Category Archives: Personal Thoughts

Taking a Break To Unplug

Isn’t it silly when someone announces all over their social media, or their blog, that they are going to take a break from social media or their blog?

Well…

I’m taking a break from social media and my blog for the time being. It’s nothing too dramatic, I’m just reprioritizing a few things in my life right now, focusing on some other things offline. It’s all good. I’m okay, my family is okay, all that. But these kind of breaks are really necessary and inevitable in the world we live in today. With pandemics and polar vortexes, not to mention the manmade drama of politics and social media, taking a step back and a big breath is a healthy thing to do.

So, without out being too dramatic, and with a little bit of self-awareness, I’m going to step back. It doesn’t mean I won’t be online or commenting every now and then on some platform, it just means I’m going to take a break from writing. In the meantime, stay safe, love one another, and I will talk to you later.

Moon Rhythms

I’m always trying to search for ways to incorporate sabbaths into my life. On Sunday, I try to stay away from the phone, particularly social media apps. But incorporating rest into my life feels counterproductive to American values. Then came 2020. We all had to stop at least a few things, and toward the end of the year, I started incorporating some very intentional rest periods each month.

Then I learned that some people use the phases of the moon to work on projects. To be fair, this is pretty woo-woo for me, but then I learned that the Hebrew calendar has lunar months. And also, we use the sun to dictate our schedules anyway so why not see if the moon cycles could be a benefit as well?

Photo by Alex Andrews on Pexels.com

I’m not following any one plan, and this is still quite new to me, but here is what I have done so far and I’m really liking it. So, each phase lasts 6-8 days on average.

  • So, from the first day of the new moon to the first quarter moon or Waxing Moon, this is my rest period. I don’t write my blog. I spend less time on social media and more time with family. I work hard during the other phases so that I can spend this time resting.

  • Then, on the first day of the first quarter moon, I start planning. I write blog outlines, plan out blog ideas, set up when I will watch certain shows, all the way through the following Full Moon (not the phase right after this one). I also work on social media posts, particularly ones that might need a little forethought like my flat lays. And, I make sure that I’m not overworking or overscheduling things in my days ahead, so I also take a look at Sam’s schedule and my home schedule to make sure I’m not overdoing it.

  • The Full Moon phase is when I really get to work. I write and finish most of my blog posts, finish up any social media pictures I may need to take, and just carry out the plan I set the phase before.

  • Finally, at the beginning of the third quarter moon or Waning Moon phase, I take some time to reflect. What worked for me? What didn’t? I make notes and will use them to plan during the next Waxing Moon phase. Sometimes I still have to write a few posts or blogs at this point due to timing, but the majority is done during the Full Moon phase, so I’m pretty much just winding down and reflecting. Then, it starts all over again with a rest period during the next New Moon.

The first time I did this, I worked hard for two weeks just to give myself the new moon phase off, but slowly my timeline has adjusted, and I’m enjoying the focused time each cycle. I especially like the fact that there is time in there just for reflection, and that there is rest between reflecting and planning so I’m not just diving into the next writing project. I don’t know how productive I will be, but I’m interested to see where these new rhythms will lead this year.

Do you have any weird rhythms that work really well for you?

Night Rhythms

As I said in my previous post, I’m a morning person, which is why my night time rhythms are so important. What I do the night before is what sets me up for a good morning. But I can’t stay up too late preparing for the next day, so the rhythms have to be concise and productive.

  • My rhythm actually starts with the kid’s bedtime routine. My husband and I each have our parts to play from bath time to the final bed time song. During the parts of the routine that my husband does, I am usually cleaning up the kitchen or the living room, or playing my piano, or getting in a chapter from one of the books I’m reading.

  • I get into pajamas, brush teeth, and get ready for the next day. This is when I lay out clothes, put my yoga mat into the closet and set up the nightstand for bedtime, including filling up all my water bottles for the next day (I find it easier to just fill up multiple water bottles to keep track of my water intake). I do one more look through social media and calendar, make any notes on a post-it for the next day which I stick on top of my phone, plug it in and place the devotional book on top.

