words to LIVE by #11 >> on intention & other things

design by danae<><

design by danae<><

when i was a kid, i bought a framed poster at a yard sale with a sort of poem on it. it was titled “how to be an artist” by sark. make friends with freedom & uncertainty. take moonbaths. listen to old people. i loved the long string of random bits of advice, some that seemed silly & some sage. and i’ve loved lists like this ever since.

i stumbled upon the one above by mary anne radmacher within the last year, & i like that hers is particularly practical & practicable.

live with intention. this is one of the greatest mantras for the student of Life. we must be deliberate in soaking up the moments, lessons, memories, & emotions. i’ve written a lot on this topic. walk to the edge. this has literal & figurative implications. in a literal sense, i’ve never needed to be told to walk to the edge because it’s my favorite place to be when outside hiking! but figuratively, that’s another matter. i have to work much harder, taking deep breaths & baby steps, to muster up the courage to come to the edge in life. the challenges & changes. the unknown. but every time i do, i learn that it’s worth it. it’s as exhilarating as the edge of a cliff, looking down upon a vast expanse of nature & feeling on top of the world. listen hard. as a talker, i need this advice on a minute-by-minute basis. even when i’m not talking, i am not always a careful listener or observer. but it’s in listening & observing that we learn best about other people. practice wellness. i firmly believe in a holistic approach to health — body, mind, spirit. i don’t practice it well, so i have much room for improvement. summertime seems a perfect time to work on it for me — with the fresh fruits & veggies in abundance & the hot sun giving me a thirst for plain cold water, with our annual pilgrimage to north carolina to see friends & family & spend a week at bible camp, teaching & learning, healing & being healed. i want to practice wellness better even today. play with abandon. it’s amazing how a child will transform you back to youthfulness. i’ve known this for many years from working with teens, but now taking care of roo everyday, i’m finding a kind of playfulness i didn’t know i was capable of. and i’m kinda loving that part of staying at home with my baby. laugh. this is an easy one for me anyway, but roo increases the laughs in my life exponentially, mostly when she laughs! choose with no regret. i’m not sure what all i think about this piece of advice. i think it’s a pretty loaded statement & one that needs more mulling over… continue to learn. well, you had to know this would be my favorite! student of Life & all. there are things i’m learning on purpose this summer like watercolor painting & cross stitching, & many more lessons on the horizon yet unknown. appreciate your friends. i’m not very good at this & desperately need to be better. it’s not that i don’t emotionally appreciate my friends. i just am not consistent about demonstrating it. do what you love. this one is easy for me because i already do! i work with teens, i help others find their passions, i design, i write. it’s crucial to one’s quality of life, whether it be via your job or hobbies. and i don’t mean “do whatever makes you happy.” i think there’s a huge difference. happiness is a fleeting feeling. love is a stronger motivation, not necessarily an emotion. do what you’re passionate about in life, what you were born to do. figure out what that is & pursue it relentlessly. live as if this is all there is. obviously, i don’t believe this life is it as a follower of Christ, & i don’t want to exclude eternity from our thoughts. but living today as if it’s all i get before i enter eternity is worthwhile indeed. that’s how i choose to take this last statement of advice.

i could write so much more on each of these capsules of wisdom, but these are words to LIVE by, so instead of just talking about them, let’s put them into practice, shall we? i’m going to get off this computer & go play with my daughter before i make a yummy snack with fresh produce from our garden. what are you going to do right now to start living with intention?

that time i didn’t know my neighbor died…



it was an ordinary weekday. we were talking about our ideas for landscaping our front & back yards. we really want to build a fence between us & the only neighbor behind us that doesn’t already have their own fence up. not because we don’t like that neighbor, but because their yard is really ugly. i commented that we actually like jim pretty well. shaun replied, “jim died two months ago.” 

my brain has been a little fuzzy lately. between being a new momma & battling a sinus infection & allergies that are exacerbating my fibromyalgia, remembering things is not one of my strong points lately. so, i racked my mind a minute before i was sure i didn’t know this yet.

“what?” i sputtered.

“yeah, he passed away a couple months ago from cancer.”

i knew jim had had cancer, but his treatments had been going pretty well. that was the last i knew anyway. how dated was my information? i realized i hadn’t personally spoken to jim in at least a year, maybe longer. shaun’s the one who really talks regularly to our neighbors. i’m good friends with our neighbors across the street from us — a sweet older couple who are retired farmers & an older woman who has lived in that house for over 40 years. but i don’t talk to the ones behind us or down the hill from us much. okay, at all. i don’t even know the name of our “next-door neighbor” down the hill. i’ve felt bad about that before. but not enough to do anything about it. 

