Have you ever stumbled upon a garden mid-August? Tomatoes reaching towards the sun and vining over trellises, sunflowers waving in the afternoon breeze, cucumbers that weave their way and attach to any object, and bush beans overflowing with the delicious tastes of Summer.
A Summer garden is the most beautiful picture of overflowing abundance. But, If you aren’t careful, that abundance can quickly turn to overwhelm.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.
And as a reluctant farmgirl, my life often mimics the seasons in the garden. On January 1st I have bright eyes, a bold vision for the year to come, and have made time to reset my goals and priorities. Then we hit August, and my life feels full to the brim and the idea of adding one more thing is just to much to handle.
I’m guessing that these hot August days in the middle of Summer can feel overwhelming, repetitive, mundane, and long for you too.
But with patience and time I’ve learned to embrace the chaos and beauty of the abundant season. To put aside my unrealistic expectations and be grateful for this day…weeds and all.
When I view my days through the lense of the gospel, my view shifts. Watering the gardens, work appointments, responding to e-mails, watering the garden…again, doing the dishes, writing, or making dinner. No longer are they just tasks to be completed, but they are opportunities to embrace this life, love God, and love others.
My garden, and in turn my life, may not be as clean and tidy as my January dreams, but the fruit is bountiful and even more beautiful than I could imagine. Life does not need to be Pinterest perfect to be a life worth living.
Friend, your ordinary day can become an extraordinary gift. Stop, breathe, and delight in the beauty of this day.
Since I was a little girl my heart longed to have a family of my own. To have a life partner with 2.5 adorable children, a home of my own complete a white picket fence, and a full time career. But there I was, about to turn 30 working part time, renting super tiny one bedroom studio, and had little to little dating prospects or hope.
I knew there was good in the season, but I wasn’t quite sure there was joy.
So on the eve of my 30th birthday I sat down, on the deck of my tiny house (that was literally in the backyard of my dear friends..but that is another God story), with a mason jar of cold brew, and got to work envisioning what a brave & beautiful decade would look like.
I scribbled down deep, seemingly impossible dreams like owning my own home, going on a mission trip again, and participating in Making Things Happen again. There were also LOTS of fun adventures like visiting an outdoor theater, homemade gelato, and starting my own garden. It was a marker to choose a life of beauty and bravery. In writing that list a shift began in my heart to cultivate a life I love, even when it looked different than I envisioned.
Here I am today, five years later, and look over my list of 30 Brave and Beautiful Things and see a full and vibrant life. There are still a few items that I can’t wait to check off…Country Living Fair and mission trip adventure are at the top post COVID life 😉 But, as I spent time reflecting on the items I’ve been able to check off my list, I noticed so many other gifts in this season that were unplanned and unexpected.
In my 30’s I also…
-built lasting friendships both near and far. My “forever friends” are such kindred spirits and unexpected gifts.
-embraced my calling at ZA as a servant-leader and reluctant farm girl.
-did (and continue to do) the heart and hard work required in counseling through seasons of transition, anxiety, and everyday life.
-found a local church home that is not perfect, but even better is rooted in the gospel and full of people who love each other and love Jesus.
-invested in my neighborhood and got to know them as friends, beyond just a quick “Hello!”.
-gained a sister and became an auntie to the sweetest little love bug ever.
-adventured all around Wisconsin, the US (NYC, Chicago, New Hampshire, Sanibel Island, Boston, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina,…), and most importantly the UP and our Koselig Cottage.
Memories and joy that I would have overlooked if I just focused on what was missing. My heart still longs for the “white picket fence” ideal (or whatever version that might end up being), but the truth is that this life is good, beautiful, and full of a deeper joy. I’ve learned that gratitude doesn’t but a “happy mask” on our life circumstances, but it does allow you to shift your eyes to the gifts of today. On the eve of 35, I can’t wait to see what the rest of my 30’s will bring. I have a feeling the best is yet to be.
30 Brave & Beautiful Things in my 30’s
Loveon littles through an overseas mission trip.
