The week between Christmas and New Years I spent time at our family’s cottage in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we lovingly refer to as Koselig Cottage as it is truly the home of all things cozy. This year, I made time to cozy up in our built in swedish bed with a hot cup of coffee, reflect on 2020, and craft a Rule of Life for this new season.
A rule of life is crafted with prayer and discernment and is the trellis we build our days upon.
It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussing and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
Your Rule of Life is not another list of “shoulds” or “tasks” or “disciplines”, instead it is grace-filled rhythms that allow you to slow down, quiet the hurry and connect to our Creator.
My rule of life can be broken into a few core areas: Spirit, Body, Mind, Relationships, Home, Work, Resources/Finance. I crafted an intention for each area for 2021 that related to my goals and also rhythms of daily (d), weekly (w), monthly (m), quarterly practices (q), or yearly (y).
A few questions to consider as you ponder creating your own Rule of Life:
When you think about who you want to be, who God Created you to be, what do you choose to give attention to?
What is the current rhythm of your daily, weekly, life? What season are you in?
What brings delight and purpose to your days?
How do you connect with your Creator?
What does it look like to be in relationship with others? How can you live and learn alongside others?
My Rule of Life – 2021
I will live my life fully embracing the natural seasons God created and rhythms of the church calendar.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
2021 Yearly Goals:
Embrace the rhythms of the church calendar and spiritual disciplines (daily office, weekly examen, sabbath, rule of life)
I have always been a “planner girl”. Excited to try the newest organization tool and am giddy at the fresh start of a new month, year, or page.
Yet the last few years, I’ve moved to a primarily on-line planner for the ease of having my schedule “on hand at all times.
But this last year with all the uncertainty and change had me craving trying something new. I wanted a planner that was different than I could find at Office Max and cultivated my heart and soul as much as my calendar.
The goal of incorporating the liturgical calendar into my year, lead me to Sacred Ordinary Days. After downloading and LOVING their monthly sample, I took a leap and ordered a hard copy of their yearly planner.
It’s simple, clean, flexible, and centered on what matters most: my relationship with God. I’ve been using it over a month now, and I particularly love the weekly & seasonal examen and Sabbath day page. A consistent reminder each week to check-in with my soul and look back on where I’ve abided in Him or tried to accomplish things on my own.
Nourish my body with whole foods, movement, and soul-care.
I don’t know if you have been feeling it too, but so many of my conversations lately have been centered around feeling the weariness and weight of this world. With everything going on in our country, nation, and community it’s so important to care for our bodies, mind, and soul.
My rhythms have been thrown off track over the last few months and I’m committing to re-establishing healthy habits in 2021.
For me that looks like:
simple, nourishing meals packed with plenty of protein
enjoying whole, seasonal foods
weekly yoga and daily stretching
swimming laps at least 2X a week
getting outside as much as possible
committing to a screen-free evening once a week to journal, read, and rest
Courageously speak and write truth.
When I think of a year of grit and grace, I see a year that is full of brave words. That might look like sharing a cup of tea with a friend, taking a walk and asking the hard questions, or sharing what God is teaching me here on this little corner of the web.
This recovering people-pleaser has struggled to find her voice and not just say what others want to hear. However, I’ve learned that with a whole lot of prayer prayer and plenty of God’s grace, it is possible to share words that are brave, true, and full of grace.
A women of gentle grace earns respect.
Love my family & local community well.
Looking back on my most treasured memories of 2020, they all involved my family and local community. In the year of Safer@Home, I found the joy of local friendships and having my family close.
Time with family at the cottage, gatherings on the deck/porches with friends, Emily’s Safer@Home bake shop, and life group game nights brought a deep joy to my weeks. I tangibly saw a long awaited prayer answered last year and I want to steward this gift well.
Some of the ways I will love my people in 2021 is:
continue porch drop off of Emily’s Bakeshop
celebrate birthdays and milestones of family and dear friends
host outdoor celebrations in each season
savor time with family at the cottage
send snail mail to friends and family far away
Celebrate and rejoice in each Season.