Putting the devotional over the phone
  • Then, I grab my reading/media journal and make any notes for anything I read or watched that day. I usually do this while I’m watching or reading as well, but I look over what I wrote and make any clarifications. Then, I read at least one chapter in current read. Put on any lotion or calming sprays and go to bed. I use a sleep mask with headphones inside of it that I can play white noise or other calming sounds. I’m an extremely light sleeper and an early riser. My husband won’t be in bed for another hour or two (he is a night owl), so this usually helps me not hear him when he gets to bed.

Just like in the mornings, different events signify other events. I have a basket on my nightstand that houses only the things I need for morning or night. This includes books I’m reading for Bible Study, small group, the sprays or lotions I use, but if it can’t fit then it doesn’t belong in my routine. The only difference are the things I want to be in reach first thing in the morning (like my devotional) or last thing at night (like the current read or the eye mask). Simplifying it all really helps me not get overwhelmed with decisions and really focus on the things that are important to me.

What are some things that are a must for your night time routines or rhythms?

Morning Rhythms

In order to set my day right, I have to get up at 5am. But, my friends, I am an actual morning person. At night, I’m foggy and silly and moody, but in the morning, I can actually pop out of bed pretty quickly. My husband is a night owl, so I like that I can have this first hour to myself. I know that might already turn some of you away from the screen, but bear with me.

  • My watch vibrates, waking me up. I turn to my nightstand where my devotional is laying out on top of my phone. I used to do Bible studies on an app, but I found that I would drift to other social media apps and lose precious morning me time. I still might need to use the flashlight option on my phone to read (and not wake up the husband), but I can do this without opening my phone all the way. This month, I’m reading 31 Days of Praise by Ruth Meyers.

  • After my devo, I grab my phone and head to the bathroom to get ready. Usually, I have laid out my clothes in the closet the night before so I’m not rummaging through drawers. I used to shower and wash my hair every day, but that has changed for me. I only wash my hair 2-3 times a week now, and sometimes I skip the shower if I know I will be needing a warm bath or shower later that day due to exercise or activity.

  • Once I’ve dressed, I do a quick 10-15 minute session of yoga, sometimes less if I’m low on time. This helps my body and mind get ready. I have a playlist on YouTube with sessions 10 minutes or less so I’m not trying to find the video in the morning. My go-tos are Yoga with Adriene and Sarah Beth Yoga. I know that I’ve enjoyed everything on that playlist, so there is less time being used trying to make a decision. I also put my yoga mat in the closet the night before so it is ready to use.

  • After a shower and yoga, I go back into the bedroom, putting my yoga mat back in its normal corner and put my phone back on my nightstand. There, I pick up my prayer journal and head into the office where I do my journaling until my watch goes off at 6, which is when my husband gets up to start his day. Usually, I’m finishing up my last thoughts when the watch goes off, but as soon as I’m done, I return to the bedroom with my notebook to place it back in its place.

  • Then, once my husband is up, I turn on the light and read until my kid gets up. Of course, there have been times when this has already happen, so my reading might be more of the children’s book variety, but I can usually get a chapter or so of my own book while I convince the kid to play with the dogs. Once my husband is dressed, we all head down for breakfast.

  • The rest of the morning consists of getting the kid ready, making the beds, starting laundry, and feeding the dogs. All of this is done to the latest favorite playlist blasting through the entire house via Google Home. But each task flows into the next. Part of making my bed is getting a laundry basket on the bed to fill. I bring that basket down and start the washer, turn around, and the dog food is there, waiting for me to scoop it and fill the dog bowls in the kitchen. I pass by the dining room table where I take the breakfast dishes to the sink.

It helps my kid learn the flow of our house as well. As soon as the music comes on, it’s time to get dressed. Less fighting about getting out of pajamas because we are too busy dancing!