2. Plant a fig tree!
3. Learn the art of hand lettering.
4. Get a tattoo 😀
5. Be completely debt free!
6. Host “An Evening to Bloom”
7. Weekend adventure to Nashville with girlfriends!
8. Attend a farm to table dinner.
9. Write an e-book.
10. Go Blueberry Picking
11. Finally visit the Country Living Fair!!
12. Plant a garden of my own.
13. Take an art class and let go of perfection! (pottery, calligraphy, painting..)
14. Speak at women’s conference
15. Complete the Bravado (run/walk, bike, kayak)
16. Have a little free library.
17. Master sourdough bread.
18. Own my own home.
19. Complete whole30 challenge.
20. Gather farm fresh eggs!
21. Try Stitch Fix for a special occasion outfit!
22. Visit a fresh lavender farm.
23. Host a girls weekend at Koselig Cottage.
24. Outdoor theater or concerts on the square.
25. Purchase a really comfy, squishy reading chair.
26. Learn to flip a pancake (seriously people, it’s BAD!)
27. Enjoy a Spa Day.
28. Host a weekend retreat.
29. Make lemon-basil gelato with my lemons.
30. Attend Making Things Happen Conference for the 2nd time and be encouraged to live on purpose and make what matters happen.
Summer in the Midwest is when the world comes alive. Everyone comes out of hibernation and the calendar is full to the brim with backyard BBQs, road trips, outdoor concerts, and trips to the lake. We fill our schedules to the brim in order to squeeze out every single last drop of Summer. It’s a season of yes and abundance!
This year Summer has looked incredibly different. With fairs, events, weddings, concerts, and even gatherings being canceled or restricted my schedule has more open spaces and margin than usual.
A few years ago this go-go-go girl would have cringed at the amount of “whitespace” on her calendar. It can be so easy to equate busyness with worth, and a full social schedule with a full life. But the truth is, you can have a full schedule and still have an empty life.
Two years ago when a tumble left me with a shattered leg & prescription for 8 weeks of R&R, I was forced to put down my glorification of busy and embrace an unexpected season of healing & rest. All in the midst of a Wisconsin Summer.
The first few weeks were a flurry of appointments, visits from loved ones, and catching up on my Netflix queue. Then a few weeks in I began to get restless and discouraged. I was tired of sitting, asking for rides and couldn’t imagine reading another book (shock of all shocks as I’m an known bookworm!). I wanted to get out and go to the farmer’s market, kayak on the river, or even just go to the drive in movie theater! I still had 4 weeks ahead of me and yet I was ready for life to return to “normal” as soon as possible.
And so that day I decided to begin a new habit. Twice a day I would head out to my back porch, kick back in my lounge chair, and just look at the clouds. No podcast playing, book to read, or friend to chat with. Just me, a deck chair, and the Lord.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Savoring the stillness was hard. I think of something else I could be doing or distracting thoughts would come to mind. But slowly, the rush and hurried pace melted away and I began to lose track of time just noticing, dreaming and praying.
My deck dates became soul-anchoring moments in my day. It was that season I learned that slowing down allows me to see the goodness I usually overlook as I’m hurrying from place to place.
In this current season of unknown and uncertainty, I find myself out on the deck more often. Finding pockets of time in my day to pause and recenter my thoughts. My sacred space has become a reset for my day and a recentering of my heart.
Something happens when we choose to quiet the noise and let go of distractions. That is why God calls us to rest.
When we choose rest, priorities are shifted, & concerns melt away. Stillness gives us fresh eyes to see the beauty around us.
Friends, in a world that champions busy let’s choose stillness instead.
Nourishment for your Soul: Pause and Ponder
What brings your soul rest?
Is there a place that is sacred to your soul?
Take a few minutes today, visit that space, turn of your phone, still your heart, and savor the gift of rest.
