Habits, Housework and Healing

    
For those who don’t already know this, I’m a real sucker for alliteration… My brain tends to makes sense of connecting things and the (what I’d personally like to think) Sherlock Holmes part of me is able to make patterns from that which can appear to be disassociated. 

So, very naturally, the title of this particular post is collectively a current list of my mental preoccupancy. And, though the three together could seem disconnected, I will explain to you how they indeed are not. 

The month of May is an indescribably overwhelming, wonderful, and crazy month for my family nearly every year. It has been this way for several years, and I have come to expect that it will always be this way. (I suspect this is the case for many of you!) This year it was a collision of five immediate family birthdays, family gatherings, Pascha, welcoming a brand new niece, and several additional events worthy of celebration including a couple baby showers (for said new niece), one of which was the largest undertaking I’ve ever collaborated in organizing to date – very worthy of the effort involved, and I was so glad it pulled off as well as it did! 

And in all of this everly excitement, the state of my house remained in a state of super subpar survival. With no dishwasher (as of then – it is currently a new addition to our kitchen and fully functional!! Glory Hallelujah!), entirely too much laundry, no energy to power through the necessary chores, and barely enough willpower to drag myself to the store to buy essential sustainance, I have arrived at the thought that May might just have happened with or without me. 

And now it is 3/4 over and I am left to catch my breath from the beginning part of May, feeling overwhelmed surveying all the scattered puzzle pieces of the metaphorical 4500 piece puzzle I have to put together to get life moving the way it was before. I feel entirely out of control in nearly every aspect of, well, everything. Which, I suppose, is not the most unhealthy thing in the world. It is a very humbling and realistic place to find oneself. Realizing you are, in fact, not in control of all of your Life is a good, good thing.

Because, I’m finding, in that place of Overwhelm, you have to stop. You just absolutely must. In order to figure out how to get back in Control, (because being Out of Control is such an uncomfortable feeling to us humans, no matter how healthy it is for us, which means we feel consequently driven to do whatever it takes to get back in Control) the natural progression demands that one stops, pauses, and (hopefully) takes a moment to reflect on why the state of Out of Control came to be the way it currently is. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly a solution seeker when it comes to discovering that I’m in a state of Out of Control. I want to make a plan to get back in Control, to fix the problem, to make new habits and to take measures that will ensure that it doesn’t happen again. These are well meaning intentions of course, but then my personal nature gets involved in the mix and then you have a highly inconsistent (but incredibly inspired) person, driven to start All the New Habits that will fix everything at once, all at once, and you get a classic, vamped up Crash and Burn. 

I cannot emphasize to you enough how often this is the case with me. It appears to be an inevitable pattern in my life, truly, no matter how aware of it I am, no matter what precautions I take when adopting said New Habits. 

And yet, this knowledge does nothing to stop me from continuing trying. Einstein says trying the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity. And I, for one, am determined to not be insane. It is of unfortunate importance to me to appear “to have it all together,” whether I do or not. 

So my approach in establishing new habits with the intent of getting back in Control is a tentative one this time. I am getting to know myself a little better bit by bit, and by now, I certainly know that I, Natalie, suffer from the initial twitterpation of doing lots of new things all at once. Especially when I believe that doing so will make all the current problems or roadblocks melt away. An easy fix, if you will. A super solution. And it’s exciting at first, doing new things. So naturally, the idea behind doing it all at once is to experience as much excitement as possible! 

But now that I am aware of this tendency of mine, I realize that things worth doing are most often things that take time. And I believe that building new habits are probably no different. Habits that will stick, habits I want to become a part of me for the rest of my days, are not going to initially feel easy, nor will the excitement of trying them out last long term. 

I find myself recalling an applicable analogy my Dad shared with me a while ago – his observations on the differences between weeds and tree saplings. He said he noticed two directly opposing characteristics about each:

The stem of a weed is hollow and a weed grows very quickly, whereas a tree sapling stem is solid and takes longer to grow. 

