10 Things I’ve Learned This Spring

10 things learned spring

It’s the start of a new season and that means it’s time to share what we’ve learned lately. These posts are some of my favorite to write because the serious and the silly get to hang out in one post.

“What We Learned” is hosted by one of my favorite people, Emily P. Freeman. It’s an invitation to “reflect on the past season before we move ahead into the future.”

You can find this community link-up over at her place, so join us!

On to the things I learned, in no particular order:

 

1. The Fitness Marshall is just as delightful and infectious in person.

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My sister-in-law turns 40 this year and each month of 2017, this sweet, laid-back, homeschool mom of 4 is trying to do something a little bit crazy. She introduced me to The Fitness Marshall months ago and it only felt right that since he was coming to Charlotte on his spring Tour of Booty {not making that up}, we’d join in the fun.

And IT WAS INDEED SO FUN. It felt like church. Or at least the way I want church to feel. All ages and shapes and sizes and colors all gathered together, showing up as we are, getting lost in the wonder and experience of it all.

There’s something magical about being in the presence of someone who is doing what they were made to do and sharing it with the world, whether that “world” is a giant stage or just the small gathering of a few. Caleb Marshall loves to dance, loves to encourage, and loves people. I’m so grateful he didn’t keep all of that to himself. {His cardio hip-hop videos are free on You Tube and so super fun.}

2. Sometimes it’s good when people have too much time on their hands.

Because they invent the wonderful ridiculousness of things like the Magic iPod. My brother sent me this text a couple of months ago.

“Themagicipod.com. You’re welcome.” : )

If you’re familiar with late 90s / early 2000s music, you’ll love this. You drag one of the songs on the left to one of the songs on the right and it mixes them.

magic iPod

My favorite? Mix Bubba Sparxxx with Vanessa Carlton. But not when your children are listening because the Bubba Sparxxx song is called, “Ms. New Booty.” {As if the 3 X’s in his name weren’t enough of a clue.} I know, this is a family blog and I’ve already typed “booty” twice. My apologies. Will I get illicit comment span after this?

 

3. You can return your most recent Audible book if you didn’t enjoy it.

I subscribed to Audible this year because I have a child who struggles a bit with reading and we needed a better way to get through some of the assigned books for school. But I’ve actually enjoyed having it for myself. I find that a lot of the “mundane” work in my life {driving, cooking, laundry, etc.} feels less mundane when I have the companionship of story.

Here’s the thing about audiobooks. Sometimes books should be read and not heard. One book that I won’t mention had lots of relational conflict and yelling. Guess what? Hearing someone do all of that yelling stressed me out so bad. But I had to find out what happened in the story so I finished it. It wasn’t one of my better decisions. So when I found out that I could return the book for credit simply because I didn’t enjoy the experience, that felt like a win.

I’ve now returned two Audible books and chosen other books in their place, all for zero dollars.

{If you’re interested in giving Audible a try, click here and you can get two free audiobooks for signing up. And yes, that’s an affiliate link but I’m a fan regardless.}

4. The 10-10-10 principle for prioritizing.

Historically, I’m terrible at prioritizing. All the things feel important all the time. Sometimes this lands me in a place of anxiety and sometimes it lands me in a place of paralysis. I’m always on a hunt for the “secret” that will unlock a cure for this disorder of mine. I don’t think it exists but sometimes I stumble across something that helps shift the way I think.

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Recently I was reading through a January 2014 back issue of Real Simple and I came across an article, “Balance or Bust” by Marjorie Ingall. The subtitle reads: One indefatigable woman takes on a marathon research project (2,330 pages of self-help!), determined to master life’s juggling act — even if it kills her. 

It’s one of my favorite features they’ve ever done. She boils down all of the wisdom she’s binged and shares the basics with her readers. This one has stuck with me.

Whenever you face a tough decision, find your answer by considering the consequences of each potential choice in the next 10 minutes, the next 10 months, and the next 10 years.

I’ve started using this principle for everything from taking the time to read to my youngest, to choosing not to write as much because my scant spare is better spent on relational opportunities that are fleeting. Sometimes I apply this principle when I’m in a moment of panic, “Ten minutes from now I’ll still be in a bad state but ten years from now I won’t even remember. Deep breaths.”

Books she mentions in this article that I actually purchased {and have not yet finished because no time #irony.}:

In Search of Balance: Keys to a Stable Life by Richard A. Swenson, author of Margin, one of my favorites.

The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz {her favorite of all the self-help books.}

 

5. How to take vitamins.

My friend wanted me to try these vitamins so I took them for a week and actually felt better. {I’m going to buy some on my June order and see how I feel long-term. I’ll keep you posted.} Anyway, while doing some research, I stumbled upon this video of a darling gal with the sweetest accent and purple hair telling me how to take 6 vitamins at a time.