Working in an agriculture based ministry, I can’t help but see how God wired us for seasons. Winter is a time of Rest, Spring a time of planting, Summer is tending, and Autumn is the harvest.
I’m always learn, process, and grow when I spend time reflecting on God’s creation. This year I want to take it even further to embrace the celebrations/seasons of the church (Advent, Christmastide, Lent, Easter, etc.) AND also the seasons of nature.
One way that I’m walking through the year is joining Lady Farmer’s Almanac. It’s a group of farmer, nature, slow-living, like-hearted ladies with monthly classes, articles, and a book club each season.
This Winter we are focusing on REST and how it looks in our home, closets, use of technology, etc. The class this month shared about creating a “cozy cocoon” space that is full of things you love and a place to just rest and enjoy. To be honest, sometimes my whole house feels this way, but then I see the unwashed dishes or remember that I never sent an e-mail, so my brain clicks into overdrive again. I spent 15 minutes this week to take down my “upstairs Christmas decor” (a small tree and one sign) and refresh for Winter. I cleared off my bedside table and left the fairy lights up for a cozy, restful space.
Challenge my mind, body, and spirit with new adventures.
“Enockson girls have adventures” is a motto that I share with my sister (and now sweet niece) on a consistent basis. For Christmas I created them each a photo book and short story about how Enockson girl’s have adventures on a daily basis. It’s my biggest hope and prayer for them, to remind them that they are brave, courageous, and kind.
I want to model the adventure-filled life and push myself outside my comfort zone to try hard things. This year it might be cross-country skiing instead of the familiar snowshoe, cooking new recipes, seasonal “bucket list” adventures, reading books outside my usual genre, trying projects, and saying YES even when I’m afraid.
A full life isn’t meant to be lived in our comfort zones. A full and vibrant life is full of mistakes, hard things, joy and LOTS of adventure.
Grow beautiful blooms at ZA and home.
If you know me even a little bit, you know my love, okay obsession, for flowers. My wardrobe in the Spring consists of 80% floral pieces and a handful of neutrals, my kitchen table always has a bouquet of blooms or potted bulb, and my favorite time of the week at ZA is when we stock the farm cart with blooms for the community.
So, NOBODY was surprised last fall when I decided to participate in Floret Farm Cut-Flower workshop. Erin has been a role model for farmer-florists everywhere and I love how she continues to cultivate beauty and purpose through her IG feed, family and farm.
2021 holds so much possibility for my home gardens and ZA. I can’t wait to see how this goal literally grows over the next 12 months.
Cultivate a heart of contentment and give generously.
A heart of generosity and contentment continues to be one of the hardest and humbling goals. I want to be quick to give and be generous with what I’m given, and yet so often I think about my needs before others.
This year I’m joining Nancy Ray for the contentment challenge. Three months of purposely NOT shopping or spending on frivolous things. After the excess of Christmas, it feels refreshing but also reveals how quickly I click “add to cart” or “purchase now” before actually thinking if I need or truly want something. This year I’m joining her again and choosing not to purchase clothing, books, or home decor from January – March.
She recommends having a hobby or habit you want to cultivate and replace the time you would have spent at target or on-line shopping. For me that is watercolor and hiking outside. I want to cut out the habit of pursing the isle of target after a long week and instead go outside and soak up God’s amazing creation.
This week between Christmas and New Year is one of my favorite times. While we can easily fall into the black hole of not knowing “what day or time it is” and post-christmas sugar high, there is a beauty to a slower pace, with a little of the Christmas sparkle left in it.
I stumbled upon this quote yesterday and it’s the exact sentiment I want to step into the New Year:
“I don’t know exactly what’s next but I’m stepping forward with grit, anchored in grace.”
When the calendar flips on December 31st at midnight, all the pain and hardship won’t just go away. 2020 has been a year of numerous challenges, growth, and letting go.
Friends, with a little bit of grit, a whole lot of prayer, and big leaps of faith we can step into the fresh start of a new year anchored in His grace.
