4 Reasons to Schedule Your 2018 Goals Audit Right Now

desk with coffee, blank paper, smartphone

Ever heard of a goals audit?

Me neither! At least, not till I started brainstorming ways to actually make my goals of the new year become a reality, as a busy wife and mom.

In this post, we’ll explore how a goals audit can be one of the kindest ways to move forward with our goals, can set us up for succeeding, and help us to avoid the discouraging crash that can often overwhelm us when our pretty plans begin to derail a bit.

desk with coffee, blank paper, smartphone

There’s something about the start of a brand-new, sparkling, shiny year that just brings out the ambition in us, isn’t there?

We buy a new planner, and print off goal-setting worksheets, and prep our healthy meal plans. We pray. We build our exciting castles in the sky. And we know, just know, this is going to be our year. Then, we slip across that midnight line into January, with hearts full of hope.

And then…what happens? Some of the shininess wears off. The pages in our planner get smudged a bit, then neglected. The goals lose some of their appeal, as we realize that, really, they’re actually just more hard work! And some days, it really would just be easier to break out the mac’n’cheese than to wash, peel, cut, and cook vegetables.

We may even wonder…did we pray over our plans enough?

Come February, our lofty castle has faded a bit into the fog of everyday.

Ever been there?

I sure have!

Here’s the problem: we tend to feel like it’s all or nothing with these goals, and that once we’ve made them, they’re set in stone. We can begin to feel discouraged very quickly when our plans derail, like there’s no hope of ever getting back on track. Guilt sets in. And suddenly, the goals that were supposed to make our lives better…begin to feel like a burden.

I’ve experienced this cycle before, and decided I was sick of it. This year, I brainstormed a plan to prevent it.

At the end of January, I’ll be doing a goals audit.

Simply put, a goals audit is the process of reassessing all of your goals to make sure they’re still feasible in “real life,” and that they’re worth carrying around for the year (or the next 6 months, or whatever).

We often make our plans for the New Year in an artificial environment – we’re on vacation, or the kids aren’t in school, or we’re just not doing all of our normal-routine-things that actually control the flow of our lives. The holidays create this big bubble that we’re inside when we choose our focuses for the year, and as a result, we can sometimes set ourselves up for failure.

No one wants that, and no one wants to waste time. We want each day, and each year, of our small lifetimes to make a difference. Having a goals audit will help with that.

Here are 4 great reasons to schedule a goals audit:

  1. Making your plans with the intent of performing a goals audit later creates a tremendous amount of freedom. Planning a goals audit sets you free to dream big, and write down the things you really want to do — knowing that you can reassess what these dreams will cost you after a month of actually trying to live them into reality. Some may call this a lack of commitment. I call it counting the cost. After living and breathing in your normal everydays, what really is important–and possible for you, right now,–begins to come into focus a little better.
  2. Having an audit scheduled at the end of the month can help you focus on your goals with more motivation than if you “have all year” to make it happen. How many more people would cheat on their taxes, if they weren’t afraid of getting an audit? It’s incentive, actually!
  3. It helps to release us from baggage that we might otherwise carry around for an entire year, for no good reason. Especially for those of us who enjoy making lists, once that thing is written down, whatever it may be, you feel like it has to be done…almost like it’s a contract you’ve signed, and to break it would make you a criminal. Instead, think of January as your “try-on” period. This is the month where your goals get tried on, examined in the mirror, and then altered accordingly. At the end of January is when you can really decide what to hang onto and “wear” throughout the year…and what to let go of because it’s just not worth holding onto.
  4. A goals audit will better set you up for success by giving you the opportunity to make any necessary changes to your game plan. It’s the perfect way to step back,  see what’s working, what’s not, and then decide what steps to take going forward. Ideally, it is the time to ask God if your goals are His goals for your year…and release whatever would pull you away from His plans. For instance, maybe you will decide to do your creative writing in the evening vs. the morning, because that will give you more time with Jesus at the start of your day. Maybe you need to research a different workout series, because you hadn’t counted on that old knee injury flaring up. Or maybe, you need to read 2 books a month, instead of 4, so you can spend more time reading to your kids…or who knows, maybe you have learned you can fit 5 books in a month, and want to upgrade your plans! Whatever the details, you want to make sure your goals, and the steps to accomplish them, are married to your real life.

So, your next step is simple! Pick a day on the calendar in the last week of January (or even early February), and schedule your “goals audit.” Choose a day when you can snag a full, interruption-free half hour – after the kids are in bed, before the household wakes up, lunch break, whatever.

