FullSizeRender (21)Winter can be a cold and dreary season in Wisconsin.  The past few weeks I’ve had a deep yearning for sunshine, summer days and time outside (without freezing my nose off!). In short I’ve needed some good old fashioned joy.

Yet, joy isn’t found in focusing on what could be.  Joy is discovered when we look deeper into the gifts of today.

 I stumbled upon a post by Modern Mrs. Darcy about creating a list of what is giving you life RIGHT NOW and it spoke to my heart.

In the spirit of choosing joy, I thought I would share some of my favorite, life-giving habits right now.

 

  1. Joy Essential Oil. Whenever I need a little pep in my step, I diffuse Joy with a bit of Lemon, pretty soon my fog has lifted and I’m ready to tackle the day with renewed energy.
  2. Holy Yoga and Lap Swimming.  Warmer months in Lake Country are easier to get outside and move, and then November hits and it’s so easy to just retreat inside.  I knew this year I wanted to continue life-giving, active habits.   I’ve been hitting the local Y 2X a week for some lap swim and I’m also loving Caroline Joy’s “Yoga for when You are a Hot Mess” series on YouTube.  
  3. The Glorious Mundane Podcast. Christy Knockles has been a long time favorite worship leader of mine and her podcast is an absolute gem. Christy not only shares what God has been teaching her but includes interviews with include Annie Downs, She Reads Truth, Beth Moore.
  4. My fancy, schmancy milk frother.  My afternoon coffee break just got a whole lot sweeter.
  5. Garden planning. Nothing beats the winter blues like breaking out the seed catalogs and dreaming about a beautiful veggie and cut flower garden!  This has been especially sweet this year since I’ll be planning my first garden in my new home.  My favorite garden resources are Joyful Garden Planner, Floret Flowers, and The Garden Primer.
  6. Weekly winter farm market. Discovering good food, like-minded friends, and supporting local farmers and artisans–What is not to love?
  7. Cooking slow food and sharing it with ones I love. I can’t wait to try out this recipe on Friday with some good friends.
  8. Brisk walks in the sunshine. My Bella Beat leaf activity tracker has been a great reminder and encouragement to get up and move.  Plus the app has some amazing breathing and meditation exercises when I need a little mental break.
  9. My amazing book club.  We just finished The Upside of Stress and are diving into Deep Work. These ladies love Jesus and Goals–such kindred spirits.
  10. This verse. 

How about you friends, what has been life-giving to you lately?

Hey friends!

 

IMG_0226Popping in to share my goals for February. My word for the year is “Bloom” (to be in full health and flourish, to open fully up, to blossom and to be radiant and glowing).  Don’t you just love that description?  When I sat down to work on my Powersheets this month I had just finished planning my garden beds and was fired up to make some good progress towards a life that blooms in grace.

Big Goals:

Host Come Away Retreat.  This past weekend I hosted 8 of my dear friends at my family’s cabin for a weekend of rest and renewal. We had a wonderful time and I’ll share more in a post soon. I’m so thankful for a place to get-away and rest.

Ask friends and family to introduce me to godly guys.  So, one of my goals for 2017 is to learn to date well. I feel silly even typing this as a goal, but I know that I’ll grow and learn from this experience.  So, if you know anyone who loves Jesus and good coffee send him my way 😉

-Read:  The Upside of Stress and Half the Church.  Both books are not my typical go-tos, but will cause me to stretch and grow in my thinking.  I think I need to share a recap soon of all the books I’ve been loving.

-Launch Community Table. (More information coming soon!!)

 

Little by Little Goals:

*Weekly and Daily habits.

-Celebrate the Sabbath weekly. Enjoy a full 24 hours to stop, rest, worship, and play.

-Push myself to lap swim 2X a week at the YMCA and do challenging yoga for 30 minutes 3X a week.

-Read 1 Chapter of Proverbs a day, seek wisdom and APPLY it!

-Drink 64 oz of water a day. A hydrated me is a happy me.

 

Okay, those are my February goals. How about you friends? What are you up to this month?

 

 

FullSizeRender 72017 has marked a new season in my life. A beautiful home, new neighborhood, fresh daily rhythms, big leaps of faith and bold adventures have marked this time with grace, gratitude, and growth.

 

In the last month, I’ve clearly seen God’s his unmerited favor, poured upon me. My new home and neighborhood is one of the greatest examples of God’s amazing grace in my life.

