Here

Three states, four cities, in five days – that was my last week. I have 2 (very) full workdays between me and my next trip.  It’s very early in the morning and I’m alone on my couch, in my pjs, with a mug of coffee thinking about how in the midst of possibly my craziest year yet – I still don’t feel busy.  I feel excited, happy, a smidge ashamed of my laundry pile, and kind of hungry because why by groceries?

Four months ago in my update on the year of fasting busy I wrote this: So cheers, to slow mornings and full lives.  To scheduling less but somehow doing more.  To having room in your head to solves a few of your friends problems.  To being thoughtful and fun.  To getting a lot done but knowing when to just be present too.  Trust me, full is so much better than busy.

I reread my whole Full>Busy post this morning with a goofy grin on my face.  This year is definitely full but I still don’t feel busy.  How?

The answer is annoyingly simple: contentment.

This year is fuller than any before it but peace doesn’t have to be altered by the chaos around us.  That’s what I’m trying to master.  And finally, 31 years into this journey – I’m winning.

Last year my parents moved to Florida into a fantastic beach condo a few hours south.  When they left for a few week vacation I grabbed 2 of my closest girlfriends and we headed down.  We spent 3 glorious days reading on the balcony, chatting by the pool, and  sweating profusely on the beach together.  Never have I ever felt so relaxed.  As the weekend drew to an end and we were all tempted to complain that we had to return to reality I found that I didn’t feel that way.  I was ready.

We drove back from South Florida on Sunday.  I dropped my best friend, Candy, off at the airport with a ‘see you in 6 days’.  I emptied the cooler, charged my laptop, and got a plan for a quick week.  6 days later I was catching a 7am flight to Kentucky.  For the next 5 days I enjoyed the superbly slower pace of small town living. Give me all the fireworks, cookouts, and evening swatting mosquitos and playing board games there are.  As my niece says about Christmas morning present opening: I was made for this.

Alas, we know I’m not.  Slow paces and small towns thrill me in the short term but even my career coach tells me that my super power is the capacity for freakish amounts of life.  So it seems only fitting that when Wednesday came I was repacking my freshly laundered clothes and flying back to St Pete to catch an Uber to my house to get my car to drive 2.5 hours north to Camp Kulaqua in High Springs, FL.

Trains, planes, and automobiles has nothing on me.  My flight was late, my garage door was somehow misaligned, and  I hit a massive bunch of traffic with rain on my way. But just before dinner time I pulled into the camp store to begin my time in the snack shack as I like to call it.  Four days of being the coffee maker, candy seller, and break out speaker just energized me.  Where did we find these fantastic kids?!  I was so impressed with the nearly 300 middle and high schoolers that came through my breakout group on friendship (titled: Friends with Benefits) in 2 days.

Honestly, I expected to be exhausted. 2 weeks of travel, a long car ride, writing my talk, and running the store from 11am-midnight sounded like a lot.  You know what I found though?  I wanted more.  I found myself having heartfelt conversations with kids who would come to buy candy and drilling my shopmates about all sorts of topics.  There’s more to give, I thought.

We closed the store at midnight and I drove home til nearly 3am in a caravan with a friend/fellow snackshacker.  Finally back in my own bed, I thought.  I fell into bed sufficiently pooped but I woke up excited.  Instead of feeling like I had a lengthy list of things to get done before I leave town again Tuesday: I was present.  I went to dinner to celebrate a friends birthday.  I invited 3 more over after to play games half the night.  And I spent the perfect Sunday by the pool with my neighbors playing Pegs and catching up (for the record out of 8 games played this weekend: I won 7).  I admit I played a little longer than I should have and then hurried, sweaty, back home to lead bible study where one of my girls had already let herself in and taken a nap.

Here’s what thrills me: I find myself craving more time not because there’s more that I have to do but because I finally feel like I have more to give.  For years I wanted to say no to EVERYTHING.  Every time a boss asked me for one more project or a friend needs a ride, a place to stay, or just some one-on-one time from me I wanted to weasel out of it.  I can’t possibly do more was constantly running through my mind.  But I gave up busy and perfect and you know what?…There’s room in my head and my schedule.  I am peaceful and present.  I am having the most fun I’ve ever had.