Y’all. It’s magic. It totally works. And it actually makes taking vitamins or any pills seem less daunting.

 

6. How to cook spaghetti squash.

As I type this I’m 26 days into a Whole30, something I swore I’d never do. I’m an “all things in moderation” gal and I don’t have any food allergies. I may have actually made fun of restrictive eating trends and regimens like this one.

But I turned 44 this week and let me tell you, hormonal shifts are no joke. Over the last year I’ve noticed a direct correlation between the sugar / bread / junk I consume and my mood / energy level / yelling. More protein and less other stuff keeps me stable..ish. Plus someone I love wanted to do Whole30 so I took it on as an act of solidarity.

w30 snack

What my afternoon pick-me-up looks like. “I’m jealous of that awesome snack” says no one.

Which is why I’m eating things like spaghetti squash. There are a gazillion links on the internet about spaghetti squash but here’s the big thing I want to tell you. Most people are cutting it wrong. If you want long “noodles,” cut the squash width-wise instead of length-wise.

This post and video from “Eat Within Your Means” taught me all about it.

 

7. The Popcast with Knox and Jamie is everything.

I know. Could I be any later to the party? So I’d heard about The Popcast for ages but didn’t check it out because I thought it was just a podcast version of People magazine. I love People. But I’m sooooo out of the celebrity culture loop that I figured it would all be lost on me. Also? People without the pictures had zero appeal.

But it’s not that at all. The Popcast “is a weekly podcast that educates the world on things that entertain, but do not matter.” And they absolutely live up to that bold mission.

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Knox and Jamie could talk about how to boil water or how to make your bed and guess what? I would still tune in because they are that hilarious and endearing. I started listening in January and haven’t missed an episode since. My favorite so far: Episode 181. “Misunderstood Songs and Misheard Lyrics.” 

 

8. Hemp Protein Powder is the worst.

On a quest to pump up our smoothies with extra protein that didn’t have a bunch of fillers {this was pre-Whole30}, I bought Hemp Powder. Thinking to myself, “Well, the more nutrition the better so I’ll just load these smoothies up with several giant scoops of health.”

My husband thought I had made his smoothie with soil and drywall mix. If you must use Hemp protein powder, for the love, moderation.

 

9. We need silence, not just rest.

I loved this article because it unpacked what I’ve found to be true for myself but am so quick to forget.

For a number of reasons, in April I took a 3 week hiatus from social media and the internet in general except for what I needed to do for work. And instead of listening to podcasts or stories or music, I mostly didn’t. It felt like a reset button for my brain and my spirit.

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The Harvard Business Review article explains it this way.

Cultivating silence isn’t just about getting respite from the distractions of office chatter or tweets. Real sustained silence, the kind that facilitates clear and creative thinking, quiets inner chatter as well as outer.

This kind of silence is about resting the mental reflexes that habitually protect a reputation or promote a point of view. It’s about taking a temporary break from one of life’s most basic responsibilities: Having to think of what to say.

Yes please.

Silence is free. It’s simple. But it’s also awkward, foreign, and even uncomfortable for us moderns who have a constant feed of information and noise at our fingertips all the time.

For me, choosing silence is a discipline I want more of.

 

10. The small griefs matter too.

Despite all the gifts of the past year, I’ve also wrestled with loss. I was telling my husband Sunday night that for twelve solid months, I feel like I’ve lost all my rhythms and some of my identity.

Because this season of life and motherhood and responsibilities has been surprising and unique in what it’s asked of me, my life-giving disciplines have been (at best) haphazard and (at worst) non-existent.

I’m not able to write as often. Certain creative projects that mean the world to me are sitting on a shelf. I crammed for my Bible study way more than I wanted to. I had little occasion to journal and be still. Some weeks I’d exercise 4 times and then go three weeks without doing anything. My days and weeks have been highly scheduled yet also wildly unpredictable.

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The internet hasn’t helped. Sometimes social media has felt like a sea of people all going one direction, passing me by with their pursuits and fulfilled dreams while I sit in a rowboat, working hard but seemingly getting nowhere that I’ve deemed worthy. I know this isn’t necessarily true but my perspective has been fueled by envy and self-pity, both of them terrible counselors.

I’ve faced far more painful things in my life than this. I’ve experienced real grief and walked hard roads. Which is why these lesser griefs and frustrations are embarrassing to admit. Recently I’ve confessed and processed with a couple of trusted souls who have been kind to affirm that the lesser losses are also worthy of our tears. Something about bringing them into the light has felt freeing.