This week has blown by in a whirl-wind of Summer adventures and hard work. Now is the time of year when the abundance of the garden & preparation for Fall threaten to overwhelm me. When the days are short but the weeks feel long, I can focus on the negative or what could improve instead of looking for the delight in each day. Needless to say, I’ve needed lots of iced tea and pep-talks this week to point me back to the truth that we can do what is placed before us little by little (and with a heaping of His grace). So in that spirit, here are the good things of this week.
Our Carlson crew adventured to the lavender farm this past weekend was so much fun. It was one of those hot Summer days, so my only regret is that we didn’t stay longer. New Life Lavender is such a peaceful and welcoming place, and I just love the family that owns it. We enjoyed a hay wagon tour, lavender lattes, lavender cherry pie, and a stroll through the blooming lavender & wildflower fields. I came back inspired and in need of a jump in the lake 😉 Adventures always inspire me and New Life is one of my favorite spots to have adventures.
Sipping homemade iced tea using the loose leaf tea that I got from New Life Lavender Farm. My two favorites are the Lemon Lavender Mint and Strawberry Lavender Red Rooibos tea. Growing up my mom would always have a big jar of tea brewing on the back porch. I’ve continued this Summer tradition by making a few batches of strong sun tea in mason jars to enjoy through the week.
Simple Summer Iced Tea Recipe:
1 quart canning jar
4 tea bags (mint, black, green tea with lemon, etc.)
Optional: fresh mint, lavender, herbs or fruit to add a twist.
Combine all ingredients in canning jar and place in a sunny spot for 2-3 hours. Remove tea bags and store in the fridge for 3-4 days….if you can keep it around that long!
A friend from book club recommended “American Dirt” to me a few weeks ago. The hold list was well over 200 so I was overjoyed to snag a copy from my lucky day stack at the local library. A powerful story of a mother and sons escape from Mexico and their journey as migrants. This book worm has been staying up way too late simultaneously enthralled, captivated, and heartbroken over this story. Good writing doesn’t just entertain us. Good writing teaches us to see the world through a new lens.
My garden is abundant with zinnias, snapdragons, bells of Ireland, and big dahlia blooms. This year I wanted to focus on cut flowers and herbs in my home garden. It’s been less work and more joy, exactly what gardening should be. Well…a little dirt never hurt. I gathered up some of the blooms this week and have been delivering to friends and neighbors. A sweet way to brighten someone’s day and a good excuse to check in with my people.
In the Summertime my neighborhood comes alive with blooms. Sunflowers lined the fences, abundant hydrangea bushes, climbing roses, manicured and professionally landscaped perennial beds, and down the street was the most beautiful veggie bed I ever saw. Beautiful gardens that are lovingly tended to by my neighbors.
Then one day my walk around the neighborhood turned from gratitude to envy and comparison. Suddenly my humble patio garden & flower beds seemed insignificant and simple. Instead of appreciating the hard work of others, comparison grabbed hold of my heart. I came back home restless and unsettled instead of inspired and encouraged.
A few weeks after my comparison walk around the neighborhood gardens a dear friend made the comment “Your back yard is such an oasis”. My reflex was to point out all the things wrong and everything I wanted to improve. But her tone caused me to stop, take notice, and see my patio garden with fresh eyes.
I began to notice the beauty of my humble patio garden. Instead of noticing the absence of a perfect landscaping, I saw fresh basil to add to my pizza, zinnias to clip and share with a friend, and tiny lemons growing in the sunshine.
Just like envying my neighbors garden causes me to miss the beautiful patio garden oasis I have, when I spend to much time on social media viewing other people’s highlight reel, I can forget the beauty in my life.
“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Psalm 16
Psalm 16 is a reminder to delight in the boundary lines that we currently have. Boundaries often get a bad reputation. Healthy boundaries help us focus on the important things in our life, and let go of the rest.
Boundary literally translate “something that indicates bounds or limits” (Dictionary.com)
Boundaries in our relationship help us nourish and grow closer to our friends and families. Boundaries in our time and schedule cultivate space for what matters. Boundaries in our physical property keep us safe and secure. Boundaries in the garden keep out unwanted predators and pests. Boundaries declare ownership and bring clarity to land or property lines. Boundaries can help us make sense and delight in what we have been given.
