How to Wear Courage in Your Right-Now Life {a personal post + a wearable reminder}

courage

No matter the art — be it painting, dancing, mothering, writing, counseling, teaching, or design — we grieve when we can’t seem to find our voice, our place, or our offerings. Joy and discouragement live too close in our hearts and we can’t reconcile our desire with our constant disappointment.

Emily P. Freeman, The Next Right Thing Podcast, Episode 5: Offer Your Work With Hope 

I began this post (for at least the third time) after I anger-folded the laundry. My sock-matching companion was the kind voice of Emily Freeman on her podcast, The Next Right Thing. As she offered a prayer at the end, I stood over the mismatched socks and cried as my anger dissolved into its true self — grief.

My last post here was July 3rd. I’ve been writing on the internet for about 9 years and this is by far the longest lapse I’ve ever had between one published post and another.

The truth is probably what you’d expect. My plate is full. Like most of you, I’m busy juggling good gifts like a home, a marriage, children, dinner, relationships, community, a steady job, some freelance work.

A lovely art print of Ecclesiastes 3:1 sits above my desk, a daily reminder to receive the gifts and callings of each season.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. 

I feel like I’m in a better place than ever about receiving this season of my life with acceptance and gratitude. Until I’m not.

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Where is my best life?

A couple of weeks ago I talked with my friend and fellow writer, Kimberly.

She spoke of how hard it is to feel like you’re constantly living out of your weakness and lack instead of your strengths and gifts. In response, I offered rambling words of hope and encouragement in the face of heartbreaking disappointment she’d recently experienced. I talked about how living out of our weaknesses keeps us dependent on Jesus, how it keeps us in a posture of humility and grace. Saying these things to my hurting friend — it sounded simple and right.

Little did I know that a few days later, I’d be yelling through tears {at my blindsided and bewildered husband who just was trying to leave for work} that I want to live out of my strengths and gifts, that I’m tired of operating from a place of weakness, from a place of cluelessness, from a place of frustration and anxiety.

The truth and perspective I shared with Kimberly had up and vanished.

Whether it’s mothering or running a home or work I don’t know how to do or balls I keep dropping, the voice in my head has been crystal clear:

You, my dear, are not living your best life.

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Kimberly and I spoke of our shared disappointment, how the writing life that we envisioned isn’t eagerly extending an invitation to us. Her circumstances are different than mine but the outcome is the same — we long to make a certain kind of art and offer it in a certain kind of way, but limitations seem to have the last word. It’s a silly lament compared with the real tragedies of hurricanes and family fracture and cancer.

But desire is a stubborn thing. It will not stay quiet just because the limitations tell it shush or because the problems could be so much worse.

To be sure, there are gifts in the disappointment of closed doors. Like the very best girlfriends who show up with ice-cream after a bad breakup, Grace and Acceptance have shown up on the doorstep of my angsty heart as I’ve sought to live faithfully, albeit messily, in the tension between my hoped-for work and my right-now life. God has handed me unexpected joy and satisfaction in my present callings, even the ones that don’t come naturally to me.

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Still, sometimes you find yourself folding t-shirts on an everyday Monday and you begin to cry.

Even when you have a beautiful life, even when you’re grateful for all the gifts, the sadness that arises from longing is still there, lurking just beneath the surface.

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the courage to wait

I call it “receiving your own life.”

Almost everything I’ve written over the last 9 years passes through this filter. Receiving your own life is about living in the tension between your actual life and your hoped-for life. Sometimes the backdrop of this tension is a marriage that’s a disaster, a kid who’s gone off to the far country, mental illness, or financial ruin. Sometimes it’s sickness, unemployment, addiction, or an unrelenting discontent.

I’ve lived against more than one of those backdrops, so I know from experience that learning to receive your own life with trust and gratitude is a fight. We use words like “contentment” and “letting go” and “acceptance,” all of which convey a gentle, graceful surrender.

But that’s not what it’s felt like to me.

I’ve been trying to land on a fitting word that helps me die to my own agenda and receive the life that’s right in front of me.

It’s courage.

But not courage in the sense of heroics or bravery or bootstrapping. The real architecture of courage is actually quite different.

The Latin root is “heart.”

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Living courageously means that we live vulnerably and honestly. It means we live with a confidence that’s grounded in the truth of things, even when we’re afraid, even when the truth of things is not what we wish for.

I recently did a word study of courage from the Bible. Of everything I studied, this verse still floors me:

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord! 