Planning for this day should be fun! NOT like an IRS audit. Think about if you want soft background music, or pure silence for your session. Arrange your schedule so the time is protected. Anticipate it with delight, not dread, and let it motivate you to enjoy actually doing the work to meet your goals.

One important note: if you haven’t already written down your goals, DO IT. You’re much more likely to achieve your goals, if you take the time to write them out.

I’ll be putting up a post later this month to explain a helpful process for auditing your goals – if you’d like to be notified when the post goes lives, enter your email below, and you’ll be the first to know. {hey…that rhymes!}



How to Turn “Turkey Day” Back Into “Thanksgiving”

The 12 Days of Thanksgiving printable


As a holiday, Thanksgiving seems to become less and less visible each year. Between the marketing that focuses completely on The Food, and getting smashed in the middle of Christmas and what-has-now-become-the-Halloween-season, Thanksgiving has, by default, really just become the front runner for Black Friday.

We could argue about who is to blame for this, but rather than waste our time wading into that negativity, we can instead just choose to be more intentional about how and why we celebrate on that day.

On that note, I have something special to share with you today, that is dear to my heart. It’s a Thanksgiving tradition my family started, several years back, and which my husband and I will be continuing in our own household. This year, we’re getting to enjoy sharing it with both sides of our family…and with you, if you so choose!

We call it The 12 Days of Thanksgiving. Beginning 12 days prior to the holiday (or 13, if you like a buffer day, like me), we begin a list of things for which we are grateful.

On Day 1, we list 1 item.

On Day 2, we write down 2.

Day 3, 3 things.

Etc.The 12 Days of Thanksgiving + printable

By the time we hit Day 12, and have written down 12 things, we each have a whopping 78 items for which we are thankful! There are big things, little things, sweet-memories-kinds-of-things. Then, the really fun part – reading them out loud together as a family. We generally share our lists after Thanksgiving Dinner, and let me tell you, this has become the highlight of our Thanksgiving Day.

I LOVE this tradition, for several reasons. It brings a spirit of thankfulness to the forefront of our celebration, not only on Thanksgiving Day, but for nearly two weeks prior to the actual holiday itself. In order to amass a list  of 78 distinct items that conjure up gratitude in your heart, you have to go beyond the typical family, friends, and food list. You have to truly spend some time thinking about all the abundance in your life. And, that will humble you, as well as multiply the gratitude. It turns Thanksgiving into more than a day – it becomes a season, and one which, hopefully, becomes a habit.

Making these lists adds a real depth and richness to our holiday – instead of just feasting and then falling into the Black Friday ads, we get to truly take some time to pause, and be intentionally grateful. As we read our lists out loud to each other, it brings to mind dozens of events, people, and blessings that we have known, and reveals to us just how much we really have. It’s a literal recap of God’s goodness throughout the year.


Now maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “You know, it sounds like a good idea, but it’s just not for us. We’ll all be at Aunt Stacie’s, all day on Thanksgiving, and there will be 25 people there…it’s crazy, and it’s just not going to work.” This tradition is flexible! For instance, if you have a very large group and don’t exactly have a full six hours to spend reading lists together, then you can simplify – each person can choose just 12 things to read aloud. Or ten, or twenty. Whatever! Make it your own, and make it work for your situation.

And, even if you don’t feel that sharing your list with others is a possibility, I absolutely encourage you to do it on your own, just for you. Just because you’re not going to read your thankfulness list aloud with a group does not mean you can’t keep one! In fact, that’s how this tradition was spawned in the first place…by keeping a personal gratitude journal. One of the beautiful aspects of a project like this is that you will have a physical, written record…something you can go back to, throughout the coming year, and read through. It will probably be impossible to NOT be encouraged.

The 12 Days of Thanksgiving printable


I usually use one of many notebooks around my home to record my list. BUT, if you prefer dedicated space, I have created a FREE printable for you to use! It has each a space for each day, plus the right number of lines for that day’s gratitude list. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy! Now you won’t get lost wondering how many you’ve already written, and how many you’re supposed to do today…and, oh yeah, what day AM I on? {Happens often in a traditional notebook…ask me how I know….} Aaaaand, it’s undated. Meaning, you can use it Every. Single. Year. No adjustments needed. Enter your info below to grab it!

The 12 Days of Thanksgiving printable




Prayer Basics – Where I’m starting and What I’m Learning

abc written on chalkboard

abc written on chalkboard

For a long time, now, I’ve still felt that there was something I was missing, something I needed to learn and understand about prayer. Technically, I guess, we’re supposed to be learning about it all our lives…but I’ve felt like I really needed to step back and make sure I was understanding the basics.

