You’re Doing It Right

For the first time in my life, I’ve started attending a weekly workout class. My friend, Erin was recently certified as a Revelation Wellness instructor and leads classes that focus on moving our bodies in joy. Of course, they’re really much more structured than that, with kickboxing, dancing, yoga, and strength exercises. I come away each week sore and stronger and I love how I feel.

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Photo by Jacob Postuma on Unsplash

One of the things she tells us throughout the class is, You’re doing it right. The whole point is to move our bodies. So this could mean pushing our limits, doing that extra pushup or five. Or it could mean walking in place with a smile because I’m still moving and celebrating this body God gave me.

Over and over during this hour I hear, you’re doing it right.

I need this so much. You’re doing it right.

There are times during our workout that I know I’m definitely not doing it right. My movements don’t mirror Erin’s or I just can’t find the beat. But I keep moving and smiling and remembering to be thankful for a body that moves, no matter how well or coordinated.

This last month hasn’t gone as expected. I joined the Write 31 Days challenge, as I have the past few years with a topic I thought I could write about easily: Reading. It turned out to be a lot harder than anticipated. Instead of sparking my creativity it felt too didactic; too much like recommendations than storytelling.

In the midst of this, we had an intense week, with an unexpected visit to the ICU for a few days to a drunk driver running into our backyard in the middle of the night. Life seemed to stop and writing was pushed aside for coordinating babysitting and meals and picking a book that would be a good hospital read. When the dust settled, I realized I had no desire to continue the challenge.

I’ve been working my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s all about unblocking our creative natures – whether we’re artists, writers, lawyers, or anything between. Cameron believes we are all created in the image of a creative God and therefore we need to tap that creativity.

IMG_0817As I’ve made daily Morning Pages part of my routine and dug into my own creative nature, I’ve realized that I’m at a place in which I want to write less but write better. At one point in my journey, the frequency and discipline of publishing my writing everyday ignited my ideas. And that practice will most likely be beneficial again in the future.

But in this moment, I realized I need to dig a little deeper. I’m really good at reading about the things I need to do and not as good about actually doing them. I’ve read quite a number of books about justice and activism but am content sitting with that knowledge in the comfort of my cozy library chair. What am I doing to put this to practice?

Sometimes our craft is born out of the daily tasks of doing the work. And sometimes it’s born out of setting it aside and experiencing the life we are meant to live. Ideally, it would be a both-and situation.

This isn’t about not finishing a challenge or about the daily discipline of creativity. It’s about remembering that I’m doing it right. However it looks in this season, I’m doing it right.

Some days, we have very limited screen time and pack in the imaginative play, snuggled reading, and sweet family interactions. And some days, I let the girls watch an extra show so I can finish a chapter or I let Bea do her reading on the school’s leveled reading app rather than sitting by her side. I’m doing it right.

Some days, I’m invigorated and ready to practice writing or hand-lettering or any number of creative pursuits. Other days, I’m wrapped up in books and finish several in a week. And still other times, I’m content to connect with others via social media, letting my mind wander over the staged and beautiful highlight reels. I’m doing it right.

I’ve written about my high hopes for this season. For projects to be completed and languages to be learned. Some of my hopes have come to fruition – like working out regularly. Others haven’t begun – like downloading my old Rosetta Stone CDs to start learning French again. I’m remembering that this is a process and change takes time. I’m remembering that I need to take baby steps and that we have many more months to figure this all out. I’m remembering that, even when it feels like I’m incredibly unproductive, I’m doing it right.

I suppose this is the biggest life-lesson I’ve learned in this new stage: I can quit if something isn’t working. I can rearrange my time so that I am filled. As long as I’m moving my body in joy, I’m doing it right.

How are you doing your life “right”? How does this look different from how you anticipated it to look? 

Books Referenced in this Post:

51fTJcNvzHL._SX408_BO1,204,203,200_Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

A Literary Life

If you’ve been around here any length of time, you know I’m an avid reader. Books, learning, and expanding my perspective are among the numerous reasons I value and carve out time for good books. Plus, there’s nothing like getting lost in an incredible story, is there?

A (1)I debated participating in the Write 31 Days challenge this year. I’ve written far too much about our transition (or lack thereof!) this fall. I wondered if I needed to just lean into letting ideas settle and grow. But I also thought about discipline and work. Ideas need to grow, yes. But I also need to practice the craft of writing and the accountability of this 31-day challenge often kick-starts a slump.

