All of the Feels: The New “Coziness of the Soul”

This may or may not be a buzz word floating around the internet and verbal atmosphere (sometimes I’m out of the loop and people ask me if I live under a rock-so be it): the Danish practice of hygge. Apparently, when it comes to relaxation, the Danes know it best! While there is no literal English translation, this term is identified as “the coziness of the soul”, or a general state of “wellness” or “togetherness”, and is emphasized as a lifestyle practice that centers around stillness, soothing, self-care, and pleasure.

I can get behind that.

This practice is even rooted in the idea that Danish culture occupies some of the most fulfilled and pleasant people in modern day culture, and much of this consistent mood boost is attributed to this sacred lifestyle and practice (guys, there’s like actual studies on this).  Taking pleasure in simplicity and enjoying and savoring those sweet moments of life is what you will find in this endearing practice. It centers around the idea that in order to give comfort and breathe life into the world and relationships, we must be soothed and comforted ourselves: not just when we are in “burn out-shut ourselves in our room and bite the head off of anyone who speaks to us” mode, but as an intentional, daily lifestyle that is to be cultivated and nurtured. Some of these elements of hygge surprised me greatly, as they seem so simple and easy to implement! But how often in American we find ourselves taking these things for granted, or not truly recognizing the impact of what these small changes may have on us? I’ll tell you one thing, I certainly do notice an impact when these elements are NOT present in my life. Hygge was a concept that was especially emphasized during the more harsh weather months (um….what a more perfect time to implement some of these than now?), but is encouraged to be practiced year-round, and more importantly, daily.  Here are some practices of hygge that I came across and am truly in love with:

  • Invest in some soothing candles: You all know that I am all about those sweet scents. But even more than that, abiding by the illumination that these candles produce can instill a natural calming effect, both through reminding us of our humble “smallness” as well as setting the tone for slow conversations and tender moments. It has even been said that the simplicity of one single lit candle is one of the most fundamental hygge moments of achieve.

 

  • Update to cozy lounge-wear: who doesn’t look forward to taking off the skirt and heels and slipping into a cozy pair of sweats after a long day? But taking this one step further, hygge suggests for us to think deliberately about our lounge-wear: is it as warm and comfy as it can be? is it old and really shouldn’t be held onto any longer (preach)? Is there any way to add an element (fuzzy socks, cozy robe, etc) that can make this attire even more soothing to the body? Additionally (and I’m SO guilty of this); BUY A REAL PAIR OF PAJAMAS. Do not sleep in your yoga pants or sweats (boo): have a specific set of sleepwear that treats your body well and sends your mind and body the message that it is time to transition into slumber.

 

  • Take up a new hobby: hygge emphasizes something soothing or busy for the hands that also creates and opportunity to learn something new. And as hygge tradition, this can also be a social event! Gathering is something emphasized in the hygge practice, in order to share this experience or as a time set apart to lift each other up and encourage one another in intentional living.

 

  • Stock a self-care kit: having a set collection of materials that assist you in facilitating the art of self-care produces even more motivation to use self-care on the daily. My fave tip for this is creating a sensory soothing kit: one item for each sense that allows you to soothe. Examples-pictures of fond memories, essential oils, specific aromatherapy lotions or face masks, specific soundtrack of music or soothing tones, herbal teas or small treats like delectable chocolates, warm blankets. Stash this away somewhere where you can always access it (I even encourage creating two and having one you can travel with or keep in your car!).

 

  • Slow down: Yeah right, but seriously. More recently, some of my most fond moments have been savoring the simple and slow moments life has to offer me and those around me. Even if its doing a media fast one day per week, setting up unscheduled blocks of time in your schedule to be spontaneous, having eyeball to eyeball contact daily with those you do life with, this skill is so important. Truth be told, it’s something that I am even still working on (we’re in this together!). Moral of the story: the simple moments demand for us to slow down and take in what is within our immediate vicinity. When we’re able to do that, we’re able to cultivate the most refreshing kind of connectiveness, and gratitude breeds out of that place into our lungs.

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So, how do you “hygge”? What have been some elements of this practice that are most essential to you? Or, which elements are you motivated to implement into your own lifestyle?

Stay cozy friends, and as always, stay tuned,

-AF

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Not-So-Sweet Dreams are Made of This

It’s undeniable: as a woman, we play many different roles in life. We wear various hats, one might say. Moving into new seasons of life breathes forth new roles into our character. These roles stretch us, challenge us, and nurture us. These roles allow us to love on others in ways that we weren’t able to do before. These roles bless the inmost parts of ourselves while allowing us to overflow into the journeys and hearts of those around us.

But I’m just going to go ahead and say it: I’m having a really hard time transitioning into aspects of the role of being a wife.

Why does this have to feel so shameful? Ummm…. it doesn’t have to, Addison. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having some challenge in acclimating to a new role in life-even if that role is an amazing one! Having a challenge doesn’t take away the blessing of the transition, it merely highlights our humanity through the transition. 

And boy, have I ever felt human during this season of life.

So I’ve been having these dreams, right-and don’t go thinking that I’m this wonky dream analyst, because I’m not about that specifically. But there’s a pattern to my dreams lately that I just can’t shake and ignore. And it’s been so ongoing, I mean like MONTHS now. I have this running joke with my husband, often times waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, crying out in my sleep, waking up in a tousled mess full of covers and pillow as the breaking dawn streams in, while leaning over to my ever-patient husband and sneering “dream husband is such a JERK!”