 

I still shake my head that I’m sitting here, in my beautiful corner office, with sunshine streaming through the windows, wind chimes cheerfully singing outside and a steaming mug of coffee beside me. My home has been such an overwhelming gift and clear representation of God’s amazing grace.

 

Then there are my wonderful neighbors, when I meet them shoveling snow or taking Belle for a walk around the block I feel this nudge of confirmation that this HOME and exactly where I’m meant to be.

 

But I don’t want to forget that there is so much grace in the little things. His grace is evident to me through the sunshine on a brisk winter day, encouraging words from a friend, a stunning sunset, or much-needed energy to finish the week strong.

 

When we recognize God’s gift of grace in our lives, a heart of gratitude is close behind. As the saying goes “Gratitude turns what we have into enough”.   When we stop and give thanks our eyes are open to the abundance we have been given.

 

Buying my first home hasn’t come without its challenges (Hello snow blowing and shoveling before work!) but I’ve learned to look at the challenges through a lens of gratitude.

 

Last year I began the habit of writing down a daily “grace & gratitude” on my calendar. Sometimes the gifts were simple & joyful: a sunset, steaming cup of coffee or note from a friend, and other times I was grateful for opportunities to learn from mistakes or make a fresh start.

 

We are called to “give thanks in all circumstance” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). To me that means being on the lookout to find that one thing to praise God for every single day, even on the days when I just want to pull the covers over my head.

 

I’m a pretty optimistic person, yet it took the time to develop a rhythm of seeing God’s grace and blessing in each day. This thread of growth is vital towards cultivating a rich and abundant life. Some of the hardest lessons in life refine and grow us into the person God created us to be.

 

So friends, when I look at the year to come (hey, February 1st is the new January 1st) I desire this new season to be marked with grace, gratitude, and growth.

 

Some ways I’m choosing grace, gratitude, and growth in 2017.

 

  1. Sharing God’s grace and goodness through gathering consistently around the table with those I love. I’ve got something fun planned for this year and will soon share details!
  2. Sending happy mail to friends & family. How encouraging would these postcards from Cultivate What Matters Shop look peeking out from your bill pile?
  3. Embracing margin and “grace days”. I don’t know about you all but whenever I have a get-together or appointment cancel, my first instinct is to fill that spot back up. This year I’m giving myself grace and praising God for some unexpected free time.
  4. I’m continuing to cultivate a heart of gratitude through journaling praises and daily gifts in my Val Marie Gratitude Journal 
  5. Meeting my mentor bi-weekly for coffee (or let’s be honest wine) chats. Her wisdom, encouragement, and truth-telling has been some of the biggest catalysts for personal growth in my life.

 

How about you friends? What would it look like to for your year to be marked with grace, gratitude and growth?

fullsizerender-5Last Spring in the midst of the hustle and bustle of daily life, I forgot how to dream. I had gotten so caught up in the mundane every day I couldn’t look beyond what needed to get done.  Finding inspiration for work and my personal life was difficult.  Honestly, I was struggling to do it all and do it all well.   The idea of living a flourishing life seemed utterly overwhelming and I didn’t know where to even begin.

By God’s grace, I met my amazing friend and life-coach Diana, took a leap of faith and signed up for her Life Refresh program.  Just the name itself encouraged me. I didn’t want a new or completely different life, I needed a life that was refreshed. Over the next season, Diana breathed life and encouragement to my dreams and goals.  Her coaching provided a solid foundation for my dreams to grow.

One of the solid habits I developed over the course of my Life Refresh was to make time to get away, dream and plan.  Twice a month I pack my bags with a journal, my powersheets, turn my phone to do not disturb, and head to my favorite coffee shop for a few hours.  In the busy Summer and Fall months, it’s been a challenge to keep these dream dates, but the refreshment and refocus I’ve gotten are so incredibly worth it.

This week during my dream date I took a good look at my 2017 goals.  As many of you know, I use Powersheets for goal setting.  This process has been so incredibly fruit for me for the past four years.  The goals I had set a few weeks ago were good, but I felt like there was something deeper waiting to be uncovered.  I did a brief goal refresh using Lara’s Goal Setting Series (Check it out here!) and simplified my goals for 2017.

Earlier in December, I chose Light as my word of the year.  But as I moved through the process again this quote kept coming to mind:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to BLOOM!”

