Category Archives: Uncategorized


school starts


I’ve been writing again, and I’ll start adding posts to the blog again soon. Think of it as “school starting.” I’ve tweaked the focus of the blog from primarily spiritual to holistic living, which includes spirituality. There will still be the beloved “Lessons Learned” posts and my favorites, the Top 10 Lists, but there will also be new things like Free Write Fridays and current events posts plus a host of other things. I hope you join me starting September 1!

for every season, present

it was over three years ago that i was at lunch with a dear friend talking about my cliche crisis in approaching age 30. she knew about my embracing the nickname “student of Life” so she used it against me! she said something i’ve never forgotten since: “i don’t think a student of Life would dread being 30 or pretend to stay 29. i think a student of Life would embrace their current season, whatever that might be.” was i ever knocked down a peg. in a good way. after that conversation, i vowed to myself i would do just that — embrace my current season. i actually enjoyed turning 30, in part thanks to my friends & family making it such a fun milestone to celebrate. but i think i mostly enjoyed it because my point-of-view changed, & i started to look forward to this new chapter with new adventures & experiences, rather than lamenting the ones bygone.


i think that’s one of the keys to preventing ourselves from wishing we were still ___ — fill in the blank. still in high school. still in college. still young. still married. still living wherever. still thin. still rocking small babies. still working at that job.

we have a hard time letting go of past seasons because we weren’t fully present & paying attention to what we had when we had it. i’m not talking about a nostalgic walk down memory lane. i’m talking about being consumed with thoughts of our past, maybe even trying to recreate parts of it. i have lots of seasons that i wasn’t really present during, & i regret that. i wish i could go back & better imprint each experience, each relationship, on my mind & heart. i wish i could relive “the glory days.” but i can’t. all i can do is not repeat the same mistake with the season in which i find myself now.

the season i happen to be in currently is motherhood. with my very own baby girl that i carried & birthed & who lives in my home 24/7. in so many ways, i have put off this season for years. a decade actually. two main things held me back from pursuing children sooner. one, i was afraid becoming a parent would compromise my effectiveness in ministering to teens, one of my greatest passions in life. i know all too well that merely being a parent, no matter what kind of parent, made you automatically different in the eyes of teens. but i finally realized that while my relationships with them would change, it didn’t mean they necessarily had to be ineffective. the other reason was i kept waiting to want a baby, but the plain fact is i’m not a baby person. i like babies; i’m comfortable with babies; i have held day-old newborns, changed diapers, & babysat oodles of wee ones. but i’m just not that person who ooo’s & ahh’s over & wants to hold every baby i see. i’m just not a baby person. once i came to terms with that being okay, that it didn’t mean i couldn’t be a mom & have babies of my own, i was ready to have them.

people say it will be different with your own baby. it is, & it isn’t. i’m still just not a baby person. but i do love each moment while i have it, all the while okay with each moment passing & her getting older! people also tell me all the time to enjoy it while i can because it just goes too fast, they grow up too fast. i believe it. and i’m trying to make a point every day to embrace being a momma, memorizing what roo is like today, enjoying the cuddles & naps & feedings & baby talk. i go a little stir-crazy sometimes, but i know one day she’ll be too big to sleep on my chest, she won’t need me to feed her, & she’ll have a mind & mouth all of her own! and hopefully i’ll embrace that season, too.

my focus for this year is flow — i want to cultivate eyes to see God working in, around, & through me each day, in all the “small” things. and i want to explore faith from a daily standpoint — learning to experience God, worship, & wonder in the everyday simple moments. i figure with a baby coming, this will be pivotal amidst the diapers, feedings, & messes! i don’t want to miss God & the wonder because of the mess & sleeplessness. [read more here.] i want to notice the “appointments” that God sets for me, holy interruptions in my day. i want to find Him in the weather outside, meet Him while i wash the bottles, talk with Him in the laundry room, & walk with Him through my neighborhood.

how? here are two exercises i use daily [albeit imperfectly, inconsistently] to help keep me focused on the present.