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He’s learned to take this in stride, gently guiding me toward the Keurig for my morning brew of sanity-I mean coffee. Oops, did I say that out-loud?

But time and time again, this dream sequence continues to appears and disrupt my slumber: these awful dreams in which my husband either takes one of 2 courses of action: 1) He decides he no longer loves me, or 2) He tries to kill me. Fabulous.

Good GRIEF. My husband doesn’t have a violent bone in his body. This is literally a man that sings child-age appropriate songs with kiddos in music classes all day long, coming home and craving doggy snuggles. He also loves butterflies and adores his wife. Sweet man.

Nevertheless, the dreams continue to pop into my subconscious and whip me from a state of reality to a state of absolute distortion, leading me to firmly believe that I am just “too much” for my husband. Which likely couldn’t be farther from the truth.

How crazy does this sound?! Literally welcome to my morning.

I think in all reality, this comes from a place of humanized fear. I’ve been finding myself struggling so much in my flesh in the areas of anger and irritability lately. And at no one and nothing in particular-yet everyone and everything all at once. Moving into various roles in life doesn’t mean you neglect all the other roles you hold in life-most times, it means you add to your load and you carry that with pride. Numerous times I’ve come home from an absolutely physically and emotionally draining day at the office, to walk into the door and be pummeled by the dog (sweet soul), but then led into hours of her nonstop barking, household duties that seem to never end (I’ve done dishes and laundry already this month, why do they keep reappearing?!!!), not to mention friends and family that desire my time and attention (no blame here, it’s just the reality of being in relationship with others), all while I’m still trying to emotionally deescalate and separate from the various traumas I’ve been immersed in throughout my day in the specific line of work that I do. Not to mention I’m tired, hungry, beating myself up over not having the energy to exercise yet again, all while feeling guilty because my sincere hubby is awaiting my arrival with anticipation and excitement.

And what do I often bring him? My “blah-ness”. I unload like an emotional dump truck, spewing my pent-up emotionality all over our home while rushing about trying to prep dinner, quiet the dog, and sometimes even forget the ever-so-simple let me shut up now, how was YOUR day?

I know I’m approaching this with my protective humor shield, but honestly, this is tough stuff. 

Before, it really didn’t matter if I came home in this state: there were no emotional consequences of that toward anyone else but myself. But now, I’ve gladly tethered my life to another (bless) and therefore, the condition of my heart and soul affects them so very strongly-both positively and negatively.

In my sinful state and distorted thinking out of emotionality, I find myself thinking “maybe I’m just too much for him. Maybe one day, he is going to decide ‘I cannot take your hissy fits and exhaustion tornadoes anymore!’ “.

Gratefully, my husband and I share the same approach to marriage: devotion, commitment, unconditional love, forgiveness. He’s never given me any reason to think otherwise. This and these thoughts are not of him, this is of ME.

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But don’t we sometimes feel the same about our Savior? Like on those days where you are lining up to take communion, and you find yourself thinking “Sweet Lord, I’ma need that WHOLE chalice of wine you got there to cover my sins from this past week”. Seriously guys, I cannot be the only one yet again!

We tend to feel like somehow, one day, we are going to be just “too much” for God. That He is going to throw in the towel on us, deeming us “unlovable”. That there is going to be some sin so great that God decides to cast us aside, and we are no longer worthy of his love and sacrifice within our lives. That somehow, in some twisted way, we can earn “unearned” love through our actions and hold up the scoreboard of our lives.

Now THAT’s an even more tangled web of thinking than my dreams.

As humans, we struggle with the concept of “unconditional love”. Like myself, we are often raised to work toward earning everything in this life: status, financial means, friends, approval, worth. Jesus calls us toward open arms that bear no weight or dependence toward our actions or scorecard. And that scares us! It scares us because it goes against everything our sinful flesh is telling us: I have to be ENOUGH for that. 

Sweet readers, fall into the arms of the One who saw it all and still chose the cross for you. He loved us even before we had any concept of what love actually is. We are the ones He in fact was thinking of as He rose from that wretched grave and into his heavenly place of reign. It’s not about what we did or what we will do, it’s about what He has already done for us. 

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So stop keeping score with yourself. Love on others and take your thoughts and words captive, but not for the sake of approval or earned love: rather, out of a place of overflowing unconditional love and grace that was lavished on us. Feel secure in the unconditional love that feels more risky and involves a step out in faith. We were made for MORE than all our striving appears to give us.

Your heart, and your worth, are safe with Him.

Stay tuned,

-AF.

 

An Ode to the Days When I’m “Not Enough”

“Cranberry Woods” candle flickering its dance and of course, warm Colectivo coffee brewing its familiar tunes of percolation. However, it is not the wee hours of the morning in which I am siting down to this ever-pleasant routine.

It’s literally 4:18pm.

Yes, folks, I did it. I TOOK A HALF DAY. WHAT IN TARNATION.

I used to experience soooooooo much guilt for taking any time whatsoever for myself. I used to have those voices in my head telling me “you SHOULD be doing this”, followed by “what will people possibly think if you slow down at all?”, with the grand finale of “God forbid, who would you BE without this constant state of busyness?”

Not gonna lie, those voices are still there sometimes. I even caught a glimpse of them today. However, I am giving those voices a firm kick to the curb today as I take some quiet time for my spirit-not to mention for my sanity.

Ah, the lives of those who work in emotionally draining work. I feel you. I’m in the trenches with you. Let’s not assume we are immune to fatigue and need for some tender love and care, Kay?