Psalm 31:24 

Do you see that? It takes courage —

to wait. 

To wait for what the Lord is going to show us and do for us and do with us.

God did not say, let your heart be patient, all you who wait for the Lord!  He said to let your heart take courage.

There is a strength, a fight, a trust required to wait for the fulfillment of desired things.

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when you miss your real life because you fear you’re missing out

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Like I said, I’ve walked some legitimately painful roads in my 40-something years, so writing about the difficult intersection of waiting and art and desire sounds dramatic and ridiculous. Still, we cannot always rationalize our way out of grief. We can find perspective. We can live from a place of hope. We can trust in a timing that’s filtered through God’s love. But we grieve what we grieve and I’m tired of letting my inner critic bully me about this.

Courage helps me wait.

And as I wait, I learn that the waiting room is not merely an interlude or pit stop; it is its own worthy destination. The waiting room is a place where I’m stripped of ambition and given the opportunity to commune with God in my disappointment and doubt. It’s a place where I can stop and breathe and receive this dazzling life of mine, imperfections and all. Waiting rooms have a way of helping us see what really matters, even as we wish that certain circumstances were different.

Though Twitter is a terrible way to start your day, I happened to be awake at an ungodly hour one morning last week and came across this quote from author, Shawn Smucker:

In my limited experience, letting go of the things I wanted the most has allowed me to see the real and wonderful life in front of me.

Story of my life.

I’ve had a number of turning points across the last twenty-something years, moments when I let go of personal ambition like a child lets go of a helium-filled balloon. First the panic and the pang. Then the acceptance and eventual peace.

It’s terrifying to let go, even when we know it’s the right thing to do.

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We can only speak of courage in the face of fear. And isn’t fear our greatest foe when we’re fighting to receive our right-now lives? We fear that an opportunity will pass us by. We fear that we’ll misspend our lives. We fear that we’ll regret not giving more to our families or we fear that we’ll regret not pursuing vocational opportunities. We fear that God won’t answer our prayers in the way we want him to — or even that He will answer our prayers in the way we want him to.

We fear that we’re getting it all wrong.

Everyone else is supposedly out there living their best life and what are we doing? We’re crying on laundry day and wiping our noses with dryer sheets.

Cue the courage.

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what the professionals aren’t telling you

There are so. many. “experts.” They bombard us with “good” information every day, persuasive messages rooted in helpfulness. But I can’t help but wonder if the sheer volume of it all is dulling our discernment.

receive my life bracelet

Has self-help gotten too cozy with Jesus?

A curated life — aka a life that mostly lines up with our unique strengths, gifts, desires, skill sets, etc. — well, I’m just going to say it: That is not necessarily the way of Jesus, even if it seems to be the way of Christian Self-help (which we sometimes confuse with Jesus.)

I’m not saying we shouldn’t problem-solve or climb out of pits. I’m not saying we haplessly pitch our tents in the land of misery and call ourselves more righteous because of it. And I’m definitely not saying our unique gifts don’t matter.

I am saying that every death, big or small, is a two-fold opportunity:

To reject pride and self-sufficiency and the idolatry of our own agenda. 

To receive God and grace and unexpected gifts.

The thing about Jesus is that He always tells the truth, even if it’s not the cozy truth we want to hear. Sometimes his words sound like crazy talk. He says that you gain your life by losing it, that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. The Jesus Way is upside-down and inside-out and even those of us who follow Him — well, we forget because the Jesus way gets mixed up with ambition and comfort and success and your best life.

I’m not trying to be preachy. I drink the Kool-Aid too.

This is already my longest post ever, but I’m going to go deep and dramatic for one last moment. Stay with me?

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A courageous life may not look like your best life.

Do you think that when Jesus was dying a humiliating public death, the people in the crowd were thinking, “How successful he is! What a legacy. We should find out his best practices.” Of course not. They pitied him, they hated him, they called him a liar and a fool and a fraud. “What a wasted life,” they must have thought.

Though they stripped Him of his clothes, they could not strip Him of courage. Jesus-courage isn’t rooted in bravery or self-actualization or crafting a perfect life. Jesus-courage is rooted in vulnerability and humility and sacrificial love and a future glory that is not of this world.

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My words may not be as inspiring as the messages from your favorite experts, but I can’t write about real courage without bringing Jesus into it. Because He knows what it’s like to live in the ultimate tension between the now and the not yet. He lived and died in that tension. He wept in that tension. He was forsaken in that tension.