Now, there have been reams written on prayer, and by people who have studied it way more than me. So if this stuff is simplistic and kind of, “well, yeah, DUH,” then bear with me. {I could be rude and say, “Well go get yo’self a book on it, then, and stop wasting your time here!” But that would be rude. So I’ll be polite, and just invite you to “bear with me.”} I’m tired of complicating the Christian life, and I’m good and ready for simple and real, and that’s what we’re dishing up.

I heard a lot of preaching and teaching as I was growing up that really made me feel like I had to be some kind of super-Christian in order to have a decent “prayer life.” I’d hear about these graying old men and how they “prayed through.” I’d hear about all night prayer meetings. I’d buy {and never get around to reading} books about prayer. And always feel like Prayer was some huge class I had to take and graduate from, before it could be real in my own life. I know that these feelings don’t necessarily reflect reality, because we’re supposed to pray, and God doesn’t ask us to do what He’s not able to do through us.


Near the beginning of the year, I really felt like I should begin my own investigation into prayer. No commentaries, no books, no studies. Just me, my Bible, a concordance, and the Holy Spirit.

But I didn’t do it. I think I tried to start, by just reading through the New Testament and looking for what Jesus says about prayer. But I got sidetracked into the stories, and just read, without actually going deeper, except in maybe the “Our Father, which art in Heaven…” passage.

Probably about that time, or a little after, a man came to visit our church on a Wednesday night. He explained that he and his family were preparing to go live in Argentina, as missionaries. It’s not something they had ever planned to do, but God had made it clear that that’s where they were supposed to go. How did they know? He said he’d prayed about it, and knew he and his wife needed to be in agreement on the subject. He asked his wife to pray about leaving everything and going to Argentina. “I trust my wife’s prayer life,” he’d said. I really started squirming. Could my husband just come to me with a huge, life-changing question, ask me to pray about it, and totally feel confident that I’d get an answer? I haven’t asked him, but I don’t feel like he could.

That incident stuck in my mind, and wouldn’t leave. During our church’s missions conference, we had one of the visiting families over for supper. Throughout the course of the evening, I suddenly realized that this was the family of the guy who’d come during the summer, the one who had mentioned his wife’s prayer life. So, I was kind of in awe inside, you know, like, “Wow, this wife really has her act together–God told her to be on board with going to Argentina, and they’re going, and they’re sure, and–wow.”

And then, I got to chat with her myself. We talked about marriage, and all the changes it brings to your life, and then she told me about having a “dry spell” in her relationship with God several years earlier. She was feeling overwhelmed and struggling to get a quiet time alone with God. Then, she said, she’d done her own study on prayer…and that’s when things had changed.

And I suddenly put two and two together and realized this lady, whose husband’s trust in her prayer life was enabling them to take a tremendous, life-changing step of faith, had struggled with prayer herself. She was a normal person! Imagine…

Yeah, imagine. If another normal-wife-who-struggles-to-get-her-quiet-time-in can get answers on The Big Stuff in life…then I don’t have any excuses, anymore.


So, the following week, I sat down with my Bible, journal, and my concordance, and looked up “pray.” The next 30 minutes were pretty eye-opening. Just by reading through and cross-referencing the definitions–not the verses, the definitions–, I felt overwhelmed by what I had learned.

The words translated “pray” mean to want, to beseech, to ask, to interrogate, to wish for, to desire, to solicit, to entreat, to make request; “prayer” means a beseeching, a supplication, an intercession, a wish, a pouring out. {And, that’s just the New Testament.}

Basically, praying is begging.


I heard a fantastic sermon on this once, and the main point was that prayer IS, at its core essence, ASKING. Praising the Lord, and simply chatting with Him, while necessary facets of our relationship with him, are not actually praying, in the purest sense. 

So I did some thinkin’ on that one. Begging requires humility. This may be why I find it difficult to truly pray when I’m mad. You shouldn’t ask with an attitude and expect to get something. Having a humble spirit is really the only way to start.

Asking, begging, praying, calls for a heart that is looking for its expectation from another Source. Asking, begging, praying, means that I can’t make it happen on my own…I’m totally dependent on the One to Whom I’m bringing my request. If I’m feeling self-sufficient, I’m not going to ask.

This gets even easier to grasp when looked at through the lens of the Parent-Child relationship. God is our Father, and we are “little children,” as John was so fond of reminding us. Spend some time around kids, and you learn rather quickly that most of them are indeed askers. “I’m hungry. Can we eat?” “Ow, I got a boo-boo! Can I have a band-aid?” “Can we stay longer? Please?!” And they’re not ashamed of it. They know who’s got the power to make it happen. They know where to go to get what they want. And, they know that they are entitled to ask, because of their relationship with the parent.