Anywho, I’m rambling.

Do you ever feel like you are so many people at once? I don’t mean literally folks, but honestly: do you ever feel like you are trying to wear so many hats and play so many roles that you just don’t know if each of the roles are getting what they need or deserve?

I ran into this predicament yesterday evening. I’m in my car, finally dragging my butt back from the office after a near 11-hour day. 11 hours straight of being extremely emotionally present with those who have gone through the most traumatic of experiences imaginable. Rewarding work, I mean it. But goodness, does it do a number on the emotional energy. I was settling into the drivers seat and having sweet visions of sweats, wine, puppy cuddles, and SLEEP when I glance over at my phone. It’s a text from a dear friend of mine reading “”Can you call me on your way home tonight?”

Normally I’d have no problem zipping on the interstate and picking up the phone for some good girl gab, but I knew this particular friend was looking for intense emotional support as she struggles through a season of intense emotionality, pain, and trauma. My goodness, my heart goes out to this sweet person. And I want nothing more than to be there for her in any way I can.

However, last night, I just couldn’t do it. I know the intensity of need this friend is experiencing right now, and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with this need, after 11 hours of trying to hold people up emotionally, I was absolutely spent. And I didn’t even feel like I could make it through another conversation involving intense emotional turmoil and someone else needing something from me.

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Gosh, this sounds so awful typing it out like this. It sounded so awful when it entered my mind, too.

But essentially, what this exemplified was the reality of our common humanity. We are limited. We are going to disappoint people because we are limited.   There are literally some days where there is just no way around it. My capacity at that time did not match that person’s needs or desires from me. Did that mean I was wrong? No. Did that mean my needs or limits weren’t important? No. It was a classic example that we-while we walk this earth-do NOT have an unlimited supply of physical and emotional resources. Once they are out, they are OUT until we begin to replenish our selves in these areas of functioning .

Oftentimes, we find ourselves yielding to the desires and needs of others from us, completely neglecting our own limits and needs as if they were wrong. As if our needs and limits HAVE to match others’ needs and desires from us.

Come on guys, I can’t possibly be the only one who falls into this trap.

Please keep this sentiment in your hearts, sweet ones. I by this, mean no offense: We are not going to be enough for everyone. Only Jesus is enough for everyone. We do not need to place ourselves into a position where we take on a role of being unshakeable, unbreakable. We are not everyone’s solution and certainly not everyone’s Savior. And what that means is there are going to be days where we just can’t, for whatever reason, And that’s being a human.

It doesn’t mean we are selfish. It means we are aware of our commonly flawed state of existence.

There are days where the Lord leads us straight into the storm so He can show us His great arm. But just as well, there are days where he intentionally and deliberately makes us lie down in green pastures, leading us beside quiet waters to restore our soul.

Do not mistake restoration for selfishness. He, in fact, leads us otherwise.

Stay tuned,

-AF.

Savoring the Slow Moments: A real-life Paradox

I’m a multi-tasker. I also don’t believe in multi-tasking. I am a conundrum in itself regarding this topic.

I get that butterflies-in-the-tummy feeling when I can do so many things at once. Like Friday, when I was able to put away the groceries, stir the cookie batter, preheat the oven, get an additional meal in the crockpot, check the traffic for the evening obligation, all while trying to keep the dog corralled and off the counter from snatching food every 3 seconds. Boom, roasted. In those moments where I can zip through tasks as fast as you can say “macarena”, I tend to take on a feeling of accomplishment, capacity, strength. There’s something about it that energizes and motivates me at the same time.

At the end of the same breath, I am the first one to say “Multitasking is impossible! It is literally your brain switching from multiple tasks back and forth very quickly, with an inability to be fully present and engaged in each task!” Oh, how truly educated and hypocritical I sound. Thank you, dear readers, for sticking with me.

However, in this season of life there has been a shift. I am finding myself more and more taking increased stock in the slower moments; those moments that are less planned and more organic, the moments that allow for breathing room rather than a cram session, those moments that allow for meaningful connection to those I surround myself with daily, but sometimes struggle with that eyeball-to-eyeball contact that I love oh so much.

Those that know me well would react in this fashion:  “Huh? That isn’t you. Are you feeling okay? Do you need to tell me something?”

Oy vey.

Needless to say, slowing down and finding beauty in the slow moments is not something that comes very naturally to me. I’m the type of person that becomes irritated if someone takes to long to respond to my question, let alone allow for breathing room and silence on purpose. However, some of my most favorite recent memories have happened in the form of slow moments:

  • Going for coffee with a novel in hand and having absolutely no plan of when to return to the house
  • Crafting a beautiful and tasty brunch, sitting at the table with coffee and said brunch (and placemats people, placemats!), without interruption or talk of what is happening within the next few hours while gathering around the table
  • Going to an evening worship service without needing to be “on” in the form of contributing musically or having to be detail oriented for the service
  • Dinners with multiple courses in the form of salads, mains, and desserts without thinking twice about what time this might be cutting into
  • Blocking off an evening to be spontaneous (also, what’s that?)

Moments that used to seem like time-wasters are now seeming like time-enhancers. More than that, they are seeming essential, like breath into the schedule allowing space into the mind and the soul to be filled with what the hectic nature of this life cannot give us.

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Most significantly, God tends to reveal Himself to us in the silence rather than in the screams of this universe. We do in fact need to exchange whispers with Him before going out and immersing ourselves in the noise this world has to offer us.

Who would have thought?

Stay tuned,

-AF.