I also realize that this is a “living in a pandemic” rhythm. We haven’t had to be anywhere specific for a while now, and I’m sure when life inevitably changes so will we, but for now I’m truly enjoying the flow of our mornings!

What kind of things are a must for you to do each morning?

Word of the Month: Rhythm

For most of my life, I lived by self-imposed schedules, hoping that perfect balance between hours and minutes, chasing after the vision of having it all and being content. But like any rat race, it left me feeling burnout and frustration more than anything else. Over the years, I am learning to be more flexible, letting go of the desired perfection, and embracing rhythms instead of schedules.

Rhythms are the ebb and flow from one activity to another.

Rhythms are more organic. They are the ebb and flow from one activity to another. They build habits and set cues that help remember what comes next instead of allowing the clock to dictate my life all the time. Granted, there are still some things that end up on a schedule, but certain parts of my day allow me to bend just a bit and tune into what I need in the moment.

In the coming weeks, I will talk about some of these rhythms. Some have been established for a while, deeply grooved into my day, while others are newer and still have a few kinks to work out. But all of them have helped me stay present in the moment.

Do you live by schedules or rhythms? What are some things or habits that you absolutely must include in your day?

Annual Reflections: Hope

As we come to the end of 2020, as with any year, it’s important to look back, embrace the year for what it was, learn from it, and look ahead into the future. Usually, by this point in the year, I already have some idea of direction, plans, goals for the coming year. But this year, I got nothing. Which, if you know me, is really uncharacteristic of me. So, I want to use this time to delve into how this year has impacted me, what I’ve learned, and any glimmer into the year to come.

Merry Christmas, everyone! As this is the last of this series, I wanted to end in hope. No matter how we have grieved, how we have grown, or how lonely we have felt, there is always a hope for a redemptive tomorrow.

I think about the days leading up to the birth of Christ, the 400 years where God was silent to the Jewish people. So many people grieving loss, feeling lonely, growing as best they could under oppressive regimes. All hope seemed loss

And then, in a small manger, in a tiny town of Bethlehem, a little baby was born to a newly-wedded, poor teenage girl and her husband. A bright star paved the way out of the darkness into the light of God’s love.

However you are celebrating this year, I pray that you are surrounded by love and joy and a peace that surpasses all understanding. May God continue to walk with you through the end of this year and into the next one!

Annual Reflections: Loneliness

As we come to the end of 2020, as with any year, it’s important to look back, embrace the year for what it was, learn from it, and look ahead into the future. Usually, by this point in the year, I already have some idea of direction, plans, goals for the coming year. But this year, I got nothing. Which, if you know me, is really uncharacteristic of me. So, I want to use this time to delve into how this year has impacted me, what I’ve learned, and any glimmer into the year to come.

While I am an introverted homebody, I still recognize I need people in my life, a community, a village. This year has been lonely, even for me. And I realized that this has been building up for a while, and it took having to socially distance from large gatherings to understand my reality and how I got here.

When Michael and I were first married, we moved to the DFW area and met a lot of great friends. We would go to parties, outings, double date nights. It was a lot of fun. But that first wave of friends started having kids. There is absolutely nothing wrong with people having kids, but bandwidths and priorities change when a little one is introduced to a family. It’s just the way it is.

I celebrated, hosted baby showers, did all the things. And I learned that if I wanted to maintain these relationships, I had to reach out to them. I needed to be the one to go to their house and remember birthdays and listen to their struggles and their milestones. I want to reiterate that I didn’t hate this, I looked forward to it. And as a young married in her 20s, I had all the energy and time in the world to do this.

Soon, a new wave of friends came into our life, but this time, when everyone else started having babies. I was losing them. This time, I didn’t have the bandwidth to do the things I did before, and for whatever reason, those friendships drifted away. I tried to find a new community several times, but I felt alone. Really alone.