I thought about our rhythms and family culture and decide to tweak the challenge a bit this year. Recently, I’ve been shutting off apps and really limiting my time on the internet. I wondered how I could balance writing and interacting every day while also keeping these boundaries so I decided that, instead of writing every single day for the month of October, I’ll write every weekday. I suppose I should really call this Write 23 Days instead.

As I was reflecting about letting ideas settle and seeds dig into the soil, I realized I can do that and continue to write. So I’m keeping it lighter this year. I thought about all the books that have shaped me from childhood through adolescence, from my twenties into motherhood. I mapped out the books that shifted my worldview.

Some of these books are the actual book that sparked a change in thinking; other books represent a genre or series that impacted my perspective.

I hope this inspires you to map out your own literary journey and maybe you’ll add some new books to your to-read shelf.

And, if you’re a writer and interested in joining the challenge, link up over here! You have until October 5th to join the community.

Almost-Summer is For New Goals

In January, a friend invited me to her home for a writers gathering. Five of us were all linked through our writing and our friend. I had just finished reading one woman’s book; another woman and I connected over facilitating online book clubs; another has kids about the same age as mine. We drank coffee, ate muffins, and talked about our writing goals for the year.

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Then we got to work. My friend had set up nooks around her home to give space to spread out, dream, plan, and work on whatever we needed to for a few hours of quiet. I opened my blogging calendar and mapped out some rough themes and ideas. One of my hopes this year was to write more, so I decided to try writing three times per week. I had tried this goal in the past to varying degrees of success, always amazed at those who blog daily and wondered if that would ever be me.

Now, as May comes to a close, I’ve been thinking about that goal to write more. I have blogged more and enjoyed the process but I realized that writing more and blogging more are two very different things. My creativity and energy went into blogging so any other ideas and projects were pushed to the margins.

I know that no one sets their calendars to the rhythm of my blog posts. A friend of mine actually noted when I was writing more and gave some good advice about finding space and time and voice.

I talked with my friend on a Friday morning a few weeks ago and starting thinking about when I could re-implement my goals. What perfect day would be good for writing more and blogging less? And then I realized that I could start whenever I felt like it. That, while goals create a good foundation, when they become limiting the point is lost.

IMG_8854So, last week I stepped back. I blogged when I had an idea and published when I wrote it, rather than scheduling it. I spent a day on the floor with Elle, rather than trying to play with her and squeeze in moments of writing. As we sat, chatting and building, she looked at me and said, I love playing with you, mama!

My goal is still to write more, but I’m thinking about how I can use my writing time more wisely. What needs to be public and what I can I work on long-term? How can I keep blogging – a medium I love – while saving my creativity for more in depth projects?

This shift in thinking has me considering other goals I’ve made that need readjusting. One of my favorite things about the start of summer is that it’s a time to reevaluate how those January resolutions are going. We’re not quite halfway through the year so tweaking and changing feels completely possible.

As I think about my One Word for the year, I’m remembering to lean into the shift of seasons. As tax season ramped up, my goal of working out before school fell to the wayside. Now that our schedule is shifting, how can I reintroduce that habit? Frank and I are doing a reset to our eating habits as winter fades and the healthier foods of summer come into season. And writing will look different, with both girls at home and life moving outside.

After that chat with my friend, I realized that, for as much as I love goals and outlines, I also love reevaluating them. When I take the time to recognize if my ideas are working or not, tweaking goals gives me as much peace as setting them in the first place.

Do you take time to reset your goals? How do you balance real life with your ideals?

The Compost HeapMy monthly newsletter, The Compost Heap is going out on Thursday! Are you signed up? It’s like an old-school blog, filled with all the things we’re up to, books I’m reading, blogs I’m recommending, and thoughts on daily life.

Trust God And Do the Work

I was part of an interesting discussion on platform building in one of my Facebook writing groups. This particular group is populated by Christian bloggers so the discussion was mostly around promoting one’s work without promoting oneself. Many people said that they don’t promote but trust that God will put their words before the people who need to see them.