Don’t call me crazy: Why I don’t set New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year again, dears—the ringing in of the New Year! For many people, the New Year marks a time for a fresh start, a “clean slate,” and the opportunity to make some changes in the days to come. But how often do we find ourselves extremely motivated and eager at the idea of this venture, but struggle to carry out these changes on a consistent basis, let alone for very long?

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I call this the “New Year’s Resolution Syndrome” (OK, so it’s not TRULY an official name, but let me explain!).

We tend to see the New Year in the way that I just described above. While this view is not false or negative, it does not take into account the HOW factor: how we will plan to maintain our new positive habits or new perspectives once the luster of the “New Year” wears off. We become giddy with idea of all the bright and shiny new habits we can begin to form, and we look at the year as a whole while setting monumental (and oftentimes overly lofty) goals for ourselves. And once the sparkle wears off, it can leave us feeling unmotivated and defeated. We’ve all seen this before—how great we are doing in January! And then once the middle of February rolls around…we struggle, start to fall off of the “resolutions horse,” and lose sight of what we set out to do in the first place.

This happens because we can unintentionally set ourselves up for a few common mishaps:

  • Setting a goal without breaking down the steps of how we will go about achieving it
  • Setting large goals without breaking down smaller goal “milestones” in order to keep us on track
  • Seeing the “big picture” without seeing the various components of the “journey”
  • Using “New Year’s Resolution” time as the only time we set goals for ourselves
  • Not focusing enough on the “why” behind our goal

We tend to do these things without even realizing—because goal-setting is positive, right? What we tend to overlook is the fact that sometimes we set goals in which we actually inhibit ourselves instead of empower ourselves. Goal-setting is a tricky science, but luckily there are positive methods for goal-setting that have the power to empower, increasing the likelihood of sticking to goals, which makes change more likely to be successful.

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Let’s bust through some of these goal-setting myths that tend to center around New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Setting a goal without breaking down the steps of how we will go about achieving it. This tends to happen when we become very excited around New Year’s, but what we fail to do is further examine the HOW factor. While I’m definitely not knocking enthusiasm, the HOW is equally as important.

Instead, try this: Remember to ask yourself, “Do I know what it will take to work toward this goal? What other changes might I need to make as a result of this intended change? How will I fit creating these habits into my schedule?” It may be helpful to write these down as they are important factors of goal success! Remembering the HOW will aid the goal into coming into fruition.

  • Setting large goals without breaking down smaller goal “milestones” in order to keep us on track. While I agree with the statement that you need to have a clear idea of where you are going in order to be able to guide yourself toward your goal destination, when we forget to keep track of the mile-markers along the way, we sometimes veer off of our goal path and into a ditch of disaster! Focusing only on the end of the goal (or the completion state of the goal) will not be enough.

Instead, try this: Think of your goal-setting process as creating a roadmap. Just like on road trips, you have to plan to make those necessary stops along the way in addition to your final destination. Breaking down your goal destination into smaller steps helps your goal seem more manageable. It will also prompt action in order to reach smaller steps that compile into your goal. This method helps keep the motivation going, and gives you opportunities to celebrate the smaller successes in order to keep you on track and keep the motivation flowing (even when the New Year’s hype wears off)!

  • Seeing the “big picture” without seeing various components of the “journey.” This is very similar to the points above. When we only have our “end point” in sight, the journey or the smaller successes can be overlooked, and we tend to miss out on the enjoyment of working toward our goals.

Instead, try this: Don’t allow yourself to miss out on the blessings that are in the journey! While it is a wonderful feeling to accomplish the end stage of your goals, there is beauty in the transitions, the growth, and the journey. Allow yourself to embrace the steps along the way, and reflect on the changes you are not only seeing but feeling as a result of all your hard work. Don’t forget to praise yourself for the smaller victories!

  • Using “New Year’s Resolution” time as the only time we set goals for ourselves. Out of all of these goal-setting myths, this one may be the most ironic. It passes under our radar because we view goal-setting in general as positive. However, when we center on New Year’s as the only (or most monumental) time for goal-setting, we place ourselves in a situation that is hard to live up to. In addition, once the hype wears off, so can our goal-work and motivation.

Instead, try this: Try making a habit of employing goal-setting at various times during the year. This can be on a monthly, or even weekly, basis. In this sense, we create a habit and (just as importantly) a mindset of goal-setting that can carry through the entire year. In utilizing this technique, we create more opportunities for success, constant reflection, and re-evaluation of our mindset and habits, along with opportunities to see our work pay off and our motivation to hold steady. Don’t be afraid to scale back the “New Year’s Resolutions” to monthly goal guideposts in order to further prompt your growth and dedication!

  • Not focusing enough on the “why” behind our goal. It’s difficult to stay motivated, energized, and dedicated toward a cause unless we know the purpose behind our activity. We tend to make our main motivator behind setting New Year’s Resolutions as “Because it’s the New Year! I want a fresh start. That’s what you do at this time of year.” When that is our largest motivation for our goals, we struggle to keep those as priorities and tend to not stay on track for very long.

Instead, try this: Firmly establish your “why” behind your goals. Explore goal options that you have a personal tie to, something that tugs at the inner part of you. Challenge yourself to find inner motivation toward your goals that goes beyond the specific time of the year. These goals will speak so much more to us and pull us toward action if we feel personally and emotionally connected to our “why” factor.
While the New Year is an excellent time to think about new beginnings, opportunities, and all the blessings God has for us, it doesn’t have to end around mid-February! We were made for more. Busting through the “myths” of goal-setting and employing techniques that aid in consistent growth and motivation have the power to give us the consistency that we crave. Now get ready, get set, get going! The Lord’s richest blessings on all you seek in His name.