Slowly formed habits are like the tree saplings. It is worth the time they require to let them take root in one’s lifestyle. In contrast, habits that are adopted too many at a time or too hastily are like the weeds. 

Slowly formed habits will be the ones that will test my belief in them as I am forced to choose over and over again that I truly do want to make each said habit a change in the way that I previously did things. And most likely these new habits will require something from me – change, sweat, effort of some form. If the change demanded of me goes against my nature, so much more will my innate tendency  rise up to challenge the establishment of that habit. 

So I have to want it. I have to want it more than I have before if any new habit is to fully take root. And much more, I have to go into this conscientiously in order for these habits to stick. Accountability, prayer, and a thought out and realistic (key word there) plan are my supports. 

For right now, the habits I most dearly wish to make are namely these – 

  • To wake up each morning right. For me, this means beginning my day with my husband, before children are awake, starting it off with prayer and a wholesome means of filling my soul, which will center and direct my day ahead of me. Rather than keeping on doing what has been happening, which is that the day just happens to me…
  • To get into a daily routine wherein I accomplish what needs to be accomplished when it needs to be accomplished. Time for my personal betterment and nourishment, homeschooling, housework, serving needs attentively. (Not in that order…Ha.) 
  • To make a habit of minimalizing a bit each day. My knee-jerk reaction to discovering I’m in the depths of Out of Control is get-rid-of-all-the-things!! Now! I am learning that in order to, hem, keep order, it must happen through a system of gradual, daily maintainence. My hope is that I can come up with a plan and benchmark goals to get there. 

Which connects with the second word in the title of this post – 

Housework

I grew up doing most of my chores every Saturday, with a few sprinkled throughout the week (making my bed and brushing teeth were an every day affair, no worries). And I’m finding that now, as the housewife of a little six-person family, sustaining that trained habit is just not feasible. It will not work any more. The biggest challenge for me has been namely laundry, and reschooling myself from the doing a load on an as-needs basis to a load-a-day-no-matter-what kind of habit. 

I lack all consistency in this wretched task. I’ll be dedicated for a couple weeks in a row at best and then the weekend happens or something that takes me away from the house, and the delicate and wobbly habit is back on default, which means the laundry sits until I remember it’s Sunday the next day and the boys don’t have any clean dress pants. (Really, no joke.) 

And my bathrooms…. I don’t know if I have the courage to risk the embarrassment I’ll feel if I go into that truthfully. Let’s not. You have a good imagination. 

As for dusting. What? 

Mopping – I need a good mop. Then I’ll be good at it. 

Vacuuming and sweeping and keeping the kitchen and common area space clean and tidy are pretty much the only household chores I consider myself good at and capable of keeping in order. Again, I have a small house. And I’m a stay-at-home mama (with four kids age five and under). This should be no trouble at all for me, right? 

But no matter how easy it *should* be, most days it simply isn’t. And that’s because these are not everyday habits for me. So when these particular household tasks need doing, it is because they have been building up and sitting over a period of time where I haven’t been keeping up with them, which makes it so, so much harder to summon the self-discipline to plow through them and gittum done. 

So for me, the housework issue is so much more than merely that. It is a matter of self-discipline. Something I practice much less than I think I do. And forming habits to develop that wonderful and fruitful virtue will greatly help my housework habits. 

Healing

It is so very easy to guilt myself over everything I don’t do. And sometimes so much so that it sends me plummeting down the spiral of Funk, wherein I forget all good things and become entirely absorbed in the Overwhelm of all the tasks I have to do that I “don’t have energy to do.”  

GROW UP, WOMAN. 