[as i sat here typing this, i kid you not, one of our neighbors from across the street walked over to deliver a plate of strawberries they grew. oh, the irony.]

back to the story at hand: that time i didn’t know my neighbor died. i was shocked from the news of his passing. turns out one of his sons [the “good” one] is living in the house now. i clearly haven’t met him yet. shaun has. that’s how he learned about jim. two months ago.

i’m ashamed of myself for not knowing that my neighbor no longer lives behind me & no longer lives. i claim to be a christian, & if i am serious about that claim, then i am serious about following Jesus & His way. it was Jesus who said, “‘you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, & all your mind.’ this is the first & greatest commandment. a second is equally important: ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ the entire law & all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” [matthew 22:37-40, nlt, emphasis mine].

i don’t know about you, but i want people to notice when i die, to care, to miss me. i want people to notice me while i’m alive, too… if i am to love my neighbor as myself & as i want to be loved by others, i must notice them, know them, care for them. and while every person i meet is my “neighbor,” my actual geographical neighbors are most definitely my neighbors! and if i am to follow Jesus, i must notice them, know them, & care for them. i don’t want another neighbor to die “on my watch” without me having any idea. i want — i need — to cultivate relationships with them. i remember when jim first got cancer a few years ago, i thought i should take him a meal. i didn’t. i’m pretty sure that was a prompting of the Holy Spirit that i ignored. i don’t want to make that same mistake again. i want to follow Christ & love my neighbors. after all, that is how i best show God that i love Him. and it is how i best show the world the love of Christ for all people. for them. 

so what am i going to do? well, first i’m going to make some cookies & take them to my neighbors. the ones across the street. and the ones behind me. and the ones down the hill. it’s about time i met them all.

words to live by #10

design by amy rubin flett

design by amy rubin flett

there is a lot of information out there about habits. how to make good ones, how to break bad ones. i’ve spent most of my life trying to break bad habits. as a kid, it was chewing on my fingernails. as a teen, it was procrastination. as a college student, it was eating junk food. as a young adult, it was watching too much television. right now, it’s chewing on my lip. [i know, weird quirk, right?] and these are just the bitty tip of the iceberg. having had so many bad habits to break over the years, i know a lot about what works, what doesn’t, how long it takes to make/break a habit, & how quickly you slip back into your old ways if you fall off the wagon even one time. i could write a post about everything i’ve learned about making & breaking habits, but there are plenty of other better sources you can find on that subject. so instead i want to talk about intention.

your “reason why” makes all the difference in how you live your life. living from intention means letting your purpose or mission inform & affect your actions. instead of trying to make or break lots of smaller disconnected habits, having a clear purpose for your life can bring them all under one umbrella where they are resolved simultaneously over time.

how about a more specific example to illustrate what i’m talking about. i tend to sum up my purpose in my “student of Life” moniker. [i wrote more about what that means here.] as a student of life, i prioritize being guided by passion, growing in godliness, striving for balance, & teaching others what i learn along the way. when i live with this intention & i keep focused on this one thing alone [rather than twenty different habits i need to work on], it changes every little thing i do. i’ve long wanted to be better about getting up earlier each morning. when i’ve used habit-forming techniques, i’ve succeeded for very short spurts but never been able to sustain it. when i focus on how i want to grow in godliness because i’m a student of Life, prayer becomes a priority, & if the only way i can start my day in prayer is to get up earlier, i do it. not perfectly, not every single day, but i do it. and slowly but surely, over time, i do it more & more consistently. i’m living by intention & not by habit, good or bad.

and the great thing is that as i live intent on being a student of Life, not only am i better about getting up earlier, but i also don’t watch as much television because it doesn’t really help me learn anything. i regularly go for a walk or run because it helps me find balance in my health [mental versus physical]. i prioritize spending time with people i love because they are one of my deepest passions. also, i eat healthier, i take time to journal, i indulge in painting, & i keep the house neater. living by intention also helps me stop chewing on my lip! it’s a nervous tic i have, like chewing on your nails, & i do it mostly when stressed in some way. but the more i strive for balance as a student of Life, the less stress i experience or the less it gets to me. so i chew on my lip less. granted, i just found myself chewing on my lip as i was typing this, so obviously, i haven’t conquered all my bad habits completely! but i’m improving. and that’s the whole point.

now i want to warn you that it takes longer with this approach! you’re not focused on breaking or making specific habits, so you won’t be breaking or making habits in 21-28 days. it’s not instant gratification. it’s simpler than chasing after good habits like a mouse on a wheel, but it’s not any easier. you still have to put in the hard work. however, in the long run, because you take longer to develop the lifestyle you desire, the habits you establish as a result will be much stronger and less susceptible to being easily broken. not only is it simpler to live by intention than by habit, it is far more effectual.

what habits do you want to make or break right now? how can living intentionally help you conquer them? what other methods have helped you?

my april [top 10]

i can’t believe it’s already the end of april, & i have a 3-month-old daughter. wow. give me a sec to get over the surreality. lots of good things worth sharing from the last month, so here goes.