Stay tuned,

 

Saying it Out-Loud

Boy. It’s been a minute, hasn’t it?

It’s definitely been several weeks since I’ve sat down and allowed my fingers to glide along the keyboard in the form of one of these blog posts. We all have those seasons, don’t we?

Truth be told, my absence from writing for the past few weeks had nothing to do with the jam-packed nature of the weeks that have completed (in fact, things have slowed down quite a bit in the past few weeks-IMAGINE THAT). If anything, it was because I was feeling consumed by something I couldn’t quite identify until recently.

These past couple weeks have been difficult. And I mean difficult in a different kind of way than I’m used to handling. I found myself experiencing emotional sensations and behavioral changes that I tend to rarely see in myself. It wasn’t anything super intense-but then again, here I go already with “diminishing” that this could actually be a reality for me. Typing this out signifies that what I’m feeling is real, and while it is not what I’m used to experiencing (almost at the other end of the spectrum for me), it’s still my reality, pure and simple, at this point in time.

If you’ve been following my blog fairly closely, will will know that I’ve identified with experiencing anxiety for many years-dating back even further the more and more I examine it. I was at a place where I was proud of how I was managing this, and even got as far as experiencing little to no anxiety during the wedding planning prep (which is HUGE!). However, I find myself today facing a completely different battle, one that I didn’t think I would be facing at this time in life. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is just mearly not what I expected.

Depression is gripping me right now.

What I’m experiencing right now can be described as this (and maybe it’s not what you’d typically think of when you think of depression):

  • Finding it hard to care about…well, anything at all.
  • Low motivation for even the most simple of tasks, such as doing the dishes, checking my e-mail, taking a shower (I promise I’m following through with the last one 🙂 )
  • Extreme pitfalls in energy. I’m talking waking up feeling like I only slept 10 minutes. Falling asleep on the couch at 8pm sort of exhausted.
  • Wanting to just “lay around” or engage in numbing behaviors (mindless TV, eating crappy foods, no conversations, drinking, etc)
  • Feelings of powerlessness-like I’m feeling rooted in my circumstances and there is nothing I can do about them (while I know this is not true to reality)
  • Low sex drive (and extreme guilt over how this may be affecting my spouse. Especially since we are newlyweds. I feel a lot of shame over that right now.)
  • Weight gain (I’ve gained back 25 pounds of my 83 pounds lost. The internal dialogue I’m having with myself over this right now is not pretty)
  • Irritability/easily angered (enough for loved ones to notice and wonder what’s happening)

I’ll say one thing’s for sure: I’m not feeling sad. In fact, I’m not really feeling like I’m feeling anything at all. I’m feeling numb. 

And honestly, I just want to feel something. 

I’m not feeling unsafe. I’m not having unsafe thoughts-it’s not to that degree. But truly, I’m feeling numb. And right now, that’s the reality.

One night a few weeks ago, I told my husband “I really do want to feel better”. And for the first time in months, tears slowly trickled down my cheeks. I nuzzled my head into his chest and just rested with the hope that he knows I’m trying to do the best I can. And that I want to do more. For him. For me. He’s the most understanding man I’ve ever met. It was the most connected I’ve felt to him in weeks due to the depression.

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A couple weeks ago I had a thought while I was sitting in my office: “What if I just quit my job? Maybe I should do that.” I found myself wondering where is this coming from?love my job.

It was at that moment where I felt like someone else. Like someone not me. 

I e-mailed my therapist-the one that I have so much gratitude towards for helping me thrive above my anxiety. I described what I was experiencing, and her words confirmed what my heart was believing to be true:

“Hun, this sounds more like depression to me.”

Saying it out-loud makes it real.

 

And it’s okay. It’s okay to identify. It’s okay to keep coping. It’s okay to recognize that brokenness is part of our common tie to humanity.

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I was hesitant to publish this post; in fact, I had written this post several weeks back and kept it in my drafts folder, just sitting there. I think there will always be a part of me that leans away before leaning into vulnerability. Since I have written this, the past few weeks have appeared to look a bit “lighter”. We’ve had some unexpected challenges come our way, financially, medically, and work-wise. However, I still find myself able to stay afloat (some days it sure ain’t pretty), and for that I have to thank my Savior as well as my spouse, loving in-laws, and friends.

Sometimes the heavy weight is a reminder of the only One who can lift that from us. As well as the reminder that we are not meant to shoulder burdens alone.

Don’t allow yourself to feel alone in the pain-that is so far from the truth. It may not seem that way sometimes, but we are tied to something and someone SO much greater than ourselves.

 

And, people-if we truly let them-can surprise us with how much love and care they pour into us.

Always chugging on,

-AF

 

“Stuck” vs. Redeemed

Do you ever have that far too familiar feeling of being stuck?

Ugh. Such an icky feeling.

It’s a feeling that grips you on such a deep level, even down to your very soul. I think of how often I can find myself falling into the glamorous trap of this feeling. The past week, I’ve been noticing that something just feels off. After work today, sitting on our balcony gulping in the fragrance of the fresh, cool air, lager in hand (because I can never recognize anything anywhere besides in the stillness), I found myself caught up in this very internal monologue:

“I just feel so stuck in everything right now”.

