Category Archives: words to live by

words to LIVE by #8

mountains quote[source]

last may, shaun & i traveled to greece for our tenth anniversary, & while we were there, we climbed mount olympus. all 2,913 meters of it. i’ve wanted to see greece since i was a kid, & climbing mount olympus has been on my “bucket list” ever since i’ve known shaun. he lived in greece for a summer in 2001 & climbed it then. we spent two days scaling its heights, & it is without a doubt the hardest thing physically that i’ve ever done except giving birth. granted, i was pregnant at the time [& didn’t know it] which may have affected my breathing capacity! there were so many times i was sure i wouldn’t make it any further. i had a walking stick i picked up at the front end of the climb. it became my bestest friend, & i would not have made it without it. nor would i have made it without shaun’s companionship & encouragement. i kept reciting verses about perseverance to myself, which marginally helped, too. i focused on the end goal — being able to tell the story, making it to the summit & being able to say i did it. when we made it to the refuge on day one after a grueling seven hours, it was the most beautiful sight — the promise of food & REST. i slept 12 hours that night. the second part of the climb is much more rugged & steep than the first half, plus it’s colder & very windy. it’s no hike; it’s a climb. and the term “trail” should be understood as loosely applied here. i was skeptical even getting started on day two, but one step at a time & 3 hours later, we made it to the top.

at the summit of mount olympus

at the summit of mount olympus

there’s more to the story of our adventure than i have time to tell right now, but it was full of jokes [some that weren’t funny at the time!], making friends from faraway places, & seeing amazing sights that are only enjoyed by those who take the climb & make it to the top.

there are lots of proverbial mountains in this life we can climb — the career ladder, various summits seeking happiness or the meaning of life, even many “hills to die on.” so many of life’s experiences can be related to the perseverance needed when mountain climbing & the rewards found at the peak.

but no matter what situation we’re talking about, there are some lessons i learned on mount olympus that i want to share.

1. you’re going to need support. something or someone to lean on. i had my walking stick. i even named it “phil” [derivative from the greek word for friend]. having that “third leg” made all the different in my being able to go as far as we did. i used it like an extension of my body, & several times it kept me from falling. in any mountain climb, we risk falling & failure. this can cause us to give up before we reach our goal. but if we have some support, even if we still fall a few times, we are able to get back up & keep going.

2. you’re going to need encouragement. this can come from the same source as your support, or it might come from something or someone else. regardless, you need to hear “just keep swimming” regularly, no matter how annoying it may get! you need to hear “you can do it” & “you’re doing great.” even if you firmly believe otherwise, encouragement can keep you going despite your inner thoughts. [word of advice: if/when that encourager gets annoying, let them keep saying/doing their thing. you need it whether you want it in the moment or not.]

3. focus on the end goal. when you want to give up in the moment, perseverance is often achieved by remembering why you’re climbing this mountain in the first place. i had wanted to climb mount olympus for over ten years. and greece isn’t just around the corner for me, so this might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me. i may not get another go at it. i wanted to get that picture on the peak, to be able to say i did it, to have a good story, to know the thrill of adventure. sometimes i had to focus on this so intently that i missed the scenery where i was. but i wouldn’t have seen most of it anyway had i given up & turned back.

4. take time to rest. climbing a mountain is not a quick walk in the park. you’re going to need to take breaks along the way. there were times the climb was so arduous, i sat down every five minutes to catch my breath. when we neared the summit, we would pick a point of rocks a couple dozen yards in front of us to reach before our next break. and the most anticipated respite was at the refuge after climbing more than half the height on day one. there are no words for the relief & excitement that flooded my body & soul when we finally glimpsed it. i even gained a small burst of energy as we climbed the steps up to the lodge. at the end of day one, i was sore all over & exhausted. surprisingly, i felt completely revived the next morning, not sore at all! [i cannot say the same after day two. i didn’t walk right for two days after mount olympus! but it was completely worth it.]

5. enjoy the top. we reached the top around 10:00 a.m. the second day. we had a flight to athens back in thessaloniki to catch. a two & a half hour drive, plus time to return the rental car & get through security. the climbed down took us five hours. we gulped down our lunch at the refuge halfway. we sped down the curvy roads back to thessaloniki [which caused me to get carsick]. we repacked our suitcases in the parking lot of the airport. we had only time to change t-shirts in the bathrooms to feel semi-human again. but i wouldn’t change any of that because we enjoyed the top. we took our time to feel the wind whipping around us [so strong we didn’t get our good camera out] & to soak up the view, all 360 degrees of it. we relished the triumphant feeling of “making it.” we took pictures. we just sat & were. so take time to enjoy it when you reach your goal, too. relish the achievement, feel the gratitude in your heart, make mental pictures & imprints to carry with your forever.