1. daily prayers — morning, midday, & evening. i have been using common prayer for ordinary radicals to structure these prayer times throughout my day. i say my morning prayers [a different one each day of the year] before i get out of bed in the morning. i love waking up this way. the midday prayer is the same every single day & takes only a few minutes. i keep it on my phone & in my locket so i can recite each afternoon [at 3:00ish] no matter what i’m doing — feeding the baby, making a bottle, at the office, or out doing errands. each evening, there are prayers that cycle every week that include a time for confession. sometimes i say evening prayers at my prayer desk; sometimes while rocking roo to sleep; sometimes in bed right before i drift off. each of these points in my day help reorient myself, today, & this moment around God, His Presence, His will. 

2. quick pics — this is something i actually learned from a pregnancy book called body, soul, & baby. the purpose of them is to intentionally pay attention to yourself throughout the day. a quick pic is simple a minute or two where you pause whatever you’re doing, take a few deep breaths to center yourself, & ask yourself how you’re doing in this moment, physically & spiritually. how does my body feel? do i need anything [food, stretches, a walk, etc.]? how does my soul feel? do i need anything [a break, a chat with a friend, letting something go, etc.]? i also add a third pic of my productivity from the last hour or so. am i using my time wisely? am i working on things that need to get done? is there anything i’m avoiding? i do quick pics once an hour throughout the workday. i have a soft chiming alarm set on my iphone that reminds me to stop & focus. these periodic pauses to pay attention to how i’m doing help bring me back to the present if i’m stressing about something from the past or in the future; help remind me what’s really important & necessary.

again, i must stress that i don’t do these things every day perfectly, but i do some of it every day, & that makes a huge difference. i’m still learning. always will be. and in this season, i’m learning that being present in every season can make all the difference in life, in experiencing abundant Life.

confessions of a lazy girl

i'm lazy button


i am a lazy girl. it’s been a problem for me. one i’ve been working on with limited success for a long time. perhaps you can relate?

before anyone can have much success in not being lazy, you have to figure out what it is you do when being lazy [the indicators], what it costs you when being lazy, & what are the main causes of your laziness.

laziness manifests differently in each person. in me, the main indicators are: procrastination, sleeping in late, watching lots of television, deferring items on my 2do list, & wasting time on media outlets [facebook, pinterest, etc.]. these often roll into each other — i watch television & play on pinterest as i procrastinate doing what i actually need to do, then i defer what i actually need to do to a later date. it’s a vicious, vicious cycle.

and there’s a steep cost to this cycle. i end up feeling highly stressed when crunch time comes due to procrastination, & sometimes i even go so far as to alienate myself & avoid everything i need to get done. there are three major consequences to this pattern: developing a reputation of unreliability [ouch], missing opportunities, & life passing you by… and while being cast as unreliable is embarrassing & frustrating, as a student of life, the other two consequences are much more detrimental.

my fundamental problems in being a lazy girl are lack of self-discipline, ingrained bad habits, lack of accountability, selfishness, & inability to canter. that last one probably needs an explanation. my counselor in college told me that i only have two speeds: gallop & stop. she said i needed to learn to canter. basically, i need to learn to pace myself. however, i find the worst problem is actually my utter selfishness. oftentimes, i know i should do a particular task to help or encourage someone, but almost invariably, my own desires [usually to do nothing] win out. i completely agree with the phrase “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” that describes my life too well.

so what is a lazy girl to do?

i’ve identified 5 solutions that are helpful for me & i believe are universally helpful to anyone struggling with laziness.

1. know what is your passion or purpose. — i am drawn to ministry, especially to teenagers & putting faith into action. that’s my passion. [one of many.] i find great purpose in pursuing this passion but also in just pursing what it means to live life deliberately & to the fullest. being a student of life is my purpose, regardless of how my passions may change or what kinds of ministry i’m involved with over time. knowing this increases the likelihood that i will do those things that are related to my passion & purpose.

