Shine on little heart shaped stars!
Be humble for you are made of earth, and we walk in the garden you’re becoming
Be careful with your words they are diamonds
Love your foes even when they ambush your heart
Take care of the poor, share what you have
Be kind.
Your face, your face is a big bowl of sunshine
Your smile, your smile could stop every war
My heart my heart is yours for a lifetime
Be kind to yourself ‘cause who’s gonna stand up to you when you’re mean to yourself in your head?


BackyardThis post is Day 15 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.