I looked up Bloom in the dictionary and here is what I found:

-to be in full health and flourish.

-to open fully up, to blossom

-to be radiant and glowing.
And I knew, 2017 was meant to be a year to bloom. And so friends, I give you my five simple goals for 2017.


 

  • Cultivate meaningful, life-giving relationships in my circles of influence (home, neighborhood, church, & work).
  • Celebrate the Sabbath!
  • Nourish my mind, body and soul through 30 minutes of exercise 6 days a week.
  • Date with courage and intention.
  • Dig deeply into the book of proverbs and seek Godly wisdom.

gracefull-homeWell, my friends, I’ve been pretty quiet lately because I have some big news. In December, I closed on my very first home. From the very beginning, God’s grace and goodness have been evident and I knew I wanted to share the full story with you all.

 

Since I was little my deepest desire has been to build a home of my own. I love having friends and family over for a delicious meal, crafternoon, over night stay or a simple cup of tea or glass of wine. I know some people break out into a sweat with the thought of people coming over unannounced, but over the years I’ve learned to not stress about having a perfectly clean or decorated home. Instead, I light a candle, ignore the dust bunnies and just enjoy spending time with those I love.

 

A little over a year ago I began to prayerfully make steps towards owning my own home. As a single woman who works in ministry, I knew this was a big dream and goal. But if I’ve learned anything it’s that God specializes in the seemingly impossible.

 

Fast forward to a sunny November afternoon when I hosted my dear friend and mentor over to my cozy cottage to catch up. She asked about the house hunt and I was decisive and quick with my reply: “I’m choosing to be content. If I need to stay here until next Spring, I know it will be worth the wait.” That day my friend gave me some advice and encouragement. She reminded me to continue to stay in step with the Holy Spirit, to not rush ahead of him or be dragged behind, but to stay with his leading.

That very afternoon a listing came through my inbox. The home was in my price range, had charm and character I was looking and was in walking distance to downtown. It seemed too good to be true, but I scheduled a tour with a realtor and left it in God’s hand. I knew from prior experience that there was a good chance the house already had an accepted offer. My friend’s wise words to stay in step with the Spirit echoed as I took one step forward.

 

Relaxing on the front porch during my first walk through.

Relaxing on the front porch during my first walk through.

 

The next morning my parents joined me on the first showing of a darling bungalow home. Within the first few minutes, I felt a tiny nudge that I was home. The beautiful porch, hardwood floors, darling details and solid structure caught my eye but what I fell in love with was the possibility of making the home my own.

 

 

 

As we walked around I could see my friends and family gathered around the kitchen table laughing and chatting, I could see Josie-girl cozied up on a couch, I could see and office that brought focus and inspiration to my work and I could see countless bonfires, morning coffees and BBQs on the back deck. I could see HOME.

 

I’ll spare you the details but God’s grace allowed me to close on that darling home on December 16th, less than 5 weeks after my first showing. It was a whirlwind but I sensed His provision and peace during every step.

 

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Cozy corner in the upstairs bedroom

 

Within a few days of moving in, I found out that God has blessed me with several neighbors who I already knew.  My prayers for the last year for the right home, in the right community were not only heard, but answered abundantly.   The verse from Psalm 68 came to mind immediately “God sets the lonely in families…” One of the hardest things about moving was leaving my friends and their sweet family. Renting their cozy cottage has been one of the biggest blessings. It’s been a joy to do life alongside their family and watch their boys grow. Although I wasn’t moving that far away (less than ½ mile), I knew that I would miss seeing them on a daily basis. But God, in his goodness and grace provided for my need without even my knowledge, that is how good He is!

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This sign made by my cousin Allie is a precious reminder that God will fulfill His promises! It hangs in my entry way, right outside the kitchen.

 

Friends, there is so much more I want to share, but for now, I’ll leave you with the reminder that He has good plans in store for you. Whatever you are waiting or longing for, stay in step with the spirit and trust that His grace will provide abundantly more than you could ever ask or imagine.

 

 

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Fall has arrived in Wisconsin. The leaves are changing from bright green to brilliant orange and deep reds. Summer’s warm days spent in the garden and evening cruises on the pontoon are hard to let go of. Yet, Fall holds a different kind of beauty and joy – everything pumpkin spice, football, sweater weather, a slower rhythm, and countless excuses to curl up with a good book and mug of tea.