2. set goals. — this seems obvious, but there are a few caveats. you must set realistic goals, you must establish a timeline in which to accomplish these goals, & you must write them down & review them often. there are so many different ways you can do this, & it’s purely a matter of what works best for you. i set 12 goals per year & a deadline of december 31 each year in which to have completed or improved in my goals. i write them down in several places — i keep a list in my phone, in my journal, & on a poster in my bedroom. this year, i also devoted a whole notebook to my goals, each one being allotted 4-6 pages. i review my goals every week [on saturdays], & i keep track of the small steps it takes to accomplish each goal.

for more about why i set goals, how i set goals, & what kinds of goals i set, see my post from earlier this year: the goals of a student of Life.

3. take baby steps. — i’ve learned in my goal-setting & various large projects over the past few years how crucial it is to break down each task into smaller “bite-size” pieces. if you’re like me, you may see a big task that needs to be done & feel so overwhelmed by it that you never start. i love lists, so creating a plan to get a project or goal done is very satisfying for me. actually getting the smaller steps done is another story…

4. agape. — i am good at starting projects. i am really good at making lists & plans about how to start & complete a task. but i’m not good at getting to the action part or continuing the action once the newness has worn off. it has taken me years to realize that my deepest problem when it comes to getting things done is selfishness. i want to do what i want to do. and i want to do it right now. yuck. this year, as i have been exploring what agape means in action, i’ve realized that it is the best counter to my selfishness. if i really love someone, i will do this thing that i promised to do. if i really love my husband, i will do the laundry to make his life easier. [he makes my life easier by doing all the dishes.] if i really love the teens i work with, i will take the time to check in with them. if i really love the ministry [translate: people] i’ve been called to, i will work on x, y, or z.

5. rely on God’s spirit within. — knowing my purpose & passion, choosing agape, these are my motivations to act. setting goals & taking baby steps are my methods. but still i need the ability & energy to act. since i’m a lazy girl deep in my core, i need a non-danae catalyst. i would say an external catalyst, but mine comes from within. second timothy 1:7 says, “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but one of power & love & self-discipline.” this is exactly what i need — power or energy to get out of lazy patterns, agape [the greek word for love in this verse] to get me out of myself, & self-discipline which i totally lack without God’s help. when i rely on Him, His Spirit within me, each day, i get things done, & i get the right things done.

last confession: sometimes i still like being a lazy girl… i really like watching television & playing on pinterest! so, make sure to schedule time to relax & to indulge. i try to have one hour of “downtime” each day & occasional days off to do whatever i want. when i find myself getting stressed or overwhelmed & fighting the desire to give up & hole up, i know i’m long overdue for a day of rest!

hope my fellow lazies find this helpful. we all have purpose & calling in this life, & fighting our lazy tendencies is important as we strive to fulfill them.

my june [top 10]

i can’t believe it’s the end of yet another month & half way through 2013. i’ve been out of town almost more than i’ve been home the past couple months, so it’s time for some catch-up. here’s what’s been going on with me this month.

10. books on my nightstand:
>> the lost symbol by dan brown
>> love is an orientation by andrew marin
>> your pregnancy, week by week by drs. curtis & schuler
>> body, soul, & baby by dr. tracy gaudet

9. song stuck in my head:
>> “radioactive” by imagine dragons [unfortunately]

8. latest memory verse:
>> the Lord Himself watches over you! the Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. [psalm 121:5]

7. can’t-do-without accessory:
>> a headband, any headband, to keep my bangs out of my face [too lazy to actually fix my hair these days]

6. must-see tv [or netflix]:
>> white collar [why can’t i have friends like neal & mozzie??]

5. annual goal i’m most focused on:
>> making our bedroom a sanctuary [finally painting & decorating it!]

4. annual goals i’ve recently accomplished:
>> traveled to greece with shaun! [it’s been a dream of ours for over 10 years.]
>> climbed mount olympus! [seriously one of the hardest things i’ve ever done]

3. what i’m saving money for:
>> diapers & college fund

2. heavy on my heart:
>> the vast chasm between the church & the lgbt community, how the christian community has not generally been loving or listening toward those we don’t identify with or understand
>> the teens in my life who are making poor choices

1. biggest news:
>> in case you haven’t figured it out already from mentions of pregnancy books & diapers, shaun & i are expecting our first biological kiddo. we’re looking forward to this new phase of life, but i’m also making the most of my youth, coolness, freedom, & privacy while i still have it!