What does it look like to delight in the land we have been given? For you it might mean embracing the small 300 sq ft apartment and painting that wall or start a window sill herb garden, even if it’s temporary. Or to pause and reflect on where you are, savoring the goodness and beauty of your current season (student, newlywed, working mamma, single gal, empty nester,…) instead of looking ahead to the future.
There is a deep longing in my heart for marriage and mamma-hood, but that is not the season I’m in. When I compare what I think my life should look like or what I hope it will be I miss out on the unexpected joys of today. Joys like last minute road trips, quiet mornings on the deck with my bible and coffee, girls nights, and solo-adventures. There are so many unexpected joys in this season of singleness, and I’m choosing to delight in the beauty of it.
Nourishment for your Soul: Pause and Ponder
Pour yourself a tall glass of cold brew or ice tea, sit back, and savor the land you have been given. A single window sill with a pot of herbs, backyard with a glimpse of the lake, or a 50 acre flower farm, take the time to see the beauty and joy in your space.
How can you cultivate joy and beauty in your season?
Several years ago I was on a plane heading to Boston I devoured Emily Ley’s book “Grace Not Perfection” . It was one part journal, one part stories, and featured beautiful lettering and images of what a grace-filled life looked like. It was the perfect book for me in that season.
In the first part of the book she spoke about boundaries, time, and creating an ideal week. Followed by a prompt asking what your ideal week would look like. Without a second thought, I began writing “Fridays are days to catch up on the week. No outside meetings. A day to work from home, wrap up projects, prepare for the week ahead, and flourish.”
It seemed like such a simple idea, but I knew that a big shift would have to happen to free up my Fridays.
And so, my Flourish Friday rhythm was born. Being able to work from home and have a flexible schedule meant that I could implement this as soon as I got back from my trip. The more challenging part was getting over my routines and 9-5 “box” and image in my head. I remember the first time I said “no” to a meeting on Friday. I received an important e-mail with a few dates to schedule a meeting. The only date given that worked was a Friday. I started typing a reply “Friday sounds great….” And then I stopped.
Hadn’t I just promised myself that Fridays would be a time to catch up on the week, not begin something new? I deleted my first response and typed a simple “This week doesn’t work, how about early next week?” It was incredibly freeing to prioritize my needs and to follow through with a little dream.
For this recovering people-pleaser, it was a huge victory. Now, over four years later, I still hold my Fridays as sacred. I’ve had to fight for this margin, working smarter the other days of the week, saying no, and letting go of pleasing people. It’s always worth it.
Fridays have become one of my favorite days of the week. A day that usually includes wrapping up my inbox & projects for work, swimming at my local YMCA, buying fresh flowers for my home (or picking a bouquet from my garden), meet up with family or friends for dinner, and cleaning up my office & tidying my home so I can truly rest and have adventures over the weekend.
There are seasons (like the day before a big fundraising event, special work project, or conference that I have been waiting to attend) when I do have meetings or am onsite at ZA on a Friday. Life is all about being flexible right? But Fridays..Fridays are for flourishing.
And so friends, I want to share a bit of my Flourish Friday joy with you all. I’ll pop over here most Fridays with a few things to share that are pointing me towards a flourishing life. The list might include a link to an article that caused me to pause & think, an inspiring photo, current watercolor doodles, favorite worship songs or podcast episodes, a project or recipe I’m working on, books I’m reading, adventures I’m planning, or soul-care ideas for the weekend.
Think of it as your Friday reminder to cultivate a life you love & embrace the season you are in.
Flourish Friday – July 24th, 2020
1. Currently Loving
Summer in Wisconsin. Big straw hats, a cold beverage, jumping in the lake as much as possible, and sunshine days. Need I say more?