Finally, after six years, we gave birth to a beautiful baby. It felt like life could finally begin. I could finally connect with other moms and find the community I lost. After the first year (because that first year was a fog), I joined a mom’s Bible study group. I was so socially awkward. I felt like I had forgotten how to connect. But I finally found my groove and even signed my kid up for a two day preschool.

Which started January 2020.

Then the world stopped.

All of the sudden, my world shrank to our family. I stayed connected to a few friends online through Marco Polo. But the village was pretty much gone. Everyone was overwhelmed, and I just fell through the cracks.

Now, there is a lot of this story that is my responsibility. And believe me, I tell myself all the time that I should do better, put myself out there more, be less selfish, all the things. I recognize the amazing things in my life, embrace them with gratitude. But I’m still lonely.

It has given me a lot of time to walk with God, lean on him, turn to him. And I know that there are things ahead of me to look forward to. I guess I just want to write this a part of my 2020 experience to let others know that even if you have felt lonely this year, or in this season, just know that others are feeling it too.

Annual Reflections: Growth

As we come to the end of 2020, as with any year, it’s important to look back, embrace the year for what it was, learn from it, and look ahead into the future. Usually, by this point in the year, I already have some idea of direction, plans, goals for the coming year. But this year, I got nothing. Which, if you know me, is really uncharacteristic of me. So, I want to use this time to delve into how this year has impacted me, what I’ve learned, and any glimmer into the year to come.

As hard as this year has been, there have been a lot of growth moments as well. In fact, I’m still learning new things even at the end of this year about myself, life, relationships, parenting, and everything in between.

This year has forced me to slow down. At the beginning of the year, the plan was to join some classes at the gym, finally clean and organize my house, and finish writing a book. I got none of those things accomplished. But the truth is, I was busy maintaining my anxiety and my household, keeping hands sanitized and food on the table. I was a people pleaser who actually had to say no and set specific boundaries, and have those boundaries questioned and still have to maintain them. I learned my own limits and bandwidth, and how to work with those parameters.

I really got to know who I am this year. I realized my priorities outside of the influence of others. When all the other voices got quieter as we all social-distanced, I could learned how to my own voice. And I learned these things:

  1. I love my husband. This year, we grew closer. And it was hard and messy and beautiful. We voiced things we had been holding onto and realized that we didn’t always remember our history together the same way. But we are more on the same page at the end of 2020 than we probably have ever been.
  2. I love my kid. I don’t share a whole lot on the internet, but this kid is just amazing. I’ve learned what it means to love and parent and fail and try again and receive forgiveness and give forgiveness, all in this little person who lives life fully and completely every day.
  3. I’ve been holding on to a lot of lies. About my body. About my purpose. About my place in this world. About the expectations I place on myself and others place on me. I’ve been questioning a lot of things this year and growing as a person by embracing what is actually true in my life.
  4. I really am an introverted homebody. While I can carry on with small talk at the grocery store, I’m not a social butterfly. While I do have a few friends to reach out to, the busy social calendar isn’t really for me. This was the one aspect of the quarantine where I thrived.
  5. I don’t need to always have a plan. This was probably the biggest one for me. I would throw myself into all the expectations of a mother and wife and woman and Christian that I thought I needed to fulfill on a day to day basis. My calendar would be scheduled out by the hour. And then I just stopped. Actually, my therapist suggested a break and I realized just how much I needed one. I have learned how to take it day by day in a much healthier way.

Of course, God has been with me every step of the way. I am still so thankful for his grace and new mercies every morning. It gives me the curiosity and strength to enter a new year with slightly more anticipation than anxiety.

Annual Reflections: Grief

As we come to the end of 2020, as with any year, it’s important to look back, embrace the year for what it was, learn from it, and look ahead into the future. Usually, by this point in the year, I already have some idea of direction, plans, goals for the coming year. But this year, I got nothing. Which, if you know me, is really uncharacteristic of me. So, I want to use this time to delve into how this year has impacted me, what I’ve learned, and any glimmer into the year to come.