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Maybe it’s because, after four and a half years of blogging, I’ve recently decided to make more of a platform-y effort. For a variety of reasons, I want to start moving this from a pure hobby to the potential for something more. So, I’ve created things and followed steps and started plotting more intentional ways to engage with online communities.

About a month after I first started blogging, all the established and serious bloggers declared that blogging was dead and they were done. Similarly, about a month after I decided to start being more intentional about creating a platform, an established blogger-turned-author-and-podcaster declared that platform building is dead and that we just need to enjoy the work. I suppose if I had several popular books under my belt and a loyal and engaged following, I’d feel similarly.

Two things have come to mind from these recent experiences.

First, we are all on our own journies. I need to remember this in so many areas of my life. So, to the established and successful author, I say Yes! Stop building your platform! Sit back and enjoy the years of hard work! And to the new blogger, just getting the courage to take words from journal to a public space, I say Yes! Enjoy the process and don’t overthink it! (In fact, read this piece by Richard Beck on the anti-platform. I love his unique perspective because he never played the game.)

Second, trust God but do the work. As someone with perfectionistic tendencies, I like to practice. I didn’t mind blogging quietly for years before starting to get serious. But once I decided to get more serious, I appreciate people helping me understand what actual next steps are. And so now I’m taking methodical steps to do this next phase right. (Or as right as anything can be.) I love learning from those who know what they’re doing, especially in areas I don’t know anything about. I love having a plan and trying new things. I don’t think it means I’m any less trusting, but I’m learning that trust and hard work are not mutually exclusive.

In MOPS last week, we focused on Hebrews 12:1-3. The verses are about running the race set before us and keeping our eyes on Jesus. The part that hit home for me are verses 1b-2a,

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

I know that I’m taking this out of context – that it’s about a faith community and the idea of living out our faith. But I needed to hear this in my own writing journey, too. To remember that this race is marked out for me. That I don’t need to compare myself to the race others are running. I’m trusting that those markers make sense for my journey.

I’m thankful for the writers who have gone ahead – who have created platforms and systems that I can learn from. And I’m thankful for writers who are alongside me and who remind me that we’re all doing this a bit differently, and that’s what’s so beautiful about creative endeavors in the first place.

I feel like this is a conversation that goes beyond writing. How do we build our businesses and retain trust and integrity? How do we balance trust and hard work? What gives you inspiration?

Paying Attention to the Spark

Whenever I’m feeling stuck or unmotivated, I turn to the experts. I might search for a book or a webinar or an article in hopes of getting unstuck. If someone has gone ahead, I want to learn from them! Often, this works. I get a piece of inspiration or am distracted just enough to refocus.

IMG_8753But sometimes, I’m still stuck. The other day, I listened to a free webinar from an expert that turned out to be an hour-long sales pitch for a paid site. (You get what you pay for?) I got a few nuggets from the beginning but left feeling at a loss. I had been given just enough information to feel even more confused.

I chatted with some friends who aren’t even part of this particular field, let alone experts, and through our conversation, a few ideas were sparked. I was able to take those small nuggets and figure out ways to use them.

It’s a reminder that, while the experts are important and valuable, there are so many moments in which I find the help and inspiration I need from sources that aren’t proven or expert at all. When I put aside my to-do list and focus on playing with the girls, I feel refreshed in other areas. When we get outside and soak up the sun, when I turn off the noise of social media and Google searches, when I read a really good fiction book unrelated to anything I’m working on, when I remember to pause and breathe and take in the big picture – this is where I’m refreshed and most likely to unstick my thoughts.

I know this isn’t breaking news – that getting outside and turning off all the voices is healthy – but it’s news I need to remind myself of again and again. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, instead of looking for the answer, I need to just be in the moment. The answer will come (or it won’t and I’m learning to embrace that, too) but most often it’s a little spark at the back of my mind.

Today, I’m putting aside a lot of ideas and papers. I think I’ll even stack them up and put them in the basement for the weekend. The girls and I are meeting friends for a ramble at an open space and we’ll run and soak up the sun. And I’m sure some ideas will show up in the midst of living life.

How do you get unstuck? What experts do you find most helpful? Where do you turn when you need to get away from books and overthinking?

Linking with Five Minute Friday, a  time to write without editing. (As evidenced by so many run-on sentences in this one!) Today’s prompt is “stuck.”