2. Currently Listening
Annie F. Downs “EnneaSummer” Podcast. I love learning not only more about how I was wired, but about the differences between each number and how we work together to make this world more beautiful!
This song by Elevation Worship has been on repeat this week…well really the past three months. Call it my Corona-anthym!
3. Currently Creating
All the skillet baked goods from Half Baked Harvest. This week we made her skillet peanut butter cookie and it was beyond amazing! Serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream…trust me, your tastebuds will be in heaven.
4. Currently Anticipating
My Carlson Crew trip to the New Life Lavender & Cherry Farm. It’s one of my favorite places; the kindest family who have a eye for beauty and have shifted their life to prioritize family and their faith. Here is a photo from earlier this Summer when I visited for the plant sale. I’ll be sure to share some photos of it in all it’s glorious BLOOM!
A refreshing book about what happens when we lay down our dreams and embrace God’s call on our lives, even when it’s unexpected. This book is FULL of deep truth and theology. I’m pretty sure half the book has been underlined with “AMEN” in the margin.
You know all those things you’ve always wanted to do? You should go do them.
My powerful and dear friend Lara shared these words years ago and they have been such an encouragement to me.
A reminder that life is to precious to sit around and just dream. We need to get out there and DO the things we’ve always dreamed of. It’s a motto I’ve always lived by. I’m typically a go-getter person who sees a pin on pinterest, new recipe, idea, or project and immediately goes out to tackle it. I love to take on new and challenging projects at work in the garden or learning to write a grant for the first time.
I’ve also noticed that I tend to gravitate towards projects that I “know” I’ll succeed at: making a home garden (check), baking a blueberry pie with lemon, rosemary crust (check), planning and hosting a Spring crafternoon (check, check, check). They are all items that I know I would have success in, well if you don’t count the incident with my pup and a lemon strawberry pie…that is a story for another day.
But, I began to notice that there were things that I have always wanted to do. Things that were hidden so deep in my heart due to unbelief in my abilities or failure to risk.
And so, 2018 became the year of “Doing things I’m not great at!” I made it a goal that year to try one thing a month that I believed I wasn’t good at (flipping pancakes, swimming butterfly, painting, writing, memorizing scripture…). To dare to try out a list of seemingly “mundane” things that I had written off as “not my skills” or “gifts”. I am all for excelling in your gifts and not trying to do all the things perfectly, but I realized so many of these things were what I once found SO MUCH joy in, but one comment, failure or like had me placing them back on the shelf of unanswered dreams.
Painting has always been a dream of mine. As a little girl, I loved going to the Chicago Art museum and would gaze in wonder at the color, texture, and shapes of each painting. But ever since middle school art teacher gave me a “C” in Art class and called my drawing “horrific” I decided I was not an artist. Crafty, yes! Creative, of course! But an artist, NO WAY!
I decided to begin painting. I bought myself a simple watercolor paint set from Michaels and a pad of water color paper. I found a simple “lavender pot” tutorial and spent a sunny afternoon on the back porch watching, painting, trying again, messing up, relearning, and trying again. I took time to see how the paint moved and what colors looked best together.
My first tiny little watercolor was imperfect, yet so beautiful. It was a reminder that I could do hard things and that the dreams that I’ve always had, were worth chasing after.
I’m still working on my painting. I wish it came naturally to me, but it’s been such a great lesson in grace. A lesson in trying new things, failing, learning, and growing. There is strength when we let ourselves try those big scary goals and fail forward to flourishing.
When I first moved into my home, I dreamed of turning my yard into a cutting garden. I spent the cold Midwestern Winter months dreaming of bouquets of dahlia’s, zinnias, peonies and lush beautiful flowers. Come spring I planned and mapped out the perfect place to put my flowers. I had thought of everything: a southern facing plot of land, close access to a hose, companion planting, and invested in high quality seeds. Soon I would be on my way to a beautiful and lush garden, or so I thought.
The seeds began to sprout, but would quickly wither and die. A few hearty annuals grew to be 1-2 inches tall, but they turned yellow quickly.