To me, a life of grace & grit begins by celebrating & marking the challenges, good things, and growth of the previous year.
Growing up our family prioritized church and family on Sundays. I remember the house being so quiet and still after Sunday lunch, because everyone was napping. It was the perfect time for me to sneak away into my room and devour whatever book I was reading at the time. I would look forward to those Sunday afternoon “binge reading” sessions all week long.
There was also a season in the Enockson household where we all were asked to spend at least two hours in the living room on Sunday nights. We could read a book, play a game, or talk. The point wasn’t what we did, but that we spent time together.
I didn’t know it then, but my family was incorporating the rhythm of a weekly Sabbath at a young age.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Sabbath keeping has been one of the most life-giving rhythms and an anchor in my rule of life. My name translates “industrious” and true to my name, I find it can be hard hard to quit the cycle of “do the next thing” and practice Sabbath. Yet when I regularly practise Sabbath, I’m reminded that the world does not revolve around me (no surprise there!) and that God wants to BE with me more than just have me do things for Him.
Sabbath is more than just going to church twice in one day, long naps, or enjoying a big family meal. Yes, your Sabbath can include all of those things, but it’s more than just a day off. Sabbath is a day that orientates our hearts and minds towards worship. The rhythms of our hearts and weeks should be orientated towards the Sabbath, either preparing for, anticipating, or delighting in our Creator.
Your Sabbath as a single mom, retired Grandma, mamma with grown kids, or single lady will look incredibly different than mine. But, there are a few ways that we all can remember to center our hearts around rest & worship when I practice Sabbath.
Sabbath means “cease from work”. From creation, God developed the rhythm of work and rest. For six days He created, breathed life, and sculpted creation and then on the 7th day he rested. It was a day like none before, a day to enjoy and savor the work of creation. A Sabbath heart begins by stopping our regular routines and declaring one day or 24 hour period to be set-apart and look different from the rest of the week.
Grace Note: Pull out your calendar and look at the week ahead. Is there a day or 1/2 day that you could mark as a Sabbath Celebration? Mark it down on the calendar, invite your family or friends to join you, and guard that day and your commitments fiercely.
In the Jewish tradition, people observed the sabbath from sundown Friday evening to Sunset Saturday. The Sabbath literally begins & ends with sleep. What a beautiful picture of complete surrender. When we are sleeping we are not in control. Rest reminds us that we can trust in God and that He is the one who guides our path.
One thing I learned in studying was that in Jewish tradition the weeks were orientated around the Sabbath. The first three days after the Sabbath were meant to reflect on those special days and then the following three days were preparation and anticipation to the Sabbath. I loved this picture of orientation my week and time around the Sabbath. In order to rest well on that day, we need to prepare the other days. If you choose to not go shopping on your Sabbath, you’ll need to find another day to get groceries and run errands. One habit I’ve adopted is to use Saturday’s as my household chore and “work day”.
Grace Note: What are 2-3 things you could do today in order to prepare for you upcoming Sabbath? Maybe it means running some errands over the lunch hour or picking up paper plates so you don’t have to do dishes. Do those things now and prayerfully prepare for your Sabbath Celebration?
Sabbath is a day set apart not for us, but for God. Sabbath without worship is a vacation 😉 True rest and contentment can only come from His presence. Worship might mean visiting a favorite coffee shop for an extended time of quiet reflection and journaling, meeting with a community of believers, or even putting on worship music and belting it out with your kiddos. Worship isn’t a prescription, it’s a way we connect with our Savoir and give him the glory and praise.
Grace Note: Think about the last time you felt intimately connected with God. What was going on? Where were you? Was there music? Where you alone or with other people. Are there a few elements of that experience that you could incorporate into your Sabbath this week? Write them down and put them into practice for your Sabbath rhythm.