If you’re feeling the same way, I wrote a little while back about overwhelm and these lesser griefs — and how I found safety and consolation in a strange and unexpected place. You can find it here.

So what have YOU learned this spring? I’d love to hear. We can dish about it in the comments and don’t forget that you can also join in over at Emily’s.

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For All the Defeated Moms {You’re Actually in a Good Place}

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It’s Mother’s Day weekend and that conjures up a million different feels depending on your relationship with your mother, your kids, or motherhood in general. Despite Consumerism’s conspiracy to convince us it’s all flowers and diamond heart necklaces designed by celebrities and fancy chocolates, we all know the truth. Mothers and kids and and mothering — it’s all downright complicated.

I have such mixed feelings about Mother’s Day {even though I love celebrating my own mom who is a saint for surviving the moodiest teenager in the history of the world.}

For me, my Mother’s Day ambivalence boils down to two things: 1.) I don’t deserve the hoopla, what with the yelling at kids and falling so short of my own standards. And 2.) I absolutely deserve ALL THE HOOPLA because motherhood is hard for this introvert mom who doesn’t love being needed and I am doing all the things for all the people and want some freaking credit. And also cake. {Which is a problem because I’m one week into Whole30, something I swore I’d never do. Give me all the sugar.}

So now even Mother’s Day lunch has become a metaphor for my ironic angst about all things motherhood.

walking away

Anyway, you may or may not have noticed that the blog has been quiet. There’s no drama or scandal. This season of life simply isn’t accommodating to the writing life. I will weep if I write any more words about that so let’s move on.

Because I desperately miss this place and I miss all of you and I don’t want my blog to die from neglect, here’s an edited repost from the archives, just in time for Mother’s Day. It’s one of my favorites and, no surprise, I needed these words all over again. It’s as if I never wrote them. But I’m so glad I did and I think you need them too.

May you get all the hoopla and an extra-large piece of cake this Mother’s Day! You’ve earned it, despite what your ambivalent mom-self tells you. : )

Love, Marian

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Lately, I’ve been dropping my kids off at school in the morning, breathing a deep sigh of relief, and audibly saying “thank you” as I drive away in my dusty minivan. Is public school a means of grace? For me, right now, yes.

It’s safe to say that these are trying days in the parenting department. Not in an extreme, “I just bailed this one out of jail” sort of way but more of an “I’m absolutely clueless / I have no business being a mom / Everyone go away / Let me lie down” sort of way.

I never said I wore I supermom cape.

Last week I absolutely came to the end of myself with this whole mothering gig and it was really the most needful thing.

I sat at my desk, weary and overwhelmed. I prayed and cried and asked Jesus Himself to please show up with a miracle, to help me love in a way that transcends reason and rebellion and my own severe limitations.

And He did, gifting me to love in a way I’d never experienced. I had glimpses of wisdom that came out of nowhere. Compassion and real empathy sprung from a supernatural well. By Saturday I was like, “Yes! I can do this! We. Are. WINNING.”

Then Sunday showed up with more battles and stress and willfulness than I knew what to do with — theirs and mine. Just like that, I relapsed into the familiar comforts of preachiness and anger and entitlement and why is this sooooo hard?

Dealing with behavior is one thing. Caring for sick souls is quite another.

While I don’t feel I know much as a mother, I am 100% convinced that moralism and charts and systems may get the desired results on the outside, but they won’t begin to touch the inside. In fact, good behavior may be so convincing to both kids and parents that everyone ignores the heart altogether. But a sick heart will kill a person, even one that looks perfectly healthy on the outside. Ask me how I know.

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And so our home lately has felt like a triage unit with gurneys of wounded people and splayed-open hearts — theirs and mine.

On days of victory and progress, I feel like I’ll never taste defeat again. But then I do and such defeat makes me want to throw in the towel and tell everyone to please raise themselves from now on. I’ll provide groceries and find them a good therapist. I’ll even keep driving them around. But I cannot maintain a surgery ward.

Winning is a distant memory.

It’s in these valleys of defeat that I remember what carried me to the mountaintop of short-lived victory to begin with: being in a prior valley of defeat.

I face the uncomfortable truth that the Christian life is not about sustained winning. It is about sustained dependance.

When will I learn?

So I once again sink into the ground of humility and throw myself at the feet of mercy. I ask for power that I don’t have and am too tired to muster anyway. I ask for grace that is laughable. {Because true grace always is.}

I ask for the courage, companionship, and example that is Christ Himself — a gloriously scandalous God who knows that undeserved love, not lists and lectures, motivates a person to love — be it parent, child, or spouse. We love because we were first loved in such a way that it still makes us our heads spin. {Please God, let it make our heads spin.}

Always, we can shake off defeat and begin again because of the love-drenched grace and compassion we ourselves have been shown.