Again, self-discipline. Nobody ever has energy or desire to do work they don’t like doing. But side by side with manning up to the task at hand and plum doing it because it’s gotta be done, there is something to be said for giving oneself a little grace. Not so much so that you let yourself off the hook and pump yourself up for doing nothing for the sake of feeling better about yourself, but rather the kind of grace that gives room to healing from the brokenness that perpetuates this temporary state of life. The kind of grace that lets you take a breather, regroup and summon the gumption to follow through with your work and reap the reward of seeing it done. The kind of grace that sheds light on all that you DO do, as opposed to what you don’t. The kind of grace that allows you to heal by remembering that in this human state, brokenness abides, no matter how perfect you may want to be. 

Because, again, it is so very uncomfortable a place to find oneself in, that place of Out of Control. The funk of “I can’t” or “I don’t want to, yet I must.” But instead of willing this brokenness to stop existing, I’m going to try beginning to expect it. Not in a cynical sort of way. Not in a surrendering, giving up kind of way either. In a realistic, proactive way. Because if I expect that I will find myself in the place of Out of Control from time to time, I can accept (for lack of a more specific word,) it and come up with a plan to get out of it when it inevitably happens to me again. We all get worn down and worn out. There is no avoiding it. So instead of getting surprised and angry about the fact that it has happened once again, it’s time to do something about it and make sure I’m ready for it next time.

And in allowing for that grace to work, healing will happen as the more I train myself to keep a disciplined lifestyle, I learn to live (and love!) a fuller, more fruitful life. 

I’ll let you know how it’s going. 

How do you make new habits? What are your secrets to getting that housework or your general tasks done? How do you help yourself heal from your struggles? 

If you’ve made it to the end of this, thank so very much for hanging in there. This was a long one. 

May God bless you always and especially today. 

Stay tuned for more posts to come!

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    Delight in Them

      
                                  • • • 

    I want to share my journal entry this morning. This just flowed out of the pen, somehow. And I will be rereading it every morning to set myself right for each coming day. 

    God bless you always, and especially today!

                                   • • • 

    “Today, I will delight in my children. Today, I will hold them and read to them. Today, they will know that I love them by the way I draw them near to me. Today, I will discover alongside them and take joy in their exploration of the world around them. Today, I will pray for them. Today, I will bless them with my gentleness, my patience, my willingness. Today, I will love them with my eyes, my expression, my touch, my voice. Today, I will be a living example of Christ’s love to them.” 

                                    • • • 

    Minimalism Part 2 – Toys and Clothes

    In one of my previous posts, Journey to Minimalism, I began sharing how we are downsizing and purging our clutter and stuff as we learn to be minimalistic. 

    The two realms of my household I most wished to bring back into balance after discovering the glories of pursuing minimalism are namely – toys and clothes.

    Now, you must understand, we live in a small house, so even though we have considerably fewer toys than in the average American home, it still sometimes feels like a lot in our three-bedroom, two common room house. Toys can so quickly get out of hand, even if it’s just books and army guys and some matchbox cars lying around. 

    When it comes to toys, my philosophy is that I would like for our children to grow up with a few choice toys that will stand the test of time, toys that are made of real materials or are durable and versatile enough to be many different things – whatever they want to imagine. A few examples: 

    • Lincoln logs or building blocks sets
    • matchbox cars
    • a collection of dice
    • duplos/Legos
    • puzzles
    • Anything that stretches their imagination and encourages make believe

    However, where books are concerned, I’m fine with keeping most of them for now, since we go through our personal library on a regular basis and give away the ones we haven’t read in a while that can stand to be purged. 

    Back to toys, I am trying to get into a toy rotation where the kids can trade out different ones (or collections) for something of equal value/quantity. This way, the amount of toys in circulation remains the same, but it’s like Christmas since the traded toys are “new” to them again. This system makes so much sense, and I have to keep trying to be more consistent with the rotation end of it. 

