Honesty, Prayer, Self-Care, Simplifying

A January-Inspired Reading List for Your Season of REST

This post contains affiliate links. (I’ve got a quick link to Amazon on each book title in case you want to grab it NOW – you’re welcome ūüėČ)

I don’t know about you, but January is when TRUE winter starts around here. In Michigan we batten down the hatches, put a fire in the fireplace and watch the snowglobe happen outside while snuggled under blankets. I love January for it’s stillness, the time for introspection over the new year’s blank slate, and the ability to rest after the holiday’s craziness. I also love it because I finally get to read all those books I’ve been meaning to start [or finish]!

Well I’ve been in a season of rest for a while – longer than I planned, but I’m getting better at both physical and emotional rest each day- and it all became purposeful with these books. If you’re in need of true soul-deep rest, here is a reading list of incredibly inspirational books to help you pause, reflect, and become the intentional person you were meant to be!

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist – Shauna feels like the big sister who is always just a step ahead of me! She is insightful and honest and I glean so much wisdom from her thought-provoking honesty. She reached a point of burn-out both physically and emotionally and now she has overcome the chaos to live intentionally. I love how she noticed and celebrated every step of the journey. I read this beauty slowly and savored every page!

PS while you’re at it, you should definitely look at Shauna’s daily devo called Savor! One blip of introspection and Jesus for every day of the year ** with recipes thrown in for good measure**!

Slow Down by Nichole Nordeman (with exerpts from Shauna & Jen Hatmaker too!)- Oh to slow down and let time stand still in the midst of parenting! This is more of an interactive journal with quick devotional thoughts and beautiful pictures. I recommend this book for moments of respite when one busy day blurs into the next! It’s a sweet way to reflect on the beauty of motherhood and bring purposeful stillness in the moment ‚̧

Nothing To Prove by Jennie Allen – Do you feel like you’re under constant pressure? Whether external or internal pressure, we sometimes realize we’ve been holding our breath and avoiding honesty. Jennie has been there. She admits “No one is ‘great’ all the time”, we all have things that we face that are bigger than we are and we need to let the air out of our lungs so we can breath deeply again. Jennie is the gentlest of souls to lead you down the road of openness, honesty, and God’s ability to relieve the pressure that building up inside.

**Jennie also has a bible/group study if you want to be brave and invite some friends along on your journey. I was forever changed by the honesty I was able to bring to the table when my woman’s group studied Proven.

Living From The Unseen by Wendy Backlund – This is actually my third time reading this one because Wendy is a person of JOY! She and her husband have an incredible ministry speaking life and declaring truth and this book is everything I needed to rejuvenate my exhausted spiritual life. Each time through it, I was refilled, challenged, and I walked away with new declarations  for my life and my identity that I never would have realized without Wendy’s direction.

Baptism Of Love by Leif Hetland – When you need to be reminded of your place in the Kingdom of God, this is the book for you. I so often come to God needing to be reminded that He is a good Father and that no matter what I do (or don’t do!) He loves me. Leif reminds us that there are no strings attached to God’s love for us. I could honestly read this book every year for the rest of my life and I would continue to experience God’s love in new and profound ways. It’s a thinker and a life-changer. Your heart will never be the same.

Of Mess & Moxie (And of course it’s Prequel: For the Love!) by Jen Hatmaker – Sometimes I just need to let go and laugh! Well if you know Jen at all, you know she has a way of mixing humor with truth and everyday circumstance. Jen Hatmaker is as real as real can be and her sense of humor made me laugh out loud and loosen up as well as seeing the world through new eyes.

The Practice Of The Presence Of God by Brother Lawrence – This age-old collection of timeless teachings was a gift I might never have found on my own. Of course, now that I’ve read it, I see it on book lists everywhere for the God-hungry. Brother Lawrence was a Friar in the 17th century who was experienced at communing with God and seeing His hand at work every minute of the day. He loved God so much, he would do every & any menial task for God’s glory, if only that were my perspective!

You Are The Girl For the Job by Jess Connolly – Girls, if you need a personal cheerleader, Jess is your girl! She’s sweet, southern and full of scripture to point you to the God who makes us capable. It’s not actually about us, after all… Jess adds stories of her life as an author, speaker & pastor’s wife that make me feel like maybe I can do this thing called life in my own way {without all the judgement or comparison!} and it’ll be ok.