I went back and read those definitions again. “Want. Beseech. Ask. Interrogate. Wish for. Desire. Solicit. Entreat. Make request. Supplication. Intercession. Pouring out.”

And something else leaped out at me. Praying requires caring. Deep down, for real caring. Halfheartedness is not part of the equation.

So really…if you don’t care, don’t pray about it.

Now, I really must caveat the above statement with this: I have personally found that at times choosing to pray for a person that I did not know, or for whose need I had no natural empathy, created empathy and compassion in my heart. Not sure I have a verse with which to back that up, but I think there probably is one. And, truly, caring is a choice, not an emotion. What’s more, we are commanded to pray, over and over {Matthew 6:9, 21:22; Mark 13:33; Luke 10:2; Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; etc.} So, maybe a better way to state it would be, “Don’t pray without choosing to care.”


So I came away with that short investigative session with a very full mind and heart, and an honest excitement. I felt like I was getting the simple, yet profound truths about prayer, straight from the Word myself. And it was just the beginning! The passage from Proverbs 2 about seeking wisdom like it’s a hunt for buried treasure comes to mind.

I’m planning to continue this study in the weeks ahead, and I plan to write about it, here. {There, I’ve just provided myself with some good old-fashioned accountability to actually keep going.} Let me know in the comments if you have any specific topics regarding prayer that would be an interesting study!


9 Things I Love About My Little Home

little house with green door

little house with green door

Our little family has lived in a little travel trailer for just over a year now. Our accommodations consist of a bedroom–approximately big enough for a bed, though being able to walk around its perimeter is a test in balancing skills–a bathroom, and a combination kitchen-dining-nursery-living room, all in about 300 square feet. It’s been both challenging and educational. For a long while now, I’ve been contemplating writing up a list of things that I have enjoyed about our tiny turf, and now I’m finally getting around to it. It’s good for me to find specific ways to be thankful for the less-than-ideal parts of life, you know? Plus, perhaps it would encourage others of you who reside in small dwellings to join me in counting the blessings.

So, here are 9 things, some big, some little, that I feel privileged to experience by living in our little home.

  • Ease of quick heating & cooling 

When we wake up in the morning, and things feel a bit chilly, it takes just a wee bit o’ time to warm the rooms up! On the flip side, during the brutal Georgia summer heat, even after the trailer had been sitting in the blazing sun all day with no air running, we could make things comfortable with just 20 or 30 minutes of cooling. Very convenient!

  • Everything in arm’s reach

Speaking of convenience, this is one thing I think I’ll miss a bit when we move. I really don’t have to take more than 2.7 seconds to get something from ANY corner of our abode. And while cooking, things are soooo easy to grab. Makes whipping up breakfast and supper very streamlined. I won’t lie and say easy, because there is that finding-enough-counter-space-to-do-it-all part, but still, I really enjoy having my pantry, fridge, pots, and sink all in such close proximity to one another.

  • Speedy housecleaning

Not much needs to be said, here. With less space, and everything so close together, vacuuming floors and cleaning the bathroom doesn’t take long at all!

  • Paring down on purchasing

I have had to be extremely choosy about what I bring into the house, be it from a favorite thrift shop, or my parents’ garage–where 90% of all my wedding gifts currently reside in boxes. {Seriously, getting to upsize is going to be like Christmas, times twenty!!} Smaller living space means I can’t just have tons of cute stuff hanging around everywhere, and so I have said ‘no’ to many items, and gone without. But the good news is I have had to really nail down my own personal style by being so deliberate. A few things here and there that I consider beautiful and meaningful, and that’s it. It’s made me more appreciative of household beauty in general, I think.    

Right alongside household decor, it’s been necessary to be particular about clothing, kitchen wares, toys for the Jungle Boy, even food. And, I don’t consider any of that a bad thing at all! It’s been great to actually consider carefully what is truly necessary, and what is simply a convenience.

  • Being forced to deal with clutter on a daily basis

If I go a single day without doing a “swoop” {my term for a quick tidy-up}…you can tell. In fact, if I go two days, or even just leave a project unfinished, I begin to find it difficult to breathe. Literally! I have learned that clutter is a real point of stress for me, and being surrounded by unmanaged clutter makes me feel cranky, irritable, and a little like I’m suffocating. So, I take the time to sort through mail and paperwork, tossing all I can, and putting it in a designated “to-file” space. I keep the clothes where they belong, whether it’s in the laundry basket, hung up, or in the drawer. I make the time to get the dishes washed and the counters cleared. It keeps me sane.