And this means He is a kindred companion to those of us who also live in the tension, who die to our hoped-for agenda on a daily basis, who lose our lives to give it away as we fold the clothes and braise the pot roast and wipe the tears and help with math homework and grade the papers.

He’s with us when we set aside our fancy degrees and personal giftedness to do something less visible but more significant.

After all, He came to earth fully man and fully God. He had the “skill-set” to call down the angels, to display his true power, to climb down off the cross. But He humbled himself and remained a servant. For us. And for the joy set before him.

This is the same Jesus who is with us today. He understands. And because He was and is the perfect incarnation of all the things we lack, He offers us courage as we wait because He offers us Himself.

He is our courage.

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FOR YOU! : )

Still here? I know. Could this post be any longer?

Yes it can.

Because I made something for you.

I know what you’re thinking. “Marian, you just said you have no time. When did you make stuff?” And the answer is, many months ago and with help from a creative soul sister. The timing wasn’t right to offer it but now it is. Yay!

A year and a half ago, one of my dearest friends gave me this courage necklace for my birthday.

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I didn’t know how much I would need that word but Jesus must have known because I have worn courage (literally, on this gold cord) almost every day since.

This necklace doesn’t have magical powers, nor will it slay actual beasts or fold your laundry. It simply serves as a visual reminder that you need courage every day and all you have to do is ask for it.

  • Courage to receive your beautiful, messy, right-now life just as it is, even as you wait with hope.
  • Courage when Fear is a bully and calling all the shots. 
  • Courage to say yes, even though you don’t know what you’re doing. Courage to say no, even though the opportunity may not come again.

Courage is ultimately a person who gives us strength to wait, to trust, and to hope in better things than what we can even imagine.

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UPDATE: The necklaces have all been spoken for. Thank you so much for your kind and supportive responses! I may offer additional pieces down the road so if you enjoy wearing meaningful beauty like I do, make sure you’re subscribed to marianvischer.com and you’ll be the first to know. I’ll also keep you in the loop on Instagram @marianvischer, so you can follow me there too!

Here are the details:

I have 32 of these.

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I’m offering them for $15 each and that includes shipping. These necklaces are a sweet, creative labor of love. Each hand-cut, hand-stamped, “hand-hewn” (yep, we actually cut and filed these babies) comes with a gold cord that gives you about a 16-inch drop. I’ve had mine for a year and a half and it’s still just as lovely. The cord makes it light and casual and simple to wear with anything. And it’s super easy to layer with other necklaces.

You could also put it on a different color cord.

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Or a short leather choker tied in a bow in the back. So many possibilities!

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I am too lazy to be high-tech about this so here’s what we’ll do:

  • If you’d like a courage necklace for yourself or as a gift, simply leave your Paypal address (the email you use for Paypal) in the comments section.
  • MAKE SURE your current shipping address is updated with Paypal so I send it to the right place.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable with that, you can send it in an email to marianvischer@gmail.com. Use “necklace” in the subject line.
  • I’ll invoice the first 32 people who reply with a Paypal address.

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I hope this will be as meaningful a piece for you as it has been for me! Feel free to leave any questions in the comments.

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Thanks for sticking with me. Now that I’m settling into a fall rhythm, I hope to occupy this space a bit more regularly.

In the meantime, if this post resonated with you, you may also enjoy these posts and resources:

Posts

How to Pursue Your Hoped-For Work in the Midst of Your Right-Now Life {a series}

How to Waste Your Life and Call It Beautiful 

How a 92-Year-Old Woman Taught Me the Real Value of My Right-Now Work

Books

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman

Creating a life of meaning is not about finding that one great thing you were made to do, it’s about knowing the one great God you were made to glory — in a million little ways.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Dr. Brené Brown — I love her transformative work on courage!

8 Favorite Resources to Make Your Hoped-for Work a Possibility in Your Right-Now Life — some of my favorite, encouraging, balanced, grace-filled resources on this topic

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10 Ways to Receive Your Summer Life with Less Envy and More Gratitude

10 ways to receive summer life

Last summer I wrote a post called “How to Receive Your Own Summer Life.” I bared my struggling summer soul, which has a way of overflowing with envy and discontentment during the season that’s supposed to be the happiest, most easygoing time of the year.

I’d love to report that I have matured a year later. Alas, I’m fighting for acceptance and gratitude all over again.