So 6.25 months into the year without busy here’s my toast…

Cheers! To staying up too late to squeeze in one more game.  To booking your next visit with your best friend while you’re still together so you know you have it to look forward too.  Cheers to stollen cheek kisses from my nieces (2) and nephew at the beach this week and putting my professional DSLR to good use.  To 82 books read, 3 more flights booked, and visitors scattered throughout the summer and fall. Cheers to laundry mountains, tan lines, and the occasional netflix marathons.  And most of all:cheers to not being busy, just being here.

Roles

This week someone asked me, ‘Do you still blog?’.

Here’s the problem: I’ve never been the type of person who fits into a category.  Am I a blogger? Probably not.  What I am is a writer.  A writer of blogs, e-mails, hand-written letters, toasts & speeches, grocery lists, and the occasion sermon.  While I frequently wish I were dedicated enough to be a better blogger what I really love is to write and THAT I’m consistent in.  This week I wrote a post for another blog, a sermon, a long overdue e-mail, hand written thank you cards, and every morning before work: I journaled.

Often people ask me about my reading habits.  What do I read?  When do I find the time?     Will I ever write a book of my own?  I read everything.  Fiction, Non-fiction, magazines, cookbooks, and every single note my niece writes me in precious handwriting.  I read everywhere.  On my burgundy velvet couch before work every morning, in my SUV on my lunch break, at stoplights when I’m in the middle of a really good book and get stuck in rush hour, and in bed at completely uncool-ly early times like 8pm on a Thursday.

As you grow older and I suppose into yourself you find that so many things you once were don’t fit the way they use too.  I use to be a photographer.  Then I was an art school dropout turned social worker.  Then I became an event planner, fell in love with travel, and left to work for a church.  Later I got promoted and went from being an ‘admin’ to a data manager.  I quit traveling for work and started traveling as a missionary and eventually settled into the habit of traveling for fun.

When inspiration strikes or need arises I’m still a photographer.  I’m the family photographer who snaps endless candids of my nieces and nephews and while my work no longer graces the walls of galleries, they are proudly featured in my family’s homes.  I mostly use my sociology degree to counsel my friends and to make educated decisions about background checks of employees and volunteers now.  The events I plan are usually more like meals with board games for entertainment.  And from time to time I still find myself as the girl making the copies or typing up the notes.

I have worn a great many hats and I hope I’m only beginning.  While I’m not a blogger, a scholar, a social worker, a photographer, or an event planner in the proper sense of the words I like to think I get to be a mutt of them all.  Long ago I gave up on the idea of having been made for only one thing.  Now, I put my energy into making the most of every opportunity.  Some weeks I help write sermons, lead staff meetings, run detailed reports, and plant a pot full of succulents for a friend who bought a new house.  With full weeks and countless, varying opportunities I find that I only desire more.  Is it possible to try my hands at literally everything?  If I try hard enough can I learn or experience something new every single day?

Some of my favorite experiments have been in getting my hands dirty at things I am quite simply no good at.  In case you’re wondering: I am a terrible singer but I’m still not sorry to have tried my voice at karaoke.  As it turns out, photography was the ONLY aspect of art I was remotely good at.  Painting, drawing, and sculpting?  There are kindergarten art classes who would reject me.  I have weird taste in books that frequently makes me the wrong person to ask for a recommendation. And while I can bake just about anything without even using a measuring cup: I am truly terrible at making pizza on a grill.  You know, unless you like your pizza crust very doughy.

On my trip to North Carolina in May I took each of my nieces and nephew out on an individual date.  As I held their little hands and took them on adventures I couldn’t help but be introspective about who I will be in each of their lives.  I hope with all my heart they will always love to spend time with me.  That they will keep making art for my fridge and begging to call me and tell me the details of their days.  It is my dream that my niece will continue to carry my hand-written letters around in her purse and talk about the places we will travel to together.  Each of those things is important to me.  But I also want them to believe that their Aunt B is bold.  That she works hard and can laugh off the occasional failure.

I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up other than a life long learner and an endless adventure.  May the opportunities be many, the roles vast, and the lessons worthwhile.