Sometimes, we get to a point where everything feels like a chore. Being social. Folding the laundry. Finishing the dishes that are piling up well beyond what is characteristic. Accepting physical touch. Looking in the mirror. Taking a shower. Being “on” at your place of employment. Doing what we enjoy. Showing affirmation to loved ones.

These are all “good” things. But when we dwell and sink into this “stuck” feeling, even the good things seem like a chore.

We find ourselves asking “what’s the point?” far more than we’d care to experience.

Call it depression. Call it overwhelm. Call it hopelessness. Whatever you call it, the theme remains the same: we tend to feel stuck in our own circumstances.

And without even realizing it, mediating on this mindset strips away all of our power to either a) do something about it, b) cope with it, or c) ask for help through it as we walk through the trenches.

So we isolate. We stuff it down. We wait for it to pass.

Why are we so afraid to identify this as feeling “stuck” and admit that we are there in our mind and heart? Why can’t we say this to others?

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I’m not downplaying suffering. Because it’s real. And it happens. But where’s gratitude in this mindset? We say “there’s not enough room for it”. However, that’s the only thing that tends to bring us out.

I had a woman in my office the other day. She says to me, “I’m down to a balance of negative 445 dollars in my bank account. But I have to keep going because my son, daughter, and husband need me to. I can’t let that rule me right now”.

We have a friend of ours that just lost her unborn baby. 8 months pregnant, and her baby was called home to heaven while still in her precious, life-preserving womb, with absolutely no warning. She still had to give birth. The grief is unimaginable.

I heard a story from a neighbor last night of how she was attacked by a dog. And her own dog jumped in the way of the attack, taking the pain and the gnashing in the place of her owner. What bravery and selflessness. From an animal who has never spoken a direct word to her owner.

The people God has placed me to walk with humble me. They ground me. They give me perspective.

We must saturate ourselves in the truth of our Lord’s life-giving, redemptive, gracious, and all-encompassing love and power that takes us beyond any circumstance we may be experiencing. 

I have to continually challenge and remind myself that God is ENOUGH for me. That He can do MORE than I ever can. And that is why my ultimate yardstick of “how am I doing” should be surrounding His grace and mercy rather than my circumstances.

Feeling down is okay. Feeling let down is normal. Brokenness is welcome. God understands that. He overcame that. He wraps you in grace through that. He cherishes your heart and mind in the midst of that.

Praise be to Him.

Stay tuned,

-AF

 

 

 

Myth-Busters: Goal-Setting Style-How Might I be Getting in My Own Way?

It’s that time of year again, folks—the nearing of the wrap-up of summer (bummers. Why did I have to go there, right?)! For many people, this time of year marks a time for a fresh start into fall, a “clean slate” for some, and the opportunity to make some changes in the days to come. But how often do we find ourselves extremely motivated and eager at the idea of this venture, but struggle to carry out these changes on a consistent basis, let alone for very long?

I call this the “idealism syndrome” (OK, so it’s not TRULY an official name, but let me explain!).

We tend to see this time of year in the way that I just described above. While this view is not false or negative, it does not take into account the HOW factor: how we will plan to maintain our new positive habits or new perspectives once the luster of the “new changes” wears off. We become giddy with idea of all the bright and shiny new habits we can begin to form, and we look at this time as a whole while setting monumental (and oftentimes overly lofty) goals for ourselves. And once the sparkle wears off, it can leave us feeling unmotivated and defeated. We’ve all seen this before—how great we are doing in the beginning! And then once the middle of October rolls around…we struggle, start to fall off of the “changes galore horse,” and lose sight of what we set out to do in the first place.

This happens because we can unintentionally set ourselves up for a few common mishaps:

  • Setting a goal without breaking down the steps of how we will go about achieving it
  • Setting large goals without breaking down smaller goal “milestones” in order to keep us on track
  • Seeing the “big picture” without seeing the various components of the “journey”
  • Using “fresh start to fall” time as the only time we set goals for ourselves (or even “New Year’s Resolution” time)
  • Not focusing enough on the “why” behind our goal

We tend to do these things without even realizing—because goal-setting is positive, right? What we tend to overlook is the fact that sometimes we set goals in which we actually inhibit ourselves instead of empower ourselves. Goal-setting is a tricky science, but luckily there are positive methods for goal-setting that have the power to empower,increasing the likelihood of sticking to goals, which makes change more likely to be successful.

Let’s bust through some of these goal-setting myths that tend to center around this time of year:

Setting a goal without breaking down the steps of how we will go about achieving it.This tends to happen when we become very excited around the kick-off to fall, but what we fail to do is further examine the HOW factor. While I’m definitely not knocking enthusiasm, the HOW is equally as important.

  • Instead, try this: Remember to ask yourself, “Do I know what it will take to work toward this goal? What other changes might I need to make as a result of this intended change? How will I fit creating these habits into my schedule?” It may be helpful to write these down as they are important factors of goal success! Remembering the HOW will aid the goal into coming into fruition.

Setting large goals without breaking down smaller goal “milestones” in order to keep us on track. While I agree with the statement that you need to have a clear idea of where you are going in order to be able to guide yourself toward your goal destination, when we forget to keep track of the mile-markers along the way, we sometimes veer off of our goal path and into a ditch of disaster! Focusing only on the end of the goal (or the completion state of the goal) will not be enough.

  • Instead, try this: Think of your goal-setting process as creating a roadmap. Just like on road trips, you have to plan to make those necessary stops along the way in addition to your final destination. Breaking down your goal destination into smaller steps helps your goal seem more manageable. It will also prompt action in order to reach smaller steps that compile into your goal. This method helps keep the motivation going, and gives you opportunities to celebrate the smaller successes in order to keep you on track and keep the motivation flowing (even when “new goals” hype wears off)!