You guys, life is not about busy-ness or even productivity or accomplishment. Life is about love. And I can certainly love better when I’m coming from a place of rest than anywhere else in the world! As I learn to trust instead of strive and practice saying “No” to the unnecessary, I find I have more of myself to invest in what I truly care about, I can connect more deeply with the people I love most and I have more time for the things I’m passionate about.

So what about you? What’s on your January reading list? And what is it that you may need to say “No” to, so that you can say yes to rest!?

P.S. One last book, because you KNOW how much I love community: Rythms of Renewal by Rebekah Lyons – Ok, I haven’t read this one yet. It’s in my Amazon cart along with the DVD and Study Guide. Read the description! It has the words “rest, restore, connect, and create” which are pretty much all of my new year’s resolutions. Who wants to read it together!? Let’s start an email book club and work our way through the rest, restoration, connection and creating that we were designed for! Sign up for my email list and I’ll get us a group together, if you’re in!

HOPE, Simplifying

Rewriting Myself

I’m in a season of forming the new me.

I’m discovering the next season.

Perhaps I’m walking into the second half of the story. (Is it too soon to say I’ve had my mid-life crisis!?)

Well after a season of utter breakdown and now a year of rest, it’s time to evaluate. Before I move forward I want to make sure I don’t fall right back to where I started. I’ve learned that things must be different to be sustainable.

A year ago we pulled back. As a family we decided to “quit our lives”. Everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary for survival was pruned so we could flourish. Relationships were paused except for immediate family and bits of extended family, volunteering was forgone and church was scaled back to Sunday am only. Letters were sent to school to explain our need for absence and request for space. I also purged our house: furniture, decor, clothes, even food was cleared out to make room for SPACE. Maybe it’s just me, but seeing an open wall instead of clutter & frames gave me room to think, room to breathe. Looking at an open schedule and knowing there were zero commitments was like removing a noose from my neck. (I promise our commitments were all good things with good people!) But space was what we needed in this season, not busy.

Now space is scary. Many of us have our identity wrapped around the things that we do!

“I am a mom/dad/aunt/grandparent.”

“I work at ___________.”

“I help out __(insert amazing organization here)_.”

“My hobbies are ___(vast or non-existent?)___.”

What if these things were taken away? Who would you be? I’ll tell ya, you would be naked!

So there we sat: One naked family. It got a little ugly for a minute. We were suddenly forced to be together a LOT and let me tell you, my adorable kiddos do not always smile at each other sweetly…or at all. It took some time to rediscover who each other was! At first, we were so exhausted (and possibly stunned!?) I think we ate from the freezer and watched movies every night for a month. Then we came out of our coma and tried a few board games. Next came one on one dates and the most amazing conversations. I had been missing all this without realizing it!? How crazy to get to know my family again!!! 7 nights of family dinner every week and whole weekends of stillness or house projects TOGETHER brought us beautiful healing.

One thing I needed personally was healing. I had completely forgotten how to take care of myself and therefore I couldn’t very well care for my family & friends, no matter how badly I wanted to!  I used sweets to deal with emotion and busyness to cover my fears. Now it was time to face it all. Counseling made a world of difference (as it always does!) and endless time gave me space to think. I revamped our pantry and started meal planning again. I took note of what I needed and imagined what I wanted. I learned the value of being INTENTIONAL.

During this time I learned how to nap daily (which also required the kids to rest!). I let myself sleep in and go to bed early. When I felt tired? No more espresso! Another nap it is. Two naps in a day felt crazy, but let me tell you: Guilt is the enemy!! I also learned how to quiet my brain and give myself a mental break. I said no to many opportunities for which I was well qualified but I also said no to the monster inside me that says I was disappointing others or letting them down.  I learned to not regret sitting and reading when I “should” have been cleaning. Exercise became my friend again for the energy boost and strength I gained. I let myself take indecently long showers and go without makeup and eat whole bars of really good chocolate WITHOUT GUILT! It was a battle, sure, but sooooooo worth it!

Yes, I still have plenty that I say “no” to. I still have not opened the floodgates of what “used to be”. I’m praying more and asking God what to do/say/feel each day. I’m moving slowly. I now have tools that help me to keep things simple: capsule wardrobes for all of us, a rotating (yearly!) meal plan, newly built routines/habits and healthy boundaries and guidelines for anything and anyone that comes into our lives.