Ceasing from work doesn’t mean Netflix and all day. For me, puttering in my flower garden or taking a long hike can be incredibly life giving. A few years ago I had someone recommend that on the Sabbath you cease doing the “work” you spend the majority of the time doing. If you are a landscape designer and spend your time digging in the dirt 5 days a week, Sabbath might mean curling up with a good book or watching a movie with loved ones. What is life-giving for one person may be training for the next.
Grace Note: Take a few minutes right now and write down 5 things that inspire and uplift you. Consider incorporating just one of these playful activities into your Sabbath.
One final note.
“Sabbath was made for the man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27
Sabbath is a beautiful command, but it can easily become a day of rules and regulations that ultimately distract us. Questions of “Should I drive a car on the Sabbath?” or “Can I make bread on the Sabbath?” have been topics of debate over the years. Yet, when we focus only on what we should or shouldn’t do, we miss the heart of the Sabbath. Sabbath is going to look different for people in different seasons. I know that my Sabbath, as a single woman, looks vastly different from my friends with kiddos. But when we begin with the intention honoring God’s command and choosing one day to set apart for Him, the activities don’t matter as much as our hearts.
Friend, I close this little post with the encouragement to give yourself grace. Sabbath doesn’t have to look a certain way to honor the Lord. If you listen closely & obey to Him, you’ll encounter the true rest and peace that He can bring. And discovering the heart of God is what Sabbath is all about.
Self-care is more than green smoothies, long baths, and massages. Those are all good things, but they are not everything. Our self-care rhythms are not what fix us, instead they help us push aside distractions and open our hearts to our Creator.
In my previous post I defined grace-filled self-care as:
Grace·filled self·care // rhythms we engage in on a regular basis to restore and deepen our relationship with our Heavenly Father so that we can use our gifts fully for the Kingdom. Comprised of spiritual, emotional, physically, intellectual, and relational.
We are whole beings with a mind, body, and spirit. God created and called us to love Him with our whole selves.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Before we dive deeper into the different aspects of grace-full self-care, I want to share a framework with you that has been incredibly helpful to me over the past several years.
Four years ago I met with my mentor at a local coffee shop to swap stories of God’s blessing, provision, and the struggles of leading an “out of the box life.” I shared with her the tension I was feeling of doing much for, and never yet feeling like I never had enough time to just be with Him. My quiet times were more like “get it done times” than true connection with God, and I deeply missed a true relationship with him.
She graciously listened to me and towards the end casually mentioned “The Rule of Life.” Our time was drawing to a close, so we didn’t get to a deep dive into what it was. But, she said just enough that when I did go home, I did the next logical thing…I googled it.
The concept of “Rule of Life” was new to me, but it is an ancient practice dating back to the third century AD. The first examples of a Rule of Life came desert fathers, a community of monks looking to live a life that Jesus spoke of in John 10:10.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
The world rule might conjure up negative images of a black and white chalk board, stern teacher, or parent with a long list of restrictions. However, what is truly meant here is the rule being a guide or trellis on which we allow our lives to flourish and grow .
If I were to just let the tomatoes grow without staking them up or using support, they would grow but not flourish.
There would be disease because of limited light and air flow. There would be overcrowding without pruning.
There would be broken branches because the plant can’t support the weight of the fruit all on it’s own.
So, every Spring I construct an elaborate trellis that supports my little tomato plants, encourages to grow towards the light, and creates space for health.
That is exactly what a rule of life is. It’s a series of daily, weekly, quarterly rhythms that ultimately bear fruit for His glory.
When we start with the foundation of His love, He will produce much fruit in our lives: Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness…
Typically a rule of life is split into body/physical, mind/mental, soul/spiritual, and people/relational.
Each category spend time listening to the Holy Spirit to discern your unique rule of life. The Rule of Life is not meant to be black and white or set in stone, I infact revisit mine twice a year (My birthday and New Years) to ensure that it’s working for my current season and allowing me to truly connect with my Creator.
If you are interested in creating a rule of life, some of my favorite resources are:
Over the next few weeks as we learn more about grace-full self-care, I’ll be using the Rule of Life as our trellis. Our support to guide you towards a life that flourishes. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite rhythms, walk you through crafting your own rule of life, and maybe even have a friend or two chime in.