This season shift has me reflecting on what it looks like to discover joy in every current season.

Can I be really honest?   80% of the time I’m joyfully content in this current season. I love the freedom and flexibility of being single, I’m grateful for my cozy cottage and am blessed beyond measure with a job that is less career and more calling.

 

But then there are the other days. You know, those days when Social Media declares everyone’s highlight reel or another online dating experience leaves me frustrated more than hopeful. It’s on those days that I struggle to find the beauty in my current season.

 

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to plant and a time to uproot….and HE has made everything beautiful in its time

Ecc. 3:2

 

And then I read this verse from Ecclesiasties and it’s a gut check. God’s way and timing are perfect, He wants you to not just survive but thrive where you are.

 

In my journey to discovering joy, there have been a few tough lessons that I’ve learned. I share them with you, not as a formula to make life perfect, but as a reminder that discovering joy in your season IS possible.

 

QUIT THE COMPARISON TRAP

 

Comparing your current season to someone else’s will only lead to frustration and discontentment. YOU beloved were born with a unique set of gifts, talents, and skills. Where you are today is not an accident. You were made to shine God’s light into the world around you.

 

When my heart is feeling particularly tender, I tend to stay off of Facebook and limit my Instagram scrolling.

If that desire to compare still creeps up, I’ve learned to …

STOP.

PRAY.

GIVE THANKS.

 

The simple act of listing 3-5 things I’m grateful for right now is enough to bring me back to a perspective of abundance and allowing me to praise God through it all.

 

Like the familiar hymn reminds us…

 

This is my story

This is my song

Praising my Savior, all the day long.

 

For you, quitting the comparison trap might mean staying off Pinterest and reading a book or turning of HGTV and going for a run. The important thing is to uncover the trigger of your discontentment and replace it with something that is life-giving.

 

FIND YOUR PEOPLE

Who do you call when life gets tough? Who do you celebrate your good news with? Friends, we were not meant to do life alone. God formed and created us with each other in mind.

I think we sometimes have this vision of what perfect community looks like. You know, a perfectly suited, like-minded group of friends who hang out 24/7, are well-dressed, agree on everything and laugh A LOT.

In real life community is messy and imperfect, but oh so worth it. Community means loving each other in the mess of daily life. Community means committing to each other even when it’s inconvenient.

Just last week I was having a particularly rough day. Out of the blue, I got a phone call from one of my dear friends just to talk and say hi. She immediately asked how she could pray for me and I could just feel the weight of the day lifting off my weary shoulders.

I want to encourage you to go out and find some people (or even one person) that share your season of life.  Don’t loose heart friend, keep stepping out in faith and investing in relationships. They are what make life worth living.

 

Some of my favorite communities: SheReadsTruthElmbrook Church, Influence Network, & Powersheets Community.

 

 

BE HONEST

Be honest with yourself, your people and your God.

This is NOT easy for this recovering people pleaser and perfectionist.  I’ve learned that embracing your season starts by being honest about those other feelings. When we take the time to figure out what is at the heart of our struggle, we can then begin replacing it with truth!

When the emotions are running high, I know I need time to process and just let it all out. I set a timer for 10 minutes, get out my journal and just write. When the timer goes off, I look back over what I wrote and see if what I’m feeling or thinking lines up with scripture. If not, I find a bible verse that contradicts the lie or negative thought pattern I’ve been having and write it on an index card and stick it someplace where I can see & read daily.

Sometimes you might need a trusted friend, mentor or counselor to process things with.  Do that and be honest in your conversations. Don’t feel less than or ashamed, remember friend, we are not meant to do life alone.

This season as a 30-something single woman is full, abundant and so different than I could ever imagine. I’ve learned that just because everyone else seems to be on the same path, that doesn’t make yours any less valid. I want to encourage you that wherever you are today, there is beauty waiting to be discovered.

flourishThis summer into fall transition has me reflecting on how our lives ebb and flow during different seasons.  Fall is a season of gratitude, thanksgiving and harvest. A time when we rejoice and celebrate the work that has been done. Winter is a time of planning, preparation and stillness. Spring brings growth, cultivation and making a firm foundation for the coming months.

 

And then there is summer-summer with its overgrown gardens, long days and abundant fruit. Summer is a season of fullness and MUCH.