So here are my priorities: quality time with God, taking care of myself (body, mind and soul), my family – their needs, relationship time and tons of memory making (it’s now or never, the kids are only getting older). If something doesn’t have to do with these three things…in this season… the answer is no!

I’m moving forward. And forward is a place where:

naps are revitalizing

time is a necessity, not just a luxury

relationships are intentional

and food is life-giving.

Care to join me? Let’s invite a season of rest into our lives and the lives of our friends & family. Let’s give ourselves and each other permission to make space.

Community

A little too much love!?

Boy, has it been a week. I’ve had increased stress, loss of sleep, trouble eating, and emotional trauma. (Not because of the kids this time, thank goodness!) This time it’s the ducks.

See, I’m trying to love the least of these… which really includes anyone and everyone… aaaand apparently it includes my duckies.

The struggle is REAL.

And now we have a duck in Carter’s bathtub. (The ultimate duck-lover’s sacrifice.)

I find myself at 3 in the morning hearing the quack of my feathered ladies outside the bedroom window (note to self: move the coop this summer!). It’s their cries of distress and I know it all too well. We are pretty much surrounded by woods and fields for miles and miles. Predators abound. We’ve lost our ladies to foxes, raccoons, opossums, coyotes, and great horned owls so far.¬† But now that the coop is close enough to hear, I KNOW when it happens. I can’t sleep through that!

So on night no.1 I heard the quack of fear and ran outside in my pj’s and rain boots (PS It’s still below 30 degrees at night here in MI.) to find 2 of our 3 ladies quacking away and moving warily around the edge of their fence line. I opened their house to find the last duck with a raccoon’s paws around it’s neck. Poor thing! The coon ran out and climbed our tall fence (which I naively thought wouldn’t happen to us) and I realized our problems were only beginning. Those varmints are marauders. They destroy everything they touch, never mind that they leave a mess of their victims’ pieces- GROSS!¬† I waited and watched the woods as I hovered over the injured duckie for a half hour before feeling she was going to make it and all the ladies were safe. I reluctantly headed back to bed.

I awoke later (like 7:00) that morning to find that our victimized duckie had not made it through the night due to a return visit from the coon. (Special thanks to the hubs for cleaning up the mess of pieces I “couldn’t reach” under the coop!) And a hole had been dug right under the fence this time.

Night no.2 I literally woke up with anxiety attacks every hour or so. I flew to the window to peer into the night wondering if I had really heard their quacks or was I just dreaming? The whole darn day was spent counting heads out the window to make sure they were really safe. Lord knows I was NOT letting them out to roam the yard today!

Day no.3 I woke up at 3:30 am to the urgent¬† quacks and then silence. (Any mother of young children knows that silence is worse than noise.) This time Collin was ready. He had his gun by the bed. Fortunately/unfortunately he insisted on getting dressed to go out ‘coon huntin’ in the woods. (Really!? I heard silence. Hurry it up!!) He got his gear and headed out while I kept the dog quiet and watched out the window (& shout-whispered my two cents of course).¬†Again, one duck was in the coop with blood on it’s neck while the other was hiding by the fence. He trod around the coop, scanned every single tree, and stalked the wood line but to no avail.¬† He returned 45 minutes later to close up the coop only to find the coon still hiding in the rafters of our duck house!! Thank goodness, he’s thorough because that rascal never got another breath. He’s buried behind the barn now with the opossum from last fall. VICTORY! (However momentary, it is still sweet.)

Moral of the story? I have none at the moment. Perhaps I was just wanting ya’ll to know love needs boundaries… I haven’t seemed to find healthy ones here, as poor Carter will be showering with a duck for a few days. Perhaps it is also important to choose where we invest our love. I’m sure there’s a whole sermon there.¬† Please feel free to comment below on your thoughts for a conclusion here. I know God speaks to me even through ducks!

** A quick update: Our injured lady has returned to the coop! She did lose an eye- quite a tragedy- however, she’s recovering well in every other way. Carter even re-named her¬†after a family viewing of Finding Dory. While brushing his teeth and watching her swim in his tub he proclaimed she should now be called Becky.**

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One lonely lady waiting for the convalescent to return.