I’m a classic ENFJ, extrovert, Enneagram 2W3, and personality test geek;-) I think that personality profiles can be amazing tools to help us grow. Sometimes I read the profile, mems, or articles and feel truly seen and understood. Other times I have no idea what they are even talking about. Regardless of what the latest hot personality profile may say, I know that God created me to be encouraging, giving, compassionate, and people focused.
When I’m with people I give 110%. It’s been one of the most beautiful and challenging parts of my personality. I’ve deepened relationships, made life-long friends, and have had such adventures. But, the flip side is that I often find myself retreating because I’m trying to give to others out of an empty well. In short, I need quiet and time to reflect to be the best version of me.
I’ve wrestled with the concept of self-care. The word made me cringe, it seems selfish and to innerfocused. As Christ-followers, isn’t our calling to deny ourselves? Yes, X 1,000. My prayer is to live a poured out life to Christ, showing my love for Him through loving His children.
But when we look at scripture, Jesus modeled a life that was was so rooted in deep connection with the Father that he was able to pour out continually from a full well.
He got up early and stayed up all night to pray (Luke 6:12-13), he invited his disciples into a place of rest & restoration (Mark 6:30-32. ), and frequently snuck away to a place of quiet (Luke 5:16. ).
How do we look at the concept of self-care and incorporating nourishing rhythms through lenses of truth and grace? That is exactly what I hope to uncover over the next few weeks as we dive deeper into the topic of Grace-Filled Self-Care.
Over the next few weeks, I am digging deep into the five areas of self-care.
Spiritual – deepening our relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Emotional – cultivating healthy thought patterns that allow us to love others and God well.
Physical – taking care of our physical body so we can live fully.
Intellectual – growing in knowledge, wisdom, and discipline so we can love God with all our heart, soul, and MIND.
Relational – investing in relationships and learning to live healthfully in a community.
Grace-filled self-care is one way to become people who spill out God’s hope, joy, grace, and peace into the world around us.
Grace·filled self·care // rhythms we engage in on a regular basis to restore and deepen our relationship with our Heavenly Father so that we can use our gifts fully for the Kingdom.
My AHA! Moment about how to practice self-care rooted in grace came when I was reading John 4. In this passage, Jesus is going about his everyday life, and tired from travel he sat down at the local well where he encounters a Samaritan woman. I can just imagine him dusty, tired, completely poured out, and yet fully present in that moment. When he encountered the Samaritan woman, Jesus was able to provide her exactly what she needed, because he was rooted in the Father.
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4
Jesus is the only one that can fill up our empty and dried-up wells. No amount of bubble baths, hot tea, or yoga flows can provide deep, soul-filling restoration and nourishment like He can.
Do you remember what happened right after the Samaritan women tasted the deep, nourishing water Jesus was offering? His grace compelled her to take action and go and tell others. When she encountered someone fully present and replenished, it inspired Kingdom action.
If we are called to go and spread the good news, we need to first become people that are filled with the hope, joy, grace and peace of the GOOD NEWS!
So let’s get rid of the guilt that says we don’t have time for self-care. Let’s kick off the stigma that self-care is for the selfish and embrace grace-filled self-care that fuels us towards Kingdom living.
Fall is the most glorious time to get outside and soak up God’s Creation. I love taking a long hike outside to admire the changing leaves. The air is crisp and the sky a brilliant shade of blue or stormy gray, meant to be savored.
Taking a walk or hike is one of my favorite ways to practice a bit of soul-care in any season. Some days it’s a short 15 minute walk around the neighborhood or a post-work walk around the lake in my cute little town. However, my very favorite hiking destination is Nashotah Park.
I went there a few weeks ago on a chilly, but sunny Sunday, and took the loop around the lake and through the trails. Hiking through the majestic evergreens and changing leaves was just balm for my soul. And as a bonus I found a painted rock with the reminder to rejoice in each season.