This sometimes seems like extra work, but in reality it would still have to be done…I’m actually just being more proactive about it. And, I’ve found, this makes life easier in the long run. We house-sat for my parents recently, and I realized just how difficult extra space can actually be, when I was packing up to come back to our camper. It took me several hours to collect all the things we had spread around the house! I had not kept our belongings very organized…because I had not HAD to. Small space requires organization to survive {for me, at least}, and this a good thing.   

  • Less attachment to material things

I hope that this is true–I suppose time will tell. But going without certain things, as I mentioned above, has somewhat lessened my grasp on possessions. I’ve really seen how much we miss when we get stuck focusing on All The Stuff, and it has made me want to not get caught in that trap in the future.

  • More creativity

Because I don’t always have everything I’m used to using for housework, cooking, organization, etc., I’ve gotten a bit creative at times with what I use to get a job done. At one point, I was storing our fruit in a crock pot that we weren’t using. We don’t watch TV, so the big flat screen built into one of the cabinets became my bulletin board, where I taped up cards and calendars. At times, my kitchen counter has looked like a giant game of Jenga, as I strategically placed cooking items in precarious positions, so I could move on to the next step of the recipe. {By the way, when you run out of room on the counter, did you realize that the floor can easily provide extra space for ingredients, mixing bowls, etc.? Novel idea, right?} It gets pretty fun, at times, as I play a game of beat-the-box-mentality. For some people, this is just second-nature; they do it all the time! But for us type-A, boxy people, it’s a challenge, and it’s good for us.

  • Appreciation for how people around the world live

I’ve traveled to two different third-world countries, and seen the lifestyles of the general population there. It has made me pause, at times, when a complaint about my living space was on the tip of my tongue. Living in 300 square feet with only three people isn’t all that difficult for most of the globe, actually. {Hint: they go outside a lot more than we do!} Camper life has reminded me of these nations, and it is a good taste of what millions the world over experience daily space-wise. I still have much, much more wealth and convenience than most do, and I have been able to be a lot more thankful when reflecting on this.

African children in front of mudblock house

In addition, it’s very typical in other countries for whole families to live in space not much larger than ours. This chart illustrates that. And it’s not just third world countries, either. On average, families in the U.K., China, Sweden, Italy, and Russia all live in under 1,000 square feet of space.

  • Preparation for the future

When my husband and I got married, we were planning and preparing to be missionaries to pioneer fields. The immediate plans changed, but we still have hopes that that may be God’s intention for us in the future…and maybe this year of living in a travel trailer has some part to play in that plan. I guess we’ll see!

In addition, learning to live with less, to think outside the box, and to value everything that we’ve been blessed with now, can’t hurt no matter WHAT lies in store!


Do you have a small-ish home? What are some ways you enjoy getting creative in your little house? Things you are thankful for? Share them below!

Wild At Heart – Book Review


I picked up this gem at a thrift store for a buck fifty.  I figured, when I saw the volume’s subtitle, “Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul,” that with a husband to love and a son to raise, I didn’t have much to lose. After reading the first chapter earlier in the week during a few spare moment, I read the entire rest of it yesterday. I could not put it down! Fascinating, stirring, and sorely needed are a few words of description I can ascribe to its content. I was actually quite unprepared for the wealth of knowledge I found, as well as the realization of how little I actually know about the way men think and what their God-given driving forces are. I’ve been blessed with a husband who is willing and pleased to communicate with me. When I ask him questions about what he’s thinking and how he’s feeling, he tells me. But I hadn’t realized that I was still hearing all that he was saying through my feminine perspective. This book helped me recognize that fact, and gave me a better appreciation for the ways God created my husband differently than me.

{A few important disclaimers! Firstly,  I read the original version, published in 2001. It has since been revised, and I have no idea what the revisions cover. Secondly, I DO NOT recommend this book for ladies who are not married, as it can be very explicit at times. And thirdly and finally, I recommend this book, but cannot endorse most of the movies/lyrics/authors referenced therein. Okay, there. Disclaimers ended.}

Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge, is about the journey of masculinity that every male embarks upon. This is a book about men, for men, by a man. But it’s also written with the understanding that the women in their life will read it. Original design, spiritual warfare, and revival truth are all part of the picture. It’s about identity, love, and all the big questions in life. And even though it is directed specifically towards men, I found that much of Eldredge’s writings applied to me, simply because I’m a human being, and a follower of Christ.