Late and Limping

For 21 days my church is hosting a 6am prayer.  The idea is that you come and you pray over the names that have been written all over the walls – for their salvation this Easter.  So Sunday night after a busy weekend as I was winding down my much treasured Sabbath I decided I wanted to start my week there. In the quiet, dark sanctuary praying about what and who the Lord has on my heart right now.

If you picture just that: me sitting quietly on my couch with my study bible closing out another week deciding to head to the church 2.5 hours early the next morning it’s a pretty picture.  It’s the side of life we want, right?  I’m in the habit of saying: I wish I were one of those really calm, laid back people.

This is how my life (and often, my faith) really play out…

I had a hard time falling asleep (which NEVER happens to me).  I slept fitfully, I woke often.  When my alarm went off at 4:45 I was groggy.  I slapped my alarm and turned on the light before I was tempted to fall back asleep.  I hurried around the house realizing I hadn’t adjusted the coffee pot time so I wasted 5 sleepy minutes waiting for it to brew.  Then I carried the coffee and a huge mason jar of water up to the bathroom to get ready.

Somehow I knock said mason jar off the bathroom counter, crushing my toe and making a racket I’m sure woke at least one of my neighbors. I hopped around on my remaining foot thinking all of the upset emoji’s in my head.  The hobbling slowed me down and I got in the car and on the road later than I planned. I HATE being late, by the way.  All of the slow people were in the passing lane.  I repeated to myself that perhaps, this was all just part of it.

Don’t rush, I tell myself daily.  This morning as I’m driving 65 up the interstate running late with a throbbing foot I’m reminding myself that getting a speeding ticket on your way to a prayer meeting would be really pathetic.  So I set my cruise control and turned on a praise song, trying to accepted that while I was going to be 5 minutes late to my meeting, I didn’t need a special place to spend time with the Lord.

First song I choose on my iPhone as I drive: Trust in You by Lauren Daigle.  The lyric that jumped out at me was this: there’s not a day ahead you have not seen.  I have a lot going on in my life right now.  People counting on me.  Decisions to be made.  House projects, speeches to write, trips to plan.  I worry sometimes about the unknown so when I get a full plate I sometimes start to obsess over the minor details.  I don’t want to have so much on my plate that I fail at any one thing.  I don’t want to forget something important.  I need to be fully prepared for my next two teaching opportunities.  Always, always I find myself back here repeating to myself don’t rush, there’s not a day ahead he hasn’t seen.

I made it to the prayer meeting exactly 5 minutes late.  And I limped my way in on my injured, throbbing foot.  And I sat alone in the back in the silence.  I prayed about the things and for the people I most needed to start my week in prayer for and then I just sat: in silence.

I read this amazing verse last night from Psalm 75:3 – ‘When the earth quakes and the people live in turmoil, I am the one who keeps it’s foundations firm’.

There are a million days I feel like I’m a mess.  I’m late and I’m limping.  To be honest, I forgot to even check my outfit in the mirror before I hurriedly hobbled out the door.  But over and over I am reminded that I know the one who keeps the foundation of the earth firm.  What better, more solid footing is there to stand on than that?  And when I show up hurting and a little bit late – he’s there.

Try though I might I’m not sure I’ll ever be one of those super laid back people.  I’ll always hate being late and have to carry an extra shirt because I frequently spill on myself.  Clumsy seems to haunt me so I’ll probably kill a few more toenails and hop around a few more bathrooms with my face scrunched up in pain.  But there’s not a messy, slightly late, little bit broken day ahead that the Lord hasn’t already seen and planned for.  There’s an incredible amount of peace in that.

So, if there’s an encouragement in all this I guess it’s that life and the faith walk are not always pretty.  Even when we’re really trying to get it right, it can be a struggle.  The days are long, the years are short, and the walk is rocky.  So press into the one that keeps the foundation firm.  He can handle it.

The Life Changing Magic of Morning Pages

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(Morning Pages and all other things are better over a flat white)

Pinterest is constantly making me look good.  90% of what I make or bake I find on Pinterest.  It taught me to wash my flip-flops in the dishwasher (magical, y’all, magical).  And this year it taught me about morning pages, which have changed my life quite literally.