Grow: Encouragement for your Heart
On days that are full to the brim, I’ll often talk myself out of what is good but doesn’t seem productive (my Enneagram 3 wing is coming in strong here!). In full seasons I tend to rush through my quiet times, walk quickly through the gardens noting what needs to be done and NOT enjoying the beauty. I’ll inhale lunch while checking e-mails and items off my to-do lists. You get the picture, as I’m sure you have days like this too. Days where you are living just to survive and forgetting to nourish your soul.
But, it’s in those full days, and seasons, that we need to fight hardest for margin.
Last week, I had one of those days and decided to take a few minutes to create something beautiful. A few minutes with my bible and watercolors reset my heart and reminded me that alone I can do nothing, but God’s grace is sufficient.
So friend, wherever you might be today I pray that God’s grace abounds in this season. Keep fighting for the space and make time for what brings your heart closer to Him.
Bloom: Beauty in the Everyday
I’ve always adored fresh flowers. I remember visiting Trader Joe’s in college and spending my hard earned $5.99 willingly on a bouquet of tulips. I never regretted those flowers, as they nourished my soul and brought beauty into my everyday.
Fast forward and now one of my greatest joys has been learning to grow lovely, hard to find, unique flowers in my home garden and at ZA. A few years ago I built two 4X8 garden beds at my home. I envisioned growing veggies, herbs, and maybe a few blooms for the table. But, as time went by I learned that while I love my mini cherry tomatoes…vibrant purple dahlias and blush pink zinnias make my heart soar.
This love of blooms has trickled over to my professional life as we have over 900+ square feet of “cut flower” beds at Zachariah’s Acres. I love making bouquets with our guests and showing them that they are creative.
Last week after going through Floret Farm’s Fall Mini Course, I took a HUGE leap of faith and signed up for her Cut Flower workshop. I simply adore Erin and so respect how she has grown her business over the years with intention and so much beauty. It is going to be a joy to learn from her. I am a bit nervous and a WHOLE lot excited to see what good things will grow in the years to come.
How is it already October? September is a month of abundance for me and every year I look forward to it with equal parts dread and anticipation. It’s a season of abundance in the gardens, long and good days of hard work, back to school rhythms, and just the adventures of life. It’s also one of the “last” months of Summer here in the Midwest, so I always try to soak up every single second of the gorgeous weather and store it up in my heart for the months to come.
This year, in midst of transition and turmoil in our world, there was something so comforting & renewing in the change of the season and a fresh start of Fall. The beauty of changing leaves have reminded daily that there is beauty in each season, we need eyes to see and time to savor. And that my friends, is exactly what my Fall Goals are all about, creating space in my life to enjoy the abundance and fruit of this season.
So today, I’m sharing my recap on how my good goals are growing and then below my October 2020 Goals. I do my goal planning using Cultivate What Matters Powersheets. I’ve used Powersheets for over seven years and they have been a powerful way for me to prioritize what matters in my life. Cultivate is launching their new collection this month, and I’m so excited to share that a portion of all proceeds benefit Zachariah’s Acres and our mission to connect kids with special needs to the miracles of nature, so they know their Creator.
If you are in need of the hope of a fresh start this Fall, head over to the Cultivate Shop and snag some goodies…the new collections launches October 14th, 2020!
Fall 2020 Goals – Update October 2nd, 2020
Refresh my weekly rhythms (home & work) and complete “Weekly Routines Guide”
2. Prioritize mental & physical health with 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week (hike, bike, yoga, swim) .
3. Prepare my home, gardens, & heart for Fall.
4. Restore a sense of wonder & adventure with local adventures and social distance deck dates.
It has been such a joy sharing my heart here on my site and in real life. I’m continually encouraged to see how God uses my words to draw others closer to Him. One thing I’m continually asked about is the tag-line “Nourish. Grow. Bloom”.