    And this doesn’t just apply to kids’ toys – adults have hobbies and interests that can blow out of proportion just as easily, if not more. For me, it’s mainly yarn, sewing supplies, thank you card collections, notebooks, memorabilia, sheet music… You get the idea. Currently, the yarn and fabric are under control, sharing one large basket, and that is saying something. As for the paper contents of my desk, that’s the next project for downsizing. 

    Now. Clothes. 

    This was a bit trickier. I don’t know about you, but we’re in a constant rotation of borrowing, trading and storing kids’ clothes, and as I’m not finished fluctuacting sizes myself, (weight loss, pregnancy, post-partum, etc.) the amount of clothes stored is indeed the challenge. Come to think of it, Caleb is the only individual in our household out of six who doesn’t change size. Except for this year because he has recently lost some weight. (Go, my love!) 

    Any way you slice it, our clothes situation is one that is constantly evolving and won’t stop for quite some time to come. So, likewise, my plan of action to manage it must be flexible, but systematic, so we can maintain our ideal of simple living. (And we still have a long way to go.) 

    The kids’ clothes are mainly the way I like it, and I’m at the point where I think I can go through my own for another sweep through and get rid of a few more things I’m realistically not wearing or won’t end up wearing as much. 

    And here’s the sweetener. The idea is to carve away excess clothing to reveal a minimalist wardrobe where I would choose any one piece first out of my closet. I have to stop settling for clothes that are just ok, because they won’t get worn. Not when they’re put next to items I actually love to wear. And those clothes I don’t wear end up robbing space. So, I’m going to start gradually fill my closet with choice pieces that I love to wear and that are good quality, so they last for years to come. 

    A concept that takes the minimalist wardrobe even further, but one I haven’t yet attempted, is the capsule wardrobe. I really like this blog post featuring a gal named Caroline Rector, about how to create your own capsule wardrobe – which, in her definition, “is a wardrobe that represents more time and energy for what really matters (less time spent deciding what to wear/less time spent shopping/less time doing laundry or caring for clothes) more money for our dreams and helping others (less money spent on clothes that never get worn) and more contentment and happiness.” Uh, yep. Sign me up!

    It is essentially a wardrobe comprised of clothing pieces that go with any other select combination of pieces. From samples of capsule wardrobes I’ve seen, they contain lots of neutral staples, punctuated with some flair, personality-remniscent ones. 

    We’re constantly bemoaning the fact that “we have no time,” no? That we “don’t have anything to wear” but yet there’s a closet full of clothes staring us blankly in the face, right? And then we try on way too many of the wrong outfits only to wear the one we began with and end up rushed and ultimately (well, in my case!) late to my destination. No bueno. 

    Building a capsule wardrobe looks like a good answer for this all-too familiar time wasting crisis to me. If my wardrobe is already full of clothes that I love to wear, clothes that fit me, clothes that go with any other piece in said wardrobe, dressing would be a piece of cake! And I can consequently spend much more time on things that actually matter to me, which is the ultimate goal. Unless of course, you happen to be a fashion designer and loving clothes is your job. Ha. 

    But for me, a country gal with no place to go other than the grocery store and church and a couple appointments here and there, a snazzy city wardrobe isn’t for me. I want to be able to choose what I wear within 20 seconds or fewer. My time is much more valuable spent outside my closet. And I suspect the same is for you. 

    So, back to minimalism, again, it is ALL a process. And one I’m heartily enjoying, because the time I spend downsizing is going to yield long- lasting benefits, both for me and my family. Less stuff, more space, less stress, more time, more depth in relationships, and ultimately, more communion with the ones I love, as I learn to serve them and all around me. 

    God bless you always, and especially today. 

    Thanks so much for reading.

    Cheers. 