 

I used to dread the busy summer seasons and dream of the days when I could just quit it all and snuggle up with a blanket and good cup of coffee.

 

This Summer I decided to let go of expectations and truly embrace the season. And what I found is that, even in the busiest of season we are called and created not just to survive but THRIVE!
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The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
Psalm 92:12-14

 

 

So, as the cooler weather and refreshed rhythms of fall roll in, I’m taking a few minutes to pause on what it looks like to flourish during full seasons.

 

  1. Embrace an attitude of abundance and gratitude, instead of lack and complaint.
Garden Abundance

Garden Abundance

This is a big one. Last Summer I noticed that every single time someone would ask, “How are you?” I would answer “Stressed, busy, overwhelmed”. What I started to notice is that even if the day was 80% good, when I focused on the 20% of struggle it took over my heart and conversation. Suddenly I was discontent and dreading each day.

 

There is a verse in 1 Thessalonians that says “pray with out stopping & give thanks for everything” This Summer I took that verse to heart.   When I focused on the abundant gifts in my daily life (even thanking God for refining my heart in tough situations), deeper joy was cultivated.

 

In 2016 I’ve been keeping track of daily grace & gratitude on a calendar. It’s been a simple practice that has transformed my perspective. Every day I’m on the hunt for the gifts He has bestowed upon me.

A flourishing life begins and ends with gratitude friends. Get after it.

 

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2. Simplify

Your goals. Your schedule. Your Stuff. Your life.

 

In May I declared the Summer of LESS. I wanted less stuff in my house, less obligations on my schedule and less expectations in my life. In reality, it was STILL a full season. But the major difference was that I intentionally filled my life, home and schedule with what truly mattered. I cleared my slate to start fresh and slowly added things that brought joy & purpose to my life.

Simplicity is a lost art in our culture of more & busy. But, in simplicity there is freedom. When we say NO today, it makes room for a wise yes tomorrow.

 

This Summer I simplified in a few ways…

 

I said NO a lot. I didn’t watch TV in the evenings. I paused on-line dating. I prayerfully considered ministry opportunities instead of saying YES right away. Believe me friends; this was a BIG one for this YES girl.

 

I embraced the overwhelm and used it for the greater good. Thanks to the wise advice of my friend Diana. On the days I felt overwhelmed I took out the to-do list and looked at it with a fresh eye, then promptly cut 10 items. I tackled that messy dresser drawer and simplified my wardrobe.

 

I let go of stuff. I made a giant list of every area in my cozy cottage that needed sprucing up and made a limit that it could only take 15 minutes or less. I tackled a small project. My list of 52 areas was tackled one 15 minute increments. Now, it’s September and I have a refreshed heart and simplified home.

 

I simplified my goals. This Summer I had three major goals. I wrote them on my planner, placed them on my fridge and read them every morning before I tackled the day. There was amazing freedom in simplifying my goals and having less in this season. When opportunities arose, I measured them up to those simplified goals and if they didn’t align, I said no. It was difficult, but there was great freedom and joy in doing a few things well.

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  1. Focus on a few things and do them well.

This has been an ongoing lesson in my life, but over the summer it became a daily motto. Because of a full schedule in my work and personal life, I knew that I needed to be diligent with the time I was given. My goal for the summer wasn’t to accomplish 500 things perfectly, but to do a few things and do them well.

 

Often we wait for perfect timing to take that trip, start that project or make progress on that goal. When I took a long, hard look at the past few Summers I felt like I had put my life on hold. I didn’t want to risk doing that again, life is to short to wait for perfect timing. I took an adventure to NYC, learned to make artisan bread, continued the Tuesday Taco Truck tradition, took long walks in the wood, launched a new project at ZA, and had that farm-to-table fundraiser I dreamed of.

 

I didn’t want to wait for perfect to thrive and the key was focusing on the land that God has given me.   It can be easy to keep saying yes and suddenly that simplified schedule goes right out the window. We all have different capacities and are in various seasons. Right now, as a single woman I have been blessed with margin and time I won’t always have. My prayer has always been that God uses these years for His glory, and I’m seeing the fruit of that prayer through small steps of obedience. Tiny yeses that align with my gifts and talents  shine His light into this world.

 

And friend, God has given you a dream and specific set of talents and it’s up to YOU to share them with this amazing world. Plant a small seed today, care for it and trust that soon it will flourish into the life you were created for.

 

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4. Prioritize Self-Care.