Mornings are important to me.  I rise before the sun to have time to read my bible, read educationally for 20-30 minutes, do a few chores, and still make it to work on time or early.  If it’s important to me, you can pretty much bet it’s done first thing in the morning.  This is in large part because I’m worthless after 9PM during the week but I digress.

The pin I found had a picture of a notebook, a pen, a cup of coffee, AND a glass of water.  This is how my mornings already start so I was curious.  While I liked the ideas the author of this particular article on Morning Pages suggested (do it first thing, on real paper, just write, make a to-do list out of it) I’ve made it my own.  So here’s my suggestions for morning pages:

  • Have a pretty notebook.  I love new notebooks.  So be it a moleskin, a notebook with a great quote, or something simple like my current grey and white notebook which reads: ‘Believe’ – choose something you like.
  • Do it early and do it often.  I write Monday-Thursday. I give myself Friday-Sunday off but sometimes I find I want to do them anyway.  I do not skip a single workday, though.  I do it early in the morning, before I get dressed and leave the house.
  • Vent.  People (especially in the workforce) are inclined towards venting.  But as you work your way up the corporate ladder and find yourself, like me, in management – you have to be very careful about this.  While I get frustrated , part of my job is to keep my opinions separate from the vision and mission of my company.  So morning pages is a good space to work through what (or who) frustrates me but keep it professional at work.
  • After venting I write specifically what I am going to do to make the situation better.  For example: I was recently extremely annoyed with a certain situation at work.  I wrote out exactly what about it bothered me and how it had affected the way I felt about the involved parties.  Then I took my emotions out of the equation and  I wrote how I would address the issue with facts only.  Next, I wrote how I would move forward whether or not my opinions were honored.  You know what?  It worked.  My confrontation was well received and my suggestion was honored.  Even had it not been, though, I would have been prepared mentally to handle it in a way that kept the workplace peaceful and my relationships intact.
  • Even if your work is peachy all day everyday  – this may also be a good place to work through your frustrations in relationships, friendships, or with your family.  I find that writing is therapeutic but also rereading my words and asking myself if they are A. True and B. Fair is a good way to know how to proceed.  If I’m right (which sometimes, I am) then I still require myself to write out how I will proceed with the best possible outcome in mind.

Here’s the theme, if you didn’t catch it: be intentional.  Morning pages is 15 minutes a day where I remind myself who I will be in my role at work, in my relationships, and in life.

Then, I write Today I Will… and I jot down bullet points of what I would like to accomplish.  I make sure to cover what I want to do work wise but also a good balance of chores, social events, and keeping up with the important things going on in the lives of my loved ones.  I’m a ‘doer’.  Or as some would call it: a task-oriented person.  So I find that it helps me to make items like: send birthday card to so-and-so, FaceTime my nieces and nephews, and call so-and-so to ask about their job interview, first date, doctors appointment, etc.  I’m BIG on handwritten cards (yes, including thank you notes) and on remembering important events.

 

 

Winter Reading Recs

If you read my most recent most about balance then you won’t be surprised to learn that I reach my reading goal in much the same way I balance everything else – ebbs and flows. Fall is always my busiest time of year, so I know now to come into September with 75 books left to read if I want to reach my goal. I spend the spring and summer getting ahead, planning to be less available during those busy football game watching months at the end of the year. Now, I will say – I never completely stop reading, I just slow down. Planning for that necessary slow time allows me to still succeed, without stress.

I finished my 33rd and 34th books of the year over the weekend (poolside, rough life) and I thought as we come to the close of March this would be a good time to make a few suggestions. Honestly, I post these from time to time because I get asked A LOT ‘have you read anything good lately?’ This is my way of saying; the answer to that question is always yes, so here are a few options.

Keeping with my theme of getting around to it – I’ve been working my way through books I own so that I can then pass them to other people and clear my shelves for new ones. I read primarily from the library but I find that over time I collect books that need to be read and relocated too. So early this year I finally read Tuesdays with Morrie. I loved it. Absolutely loved. So if you didn’t read this when it was all the rage, I suggest grabbing a copy now.

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From Goodreads: Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, and gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it. For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago.

Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded. Wouldn’t you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you? 