      Saving Your Valuable Time

      I was beginning to think I have mild ADD. There once was a time when I possessed comparably insurmountable concentration to a single task at hand, normally drawing or practicing piano or reading, or even studying for that matter. How quickly things can change…

      Understandably, having attained a husband, a household, and four children, I now can be found to embody a mere fraction of the devotedly focused individual I was even just six years ago. My first thought upon realizing this stark and, at first, alarming difference in myself was that I have become less focused and my attention is now split a thousand ways. I am incredibly distractable. And I seemingly cannot do anything for more than fifteen minutes put together (unless it’s reading or writing or talking. HA.) Maybe I need to work on my multitasking skills. 

      And yet, the more I try to improve said multitasking skills, the less I actually improve at accomplishing things. From what I’ve been reading and hearing (namely, this article by Larry Kim at Inc.com, great stuff), multitasking is actually not the way to go, as I have previously been led to believe. From what he is saying, the practice of multitasking is doing the very opposite we believe that it is. Efficiency, getting things done faster, getting more things accomplished… 

      Lies. 

      Here are some excellent nuggets excavated from this article. 

      In fact, what we call multitasking is really switching from task to task at ludicrous speed. Doing so harms our brains by perpetuating “bad brain habits.” We switch from minor task to minor task at such a great pace (example: checking email to texting to looking up to answer a question back to texting, all while watching TV,) to which our brains respond by “hitting us with a dollop of dopamine, our reward hormone.” We love that comfy feeling instant gratification brings, which comes from – you got it – dopamine. And as a result from this behavior, we train our brains to think we are accomplishing much, when truly we aren’t. 

      Mr. Kim cites a recent study suggesting “subjects who multitasked while performing cognitive tasks experienced significant IQ drops. In fact, the IQ drops were similar to what you see in individuals who skip a night of sleep or who smoke marijuana.” 
      This statistic is nothing short of horrifying in my mind…

      And as if that weren’t enough, multitasking has also been shown “to increase production of cortisol – the stress hormone.” Of course. On top of that, the real kicker:

      “A study from the University of Sussex (UK) ran MRI scans on the brains of individuals who spent time on multiple devices at once (texting while watching TV, for example). The MRI scans showed that subjects who multitasked more often had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex. That’s the area responsible for empathy and emotional control.”

      And I am scarily finding this very result in myself the more I pursue the habit of multitasking. Shortness with people, quickness of temper, all around touchiness, impatience for anyone who doesn’t understand me right away… 

      So, new plan. I’m done trying to become an adept multitasker! 

      Now that I’m aware of how I’ve been mistakenly trying to accomplish Life, I’m attempting to really do one thing at a time. Eat lunch without doing something else too. Plan more time to get certain tasks done for the sake of doing them individually, and well. Be. Think. Train even my thoughts to sink into one concept at a time. So much better to do a single task as well as I possibly can, to think a thought as deeply and completely as time allows, to contemplate as fruitfully as possible, than to do ten or even fifteen tasks all at the same time but accomplished to a fraction of their value. 

      This is going to take a lifetime of practice. Isn’t it just the hardest thing to sit still? Stay? Be? Interact? It takes enormous strength for me to not retreat into my personal self-ish world as soon as I have the opportunity. To be present, to force myself to engage? That is where the true courage lies. 

      But we love to feel busy. It makes us feel like we’re getting a lot done. The fact must be faced that when we fill up the day with too many things, the result is that we come to the end with too many tasks to accomplish in the leftover time allotted to us, we feel pressed for time, and the reaction is to do everything faster by multitasking to get all those things checked off the list. And most of the time getting things done faster means merely that. Not better, just faster. Busyness certainly does not mean progress. 

      The conclusion I come to is that I must retrain myself in what I perceive true accomplishment means and looks like. 

      I want to utilize my time as efficiently as possible though, not as quickly as possible, which means I must retrain this habit I’ve ended up unintentionally cultivating within myself. 

      Because I know I won’t get to the end of my life wishing I had gotten more things done. I’ll wish I had  spent my time better – deepening relationships, giving, serving, loving, learning. 

      In that way, I will have saved my own valuable time. Not by what I accomplish but by how I enrich my own soul and the precious ones around me. 