Eldredge tells us that every man desires three things that are an inherent part of his God-given nature: an adventure to live, a battle to fight, and a beauty to rescue. I took away from this book a better understanding of the adventure, battle, and beauty that my husband needs [and that my son will someday need], and my role to play in it all. Much of Eldredge’s insight are based on the Creation account in the Book Genesis. I found it fascinating that so many clues to the most basic, yet different, needs of men and women are laid out right in there in the first chapters of the Bible.

I was especially challenged regarding the mother-son relationship. I now know better to prepare for, and be on the lookout for, the day Jungle Baby needs his freedom–specifically, freedom from me. {Brace yourselves, ladies, this part, especially written in its blunt male style, may be a hard one to read. But is it serious advice to heed, if you want to really let your son be the man he was created to be.} Eldredge declares that a mother who does not “allow her son to become dangerous…will emasculate him.” I’ve always had a desire for my son to become “manly”. But defining it as “dangerous” takes it to a new level of reality. For, as the author so clearly outlines, this life is a War, and if you don’t look at it that way, you’re already losing the battle.

Speaking of battles, I think my favorite chapters were the two focused specifically on spiritual warfare. Men’s battles are in the spotlight, of course, but the spiritual strategies needed to fight these battles apply to every Christian. For instance, regarding Romans 7 and the battle against sin, Eldredge says:

“You are not your sin; sin is no longer the truest thing about the man who has come into union with Jesus. Your heart is good. …The Big Lie in the church today is that you are nothing more than “a sinner saved by grace.” You are a lot more than that. You are a new creation in Christ.”

There is an incredible freedom in this truth that so many in our churches are missing! {By the way, I read this paragraph a mere 48 hours after hearing a sermon on the exact same thing. You can download the message I heard here, from mediafire: Radical New Realities.}

Wild At Heart was obviously very different than books authored by women–as it ought to be. To be honest, I enjoyed the different literary “taste.” It was raw, yes, but also refreshing. A nice change of pace in writing style, as women’s books usually are a bit more…I don’t know, chatty? Although that can be enjoyable, it also can make them harder to follow. Eldredge’s message was a clear flow of ideas, progressing like a soldier marching towards his military objective.

I took away a LOT of questions to ask my husband. In fact, I used a pen, highlighter, and sticky notes, and listed topics that I wanted extra clarification on at the end of each chapter. Be prepared to let the book be a merely a springboard for studying your man’s deeper waters.

Though I don’t agree with Eldredge on every theological point that arises, he tackles some of the most fundamental and, sadly, overlooked aspects of a believer’s relationship with Christ, laying them out in a clear, concise, and motivating manner. Obviously, part of having a right relationship with Jesus is seeking to have right relationships with those in our families. I highly recommend this book for every wife and mother who wants to truly learn about and love the men in her life!

How to Love the Life You Live

man on top of the world


man on top of the world

"Live the life you love."

We've all seen that quippy little quote floating around, on inspirational internet images, or wall decor at the coffee shop. I don't know about you, but as a newlywed and a first-time mommy, I sort of snort internally when I read it. (If this is one of your favorite motivational nuggets that pushes you to keep going when you're tempted to give up on a dream--I'm probably gonna step on your toes, here. 🙂 Please know, I'm all for encouragement, so if that mantra is encouraging to you, by all means, don't let me ruin that for you.)

But for me, it just doesn't work. I guess the biggest reason is that it seems to say, "Go after what YOU want, because that's the most important thing. Live for what pleases you and makes you happy." If you don't read it that way, that's okay. But that's pretty much how it reads for me, and I've come to the understanding that the best way to make myself UNhappy...is to chase my own happiness.

So. I choose to flip that saying around and look at it differently. I choose to read instead, "Love the Life You Live." In other words, be content! Be joyful in your "season of life," whatever that may be. I'm pretty sure that we actually have to relearn this lesson in every new season of life that we enter. At least, I do. I had to learn it as a single person. I had to learn it in different jobs that I worked. And, I am learning it now, again, in a whole new dimension as a wife and mother.

This is my point: What if instead of telling ourselves we should be chasing down a life we can love...what about just deciding to love the life we are living? Right here, right now? The one that may seem to be too busy, or not-what-we-had-planned, or unexciting, or even painful?

Question: How do you do that? How do people actually love the life they have when there's sickness, or loneliness, or tragedy, or disappointment? I've been blessed to have some very good examples in my life of people who have chosen to embrace joy, to refuse to let it go, in the face of incredible falling-apart-ness. I am truly challenged every time I think of these people while I'm the midst of a little ol' pity party.