i say all this as advice for all the mountains in life that we climb. but here’s my parting advice: going back up to the quote up top — choose the mountains you want to climb wisely. make sure you have support & encouragement along the way. make sure rest is available. and make sure the end goal is something really worth it, something you want, something good. there are hills worth “dying on” & there are plenty that are merely mountains-in-the-making molehills. make sure you know the difference. before you start climbing.

words to LIVE by #7

strive quote


i’m trying to cut myself some slack lately. now that i have a bitty one [roo], my schedule isn’t really my own anymore, & i can’t get as much done in a day as i’m used to [or as i’m used to trying to].

one thing that didn’t get done during my pre-roo nesting is cleaning & organizing our bedroom. i know i’m going to want a bedroom that feels like a refuge from the chaos that is gonna hit our house as she gets older & as other kiddos come along. but i just can’t tackle such a big project now. so i decided a couple weeks ago to set my timer for 15 minutes each day — either during a roo rest or with her hanging out on my bed — & just work on it bit by bit. my room is now clear off all the stuff that had been piled up from when we first moved in & never got around to putting away where it belonged. it feels great! next step is organizing things, like my closet & vanity. but for now, at least my clothes are hanging up & my makeup is all in one place! progress.

i also want to get back to writing, & i usually make ridiculous grand plans to blog 5 times a week & write a chapter a day. for now, my one goal is to start each morning by journaling for 3 pages. about anything. i don’t make it every day, but usually i manage at least four times each week. progress.

it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at work, especially after maternity leave & going back only one afternoon a week for however long. my best friend / sister / co-worker, rachel, has this quote [i think she got it from momastery] to “do the next right thing” to help prevent that drowning feeling that makes us all want to give up & hole ourselves away on the couch with a tub of ice cream & netflix on a loop. do the next right thing. progress.

i know from past experiences, when you strive for perfection, you’re more prone to shutting down & getting nothing done. i’d rather get something done than nothing, so i’m striving for simple progress here on out. join me. we’ll take baby steps together. one step at a time, & we can take over the world. or at least the laundry.

words to LIVE by #6 — PALM SUNDAY edition

“Let us say to Christ: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel. Let us wave before him like palm branches the words inscribed above him on the cross. Let us show him honor, not with olive branches, but with the splendor of merciful deeds to one another. Let us spread the thoughts and desires of our hearts under his feet like garments, so that he may draw the whole of our being into himself and place the whole of his in us.”

— Andrew of Crete [8th c. martyr]
this quote reminds me that palm sunday is something i read about taking place in a foreign place & ancient times AND something i can live out in my world today. i can shout Hosana! Hosana in the highest! praising His name today & every day. i can honor Him as my King by living as He decrees i should, acting justly, loving mercy, & walking humbly by His side [micah 6:8]. i can honor my King by preparing the way for the Lord into me, into the church, into the world. i can honor my King by letting Him draw me to Him as He so longs to do. palm sunday is happening today as much as it was two thousand years ago. palm sunday is happening in me. 

words to LIVE by #5

procrastination runs in my family. i think it’s genetic. my sister & i often excuse this poor habit by saying, “we work better under pressure.” maybe. but we would probably work really well using sound time management, too.

i like deadlines, & i function best when there are constant deadlines that keep me working so i don’t procrastinate anything. i used to work at a design studio where we designed & assembled custom wedding invitations. i was the production manager. we worked on a 3-4 week turn-around schedule with occasional rush orders thrown in, so nearly every day there was some order that needed to be shipped & often times more than one order. i loved working in that environment. it suited my personality, both strengths & weaknesses, ideally.

but now, i find myself in a job that requires more proactivity in follow-through, not to mention how many personal goals i have that have no timeline or deadline except my own hopes & dreams. the result — i find myself habitually deferring important but not urgent tasks to attend to “tasks of the moment.” 

that word deferring has become both a favorite & most despised word in my life. i organize my entire life in my smart phone 2do list app, & it has this handy function called “defer” by which i can shuffle my 2do list around as fits my schedule & time constraints [& whims] each day. i love it & use it all the time. unfortunately, i use it all the time.