You don’t have to know me long to see that I process life through lessons and seasons in my garden. The garden and God’s creation is a rich resource for inspiration, creativity, and beautiful lessons on what it looks like to live a flourishing life. One lesson I continually come back to is the cycle of planting seeds in my garden. It’s a rich metaphor for growing anything in our hearts or lives. And it’s my heart for each person reading that they would be nourished deeply, encouraged to grow, and bloom in their season.
When we plant a tiny seed or new seedling (basically just a tiny plant!) we need to take time and care with it. Tiny seedlings need good soil, water, sunlight, and a nourishing environment to grow. When I’m transitioning plants outside from their cozy greenhouse in March, I don’t stick the put them overnight right away. They would be shocked by the 45 degree weather and their growth would be stunted.
And just like those seeds, our hearts need time, space, and good things to grow. Self-care can be a tricky subject in our culture, we either feel guilty taking time for ourselves or spend to much time thinking about ourselves, that we miss the amazing world and mission right in front of us. I’m on a continual path of learning the right rhythm of soul-care/self-care, but one thing I’ve learned is that it is essential.
When we make time to care for ourselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually we fill up our buckets (or watering can…sorry, not sorry!). Self-care isn’t a “fix all” or “magic pill”. Instead, when we practice self-care, we create space to do the hard work.
Each time you go for a run, spend time in prayer, meet with a counselor, or do whatever fills you up, you are adding a drop (or sometimes a cup full) of nourishment to your heart. When hard days come, you are able to pour out that nourishment on the people around you.
Can you picture those tiny seedlings again? Good. Picture them nice and cozy in their little greenhouse, all warm, and snug in their little seed packs. After them we put them in our greenhouse they grow and grow and grow, sometimes it seems magically overnight. Eventually, their roots get all bound up and we need to transplant them into a bigger pot and then eventually outside so they can continue to grow. The seedlings need fresh air, sunshine (not artificial UV light), and a good breeze to help them grow strong and healthy roots.
If we stay cozy and in the “perfectly controlled” environment 24/7, just like those little plants, we will become stunted. To be honest, my heart is bent towards comfort and security. Yet, I’ve seen time and time again that good things grow out of discomfort. Good things grow when I step into the unknown with faith and grace. Brave leaps of obedience, challenging conversations, small acts of faith, and moments of vulnerability are what allow us to grow and step into the place God has for us.
Friends, here is the most beautiful and hopeful part of it all. If we do the hard work of caring for our hearts & bodies. If we make space to grow and step into the unknown. It’s only a matter of time until beauty blooms around us.
But there is something I don’t want you to forget. We all bloom at different times and in different seasons. Daffodils and dahlias don’t bloom at the same time, but that doesn’t make one more beautiful than the other. In a culture that celebrates outward success and beauty, we can get caught up in comparing other’s highlight reel with our inward journey. Friend, give yourself space and grace to bloom in your own time.
The most beautiful things take time to bloom. One of my favorite flowers are dahlias. We transplant the tubers in our greenhouse in February, care for them diligently, and plant them outside at the end of May. Then it’s usually another solid month before the blooms show up. But, oh are they worth it. Stunning petals, vibrant colors, and gorgeous texture. My dream is to become the old and gray “Dahlia Lady”, sharing my love for these beautiful blooms with the world around me…I love them that much. Yet, they only last for a season. Once the first frost hits the garden, those dahlia’s are the first to show signs of damage. We dig them up, divide the tubers, and store them throughout the winter. And they sit patiently waiting for their time to bloom again.
And that is my heart for you friend, wherever you find yourself today, there is hope that your time to bloom will come, and your life will bring beauty to the world around you.
I spend a good amount of time and thought into planning my garden. I try and use the recommended spacing and carefully plot out what is going to grow and how many plants will fit into the space. But then when planting time arrives, I start to doubt the space. The seedlings look so tiny, surely I can squeeze in just “one more” tomato plant or squeeze in another dahlia tuber. And then as things start to grow it becomes obvious that I’ve, once again, over planted my garden.
I confess, just like my garden, I just want to do it all and fit “one more thing in”. It’s a motto I’ve lived by for the majority of my life, but one that hasn’t served me well. Just like in gardening, when we have too much, nothing has room to grow and flourish. Good things need time and space to flourish.