One of them is a friend I'll call Sarah. She has personally suffered what could easily be called tragedy, not once, not twice, but three times...and those are just the instances I know about. I'm talking about illness, pain, and criminal wrongdoing touching all the most important people in her life. I'm talking about broken necks and child molestation and death. Yet she is one of the sweetest, most joyfilled people I know, and she trusts God implicitly. She clings to Him. She doesn't sit around feeling sorry for herself because of what has come into her life, even though, by all human standards, she'd have every right to. Nor does she play the martyr, and try to let everyone know what a tough time she's had. No, she has chosen to hold onto joy, and to love the life she is living, despite it's pain. I stand in awe of her. But I know her joyfulness didn't just happen. It is real in her life because of specific and deliberate decisions that she has made. Here are several choices that I see in Sarah's life, and in the lives of others who exhibit this kind of loving the life that they are living.

1. Be intentionally grateful

Thankfulness can be a lifeline against drowning in despair. Seriously...have you ever had a horrible, horrible day, and just begun saying "thank you" for any and every little thing that you can think of? I've tried it. The results are pretty amazing. And immediate. You can begin to see that there are still so many "good and perfect" gifts to appreciate. My husband recently told me, very gently and wisely, that the reason I often struggle is because I spend time focusing on the things I don't have, instead of what I do have. He was right. Is it easy to be grateful when you feel like nothing is right in your world? No. But it is worthwhile.

2. Be in the moment

Worrying about the future? Aching over the past? Honestly, all we do is make ourselves miserable. I heard a statistic that said only eight percent of the things we worry about could actually even happen. Wow. (That's actually a bit comforting, honestly!) And the past? We can change zero about that. Does that mean the thought of those things don't hurt or that they don't have the capacity to make us anxious? No. But the bottom line is that there is enough to focus on here and now. There are people in your life, today, that need you. So, take a deep breath, and just "do the next thing." {Great opportunity, here, to implement number one...find something to be grateful for in that "next thing."}

3. Be close to God

Ultimately, He is what gives meaning and joy to life. All the other joys are because of Him, and from Him. Being close to God is a choice to be made, more than a thing to do, though. Yes, there are things that we can do to be close to Him, such as reading the Bible. But unless we first decide that we want to be close to Him, there isn't much point in cracking open those pages. {It would kind of be like taking your spouse to dinner, but not really wanting to talk with them, or listen to them...they will know it, and your relationship isn't going to progress forward.}

Now we KNOW all this...but we have to choose to act on it. It's a decision of the will , not the feelings. So if you're struggling to love the life you're living, you have to decide...do you really want to, and are you willing to do what it takes? I think that if we really want to love the life we're living, in all its messiness and imperfection and unexpectedness, then we can. And, the neat thing about choosing to love it? We'll find we really are living the life we love, too.

Minimalism, Cozy Style.

cozy cup of tea next to open book

So apparently there’s this thing called “cozy minimalism” that is being talked about in the blogosphere.

cup of tea with a book cozy reading


I had never heard of it until I ran across a post on said subject. I quickly realized that yes, this was my category. (Woohoo, now people can label me and put me in a definitive box! Yippee!)

When many people hear the word “minimalism”, they conjure up pictures of asceticism in their heads. But the term “minimalism” actually has several different cultural definitions. Technically, minimalism refers to an art form that focuses on simplicity. But there’s a growing school of thought that has developed in our society as a kick-back against materialism, and it has nothing to do with art. In the words of these guys, who are actually known as The Minimalists,

“Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.” 

However, minimalism is also sometimes hijacked by home-department marketing professionals, and translated “make everything in your bedroom one color.” Which actually means, “buy more stuff!” So, definitions matter here! In this post, I’m not talking about the style of art, but more the anti-materialistic ideology.

I have always thought, when I read about minimalism, that the basic idea undergirding it appealed to me (more of life, less of stuff, simplicity, etc.). And I hate clutter. My husband can tell you that I’m sort of a paper-nazi…if it’s not connected to the spine of a notebook, or in a file folder, I want it in the trash. So I guess in some senses, I’m a good candidate for the minimalism label.

However, often the design inspired by minimalism does not appeal to me. I like clean lines, white space, and occasional monochromatic color schemes. In moderation. But I also like bookcases crammed with good books, mismatched and colorful coffee mugs to spare, and plenty of warmth. I like my space to say “organized,” yes, but also “we live here, thank you.” And so many of the rooms with minimalist decor seem so…soul-less.


But then, “cozy” minimalism was introduced to me. You can read what I read HERE. The author seemed to put into words exactly what I had never taken the time to…that yes, I like part of the minimalist take on life, but I’ll never be a true minimalist in the styling of my home. And guess what–there is an alternative. And it has a name!