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Seeing the “big picture” without seeing various components of the “journey.” This is very similar to the points above. When we only have our “end point” in sight, the journey or the smaller successes can be overlooked, and we tend to miss out on the enjoyment of working toward our goals.

  • Instead, try this: Don’t allow yourself to miss out on the blessings that are in the journey! While it is a wonderful feeling to accomplish the end stage of your goals, there is beauty in the transitions, the growth, and the journey. Allow yourself to embrace the steps along the way, and reflect on the changes you are not only seeing but feeling as a result of all your hard work. Don’t forget to praise yourself for the smaller victories!

Using “fresh start” time as the only time we set goals for ourselves. Out of all of these goal-setting myths, this one may be the most ironic. It passes under our radar because we view goal-setting in general as positive. However, when we center on kick-off to fall as the only (or most monumental) time for goal-setting, we place ourselves in a situation that is hard to live up to. In addition, once the hype wears off, so can our goal-work and motivation.

  • Instead, try this: Try making a habit of employing goal-setting at various times during the year. This can be on a monthly, or even weekly, basis. In this sense, we create a habit and (just as importantly) a mindset of goal-setting that can carry through the entire year. In utilizing this technique, we create more opportunities for success, constant reflection, and re-evaluation of our mindset and habits, along with opportunities to see our work pay off and our motivation to hold steady. Don’t be afraid to scale back the “big idea goals” to monthly goal guideposts in order to further prompt your growth and dedication!

Not focusing enough on the “why” behind our goal. It’s difficult to stay motivated, energized, and dedicated toward a cause unless we know the purpose behind our activity. We tend to make our main motivator behind setting fall goals as “Because it’s the moving into the new season! I want a fresh start. That’s what you do at this time of year.” When that is our largest motivation for our goals, we struggle to keep those as priorities and tend to not stay on track for very long.

  • Instead, try this: Firmly establish your “why” behind your goals. Explore goal options that you have a personal tie to, something that tugs at the inner part of you. Challenge yourself to find inner motivation toward your goals that goes beyond the specific time of the year. These goals will speak so much more to us and pull us toward action if we feel personally and emotionally connected to our “why” factor.

While the wrap of of summer is an excellent time to think about new beginnings, opportunities, and all the blessings God has for us, it doesn’t have to end around mid-October! We were made for more. Busting through the “myths” of goal-setting and employing techniques that aid in consistent growth and motivation have the power to give us the consistency that we crave. Now get ready, get set, get going! The Lord’s richest blessings on all you seek in His name.

Stay tuned,

-AF

When We Aren’t at “Our Best”

Sometimes, my mind goes to the most random places.

Like on my commute to work this morning, for example. I can’t even truly explain what the exact string of words and images were that got me on this thought, but there it was, bare and exposed in my mind:

  • “What if something happens to my husband on his drive to his meetings?”
  • “What if I don’t find out about it until hours later because I’m at work?”
  • “What if he gets hurt and they can’t identify who he is, and then I don’t find out for hours and HOURS later?”
  • “I can’t even remember what he was wearing this morning….And what if that’s what they ask me to identify him by when he is found hurt?”

oh my good GOODNESS!! What an absolutely turbulent and horrible place my mind decided to go to this morning as I was making my way down the highway to get to my ever-familiar place we dub “the office”.

That’s one of the ways my anxiety likes to spike within me: getting me on a train to rumination-station, allowing my mind to explore areas that have no reasonable grounding and get me all up in a tizzy.

Leading me to worry

Leading me to doubt.

Leading me to feel desperate.

However, what stuck out to me about this (even more than the “my mind is tail-spinning in a million directions and there is absolutely no reason to be thinking this way”) was the fact that I identified with not being able to recount what my husband was wearing this morning as he walked out the door for work.

Look at me, two posts ago writing about how important it is to be “eyeball to eyeball” with someone, and here I am unable to describe what my husband was wearing this morning.

This blog humbles me. I pray it humbles you, too.

What an absolute BLESSING of a man my spouse is. It pains me to say that I don’t think he has had me at “my best” the first few months of our marriage: tired, run down, sick a few times (why does this happen in summer?!), all that jazz.

Why do we feel the need to constantly apologize for not being at our “best”?

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I mean, isn’t that a natural part of life? Isn’t that one of the absolute realities of relationships and marriage, is that we can’t always be at our best, even for those we love the most? 

Instead of faulting ourselves for constantly not being “at our best”, can we embrace the unconditional nature of the love we are given by those who can see us at our worst and love us as if we are at our best?

For example, me not looking up at my husband for an entire morning to know what he is wearing because I’m running back and forth to the bathroom being sick, trying to get ready for work, and have the dog barking her head off at absolutely nothing?

(This is nowhere near my worst, by the way. Oh hunnies, stay tuned.)

What I’m trying to say is, yes we can recognize our shortcomings, yes we can aim to improve upon those, but do we constantly have to berate ourselves for not being “our best”?

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There is something truly healing about embracing our brokenness rather than feeling shamed by it. It truly can give someone the privilege of “going second” (words of wisdom), meaning, allowing them to be vulnerable as well through paving the path with your example that we, too, are encouraged to embrace the authenticity of brokenness.

Because we are human.

Because we can’t always be at our best. We won’t.

And thank God that we don’t have to be.