Mitch Albom had that second chance. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man’s life. Knowing he was dying of ALS – or motor neurone disease – Mitch visited Morrie in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final ‘class’: lessons in how to live.

My favorite fiction read so far this year was: Maybe in Another Life. It was styled like ‘Sliding Doors’ if you’ve ever seen that movie. It flashes back and forth between the two lives that could have happened to her based on a big decision. I found the creative angle engaging and the characters enjoyable. I gave this 5 (out of 5) stars on Goodreads (if we’re not friends there and you love to read – add me).

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From Goodreads: At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?

In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?

Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him.

Best in the business and leadership category for me so far in 2017 has been: Procrastinate on Purpose. I really had some solid takeaways and notes about how to apply them. I even engaged with the author on twitter during the time I was reading it. I love authors who engage their readers.

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From Goodreads: From the New York Times bestselling author of Take the Stairs-a bold new way to get things done. New York Times bestselling author and sales-performance trainer Rory Vaden brings his high-energy approach and can-do spirit to the most nagging problem in our professional lives stalled productivity. Millions are overworked, organizationally challenged, or have a motivation issue thats holding them back. Vaden presents a simple yet powerful paradigm that will set readers free to do their best work-on time and without stress and anxiety.

Happy reading as we move into spring and even my northern readers should be able to emerge from their homes for some sunshine soon, I hope.  April brings with it 2 weekends of friends visiting/staying with me and 1 weekend out of town (Washington DC girls trip) so there should be more time than usual for reading in April.  Less work, more sun bathing.

 

Balance like B

Someone suggested to me that I should write a blog about balance.  I threw my head back and belly laughed at the very thought of it.  I am NOT balanced.  My life is in fact quite bipolar.  When people ask me if I like living alone I literally think: I cannot be observed in my natural habitat, y’all.  I cannot.  Later as I drove home from work though, I reassessed that comment and thought: maybe being balanced isn’t about actually balancing in the sense of a scale being evenly weighted but in navigating and allowing for the extremes well.

A few days later I snatched up ‘Procrastinate on Purpose’ by Rory Vaden, my educational morning read of the week.  And he had this simple illustration of a pitcher of water, where the water is your 168 hours in the week.

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(Procrastinate on Purpose – p. 33)

And the  6 cups that represent:

Family

Faculty (Work)

Faith

Fitness

Finances

Fun

Well, Mr. Vaden – I think I can do you one better.  Here are my 6 cups, which are in fact coffee mugs (because how else am I going to get to all 6 categories) and my ‘pitcher’ keeps the coffee hot.

Coffee Cups

#Grace – for my faith which requires a gracious God to have chosen me.  The Fins cup is in representation of my family.  Go Away I’m Reading is for fun (because I DO love to read).  #thestruggleisreal is finances – because money is hard to learn, relearn, keep up, and keep track of, amiright?  The newspaper mug is work.  And the to-go mug is fitness because some weeks being in a hurry is my cardio.

Rory Vaden goes on to talk about what happens when your work cup is full, but your family cup is empty and everyone else is getting just a little bit.  You might be making money, but your home life is paying the ultimate price and no other category is thriving. What about when your fitness is full but your faith is empty?  What good is a healthy body going to do you if your soul is weak and weary?

The sad news is, you don’t have enough hours (or coffee) to fill all your cups, every week.  You just don’t.  So what does that mean for balance?  Well, I’m not the expert (I haven’t even finished his book) but here’s what balancing looks like for me…

The one cup I never neglect is my faith.  I give the first part of every single day to the Lord. I learned that from my parents who taught me to make it a priority in any season.  Many of you have heard me say that in my busiest season of life to date my Dad (whose job as a football coach requires over 100 hours per week, regularly) really challenged me to remember that I cannot make it through a single day without Christ, and that’s why I should start my day with Him.  I have missed less than a handful of quiet times  in the 6 years since.

Here’s what I can tell you: when my soul is right, EVERYTHING else feels easier.  I have had a lot of extra things to juggle lately but I have felt unexplainably peaceful because it is well with my soul.  I keep a plaque on my desk at work that reminds me of just that: It Is Well.  If it’s well with your soul, the other 5 cups have a better chance of seeing some time.  I also remind myself often: if I only get one thing right in life, I hope it is that.