      May God bless you always, and especially today.

      Cheers. 

      Journey to Minimalism 

                                      • • • 

      Since having my fourth wee babe this past April, I feel I’ve received a thick dose of reality in what I can and cannot handle. There is a limit, after all… 

      Mr. Ollie is 6 months old now, and in the time between his birth and the present, I’ve delved into some steep self-discovery. 

      • Realization #1 • I learned that taking care of two Great White Pyranees pups plus four children under the age of five, including a newborn, was not amongst the list of circumstances I can handle well, no matter how badly I wanted to. There’s apparently nothing so alluring to me as appearing to have it all under control when I truly don’t. 

      The pups are in two wonderful and beautifully capable new homes as of this May, and I have my wits back, along with my patience. My conclusion from this humbling lesson is that we are not supposed to have any dogs for a while. (Duh.

      Furthermore, I currently have not the desire nor the energy to train dogs the way I wish to, and I will not subject myself to training a new pup until the boys are able to do most of the care. Also, I have enough encounters with southern  bodily substances on a daily basis to be relieved from the task of caring for two enormous puppies, thankyouverymuch. 

      • Realization #2 • It is remarkable how much adding a single person (and a miniature one at that) to a family can increase Mt. Laundry. Absolutely astonishing. I’ve never been so overwhelmed with laundry. And I have a small house. But we had a lot of laundry… So, Caleb’s natural response was: get rid of all the things! I was hesitant about this approach at first, but after revisiting my opinion on the subject, my eyes were opened to truly see the amount of Stuff we have accrued in our short six years of marriage, and found that it was indeed the answer. 

      • Realization #3 • I need to write. It is not a hobby, it is a fundamental need. For now, I picked journaling back up, after years and years of inconsistent  documentation of my mental world. It’s still a challenge, as is anything for me concerning the pursuit of consistency, but I am now in more of a routine regarding physically writing in a journal. And getting back into practicing my handwriting is a refreshing biproduct of it. I love the act of writing nearly as much as the writing itself… Something about forming words as beautifully as possible. My future writing goals include more work on my novel(s), and learning to write them, but that is for another post…

      • Realization #4 • I must take care of myself. This means getting to bed earlier than this night owl has ever managed on a daily basis, rising early, exercising in some capacity, and eating healthily. Of course. 

      So, I’ve run a half marathon, and that was stop one on my post-partum weight loss journey. Down nearly thirty pounds and planning some strength training for the month of November as I get back to my no-sugar diet, which has been instrumental to this weight loss! (Again, I’ll keep you informed in future posts…)

      • Realization #5 • I’m a much more disorganized person than I’d like to admit. Becoming a mother of four as of April effectively pushed me out of my many comfort zones, from a state of controlling (or attempting to control) All Things to a new reality of accepting, relinquishing, and redirecting when it came to my home and my children. 

      Realizing that I need to begin with changing myself was the first step – I do have the control to change the way I do things – it is part of my role as the homemaker that greatly shapes how our home is run, how it feels, how it functions. 

      An inspiring book, Design Mom, lent to me by my sister-in-law (thanks a million, Emily Wilson!), motivated me to reassess the way I do (or rather, don’t do) things in our home, and moved me along the direction of newly aspiring minimalism. 
      I relish home design books with good pictures, and this one is chock full of ’em. And the underlying theme of the author’s decorating style is functional simplicity. She regularly considers the positioning of the components of her home, and assesses their current functionality, their value, their purpose. If anything changes, so does the room, and she adjusts to improve it and try something new that can work better. Or, if she decides she simply doesn’t like something anymore, she changes it. Now, obviously not all of us have the luxury of changing things at the drop of a hat, but it does help to remind oneself that decoration doesn’t have to be permanent, nor should it be. I forget that all too often. 