 

Self-care is NOT selfish.  Say it with my friends….SELF-CARE is NOT SELFISH!  Got it, okay good!  Believe it or not, we were not created to work 24/7.  Yes, God has called us and given us talents to use in this world, but he also created us to rest.  When we rest, stop, and reflect we are filled back up.

This year I unabashedly embraced self-care in every way shape and form.  Sunday evening baths complete with tea and a good book.  Hitting up the local trails and going for a long hike.  Making time to journal and pray, especially after long days. Stillness & quiet.  Yoga before bed.

And my life was better for it.  Making time for what sets my heart on fire fueled not only my work but my heart.  I learned quickly that I couldn’t just magically create extra time in my day for self-care, I needed to prioritize it.  So, I added it to my weekly schedule.  I developed small, simple rythmns that prioritized self care.  Even on the busiest of days I tried to do something small that sparked joy in my heart.

I know some of you might be reading this and saying “Good for you Emily, but you don’t understand I don’t even have 5 minutes to myself”.  Well friend, if you are reading this I beg to differ (tough love here friends…because I SO want what is best for you!!).

So, stop reading and go make a list of 10 things that spark joy &  take 15 minutes or less. Okay, did you go do that?  Good…

Now, I want you to pull out your phone or planner or iCal and schedule one thing for tomorrow. You can do it friend. You need to do it friend.  Your boss, your family, your friends will be better for it.  When we allow our spirits to be filled up, we are able to love others well.  And isn’t love what a flourishing life is all about?

 

 

Hey friends!

 The Summer is full of family commitments, adventures (near and far), work obligations and many more things.  It’s easy to look at the Summer and want to accomplish everything and do ALL the fun things.  And honestly I have been a bit overwhelmed by it all.

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Then I heard this quote from Mother Theresa ” Do Small things with great love”.  I was reminded that it’s the love that matters, not just accomplishing something off the to-do list or checking a box on my Powersheets.  If I want to end the summer refreshed, refocused and reenergized I need to simplify.   I want to do a few things and do them well.

 

Summer Goals-Simplified

 

 

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Shepherd Zachariah’s Acres team towards a fruitful Summer

  • Pray, plan and delegate
  • Joyful attitude towards fundraising events.
  • Rejoice in the harvest!

 

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Invest in relationships

  • Schedule weekly friend date
  • Prayerfully participate in Elmbrook-Lake Country launch
  • Family Dinners
  • Have adventures with friends & family (NYC, Pictured Rocks,…)

 

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Practice Regular Self-Care

  • 30 Minutes daily “Write the Word”
  • Hike, jog or kayak 3X per week
  • Eat nourishing food (fresh from the garden!)
  • Write for 3 hours per week.
  • Media Free evenings 3X a week.

 

That is it.  I’m saying YES to these few things and no to all the rest.  I’m choosing to savor the simple this Summer and I can’t wait to see how God works.

 

Grace Notes:

*A few resources to carve out a simplified Summer

 

Summer to Thrive Worksheets by Jess Connolly

 

Powersheets

 

Crafting a Rule of Life by Steven Macchia

 

 

 

 

FullSizeRender (19)Spring is a time for preparation; in the garden we spend hours tilling up the earth, carefully removing rocks & debris and adding quality nutrients all in preparation to plant good seeds that we’ll harvest in the future. Its the same in our lives. Before new, good seeds can be planted we need to remove what could inhibit growth.

Last month I spend time focusing on removing old habits. Journaling before bed with a cup of tea has replaced Netflix.  I still enjoy a good binge now & then (hello…Fixer Upper Season 3!) but getting my thoughts & worries out on paper have helped me sleep better and wake up rested and ready to take on the day.

Grabbing a latte & cruising the isles of Target used to be one of my favorite ways to unwind after a busy week.  However, I could never leave without spending $100 on things I frankly didn’t need. The Contentment Challenge has encouraged me to pursue other interests than just shopping. Now, after a stressful day I hit the local Y to swim a few laps in the pool or take a walk outside with a friend. These habits are tiny steps towards a purposeful and intentional life.

This month I’m keeping my goals simple, clear and focused. I want to continue to build upon the momentum from last month and start powerful habits that are rooted in what matters most.

 

April_Share_Graphics-04April Goals

Read 168 Hours with Nancy Ray Book Club

Contentment Challenge Month #2 (no new clothes, home decor or books)

Plant my flower & veggie beds at home & Zachariah’s Acres.