Dear defeated mom, motivate with love as you are motivated by love. Because love begets love. And isn’t real obedience simply an expression of real love?

At the end of a long week that followed an even longer week, I realize that being a mother is simply being a wounded healer, ministering to and interceding for sick souls with the presence and power of a loving Jesus.

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You may also enjoy these favorite posts

How a 92-year-old woman taught me the value of my right-now work

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The Ministry of Netflix

For the Mom Who Needs a Simpler Way

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Why Safety is the Answer to Exhaustion and Overwhelm {Also? A fun announcement.}

bright office

When one of my kids wants to tell me about a dream they had, I inwardly roll my eyes and brace myself for the most tedious story ever. This is why I will never take home the Mother of the Year trophy.

So on a Friday morning at the end of a long week — well, actually it was the end of a series of long weeks, I felt especially averse to conversations that start with, “I have to tell you about the dream I had.”

Just the day before I had said truthful but ugly things that a mature and godly grown-up should not say. And then I slammed the door for added punctuation. I sped off to two different schools and then to an event for work.

I was out of gas in every way but faked that I wasn’t, telling myself that all sorts of people live very busy lives and I needed to get over it already. When I returned home early afternoon, I ate lunch on the sofa and turned on the television. It was on the Home Shopping Network and I tuned in for 30 minutes like it was my job, fully convinced that I needed the $30 heart-shaped blush baked on real Italian tiles for two days.

Exhaustion and depletion make us vulnerable like that. We convince ourselves that we deserve certain rewards because of what’s missing in our lives.

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Even though this season of my life is bursting at the seams in a way I’ve never experienced, even though there’s precious little space to reflect and process, grief still manages to chisel itself into the tiny cracks.

Busy-ness is only a temporary deterrent from unattended ache.

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Last week I took a few minutes to list the things I miss. It felt like a small but necessary step toward living more honestly with myself.

  • I miss writing so badly that I cry just typing this sentence.
  • I miss having the physical energy that enabled me to get up extra early just a year ago.
  • I miss having more time together as a family.
  • I miss my kids when they were little and the stakes didn’t feel as high.
  • I miss the dreams for my creative work that feel forever on hold.
  • I miss putting our younger kids to bed early and having time in the evening with my husband to watch TV.
  • I miss the seasons when my sanity felt slightly more intact and I didn’t live with a constant, low-grade anxiety / anger combo that I can’t quite figure out.
  • I miss relationships.
  • I miss the days when the family calendar had more margin.

 

In the whole scheme of things, this list of losses is not so important. They are a collection of small griefs.

But the sum of them all feels terribly heavy in my heart.

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On that weary Friday morning, I had also missed two weeks of Bible study and most of the lessons in between. I felt like I was languishing in every way — physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. I felt like a failure and a fraud. I needed nourishment and encouragement but was too tired to seek it.

As my youngest son crunched his cereal and I made my daughter’s lunch, he persisted about the dream.

I suppressed my silent scream of “Noooooo” and said, “Tell me about it.”

Well there were all of these lions everywhere. They were at the park and on our street and in all the yards. But they were in our yard more than anyone else’s yard and they were always trying to get in our house.

At this point, a thought entered my head: Marian, maybe you should pay attention.

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So there were all of these lions in our yard but there was this one really big lion. You know, the kind that has all the hair around its face? This lion stood in our yard in front of the house. 

Me: Well, was it a good lion? Were the other lions bad?

Yeah, the other lions were bad and wanted to hurt us but this lion was protecting us from all of the bad lions. And he was our friend. Like, we could ride on him and stuff.

By this point I had stopped making the lunch and turned away because my eyes stung with tears and I had goose bumps.

In the midst of bread crumbs and Lucky Charms and lukewarm coffee, I felt the palpable presence of God.

I know that plenty of people, even spiritual folks, don’t believe that God shows up in our dreams like that. Especially in the dreams of a child. But for all of my natural inclinations toward skepticism and cynicism and all things rational, God has often bypassed reason and apologetics to get my attention.

I don’t presume that most dreams have spiritual significance but I do know that we’re at our most vulnerable when we’re asleep. And just as I have been attacked by fear and evil in my sleep, I have also been ambushed by truth and beauty.

Perhaps we see truth most clearly when our eyes are closed.

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When I finally walked into Bible study that same morning, utterly worn out and tardy, having forgotten to bring change for the parking meters, I realized I’d done the wrong lesson. Of course.