The inclination from here is to put family in spot number two, all the time.  But that’s not realistic.  Here’s why:  every week is different.  Easter and Christmas are the busiest weeks at my job (working at a church with 5 campuses) so those weeks I don’t also chat with each and every family member and invite a cousin to come down and stay with me.  Those weeks are my Super Bowl (in football families we use a lot of sports analogies)  BUT, other weeks work is less demanding and I can fly to Miami and help my parents move condos or to North Carolina to take my nieces and nephew on dates.  So to say family is always number 2, doesn’t work.  But they get that spot regularly.  Work also has it’s time in the spotlight.

People are different in the remaining categories and I think you have to find what works for you.  I try to workout 3 days a week.  I’m not a 2 hour a day type, never really have been.  I don’t anticipate caring enough to start being one.  But under fitness I will comment on a couple things that I lump in there: I am diligent about sleeping enough.  I sleep 7-8 hours a night, 90ish percent of the time.  I workout partly to grow physically fitter and partly to reduce stress. I learned early on in my career that stress can do serious damage to your health if you don’t manage it.  I work hard to keep my stress levels in check.

Fun gets something every day.  It does. I am extremely fortunate in this department, in that I’m easy to please.  I read for a half hour before I got to work every morning, because I love to read.  No matter what a workday holds, I want to have enjoyed that.  Also, it makes getting up in the morning something I’m excited about.  Most weeks (again, not every single week) I choose one morning of the weekend to stay home for a few hours.  10ish months out of the year (because I live in Florida) I spend this at the pool.  The rest of the year with coffee under a blanket with the balcony open.  I try to spend a night or two a week with friends.  I’m in 2 book clubs and 1 bible study – things that I thoroughly enjoy with people I adore.  Once a month, on average, I leave town.  Because travel brings me a great deal of pleasure, this is something that gets an extra shot of coffee regularly.

Travel is a good way to lead into finances.  Finances is actually one of the better examples of the give and take for me.  I live on a budget and that takes some thought and effort.  A little coffee, regularly – to track my money.  BUT a few times a year I meet with my financial advisor, a tax professional, look into the value of my home, and ask my parents  to review my plan.  I don’t have to do this ALL the time, but a year does NOT go by without my having reassessed my retirement plan’s success and made any necessary changes.

So balance, to me, is being successfully unbalanced.  This year I flew to all but one of my Dad’s home games.  Which made my fall heavily family focused.  I was less available to work (something I discussed with my bosses in advance), my workouts shifted from my home gym to beachside walks with my folks.  Family got the lion share of the coffee for 3 months.  It was my Dad’s first season being in Florida since I moved here and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to support him.  Then after December and a long Christmas holiday with the whole family, the next few months shifted back to other categories.  I don’t see my parents every other weekend all year long and I’ve been working longer hours as I recently took on a big new area at my job.  During this time where family is getting less attention, I know the fall will come again and it will be great.

So if you want to balance like me – quit trying to be equal and just be fair.  Fair is NOT the same as equal.  Balance is not the same as even.  If your one thing you’re determined to do right is your faith, my challenge would be never to neglect that (or if you’re not a person of faith, whatever your #1 is) – but for the rest, it’s ok to have an ebb and flow.

 

 

Full>Busy

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Well, I’m back less than a month since my last post so we’ll consider that a win for the team, right?

I wanted to check back in with an update since my announcement that I’ve removed the word busy from my vocabulary.  On December 24th I announced that for the year of 2017 I’ve given up busyness.  The truth is, this has been surprisingly easy and incredibly rewarding.  I know that sounds impossible.  And honestly, if you’re my friend in real life it will surprise you even more.

Last year I traveled not only around the world (US to New Zealand to Australia) but about 15 times domestically (not for work).  I hosted 10ish houseguests for overnights, regular book clubs (2), bible studies, and a high school youth group.  As I heard other people talk about how busy I am, I kept feeling surprised (also, maybe, a little annoyed).  Something has to change, I thought.  I do not want people to immediately think ‘busy’ when they think of me.