Sketch out a rough outline for Flourish Devotional.

Follow monthly cash flow. (use envelope system for food, entertainment and pocket money)

 

Weekly Goals

Visit the YMCA (3X a week)

Social media free Sunday

Tuesday evening writing time at Mission Cafe or Stone Creek. (spend at least 1 hour on Flourish)

Schedule one office day per week.  (budget review, weekly task list, e-mail clear out…)

 

 

Daily Goals

P.R.E.S.E.N.T. Morning Routine

No screens after 9:30 p.m. (Sunday-Thursday)

Use cash for “fun” spending

Daily download at 4:30 p.m.

Write down 3 “grace & gratitude” in prayer journal.

 

How about you friends, what are some of the goals or dreams you have for this new month?

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Earlier this month, at the suggestion of my amazing life coach Diana I began a time diary.  Using the method from the book 168 Hours I diligently tracked my life in 15-minute increments. It was a lot of work, but the “aha” moments I had towards the end of the week were completely worth it.

One of the major themes I saw was a lack of structure in the morning. Every morning began drastically different and I saw a rhythm that how I spent my mornings influenced the rest of the day.

Over the past few years I’ve developed a strong habit of getting up every morning to spend time in God’s word. I’m so grateful for these quiet mornings of coffee & Jesus for fueling my day. But, there are other things I wanted to incorporate or get rid of to make my mornings intentional and focused.

 

After my time tracking study, I decided to commit to waking up an hour earlier Monday-Friday and refining my morning routine.  I needed was a routine that could be flexible, something that could be savored, simplified, incorporated throughout the day depending on my schedule.  I read a few articles, tried several methods and finally landed on this simple and flexible routine from “The Better Life” by Claire Diaz-Ortiz.

 

P.R.E.S.E.N.T. Mornings

 

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

 

Pray or Pause

 

This is the most important step, to begin the day with what matters most. I recently switched my alarm off my phone to a traditional alarm clock so I had one less temptation to scroll through Instagram or check e-mail first thing. Sometimes I just sit in the stillness, go through my Val Marie Prayer Journal, list daily gratitude or I take a prayer walk around the lake. The important thing is to start the day with truth!

 

 

Read

I brew a cup of coffee and pull out my Write the Word Journal, favorite devotional or a non-fiction book and spend sometime reading. Most mornings I read a few passages of scripture and a devotional.  Lately I’m loving Pricilla Shrirers “Armor of God” and Savor devotional.

 

Express

Journal my prayers, bible study thoughts or write out concerns & to-dos for the day. Journaling and getting my thoughts out on paper has been one of the most life transformative habits I’ve incorporated into my day. I often wait until the end of the day for this step and get the fears, worries, challenges out of my head before I hit the hay.  I especially love Emily Ley’s Grace not Perfection Journal for this step.

 

Schedule

Spending a few minutes on my schedule and preparing for the day allows me to refocus on the important and prioritize the urgent. I spend a few minutes reviewing my vision board and Powersheets tending list and my 3-most important things list that I wrote out the night before.

 

 

Exercise

If I don’t have time to take a walk or go to the YMCA first thing in the morning, I make it a priority to schedule it in. I keep a stocked gym bag in my car and that way if I find I have some unexpected time I’ll go swim on my lunch break or visit my favorite hiking trail at the end of the day. Incorporating fun & intentional exercise into my morning routine has provided so much more energy for me to accomplish what the day brings.

 

Nourish

When we take time to invest in our self-care, we are able to pour into others. I made a list of things that bring me joy and tapped it to my refrigerator and each day I try and incorporate one of those things into my schedule. Simple joys like heading out to the garden for fresh flowers, sending happy mail, making a green smoothie, painting my toenails or reading a fiction book on the porch restores me.

 

Track

Don’t forget to track your progress!!! I use my Powersheets tending list to track my goals and recommend them for anyone who is looking for some added purpose and intention in their life.

 

The best thing about this routine is it’s more of a rhythm than a highly structured to-do list. The steps don’t have to be done in order or even in the morning, the important things is to figure out what bring joy into your day and make time for that. I share my routine not to give you “one more thing to do” but to encourage you to stop and consider how incorporating one or two of these items into your mornings may bring some extra grace & purpose into your daily life.