What could be more fun in February than sharing with each other what is saving our lives right now? Modern Mrs. Darcy is hosting this lovely gathering of people sharing the current things that are giving us life these days. As I sit tucked in a wingback recliner in the corner of my room, surround by tissues, a Yeti filled with ice water, blankets, and books, recovering from the flu, I will offer my favorite life-saving things too.
I shared with you that I am a slow morning person. And that means using tools that help me ease into my day gently, don’t require much brain power, and lessen my morning decision-making. I decided to take a chance on a journal that already marked out a prompt for some gratitude, offered a Scripture for me to read and jot down, space to journal a little, and pick a “word” for the day. This is a template deep enough to be meaningful but light enough to engage a foggy morning brain. I actually look forward to my time opening the Word and reflecting because this journal puts boundaries to it and keeps me from being overly idealistic or neglecting that time altogether.
2. Contoured Sleep Mask
For $6, this little bit of magic gives me an amazing nap. Adjustable straps like a bra around the back of the head. My eyes aren’t pressed down but given room to blink. Add a pair of earplugs, and I take the nap of a lifetime!
3. Stainless Steel Straws
I struggled with water intake and low-level dehydration for years. I tried so many different ways to track and increase the cups of water I had, but nothing seemed to work. For me, I realized that I felt a bit suffocated every time I drank from a glass. Straws were the answer! But plastic tasted like PLASTIC. I ordered these straws and never looked back. The water tastes cold and clean coming through stainless and it made all the difference! And when you have a cold or the flu, there is nothing like having that water come through cool and refreshing.
4. New Running Shoes
I’ve logged hundreds of miles walking on the dirt roads near my home wearing the same pair of shoes for four years. It was past time for a new pair. For the first time ever, I went to a local running shoe store to get my feet properly sized and fitted for good shoes. I wear a size 7 1/2 regular shoe, but when they fitted me, they told me that I need to be wearing an 8 1/2 wide running shoe! Turns out you need a lot more room in the toe box of your running shoes than you think you do. It felt so good to invest in my feet and into a shoe that is going to serve me well.
5. Taking Daily Time to Study and Take Notes
Todd Henry, the Accidental Creative, says that creative people need time every day to study, to ruminate, to take in other’s work to make connections with their own work. Two weeks ago, I took a personal retreat to a local hotel and had hours to read, take notes, and think about how habits of high-performing professionals can influence the lives of mothers in the home. As Kendra says, self-care is doing what makes you come alive, what makes you feel like a person. Studying makes me come alive, and I feel like my best self when I read, take notes, and share it with others.
6. Plan to Eat
My friend Kitty tried to convince me for years to use the Plan to Eat website to make meal planning + shopping easier. I did not believe her because digital planning has never worked for me. But come November, I realized that meal planning wasn’t the issue that I was struggling with. I made my meal plan every Sunday night, but wasn’t following through because I NEVER MADE THE SHOPPING LIST! Getting up during my planning time to check the pantry and make the list would break up my focused flow, so I never got around to doing it. So I didn’t have a meal planning problem, but instead, a Shopping List Problem. I decided to try Plan to Eat because they auto-generate your shopping list for the meals you pick for the week. I can open the app and see the shopping list already made for me and add in any staples that I need to! I have used it consistently since Black Friday, and it has literally saved my meal planning and shopping.
When I was in high school, it was a thing to have your own wite-out. Why did I forget about this magic? I found myself scratching through things in my planner last year, either canceled plans or misspellings, and I was tired of looking at the mess and precious waste of planner space. Found the classic Wite-Out at Target and it is quite actually saving my planning life.
I was a Creative Memories groupie back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I made all kinds of scrapbooks until I burned out on Mrs. Grossman stickers and die-cuts. Six children and many years later, I felt that there were too many choices out there to get some albums made. Even in the age of digital photo albums, it all still felt like too much. Someone told me about Chatbooks last fall. I downloaded the app. And in about 30 minutes I had four mini photo albums made of 2017! Chatbooks takes the latest 60 photos from your camera roll (what I did!) or your Instagram feed (there are other options too) and makes them into a hardcover photo album for $15 (free shipping!) They make it super simple to delete photos you don’t want or change the order. It’s crazy simple. My kids absolutely adore these albums and were so grateful that I did this!
What about you? What’s one or two things that are saving your life right now?
I am not a morning person. I have said that for most of my life because it is completely and totally true. I love the idea of mornings and fresh starts, but my mind takes a long time to wake up. After reading Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before, I realized that my night-owl tendencies are hard-wired and aren’t necessarily going anywhere. I got up early for years, determined that self-discipline and time would change me. But it only got me more and more exhausted, and I received a firm exhortation from my husband to sleep later.
I began to honor the way that I am made and the gift that comes with older children who finally sleep later. I received more rest, more health, and felt energized all throughout the day. I learned that getting up early didn’t equal spiritual maturity, super-mom status, or better productivity. I didn’t need to prove myself anymore. And yet I knew that something in my mornings was missing.
My mornings were more reaction, less proactive. The rhythm changed daily according to whatever I deemed the most important when my eyes opened. Sometimes I got dressed, and sometimes I stayed in pajamas for a while. Some days I put on essential oils, but usually, I would forget. Some days I looked at my planner or read a verse, and other days I walked around in a fog for an hour tidying my home. Every morning looked different, and none of it felt centering, grounding, or energizing.