If we want good things to grow in our lives (and garden) a hardy pruning is necessary. It begins with evaluating what you have, pulling things, and cutting back what is already there; snipping the “sucker” plants from the tomatoes or cutting back the dead leaves on the cosmos. It’s the pruning that creates health for a plant, removes disease, and gives plants the energy to thrive. Once you prune off those extra leaves, the plant has renewed energy to focus on blooming and thriving.
And just like there are seasons where I need to prune my tomatoes, my schedule and activities need pruning too. I’m continuing to learn that if I try to do it all and fit it all in I’ll end up as nutrient deprived as my sad little tomato plants.
Last Winter I was tired, weary, and worn out. I had been trying to do it all for far to long and my soul couldn’t keep up. So I got out my planner and pruned. I made a list of all the activities I committed to (monthly, weekly, daily, etc.) and then got ruthless.
And then COVID hit and the world turned upside. I had a natural opportunity to reset my schedule, evaluate my priorities, and take a breather. Everyone was staying home, and this people pleaser found a bit of relief in not having to turn down obligations or choose between amazing opportunities.
As the months of Safer@Home has continued, we are learning a new way of life. A life that looks like different, but continues to be increasingly busy. Zoom calls, virtual showers, social-distance fundraisers, online conferences, in person opportunities to serve, and small gatherings are all starting to overwhelm my schedule, and if I’m honest my soul too.
A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.”
It’s uncomfortable to make space in our schedules, to say no to good opportunities, and to keep margin on our schedule. Our world glorifies busy, even in this current climate.
And friend, I bet with back to school season you are feeling the need to do some pruning in your heart, schedule, and soul too. Below are a few tips that have helped me get all the things out of my head, reset my priorities and focus on what matters most.
Get it out of your head!
One of the most powerful exercises is to set a timer for 10 minutes and just write. Write your to-dos, obligations, commitments, lingering decisions you have to make,… We have so many thoughts swirling around in our heads, and when we don’t make time to process them out they take up much needed space and capacity.
List your non-negotiables.
Don’t you feel better already? Next up, make a list of the non-negotiables in your life. Do you have a 9-5 job? Write that down. Do you have kiddos at home or virtual school to navigate?
Think through your life on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis and make a list of the things that are non-negotiables.
This is NOT the place to write down all the other things. Believe it or not, you do NOT have to attend 3 bible studies, volunteer weekly, or be apart of 2 book clubs to have a amazing and fulfilled life (preaching to the choir here!)
Make a list of what fires you up and sparks joy in your days.
This is the best part! Make a list of what sparks joy in your heart. Do you love to bake? Are you a gifted singer? Does visiting with neighbors put a spark in your day? Maybe you love running or gardening or hiking. Write those things down and let’s make a pact to ensure we carve out TIME for the things that fire us up. A flourishing life doesn’t happen on accident. A flourishing life is built one small action at a time. Friend, we have to FIGHT for what fires us up and make room for what truly matters in our lifes.
Own your season and story.
Take a few minutes and get really honest with yourself. How are you doing emotionally, physically, and spiritually? Each of our seasons and stories have different weights on our schedule. A new mom is going to have different challenges (and joys) in her days compared to an empty-nester. Someone who is more extroverted may enjoy being apart of several clubs or volunteer obligations, while our introverted friends need extra space in their days and weeks. Your season is beautiful just as it is. Those dreams and desires you feel called to? God will provide time and space in His perfect timing.
Say no and let go.
Okay friend, so now we put it all together. Compare the list of current obligations with your list of non-negotiables and What Fires You Up. Take a hard look at what opportunities you have in this Season. If they are not something you have the capacity to do well, say no and let it go. Remember, when you say no to something you are actually opening the door for another person to say yes.
When we choose to prune and make room in our schedule and days, it opens up our eyes and hearts to not just notice but savor the life God has given us. And that my friends is worth everything.