in his book 7 habits of highly effective people, stephen covey talks about organizing our tasks into four categories or quadrants — 1. important & not urgent [ex: exercising or spending time with family], 2. important & urgent [ex: paying your bills or finishing your newsletter article on time], 3. unimportant & urgent [ex: reading & replying to every single email in your inbox or organizing your filing cabinet right now], & 4. unimportant & not urgent [ex: reading a good book or indulging in your favorite hobby]. this prioritization has been very helpful to me when i’ve applied it. he suggests trying to focus most of your time in the second category of tasks, to not let yourself be easily derailed by category three, & to purposely carve out time for one & four [important goals & fun stuff]. the best application of this method in my life is calling a “quadrant three” task a three. these are those distracting “tasks of the moment” that mask themselves in urgency & emergency but have no real, lasting need or value. in so naming it, i give myself permission to ignore it, avoid it, or to say no.

another book that has given me very helpful & practical tips on prioritizing my 2do list is 18 minutes by peter bregman. here are my favorite take-aways from it:

>> spend 5 minutes first-thing every morning reviewing your 2do list & getting started.

>> set a simple alarm to go off every hour during the work day [8 times] & take one minute to refocus & reevaluate your priorities & productivity. [my 4:00 p.m. alarm chimed as i was typing this!]

>> spend 5 minutes every evening reviewing, scheduling, & culling your 2do list for the next day.

>> schedule your 2do items in your day planner. assign a time slot to each one. [this has been the most incredible thing to my productivity!]

>> if you have a task that you’ve deferred for several times, apply the “three-day rule” — after three days, either do it immediately, schedule it to a specific time in your calendar, delete it, or put it on the “someday list.” [i love, love, love this rule!]

>> have a “to don’t list” — we need to prioritize what is not worth our time. [my list is its own tab in my 2do app & includes answering unknown phone numbers, attending events for strangers, & attending product parties of any kind.]

>> have a “someday list” — someday is NOT a day of the week. but there may be things we want to do that can’t be done immediately, can’t be scheduled anytime in the near future, & we aren’t willing to delete. i have a “maybe” list with its own tab in my 2do app, too. overly-deferred tasks go here, usually to die! i review it every month & reapply the three-day rule. it is such a relief to not have tasks like these  hanging over my head in my daily 2do list.

one last idea: set goals for yourself. [i wrote more about my version of doing this here.] and read those goals every morning! spend time reviewing them & planning how to execute them in various steps each week! keep in front of you constantly what is most important. 

these concepts & practices have helped me use the seven days each week with more purpose & intentionality, the goals of a student of life. God has a plan for each of us, & i don’t want to miss out on any of it, especially not because i procrastinated or squandered away my time.

what do you do to prioritize & use your time wisely?

words to LIVE by #4

i have a dear friend who once told me that she had lived so much of her life in fear that she was resolved [in her late 40s] to do anything & everything she was afraid of doing. she refused to let any more opportunities pass her by because of fear. that fear can come from many things — fear of consequences, fear of not being perfect, fear of judgment, fear of the unknown, fear of disappointing someone, fear of failure, even fear of success…

we all experience fear. it is a deeply personal thing. the sources of & reasons for our fears differ from person to person. i have a fear of being alone in my house at night. well, really, i’m afraid of burglars or worse that could break in when i’m alone in my house at night. since shaun travels frequently, i stay home alone regularly, & i’ve gotten better about going to bed without weird rituals of staying awake until i’m exhausted & locking the animals in my bedroom with me! so that’s not really a fear i have to proactively face because it comes whether i want it or not. i’m also afraid of rock climbing… i had a dear friend who was an experienced climber die in a rock climbing accident while we were in college. losing a peer so young is a devastating experience. rock climbing is now on my “top 100” list of things to do before i die.

i’m not going to go rock climbing just for the sake of it, but because fear can rob us of “sucking the marrow out of life.” i don’t want to miss life because i was afraid to face it & let it pass me by. taking chances, whether it be in our relationships, our vocations, or our dreams, is a necessary part of life. without taking chances — that “leap of faith” — we are standing stagnant.

there are reasons that stagnant water is considered a danger: it is a breeding ground for disease-carrying insects; it is unfit for drinking due to bacteria & parasites; & it is often contaminated with other things better left unsaid. a stagnant life is just as dangerous: a place for breeding self-pity, jealousy, bitterness, & other emotional diseases; a source of poisonous thoughts fueling our fears & prejudices; not to mention contaminated by sins we’d rather not list.

but the refreshing movement of the Living water flowing through our lives flushes out the pestilence & fills us with sound minds ready to learn, right motives ready to act, & pure hearts ready to love. and that is the goal of the student of Life. to learn, to live, to love. a student of Life can never be governed by fear. this does not mean the absence of fear, just that a student of Life must have the courage to face their fears & be governed by love.

“there is no fear in love. but perfect love drives out fear…”  — I john 4:18

what are you afraid of?