In the midst of this struggle, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it looks like at street level to receive my own summer life instead of pining for opportunities and experiences that aren’t mine to have. This post could be an instructive piece about the evils of envy and how we should instead be grateful and realize how #blessed we are.

And this is true. Envy is bad. Gratitude is where it’s at.

But if the truth doesn’t travel to my heart and make a home there, it’s all just knowledge. I need truth to link arms with me in everyday ways so that what’s in my head can sync with my heart and overflow with love into my real life.

Thus these 10 tactics or suggestions or considerations or whatever you want to call them. They’re helping me in my quest to receive a summer life that does not include an Airstream, a fancy vacation, super lazy days, or even our annual July trip to Michigan.

If your summer feels ordinary or less-than, if you’re fighting to receive your summer life too, I hope these truths set you free to embrace the summer you have, even if it’s not the summer you want to have.

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1. Don’t compare your sink full of dirty dishes with someone else’s summer highlight reel.

Imagine this moment: The day has just begun. You wake up to a headache, last night’s dishes, and children fighting over the iPod charger. You pour a cup of coffee and open Instagram or Facebook, only to see friends on an anniversary trip, skipping through the blue waters of Tahiti. They are so #blessed.

Suddenly your life is the worst.

messy kitchen

You do not appreciate your home, your night of sleep, the food in your pantry, or the fighting children. Because Tahiti.

But real life is not lived in highlight reel moments. When we receive those moments, they are worthy of celebrating. But the mundane moments matter too. And to begrudge them because everyone else seems to be living their best summer life now, well, it makes a mockery of our beautiful, ordinary lives.

 

2. Disconnect if it helps you stay present.

I know, I know. Being “present” is such a buzz word right now. But guess what? We’re still not doing it.

From time to time I simply have to go off social media and the internet. My emotional responses while scrolling through Instagram are almost always a barometer for the state of my soul. Judgmentalism? Envy? Eye-rolling? Anxiety? When those familiar companions show up, it’s time for me to walk away for a while.

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Whether it’s the envied experiences of others or an attention-grabbing post we just have to read, the truth is — we don’t have the capacity to handle all the input that’s catapulted at us day in and day out.

Last Saturday I left my phone on the kitchen counter and went for a walk in the hottest part of the day. I didn’t care; I just knew I needed the space to disconnect. As I walked and sweated and prayed, my head cleared and my soul breathed. An hour later I returned with peace and perspective, feeling more at home in my own life.

We’re the only ones who can put up boundaries and choose what we let in. Each one of us has different thresholds, but here are some things I’ve noticed about myself:

  • When I walk away from the online world, I’m more attentive to the little world that’s right in front of me.
  • I notice the gifts of my own life and feel content to tuck them away in my heart, just for me. 
  • I pay attention to the people who matter most. 
  • I’m more engaged and focused.
  • My mind feels less cluttered. 

I’m not hating on the internet or on social media. I became a writer because I started a blog ten years ago. I earn a living creating online content. I love Instagram. Some of my dearest friends are those I met through the blogosphere. But I’m learning when and how to draw boundaries that help me receive my own summer life instead of feeling like it doesn’t quite measure up.

 

3. Fight back with gratitude.

Apparently Ann Voskamp was on to something when she started that one thousand gifts thing. Here’s a little story from a few weeks ago:

I was in a beautiful place with people I love. But for two days, all of it was shrouded in gloom because I wasn’t getting my way about a few things. There were experiences I wanted to have and none of them were working out. For a while I clung to my resentment, miserable though I was, because there’s a sick sort of satisfaction we get from entitlement. Thankfully I got fed up with myself.

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“Fine!” I said to no one in particular. “I’ll start counting the gifts.”

By the time I’d named even a few things I was grateful for, the entitlement began to melt away and thankfulness took up residence in its place. Self-pity and  resentment are powerful emotions. But here’s the good news: gratitude is a powerful emotion too. It’s like Ann says, “Fight emotion with emotion.”

It works.

 

4. Remember that selfishness never takes a vacation.

It’s why families still fight at Disneyworld, the happiest place on earth.

This ever-present brokenness is something it’s taken us years to remember and to plan for. But summer, with its more relaxed schedule, special travel plans, and happy expectations, is one of those seasons when I subconsciusly expect all sunshine and no rain. Ironically, some of our worst marital conflicts have actually been on vacation. And some of our kids’ ugliest moments have also been on vacation.