 

Stay tuned,

-AF

Dwell, Abide, and Delight

Lately, this verse has been ever-present in my mind:

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

I think it’s more than fair to say that when life throws us curveballs, we either

  1. a. Hold on to Christ for dear life, leaning into him for that necessary guidance, or
  2. b. Shift our focus from him to the overwhelming stressors this earthly life is throwing at us.

It is so easy to get clouded by the demands of this world. I speak from personal experience as a fellow sinner, recovering perfectionist, and someone that has a slightly (or more) unhealthy relationship with control. One of the first things to go out the window when life appears to be in a constant state of overwhelm is my intentionality with fostering my personal relationship with Christ. I wish I could say that I never fall into this trap of getting wrapped up in what the world is asking of me vs. seeking God’s kingdom first. But truly, my sinful self at times gets off track, causing my focus to shift from the security I find in Christ to the endless “to do’s” and the mindset of “how can this ever be accomplished?!”

Which tailspins the anxiety. Which catalysts the rushing. Which leads to the social neglect. Which ends up in depletion.

There are some telltale warning signs that occur when our focus is a bit off-kilter. Maybe you’ve experienced them:

  • Fatigue
  • A sense of overwhelming worry
  • Feeling “burdened” by life; feeling a heavy weight of obligation
  • Living a more “rushed” lifestyle—finding very little wiggle room in which to be intentional about learning from God’s Word
  • Expressing more “If only this would happen…” vs. “I’m so grateful that…”

Sound familiar? I’m sure by now we know these all too well. These feelings or behaviors start to become “red flags” that something is out of balance. More times than not, our overwhelm, ironically, overshadows our ability to deliberately foster our personal relationship with our loving God.

That’s where this verse from Psalms that I mentioned above comes into play. It is something so simply stated, but it truly packs a punch in the comfort department. And it starts off with such a refreshing word: delight. How can one say this word and not feel a sense of relief? Let’s zone in on this word—an interpretation of the word “delight” in this context may be “to find the purest joy in, or “to lovingly and earnestly invest yourself in.” In essence, to throw ourselves fully into—emotionally, spiritually, and mentally—the presence of God and his everlasting promises. “Delighting ourselves” in him illustrates us as his children, seeking first his will and comfort, and finding the peace and joy that comes from the ever-fervent guidance of our heavenly Father.

Doing this requires our recognition of our need for a Savior (especially during the more trying times) as well as the motivation to constantly foster our spiritual relationship with him in order to have a sense of comfort carry over into every aspect of our earthly lives—including the overwhelm! And doing this requires both time in our minds and time on our calendars.

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Whew. Not an easy balance to maintain, especially when life appears to get more and more hectic each day, making a sustainable lifestyle that includes spiritual growth through Christ quite challenging. As Christ’s children in an age of “I need this done yesterday” and constant overload, what are some habits we can incorporate to keep our focus on delighting ourselves in him?

  • Pick a verse of the day to meditate on. While reading sections of Scripture in a devotion is a wonderful way to foster our relationship with Christ, for the “pulled in a million different ways” individual, more focused and in-depth meditation on smaller passages can be carried out throughout the day outside of devotional time. For example, the passage from Psalms above can be meditated on throughout the day. Placing this passage as an hourly reminder on your phone or writing it on a sticky note and placing it on your computer desk or on your planner (things we look at numerous times throughout the day) are small reminders to keep God’s Word at the forefront of our minds all day long, even when our schedule gets hectic. This provides the intentionality factor of actively opening up our hearts to what the Lord is telling us through his Word and how it can be applied to the everyday happenings of our lives. Biblegateway.com has a verse of the day each day to help get you going!
  • Carry your Bible with you to use as you travel throughout the day. This is something a friend of mine told me that I thought was extremely unique. Even the physical weight of an object has the ability to shift our focus onto what really matters. The act of carrying your Bible with you as you venture to work, pick up the kids, head to the gym, and so on and so forth is a constant reminder to keep our eyes open to how Christ is revealing his mercy to us each day.
  • Have a Christian playlist geared up and ready to go. Music is a wonderful way that God reveals himself to us! There are many places that we can incorporate music into our daily routine: in the car as we sit through our morning traffic routine, in the office during our lunch break, and even during our exercise routines. Having music ready to go that speaks of Christ’s love and sacrifice and encourages us to seek him in his Word is a wonderful reminder of the focus we ought to have each day. AND this is a fun and energy-boosting way to hear of God’s promises for us!
  • Utilize transitions as time for brief prayer. There are many times during our workdays in which we transition between activities or move from place to place. Utilizing these time periods as times to spend a few minutes in prayer with our God (even if it’s just to say “thank you!” or “Lord, let me be your vessel”) can aid us in keeping God as the focus of our day even in the hustle and bustle of life.

Each of the above examples can be done with a sense of joy, as Christ provides us with the comfort that the world cannot give. One of the opportunities we receive from our God is the ability to come into his presence no matter where we are during the day: God can be seen in the struggle of work deadlines, in the abundance of activities to get the children to, and even in the busyness of a packed schedule. We need to delight ourselves in him fully and intentionally in order to dwell in the peace that comes from seeking him out in unique ways.

Join me this week in delighting yourself in the ever-comforting presence of the Lord! It is amazing how we can thrive under the hectic demands of this world when we are first delighting ourselves in our relationship with God and the comfort only he can provide. It is through the strength of God that we persevere, and it is through his grace that he restores our hearts and minds.

May He always bless our mess.

Stay tuned,

-AF