In my rush to plant my dream garden, I forgot to do a simple soil test. And if you know anything about gardening or plants, soil is either a gardners best friend or worst nightmare.
A soil test would have told me that I was in desperate need of nitrogen and that my soil tended to be more clay based (holds water which isn’t super awesome for tender seedlings). Vital information that would have allowed me to amend my soil and create an environment for those seed to flourish.
Just like my garden, a life that flourishes begins with taking note of where we are and then cultivating good soil for our hopes and dreams to bloom. Even the most grace-filled plans won’t flourish if they don’t have the nourishment to do so.
Cultivating good soil can look like starting a journaling practice. Spending time in God’s Creation to think and dream. Booking a hotel for a night and having a retreat. Or seeing a counselor or spiritual director.
When I first started to see a counselor I was hesitant to share with others. On the outside, my life looked like it was full & flourishing. But my outside didn’t match my soul. I was weary, tired, too busy, on the edge of burn out, and trying to please people constantly. My life felt overwhelming and not enough all at the same time.
One of the first sessions, we did a life evaluation. It’s something that I have done before. A chance to go through each area of your life (health, finances, relationship, significant other, etc.) rate it and then also share why you rated that way.
Sitting in her office thinking about my life I was confronted with two options. Do I put a “I’m Awesome” mask on and give everything high numbers or do I choose to be honest and trust that the deeper work is ahead.
I don’t know if it was her kind words, the tissue box close at hand, or just being tired from another long week of “keeping it all together”, but I was brutally honest that day and began the deep work of mending my heart and soul. I learned something deeper that day. A full and abundant life begins with honesty and trust. Grace will meet you where you are.
So friend, as you begin this journey to a life that is flourishing. Give yourself grace and trust that the best is yet to come.
Nourishment for your Soul:
How are you really doing emotionally, physically and spiritually?
What would it look like to nourish your heart in this season?
One of my favorite places to get away is our family’s cabin in the Northern Penninsula of Michigan. It’s a Swedish inspired cottage, built by my family, a place of true soul rest, and…it’s in the middle of nowhere.
When our family first started looking for a weekend home, I imagined somewhere within walking distance or a short drive to a quaint little lake town to walk down and grab a coffee or explore a book store. However, we found that those places tend to also be over crowded with small lots, busy streets and not a lot of peace and quiet.
Then, several years later we started exploring Northern Michigan. After winding our way down 5 miles of dirt/gravel road we pulled in and saw the river. It was one of those sunny, summer days where the sky is bright blue dotted with fluffy white clouds and I just fell in love with the beauty of the property. Nestled right alongside the river was a magnificent tree with roots that reached down to the river and leaves that stretched to the sky. I knew that it would provide shade, beauty, and a comfy spot to curl up with a good book for years to come.
The tree beside the river was flourishing and able to provide rest and beauty for our family because it was planted near the water, it’s source of life.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1-3
Psalm 1 is one of my favorite verses because of the beautiful picture it creates and the reminder of where to seek nourishment. What a beautiful picture of how we are called to live our lives. Planted by streams of living water, rooted in His grace.
When my days are long and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed or weary, I will often look to coffee, compliments, food, or even people to provide the nourishment that only God can. A woman who flourishes in every season, is rooted in grace. As my pastor says, Grace is God’s supernatural power to work within us to accomplish what we couldn’t do ourselves. It’s his grace, every minute of every day, that provides strength, energy, wisdom, discernment to not just make it until midnight but to thrive in your current season.
Just like the tree planted by the river, our connection point and source of strength begins with relationship with our Creator. Time in the Word, prayer, worship, silence & solitude, or just being in His Creation. We are created to be connected with the source of life and it is His grace to help us grow and bloom.
Nourishment for your Soul: Pause and Ponder
Where do you need nourishment today (physically, emotionally, spiritually..)?
Take 10 mintues, turn off your phone (or switch it to airplane mode), go outside, and read Psalm 1: 1-3.