I had given up on my desire for having a meaningful morning because I somehow believed that it could only be accomplished if I got up early. So as a mostly night-owl, I believed that early birds get to have meaningful mornings but the rest of us are relegated to make-it-through mornings. I have learned that whether you get up at 5:30 am or at 9 am, you can have a meaningful morning routine.
Having a meaningful morning is less checklist and more nurture. We are not just a body or a mind, a robot, but a living, breathing, soft soul that needs tending, filling, life. We create morning space for ourselves so that we are filled body, soul, and spirit and from that nurtured self, give to our families, friends, and community. The goal isn’t to check off a morning routine so that you can be more effective or more productive, although those are usually nice by-products. The goal is to be a whole, centered, grounded, and rooted woman who can live and love well. We fill up so we can flow out.
How do we fill?
Breathe deeply, while you are still in bed. In and out, in and out for a minute. Breathe in the love of the Father, the communion with Jesus, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. We calm and center our bodies and spirits, praying to be filled with the Holy Spirit before we allow the alarm or the list to dictate our day. We begin without screens, without scrolling so that we can be clear-minded, focused, and present.
Sip some water. Have a glass sitting right there by your bed, ready to hydrate you, fill you, even before coffee or tea. We are made of water and need water and the Living Water. Every breath and every sip, these tangible actions that we need mirrors His identity: Rest, Breath, Water.
Rise. Get up. Stretch. Smile. Look towards the new day with resurrected hope. Ask Him for the hope.
These small acts are the beginnings of a small, doable, meaningful morning. None of this takes much time, energy, or a clear mind. Breath, Water, Rise. Small beginnings.
That is where I began. And if you are struggling, you can too. And next Tuesday, I will be sharing on Facebook Live my expanded routine. Where does my morning go from there? How do Post-its save my mornings? What do I do with my kids if they are awake? What resources do I use to help fill me when I have a foggy mind and sluggish energy? How do I connect with Jesus when my brain doesn’t engage well in the mornings?
I no longer say “I am not a morning person.” I have reframed that with, “I am a slow morning person.” I have begun to love mornings as I move at my own pace, according to my own personality, and tweak resources to serve my situation. Everyone can have a meaningful morning routine that fills and nourishes, builds and sends. Isn’t that good news?
Many of us have sat down to set some goals for the year, contemplate our word for the year, and discern what 2018 needs to be about. But then there is the reality that our children headed back to school today after a 6-week break, and we find ourselves back in the rhythm of schooling schedules, deadlines, basketball games, and Scouting events. Sometimes the schedule + deadlines + activities don’t seem to line up with “all the things” we contemplated and want to happen in a new year. We quickly realize that on the way to the Big Things, we forgot about our Real Life.
How do we set meaningful goals that actually mesh with the reality of our dailiness?
I love challenging goals. I love idealistic dreaming. I love envisioning my best self, giving out of my gifts, ideas, and strengths in big ways. It’s easy to write down all that I want to be and to do, all the ways I want to change and to give, the idealized version of myself and my time, but then there is this thing called reality that hits. I have six children. I homeschool. I have a limited energy capacity. I need solid sleep. I have a home that needs tending and care.
In the past, I have made the big goals, but the reality of the demands on my time and life hit, and so I gave up on them. I decided that I wasn’t “in the right season” for goal-setting and making progress. So I kept walking around the same mundane mountains, being ineffective with my time, my energy, and my gifts. “Maybe when the kids get older.” I stayed stuck in so many areas because I dismissed them as being too “small” and unimportant. Goals have to be big, right? That was the lie.
The truth is that I had many foundational areas of my life that needed growth, change, rhythm, and healthy habits. The ways my house gets cleaned, organized, and decorated. The way I plan for birthdays and holidays. The way I tend my time, social media, and hobbies. The way I drink water, begin my mornings, or incorporate movement/exercise. The way I feed my family, plan my dinners, and grocery shop. The way I build a culture of gratitude, encouragement, creativity, reading, music, and games.
I began to realize that the growth + effectiveness of my home, my time, my mothering, my marriage, my community, and my health needed some simple, sustainable goals that weren’t fancy, but fruitful.
So the past few years, I have used my PowerSheets in new ways. Small ways. Life-changing ways. Little by little, I have made big progress in my daily life. I drink more water. I started yoga. I get more sleep. I go to a chiropractor. I meal plan and implement it. I celebrate birthday, holidays, and seasons well. I use my time effectively and am more focused. My home is pared down and my style has simplified. My extended family receives birthday cards. I don’t have as many library fines. 🙂 My kids’ projects get done in a timely way. Do balls still get dropped? Sure. Is all this done perfectly? Nope. But I feel more joy, less stress, and my family and home is getting the best of me! No amount of big goal setting can compete with that.
So if you have given up on goal setting all together OR you are an overachiever who goes big or goes home, there is a middle place. Women in the middle years need to know that your work and small progress in any area is valuable, meaningful, and needed. Your dailiness matters and how you live your life changes lives. Find some meaningful goals that align with your priorities, and day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, cultivate faithfulness.
It’s easy to get pumped up by the big + grand, to overextend our energy + adrenals to make things happen, but faithfulness over time is where meaning meets sustainability. And that changes everything.