gibor chayil! — a tribute to a man of valor

perhaps you’re familiar with the increasingly popular phrase “eshet chayil” which is hebrew for “woman of valor.” it is a more accurate translation of the words used to describe the heroine of the poem found in proverbs 31. it’s an epithet rachel held evans discovered & embraced during the research for her book “a year of biblical womanhood.”

but the title of this post is gibor chayil… in all the precious shout-outs to women of valor via social media, sarah bessey asked what was the hebrew phrase for men of valor because there are men of valor in our lives, too, & they just as surely need this outpour of affirmation & encouragement. so gibor chayil was learned & shared & bestowed.

today, in honor of his day of birth, i would like to bestow this title to a most worthy gibor chayil.

anyone who knows my husband, shaun, likes him. even people who have openly hated &/or distrusted me still like, trust, & respect shaun. he’s so friendly & kind, people can’t help themselves! even more astonishingly, in the more than ten years that i’ve known him, i’ve only known him to dislike two people! [and he still treats them kindly so they would never know.] he is an extroverted introvert, which means he is outgoing & loves talking to people, but at heart, he’s quiet & more of a listener. his unaffected & selfless manner is magnetic. he is as genuine as they come. children flock to him, & like Jesus, he relishes it. [he has more girlfriends under the age of 10…] he is gibor chayil because he cares about everyone he meets & actively demonstrates that care to them.

anyone who knows my husband, shaun, can tell you i married up. first of all, his family descended from pirates, so there you go. so cool. also, he’s more than a foot taller than me. my family was glad i brought some height into our below six foot clan. but i also landed the sweetest fella. he takes such care of me & puts up with so much. don’t shake your head in disagreement because it is painfully true! just last night i was bantering on facebook & twitter with friends about their definition of “doing laundry.” shaun disagrees with me that it just means getting clothes into the washing machine & maaaaaybe the dryer. poor boy! a housewife, he did not marry. i “do the laundry” but rarely fold it & please don’t make me laugh about putting it away. he does all the dishes in our casa because i won’t. [in all fairness, i do cook & i’m pretty good at it.] he keeps gas in my car because i hate pumping my own. he regularly gives me backrubs & footrubs without asking for their return. he carries my pillows up to bed every night just because. and if that weren’t enough to convince you that “bless his heart” never applied to any man more than shaun — he puts up with my extreme moodiness & my temper & my venting about the latest thing that raised my passion [or ire]. he works hard in his work field to provide for me so that i can pursue my vocation that rarely gets paid. he supports me in all my latest schemes & wildest dreams & never tells me it can’t be done. he tells me i’m beautiful when i’m a wreck. he takes incredible over-the-top care of me when i’m sick or hurting. he indulges my whims & cravings. he loves me fiercely in his own quiet way, so much so that he willingly speaks out on my behalf in situations his personality would rather avoid. i’m convinced God will take him home first of the two of us, just to give the poor boy much-deserved rest! if that’s not gibor chayil, i don’t know what is.

but there’s more. anyone who knows my husband, shaun, knows he is a man of God. and is there any higher honor that can be spoken? he loves God & loves His written word. shaun’s not much for reading, & he has to do so much of it in his work, but he’ll read his bible daily anyways. he is always up for that. he loves the church. he is the very definition [other than Jesus] of servant leadership. he’s comfortable up front, saying a prayer, teaching & preaching, organizing a group or event. but you’ll more likely find him in the back greeting people, or washing dishes, putting away tables, & fixing a broken pew. he’s not threatened by my gifts & enjoys complementing them [in the true spirit of complemtarianism!] with his own. he likes to let me take the lead in planning or teaching, offering his ideas & assistance. he also isn’t afraid to take the lead so i can have a break! he is confident in who God has made him to be & confident in God to use him accordingly. it is the most attractive quality he has. [& if i may say so, that is saying something!] he is gibor chayil because he pursues Christ with his life & spurs along the rest of us to come follow, too.

so happy birthday to my gibor chayil, shaun nathan casteel! may God bless us with many more years together so i may grow as eshet chayil as you grow as gibor chayil. may we grow in God together.