So I’m fasting busyness and replacing it with fullness.  I thought when I set about this commitment that the result would be doing less.  The truth is, I’m doing more than ever.  Hang tight, this might make sense in a minute.  I realized that I was organizing and scheduling my life to death.  When I stopped doing that and left a little space in my calendar (and my brain) I actually got MORE done.

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In December I hosted a birthday party for a friend and promptly fell in love with my friend’s friends.  I heard myself say ‘we should do this every month’.  Normally I avoid saying things that sound like me volunteering to organize something.  But who doesn’t have a  night a month to have fun?  Last month, we went to paint pottery.  We ordered Uber Eats sushi or Chipotle and met as soon as we could all gather from work or for some, waiting for their husbands to get home from work.  I painted the platter in the picture above.

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I started leaving my Friday mornings open to just be at home.  Amazingly, this resulted in purging my garage, every closet, my kitchen cabinets, and even old DVDs I never watch anymore because: Hulu.  I finally planted flowers in a pot for my front porch and repotted succulents for the back porch.  I took a Friday morning and drove to a local plant grower and talked with him about the kind of sun my porch gets and my crazy life of travel and what I might actually be able to keep alive.  I bought a pot with drainage (because apparently succulents need that).

You’re probably thinking, great, you took a morning off and you planted flowers.  So what’s that really say about getting more done?  Well, I’ve also read 26 books towards my goal of 125 this year.  I took on meeting with gals who are also reading through the bible in a year. I booked flights to see my best friend, to take my nieces and nephew on individuals dates, and I took a weekend to fly down and help my Mom move.  I even texted a friend who’s going through a hard time and said – girls weekend?  Let’s get out of here.  And we are.

In the next two months my college roommate AND my best friend are making trips down here where I get to take them to the beach, cook them meals, and take them shopping.  I even sat down this week and made a list of fun things we could do while they’re here and their favorite food and drinks I want to have on hand for their visits.

I’ve learned to cook new meals and bake new goodies.  I’ve had room in my head to remember birthdays, special events, and I’ve spent more time praying with and for my friends and family.  I scheduled all my dentist, doctor, even skin cancer checks for the year by mid-February.

Saying no to busy has meant a lot more spontaneous ‘yes’ too.  Yes to brunch on Sunday’s after church.  Yes to ‘can we come over early to hangout before group?’.  Yes to writing hand written letters with my 5 year old niece.  Yes to facetimes with my friends and their kids who live far away.  Yes to watching a coworkers new baby so they can get out of the house without paying for a sitter.  I’ve even somewhat kept up with laundry this year.

So maybe this just sounds like I’m doing things I always should have been.  True.  But somehow in the busyness of my life before I never really felt like I was enjoying those items.  I sent cards and acknowledged birthdays but I didn’t have time to really think about them.  I made trips to visit people but I got there and it was like whew, I’m exhausted.  I read books and I loved it but I rarely had a quiet morning with coffee to do it. And yes, sooner or later the laundry got done, the drawers got cleaned out, and friends got a phone call.  In fact, I may have been more ‘perfect’ in 2016 but I’ve definitely been more ‘present’ in 2017.

The best part is this – I like full Becca a lot better than busy Becca.  Because she’s fun.  She says ‘hey, let me teach you this new game I got for Christmas’ when she’s sitting out in the driveway chatting with her neighbors.  She enjoys sitting on FaceTime learning about the stretchy dinosaurs her nephew loves.  She thinks to offer to lend a crimper to a friend attending an 80s event and to send ‘hey this flight is on sale -come visit me’ texts to her friends so they can plan a beach trip.

It’s very possible that as you read this is makes no sense to you because you’re fun all the time and never flustered.  I hope for your sake that you don’t care quite as much as I do about to do lists, tasks, and clean floors.  But for me, I’m celebrating the wins.  That when your friends say they’ve had a bad day you get to say ‘come on over’ and you put down what you’re doing and just be there.  I don’t get to do this all day everyday but I get to do it.

So cheers, to slow mornings and full lives.  To scheduling less but somehow doing more.  To having room in your head to solves a few of your friends problems.  To being thoughtful and fun.  To getting a lot done but knowing when to just be present too.  Trust me, full is so much better than busy.

Oh and here’s a bonus.  The recipe for the best cake I’ve made in a WHILE: Pink Champagne Cake.