10. books on my nightstand:
>> persuasion by jane austen [a reread]
>> practicing resurrection by eugene peterson
>> a year of biblical womanhood by rachel held evans [a reread]
>> breaking dawn by stephanie meyer [a reread]

9. song stuck in my head:
>> “can you feel the love tonight” by elton john [i started playing disney pandora station for roo.]

8. mantra i repeat to myself all day long:
>> “just go with the flow.”

7. can’t-do-without accessory:
>> my newest “ring” — an extra pacifier for roo, to be hand on-hand [literally] at all times!

6. must-see tv [or netflix]:
>> still supernatural [on season 6 right now]

5. annual goal i’m most focused on:
>> writing for 1 hour every day [before roo wakes up!]

4. what’s working for me:
>> donald miller’s storyline productivity schedule — highly recommend! [i wrote about it here.]

3. latest addiction:
>> dr. pepper, always. [i even wrote a poem about it for national poetry month…]
>> golden oreos with chocolate creme filling — yummo!

2. heavy on my heart:
>> i have lots of friends who have recently lost parents or have one dying. they’re all older & ready to go, & their families are at peace, but it’s still hard.

1. most looking forward to:
>> honestly, my first mother’s day. [it’s a little bit of a sensitive topic, for me & for others, so i’ll just leave it at that for now.]


so, what’s new with you?

words to LIVE by #9



wise words. they have helped me keep my sanity since becoming a momma staying home with a baby everyday. in some ways, i’m more productive than ever because i feel the importance of every free ten minutes that i have the use of both my hands! but i’ve struggled with getting my “work work” done because i need more than ten minutes together to make progress on some projects. i have to remind myself that in this particular season of my life, i’m just going to have to accept this new disjointed schedule of ours. 

i’ve started breaking some big projects down into small 10-15 minutes bites. roo can usually entertain herself with a crinkle toy or looking at a ceiling fan for that long, so i can sprint my way through a simple task. and it doesn’t matter if i get it done. if i don’t, i leave it in progress & return to it the next 10-15 minute chunk i get. i repeat to myself often, “i can doing anything for 15 minutes.” and i can. i can waste it with tv or twitter. OR i can clear off one surface in my house or reply to a couple emails.

i’ve also started using donald miller’s storyline productivity schedule. [you can find it here.] only one week in, & i love it already. it’s working for me in ways nothing else has. storyline breaks up my day into projects that i need to prioritize with a secondary task list. it doesn’t have me put timeframes on my projects, which is important for me since i never know quite what each day, each hour, each minute[!], will hold with roo’s needs. it helps me create a structure that eliminates lots of unnecessary distractions but still allows important interruptions [like feeding the baby — ha!]. i absolutely recommend it to anyone who sets their own schedule each day. but i also always recommend that you find what works for you, & that may not be what works for me.

most importantly, today, i want to emphasize that you can’t do everything! so stop staring in despair at that impossibly long to do list. [i say to myself.] however, you can do something. maybe even lots of things. so do that. take baby steps. you’ll be surprised how much you will accomplish over time with this mindset & method. i am now a stay-at-home mom to a three-month-old [today!] sweet girl. and by just doing what i can when i can, i’m able to take care of roo AND: work on my book, work on this blog, coordinate a major ministry at my church, keep my house functionally & presentably clean, do 2 loads of laundry [cloth diapers is always one of those] including folding & putting it all away, cook dinner, go for a walk or run, read for pleasure, catch up on twitter, & usually watch an episode or two on netflix — every day. [disclaimers: i only cook dinner 3 times a week usually! i don’t go for a walk or run every day, but try for 3-5 times a week depending on the weather & roo. i might spend 15 minutes on ministry one day & 5 hours on it the next; same with writing — it depends on the priorities i set each morning. and it helps that shaun is the best dad to roo & hogs her to himself most evenings!] i should also mention that to do all this requires me to get up 2-3 hours before roo each day, which is around 6 a.m. [disclaimer: i usually snooze until 6:30 though.]

last thing i want to make sure we cover — ignore what you can’t do!!! focusing on what you can’t do is called worrying, & worrying is zero helpful. actually it’s in the negatives against helpfulness. it skews your priorities, it diminishes your productivity, & it cheats you of enjoying the current moment & season of your life. that’s another thing i appreciate about the storyline productivity schedule — it gives you a place to ponder “if i could live today over again, i’d…” which is a great place to write “worry less” & “focus only on what i can do today.” having this mindset from the beginning of the day makes a difference in how you live it. the schedule also has a section to record “things i get to enjoy today.” i love love love this part! mine for today is: seeing ness!!! [my sister flies in today], eating at pei wei, taking a run outside, & taking roo’s 3-month pictures. simple pleasures that are really the most important parts of my day & what i’ll remember about it in 5 or 50 years. i want to be intentionally present during these moments, these things that i can do, rather than missing out because i focused & worried about all the things i can’t get done. it’s making all the difference in my day, my attitude, & even my productivity.

what mantras & methods to you use to take baby steps & be productive?

how do you keep focused on what’s really important each day?