Also, these lazy days of summer seem to bring out the worst sibling squabbles. IMG_4531

Knowing that brokenness travels with us wherever we go and accompanies our families in each and every season — it’s strangely helpful. When family togetherness goes off the rails, we don’t fall into a shock-induced despair. We know that we’re messy people living in a messy world. We look to God to fill us up with grace for ourselves and for our people.

Which is the perfect segue to my next point.

 

5. Lower your expectations.

I have an honorary doctorate in high expectations. This applies to myself and to those around me. Bless us all.

But when I allow for my life and my people to be messy, for things to not go as planned, we’re a much happier lot. I call it “expectational margin.” This point about low expectations may sound dismal and lazy, but I like to think of it as grace.

rubbermaid pool

I will forever love this photo of my niece. Is she depressed that she’s swimming in a rubbermaid container on Aunt Marian’s driveway and not at a beach resort? She is not. Tiny Tabitha has delightfully low expectations and is just happy to be here. #blessed

 

6. Know that every day doesn’t have to be a memory maker.

Raise your hand if it feels like there’s a lot of pressure to make all the summer days special-ish. We live in a Pinteresty, Instragrammy culture of bucket lists, of moments we can hashtag, of documenting every adorable experience. And while that can be fun, the cumulative effect is that it makes our everyday moments feel like they’re not measuring up.

My kids tend to remember summer not for all the special things we’ve done but for the break from school, the later bedtimes, the relaxed schedule, and watching TV together as a family. That’s how I remember the summers of my childhood too.

Summer is its own stand-alone kind of special. This reminds me that the pressure’s off.

 

7. Remember that the free stuff is often what we remember most and best.

My boys found a bunch of wiffle balls at the park and it was like Christmas.

My youngest son is watching dog training videos on YouTube.

My daughter and I are partaking in the glorious Ministry of Netflix again this summer.

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I was reflecting this week on what I loved most about summer as a kid:

  • Playing with kids at the church softball field and how the water fountain leaked enough for us to make mud pies in the red Carolina dirt
  • Riding my bike down to the creek and the freedom I felt
  • Watching the Sunday night ABC family movie
  • Having picnics in the living room
  • Catching fireflies

 

Childhood is its own sort of vacation.

 

8. Celebrate summertime with story time.

Novels, audiobooks, read-alouds, movies. Summer begs us to slow down and get lost in good stories.

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Even if I’m staying at home all summer, a good book or evening movie feel like ridiculous luxuries. Especially if there’s ice cream in the house.

 

9. Consider each summer season’s pros and cons.

Every season of parenthood has its summertime pros and cons. When my kids were little, taking them to the pool felt like an Olympic sport. {Guess what I don’t miss? Swim diapers.} But then those exhausting cherubs came home exhausted. They took naps and I had time to also take a nap or read a book or paint furniture or write. Bonus: They went to bed earlier and we enjoyed kid-free evenings.

These days they can get dressed and take showers and fix food ALL BY THEMSELVES. It’s glorious. But I’ve been crazy stressed because summer hasn’t felt relaxed. I’ve been driving people to and from places. A lot. And it’s a challenge to find long stretches of time during the day to get my work done.

It’s a busier summer because the people who live here are older and have more scheduled lives.

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They no longer go to bed early. (Boo!)  But we can all stay up late watching movies together that aren’t animated. (Yay!)

Each season has its own gifts and its own burdens. Being mindful of this reality helps me receive this current summer season with more grace and optimism.

 

10. Take time to nourish yourself.

I did an Instagram post a couple of weeks ago about how fixing myself a proper breakfast mid-morning changed the emotional trajectory of my day. I had been up half the night for no particular reason. Which meant I slept through my alarm. By the time I woke up, the kids were fighting and resistant to responsibility. I’d lost precious early-morning work hours, and I commenced to stressing and hollering.

My default is to grab coffee and race downstairs to crank out some work. But I went against my instinct. I slowed down. I cooked an actual meal for myself. I read for a few minutes. This 30 minute time-out nourished my body and my soul. It’s hard to be kind to others when you haven’t been kind to yourself.

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I really do love summer, but each year it’s an adjustment. This introvert mom has frayed nerves by the end of the day. Because I work from home but my kids are also at home, it gets a little cuckoo around here. Nourishing myself in small ways, like a real breakfast {or that ombre pink drink from Starbucks}, feels like kindness.

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I’d love to know how you receive your summer life. You can share in the comments, shoot me an e-mail, or leave your thoughts on social media.

Happy ordinary summering, everyone!


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I’m all about 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 a couple of times a month.

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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.

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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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