Instead of Jesus’ trial, we read through Jesus’ prayers for the spiritual safekeeping of believers while we are still in the world.

Things could not have been more clear. “Dear God, message received.”

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Why am I always surprised when He breaks through the universe into my own insignificant corner of the world to show me that life isn’t up to me to get right? It is not like a quest to find the Holy Grail.

Human striving has no place in the kingdom. We live and move and have our being from a totally different source. 

My schedule, my spiritual disciplines, my energy level, my work / life management, my family — all of these things are kept by a loving God who meets me in weakness and cluelessness and utter lack.

It’s not ultimately about my resolve. It’s not ultimately about my abilities or faithfulness.

He’s got us. Period.

And this is grace.

I’m tempted to add all sorts of disclaimers right now.

Now that doesn’t mean we don’t do anything or have certain responsibilities, blah, blah, blah…

See? I’m already doing it.

That’s our tendency with grace, to qualify it, to tame it.

But doing that dismantles grace entirely.

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This is a strange post that feels utterly disconnected and hasn’t seemed fit to publish.

Here’s what I’m trying to say:

For those who are languishing in one way or all the ways —

For those who are too tired to try and get it together —

For those who just bought another life-improvement book (for the record I’ve bought 3 in the last month) —

For those who are being bullied by the busy-ness of this season of life —

For those who are holding a collection of small griefs but to acknowledge the heaviness seems silly —

For those who are trying to get their spiritual act together but keep failing —

God has you.

That means you’re safe.

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Safe to fall apart. Safe to weep. Safe to grieve. Safe to rest. Safe to ask for help. Safe to confess. Safe to have more questions than answers.

Safe to find Jesus in the dream of a child.

He walks to and fro, before you and behind you, fending off invisible enemies you may never know this side of eternity.

Your less-than state is no match for the Lion who is Jesus Himself, the One who intercedes in literal prayer and power for you and for your family.

It doesn’t mean we won’t have trouble here. We know all too well that trouble is alive and well. But it does mean we have a fierce and good Rescuer who has ultimately overcome the worst trouble.

May the awareness of his presence, the surety of his protection, and the encouragement of his intercession be your strength when you are too weary to muster your own.

 

Truth that might encourage you today:

Matthew 11:28-30

John 6:28-29

Acts 17:24-28

Romans 8:25-27

 

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give thanks real life chair

You’re still here? Good. I was afraid this post about dreams and lions scared everyone away.

Here’s an extreme twist in subject matter:

For those of you who have been hanging around for a couple of years or more, you may remember The Real Pretty Shop. I had such fun opening those virtual doors for several sales. But then I got a real job. We moved. I have three kids in three different schools. And you get the picture — life has been fuller than full ever since.

But that hasn’t stopped me from tucking away little treasures in hopes that the shop might open up again. Sometimes I say to myself, “I might have a teensy bit of a problem.” And then I realize that I don’t have a problem, I have an unofficial shop. That just happens to be in a spare closet of my home.

I’ve been working here and there in the cracks of time and…

I’m opening the shop for another sale!

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YAY!!! And also, WHY AM I SO NERVOUS???

This sale will be a bit different than last time. I’m opening the doors on Instagram instead of on the blog. The shop will open at 7 am on Thursday, March 30th. Be sure to follow me on Instagram @marianvischer. I’ll do a post that morning telling you where to go and what to do.

I have twenty-something handpicked ensembles this time, all of them perfect for spring!

Want a sneak peak?

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Full disclosure: I have a disproportionate amount of size smalls. : (  Don’t hate me.

This is partially because I get excited and buy cute things for myself, but end up wearing the same jeans and boots and denim shirt 90% of the time. #Iannoymyself

If I open the shop again in the future, I promise to have a more representative selection of sizes like I had in previous sales.

So hop on over to Instagram, follow me, and if you haven’t updated to the latest version, you may want to do that because I have multiple pics of each ensemble. The latest version Instagram lets you post multiple pics in one post. {Bad when someone just took a vacation and wants to show 10 different angles of their poolside mojito. Good when Marian opens the shop and wants you to see all the fun details of the outfit you’re buying.}

Hope to see you at the shop on Thursday!

Love, Marian

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Instagram @marianvischer

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New here?

I’m all about and helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life. Each post provides courage, companionship, and resources for life lived real.

If that sounds like something you need, sign up in the box below to receive fresh hope and possibility delivered to your inbox no more than a couple of times a week.

And I have a free gift for subscribers. : )

school made simple freebie header

If you’re overwhelmed by the many educational options for your kids, if you’re curious about the most important questions to ask, I have a FREE resource created just for you!