Enter, cozy minimalism.

The term itself is fairly self-explanatory: cozy means warm and inviting. Minimal means the only bare essentials. So it’s a balancing act of deciding what gives your house a homey feel, while still filtering with a “what do we need/use” mindset.

What I like about this concept is that it takes the basic values of minimalism ideology–making space in life for what really matters by deliberately choosing to not become overwhelmed by stuff–and weds it with the reality of where most of us live: “I have two very similar tote bags…but I use both…and I want to keep both.” Comfort, without clutter, is how I like to look at it. I can still keep all my candles (that are actually all from the same color and scent families), but I’ll choose to pare down my sock drawer, because I don’t need/like/want all the socks I own.

My home can still be fresh and relatively clutter-free, but not forced into specific parameters about how many of these or those I own. It’s about choosing things that are functional and practical, but also bring some beauty or joy to this One Little Life, whether or not there’s a bit of redundancy. I choose what we like and what makes our home US, without trying to fit it into a specific mold. 

And so, that’s why I now consider myself a “cozy minimalist.” 

So what’s your opinion? How do you classify your Castle-style? Cluttered and eclectic, like Aunt Matilda’s parlor? Bare and austere, like Uncle Lou’s big city loft? Or somewhere in the middle, in the “cozy” sector? What fits you and your family best, and why?

3 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Brought My Newborn Home

baby feet held in mother's hands newborn

No one ever told me what it was like to have a baby for the first time.

baby feet held in mother's hands newborn

Sure, there were all kinds of information available about the process of birth, what color to paint your nursery, how your life would change, etc. etc.

But…no one ever told me what it was like.

For instance, that last moment of superhuman effort to push him out…how it felt like warmth and slipperiness and determination and desperation all at one time. And that, actually, the afterbirth is hard, too, for several reasons–a post on that coming soon!

And then, after all the bustle and busyness melts away, there you are, lying in bed. The lights are out, your husband is asleep on the couch in the room, and suddenly, after what feels like dozens of people barreling through your life in a few short hours…it’s just you and your baby. And he’s whimpering a little, and listening to your voice as you whisper in his tiny, perfect ear. No one ever told me what that amazing first moment of bonding is like. No one ever could. I guess that’s because it’s not something to be explained, but experienced.


And, that’s not all I was never told. I did tons of research, both online and in books, prior to the Jungle Baby’s birth, but there’s Just. So. Much. Information! Here are several pieces of valuable information that either just aren’t out there in plain sight, or that I somehow skipped over (the latter option is quite possible!). Hopefully, new or soon-to-be mamas will find these tips on caring for a newborn useful.

1. You will need to cut their nails. Sooner, rather than later.

Most babies are born with perfect little fingers and toes. However, those sweet little fingernails and toenails grow! FAST. Babies love to keep their hands close to their faces, and will inevitably give themselves some nasty scratches. Also, especially if you’re breastfeeding, you’ll want those nails kept short, otherwise they will give you some scratches too. And the toenails need trimming to avoid getting painfully snagged by socks and leggings.

So if no one gives you a pair of baby nail clippers {I recommend these} at your shower, get some before baby arrives! (Or, send your mom out to get some within the first week or two, like I did.)

 2. Newborns’ hands and feet peel, big-time.

It looks sort of like sunburn, actually. It’s white, and is really bad in between the toes and fingers. But the good news is that it doesn’t bother the baby whatsoever, and will go away quickly. Sort of like baby milia. If you want to put something on it, this is what I used. I prefer using natural products whenever possible and affordable, especially on a brand new baby. I also like merchandise that does double duty. The Natural Nipple Butter is a win both ways!}

3. Burping is important. Very important.

Now, I knew babies needed burp. What I didn’t realize is that newborns need it OFTEN. As in, every 3 to 5 minutes during a feeding. Otherwise, the air will build up in their underdeveloped digestive systems and cause serious pain for them, and serious concern for you. I learned this the hard way, when Jungle Baby struggled with distressing gas for a week or two.

You’ll have to forgive me if this is painfully obvious. But I didn’t spend much time with tiny babies growing up, so I never knew that newborns needed burping so much more often than bigger babies. The good news is this frequent burping will give both of you plenty of practice with latching. 😉


So there you go! Hopefully, these tips may save you (or the mama-to-be that you share it with) some worries or difficult moments in the first few weeks with a new baby. There is so much information to digest and take in when preparing for a new baby, and different things will be important for different people. Veteran moms…what did I miss? What are things that would have really helped you be more prepared for life with your newborn?