      And yet, spending as much mental energy as I’m sure she does on the movement of the home absolutely needs to be put into balance as well. There are so many more important things to be getting on with, I feel. But it’s for a time, really – rearranging one’s home does not have to be a constant, but rather, a means. How exhausting that would be, otherwise! 

      Back to Design Mom – I just loved her fresh take on running a home, establishing and maintaining systems that work, and making a house into a sanctuary for everyone in it, all the way down to the youngest child in the family. 

      So, as I looked around my own home, I took mental note of a few things – my initial observations were:

      1 – We have a lot of clothes. Waaaay too many items of clothing, towels, fabric in general, etc. 

      2 – There are too many toys. (And we have significantly less compared to the average American household where toys are concerned.) 

      3 – We’re running out of space. 

       4 – We don’t use a lot of the stuff we are currently storing/keeping around. 

      It all started with the night Caleb and I went through the eight plastic bins of kids’ clothing size newborn to 4T, and downsized to three bins total – 2 boy, 1 girl. The snowball effect was activated. We became hooked on minimalizing.

      I paid more attention to the things I liked about friends’ houses and how simplicity and functionality and beauty can combine in a lovely, inviting home. I read up on minimalizing tips, found some new blogs, and started going through possessions and piling up the Goodwill box, I mean carload. 
      I’m learning that minimalism is a process. Not something accomplished overnight, by any means. It is far too hurculean a task. No, not a task, a lifestyle alteration. 

      Presently, after a couple of months at this, we are down to a happy amount of clothing for the boys, as well as the kids’ toys. We are still going through our own clothes, books, DVDs, CDs, craft supplies, etc. And we keep going through the same things and discovering that we can live on less stuff. It is the most freeing thing… And it’s addicting. I find that I’m now too eager to just give away things, and sometimes have to check myself and ask if we still use it enough to keep it, which is sometimes true. 

      But sometimes one has to go from one extreme to the other in order to come to balance. I don’t think we’ll get too extreme, but I’m certainly finding that we now have not only more space for storage, but plenty of it. We’ll easily be able to live in our three bedroom/two bath little ranch style house for several more years before even thinking about adding on or doing major home improvement. And that gives me peace of mind. 

      I keep thinking about the holy fathers and monks and how unattached they were/are to their very few possessions. And I think it can be a very Orthodox way of living to rid oneself of all the possessions the world tells you that you must have. 

      I’m finding that not only do I forget what I’ve confiscated after I do, but more – I don’t miss them. I don’t miss the things! And life goes on without them taking up space in my home.

      Now the challenge will be to not replace all that I’ve gotten rid of with better things. Ha. 

      More on minimalizing later. I’ll tell you about my wardrobe next! Also a process, but one I’m heartily enjoying. You’ll see why. 

      Until then, God bless you always and especially today.

      Cheers!

      Mackinac Half Marathon


                                      • • • 

      I’ve done it. Four and a half months training a grand total of over one hundred and fifty miles, and consequently nearly thirty pounds lost led up to the day I planned before even giving birth to Ollie this April. I ran my first half marathon on Saturday. 
      Last year, for our fifth anniversary, Caleb and I went to Michigan for a getaway, during which we stayed at the renouned Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island for a night. And, of course, we fell in love with the island and all of its old fashioned beauty. Not a single car can be found on the island. Horses and carriages and bikes are seen everywhere you look, as are the gorgeous houses and properties of Mackinac locals. The charm of this place is tangible, and one cannot help but leave it feeling uplifted. 

      That said, early this year, when looking up races to enter, I stumbled upon The Great Turtle Race on Mackinac Island. Caleb excitedly told me he would gladly take me back to Mackinac if I could train to run the half marathon. At the height of inspiration, I promptly asked my sister in law, Suzi, if she’d want to run it with me and make a weekend getaway out of the trip. To my delight, she said yes!