When Something is Better Than Nothing

I have an alarm set so that I can wake up before my kids in order to snatch a minute or two of quiet for myself. I have about a 50-50 chance of it working as planned. Sometimes, IMG_7282someone is up in the middle of the night and I need an extra 20 minutes of sleep. Often, someone wakes up early and we’re all downstairs, starting the day with the sunrise. Naptime is often a guaranteed time of quiet when the house calms down and I can breathe. 1:00 is not my most productive time of day, but I’m learning to use it.

Sometimes, when I’m gifted a silent morning, I don’t know what to do. The house is too quiet; my thoughts have trouble organizing themselves; I’m used to writing in the chaos. It’s not ideal but it’s become my practice.

It makes me wonder how many other things are being done in a less-than-ideal space. I have a hard time balancing this idea of fitting life in all the spaces and waiting until a season makes sense. Right now, my creative outlet of writing is firmly in the margins. I know I don’t have the capacity to work beyond a blog post and I wonder, what’s the point? The point, of course, is that if I didn’t write blog post after blog post, I wouldn’t be writing at all. It’s a small discipline but it’s a discipline, nonetheless.

For a time, I did a traditional “quiet time,” reading the Bible at a set time every day. Our schedules have changed and I haven’t found that perfect time again. I know it will return someday and in the meantime, I keep my Bible out and ready. If I didn’t snatch a bit here or there, nothing would happen.

It’s the same for cleaning, for entertaining, for date nights and conversations. I’m learning that something is better than nothing, even in that most imperfect form. I was talking with a friend who reminded me that I won’t be snatching moments forever; that our lives and schedules will change soon enough. But I have to ask, what am I doing now in preparation for that time?

What are practices you must squeeze into the margins of life, when doing them imperfectly is just as important as having all the time in the world?

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

The Value of Creating Flexible Rhythms

If last fall was filled with new challenges, this fall was filled with recreating those challenges. We did the Whole30 again; I wrote for 31 days again; we’ve reestablished bedtime and wake-up routines, though slightly different since our schedule is slightly different.

BackyardThe biggest difference between forming a habit the first time and re-forming a habit the second time is that it seems easier to cheat this second time around. On our second Whole30, it ended up being the Whole22 because we had visitors and commitments. We felt cleansed and reset and that last week just didn’t seem as important as the first time around.

I skipped a day of writing, due to a migraine this time. I debated going back to make it up but decided that Write 30 Days is good enough. I still achieved my purpose of telling a story and re-disciplining myself to write intentionally. In some ways, since the day I skipped was during my walk humbly week, it seemed fitting to just let it go.

My One Word for 2016 was enough; this year it’s capacity. Those two have built on each other beautifully and I’m learning that creating habits is important and life-giving. But it’s just as important to remember that when I slip on those commitments, it’s ok. That recognizing my capacity for each day may be different. I’m learning the value of creating flexible rhythms to my days.

Ultimately, I’m reminded of my need for structure. I enjoy formal challenges and goals because it is so easy to slip and let life meander. I think there’s something beautiful about the journey, not the destination but it’s a fine line between wandering and being lost. I’m learning to set goals with real life in mind; to not let my perfectionism become the end result; to remember that this is for my own practices.

Last year, I was inspired to do more 30-day challenges and changes. This year, I’m looking at some longer-term ideas, with a bigger overarching goal. These small practices are what build up strength for those bigger goals, but I want to remember that getting stronger means the ability to do something longer as well.

As I pursue justice, I’m learning this same thing holds true. Some days, I have the capacity to make calls, to show up, to post articles and be vocal. Some days, I need to be quiet and listen before any action is taken. Other days, I practice my privilege of turning off the news and focusing on my little family.

I’m learning to trust these flexible rhythms – that when I’m in-tune with where God has placed me, I am much more effective at playing a role in the restoration of this earth. Some opportunities are arising in 2018 for me to put these thoughts to practice and, while I’m still in the very early stages of these plans and hopes, I’m thankful for these past 30 days to reflect and form habits that will shape the way our family does peacemaking.

What do your rhythms look like? Is your life suited for shorter term goals and challenges or are you striving for a larger goal?

Thank you for joining me on this month of digging and questioning! I’ve so appreciated your comments,  engagement, and encouragement!

BackyardThis post is Day 31 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.