This year has been hard. For everyone. There has been so much loss. Loss of loved ones, friends, jobs, routines, relationships, plans, trips, dreams. Everyone had to pivot when the pandemic came, some more than others. No matter how you feel about COVID-19 or wearing masks or social distancing, in some way you were affected. And it wasn’t just the pandemic. Social justice, political division, protests, riots. Our world has been in a steady panic attack, one right after another. There is even a term for the numbness you feel after being bombarded with so much, COVID fatigue.

The truth is, we have been collectively and individually going through grief. The denial that all of this would go away in the summer or by the end of the year. The bargaining for answers and quick fixes. The anger. The depression. Even some resigned acceptance. The stages have all been there.

Of course, the Bible embraces the act of grieving. There is an entire book called Lamentations. The psalms are full of grieving verses.

For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.

Psalm 31:10

How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Psalm 13:2

Of course, God can handle our grief. In much of the Bible, it says we can cast our cares on him, that he will lift us up. Even in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about those who mourn will be comforted. Grief is not a sign of a lack of faith, but it is an open acknowledgement that this world is indeed broken and in need of God’s healing.

So, before I move on to growth (which will be next week’s topic), I need to grieve. I grieve the lack of travel, less time with loved ones, the impossibility to go to funerals or say last goodbyes in person. I grieve the new uncertainties of school rhythms, seasonal rhythms, community gatherings. I grieve the simple shopping trips, spontaneous family outings, fun indoor kid activities, dance classes at the gym. I grieve the halted traditions of holidays, the hard conversations with loved ones about why we aren’t visiting, the added efforts to keep our kid connected to his extended family. I grieve not being on the same page with everyone, having to explain why we continue to worship from home and attend gatherings exclusively online, knowing that others made different choices. I grieve being able to go on social media without walking away confused, frustrated, and depressed.

This season is hard, even in the most normal of years, but it is especially hard this year. And I want to acknowledge that. If you are grieving right now in whatever capacity, please know that you are not alone. And I pray you feel the presence of God and lean on him, knowing he is walking with you through it all.

Remembering Lisa

Last week, my cousin, Lisa, passed away at 41 from cancer.  She was diagnosed just last year with stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer, and the treatment they did was pretty aggressive – chemo, a mastectomy, followed by radiation.  But after the mastectomy, they did tests and found that the cancer had spread.  She returned to chemo treatments, but the cancer still spread.  She was hospitalized a few weeks ago, but her body just couldn’t recover. 

Even though she is my cousin, we have always had more of a sisterly bond.  I wanted to be just like her when I was a kid.  I remember one night we were going somewhere with friends and they remarked how much I acted like her.  I responded with “Yeah, buddy” which was something she said all the time, and the whole car just burst into laughter.

She taught me about make-up, boys, sex, and peer pressure.  When I was 14, she had just graduated high school, and we were both staying at our grandparents’ house for the summer.  We went camping with some friends and they brought out some alcohol.  When they offered it to me, I said no.  They started to make fun of me, pressure me, but Lisa stopped them in their tracks.  “She said no, and you will respect that.”  Years later, I told her how much that had helped me, and she said that she didn’t really have someone like that in her life, and she wanted to make sure I did.

Her heart was overflowing in generosity.  She loved fiercely, passionately.  When I was pregnant with my son, wrought with anxiety because all I had known up to that point was pregnancy loss, she sent me a journaling Bible with a set of colored pencils.  It has brought me so much comfort, especially in these last few weeks.

The greatest comfort to me was her relationship with God.  She and I had so many conversations in the last few years about faith in God, and hers was incredibility strong.  She was so loved, and she loved so much.  I still look up to her and want to be just like her.  I will miss our conversations.  I will miss her hugs and laugh and even the eye-rolls.  I will miss her passion.  I will miss her.  I love you so much Lisa.