      And after the next several months of running and planning and running some more, the day finally arrived. Suzi and her husband Phil, and Caleb and I, plus Mr. Ollie, drove up to Mackinac for the race. We stayed in a house on the water for Friday night, and took the ferry to Mackinac Island for the day on Saturday.

      Despite rainy (and consequently muddy), windy and cold conditions, we plowed through and made it to the finish line in 2:57, my personal best time by ten minutes. I was glad for the change of course from pavement to trail and back again, since I was concerned my knees would bother me. And since the rain caught us early on in the race, we dried off after a while and kept cool during our run. We saw beautiful house after beautiful house, each more impressive than the previous one, which helped the run to feel quicker. 

      I loved it. Not every single minute of it – it was challenging for sure – but I loved that I was finally working to accomplish the goal I’d worked toward for four and a half months. I loved being around the other runners, this being my first ever race. And I especially enjoyed being with Suzi, who faithfully stuck with me though she could have made a significantly better time otherwise! 

      I was unsure how the end would be, and crossing the finish line truly was emotional. Something in me gave way the very second I stepped over the marker, and tears fell as the relief of finishing rushed through me. I was done. It was finished. With my own two feet, I ran a 13.1. 

      But the accomplishment hardly belonged to me alone – without my encouraging friends, family, and husband, I very well could have given up and decided it wasn’t for me. Caleb and Mom W watched the kids numerous times so I could go on my long runs, and I was kept accountable by friends and family who would check in with me every so often to see how the running was going. 

      So, to all of you who helped me to the end, thank you so very, very much! For your encouragement, for your support, for your patience while listening to me blabber on about running, for your prayers. I mean it from the bottom of my heart when I say I could not have done this without you. 

      Thank you to my beloved Husband, Caleb, to my parents who watched Cillian and Lucy, to Caleb’s parents who watched Jamie and encouraged me constantly while watching me run three miles, five miles, eight, ten…, to Phil for helping plan and execute the trip, and especially to Suzi, for sticking by me and pushing me til the very end. I love you all dearly.

      On to the next fitness goal! For the month of November, I’m planning to keep up with running (after I enjoy my week-long celebratory sabbatical), do a plank challenge, a squat challenge, and an arm strengthening challenge. 

      In other news, I’m back at blogging! I’ll keep you posted. More updates coming. It’s been a while.

      I hope you have a terrific Tuesday. 

      Glory to God for all things!!! 

      Cheers!

      Five Years

       

      This exact day, five years ago, I woke up in a daze, hardly believing that the man downstairs waiting to drive me to church in the morning would finally become my husband in just a few short hours that afternoon.

      Caleb and I have been married for five years. We got married on his twenty-fifth birthday. I was still nineteen. But I couldn’t have felt more ready for this life. And it was the best decision I have made thus far in my green twenty-four years.

      We have lived in three homes – two different apartments and the house where we are now living, which will hopefully be our only house. We have had three children, and I pray, will be blessed to have many more. We have traveled as far west as The Big Island in Hawaii and as far east as Outer Banks, North Carolina. There are a multitude of things we have discovered about one another throughout this beginning five years.

      The one thing I see as the theme of our first years together so far is this – by improving oneself and praying diligently is change in one’s spouse achieved. You cannot force your spouse to be different. They must change themselves. But altering yourself and praying fervently for your spouse can evoke change in them. And it is incredible.

      To my Beloved – I cherish you more today than I did the day that I married you – somehow my love has deepened and seasoned into something much more understood than the innocent, wide-eyed love that I loved you with that day. It fills me with joy to be the one who gets to love you and to be loved by you. My cup truly runneth over.

      Here’s to us, my Love. May we continue to sharpen one another, iron against iron, into more loving, giving, patient, and humble creatures. Thank you for serving me the way that you do – I am the far more blessed one by your goodness and your selflessness, and I am honored to be your wife and to care for our house and our children. God grant you many years, Caleb, and happy thirtieth birthday.

      Happy anniversary, my Husband.

      I love you dearly.