Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Browsing Category Soulful Simplicity

Life & Faith / Soulful Simplicity

Soulful Simplicity with Purpose

Welcome friends.

This is day 31 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October, and finishing slightly after the end of October. Real life. The whole series can be found here, and I hope you find it enriching and encouraging. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.

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In closing out this series, I wanted to share a few last thoughts with you. First of all, thank you to those of you who have cheered me through this month. I have learned so much during this month or writing intentionally every day, and I would not have been able to make it over a few of the bumps I hit without the encouragement, prayers, and support of so many friends. I decided to do Write 31 Days on a bit of a whim, but in hindsight, I realize that God knew I needed a little space to spread my wings out a little and see that I can do this. I can write as a mom of 6 littles. It might be a little unconventional, and I might have to be creative about things from time to time, but I am encouraged to see that I can do it.

Isn’t it interesting that once you wholeheartedly believe you can do something, you have a lot more wind in your sails to follow through? That’s where I hope some of you have landed at the end of this series. I hope you see the beauty in a soulfully-simplified life and the reality that you can start taking small steps toward freedom, peace, hope, and joy….today. One small step is all it takes to get started.

The point of Soulful Simplicity is not conformity to an ideal. It is not about working harder to achieve a standard (that always feels a bit out of reach), or feeling guilty for your comfortable life. Soulful simplicity is about thoughtfully curating your life in such a way that you can live from the most meaningful place and reap the long-term benefits from the intentional choices you make.

Soulful simplicity is about healing and thriving, with purpose, on purpose.

I have myself been surprised at how deeply writing this series has hit me. I’ve been on a simplicity journey for a long time, but there are layers, friends. Many, many layers. As soon as you think you are at a destination, you might discover—nope there is more to the journey than you anticipated. It is a gift to continue discovering the riches of God’s wisdom in our lives, especially in unexpected ways, which is exactly what I have experienced during this writing challenge. There are new ways I have in mind to simplify my heart and home going forward.

I pray that wherever you are in your journey, you would find clarity for your best next-step toward soulful simplicity, and that you would go forward with courage and boldness.

If there is anything I’ve covered in this series that you are interested to dive into a little more or if you have questions you’d like to ask on the subject of Soulful Simplicity, please be in touch. I’d be so glad to hear from you.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:25-30 NASB

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I have some exciting things to share in the near future, and would love for you to be among the first to hear about them. If you’re so inclined, please sign up for my email newsletter here and I’ll send out updates as they become available. Your address will never be shared. Thanks!

Life & Faith / Soulful Simplicity

Behind the Scenes of Soulful Simplicity

Welcome friends.

This is day 30 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October. The series can be found here, and I hope you find it enriching and encouraging. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.

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In order to do this Write 31 Days challenge, I tucked little bits of writing time in every available space throughout the month. I’ve kept slips of paper on the counter to write while I am cooking a meal and simultaneously doing the dishes, stopping sporadically to jot down thoughts to include on a topic.

I stayed up for hours after little ones went to bed. Sometimes I wrote on my laptop upstairs. Sometimes I wrote in odd places around the house. Surrounded by darkness and soundly sleeping children, I crouched at the foot of my stairs with a notebook and pen in hand, light shining through a crack in the door onto the page while I scratched out the things from my heart that I wanted you to know.

I sat on the floor while folding laundry, stopping periodically to record a thought before coming back to the pile.

I made notes while sitting in church. I made notes while standing in a busy waiting area during a 40-minute wait for a table—my notebook resting on the handlebar of the stroller where my youngest cooed and nibbled on cheerios I popped into his mouth every few minutes, the other kids scuttling around the lobby of Red Robin. I stopped my moving vehicle with six kids in the back, pulling over to the side of the road because I had something to add to my notes for an entry.

I strapped my baby to my back in a carrier so I could sit and type what I needed to without him screaming or prowling about the common area finding every tiny thing left on the floor while my attention was here. On the page. Pouring out.

I sat in my downstairs bathroom with a pen and journal beside me while I picked nits out of my 2 year old’s hair—also tediously checking every other head in the house for six hours—and managed to handle a light case of lice in one dedicated day (plus copious amounts of laundering and re-checking heads for weeks afterward). I’m pretty much a lice expert now. (Not really, but if you ever get it, I will tell you what it takes to kick it fast!)

I kept my notes by my side while my children worked through their english and math lessons. I canceled plans to be places I wanted to be—sometimes by choice, other times because of illness—in order to write.

I stayed up late into the night again and again to bring my notes together in some coherent sentences, and went to sleep at the same time as my husband about two times this entire month. That is what it has looked like to bring you this series, which I offer to you with love. I hope you have found it useful.

This time has been precious, sacred, and deeply meaningful to me.

Soon I will be making some small changes to my blog sidebar, and I am planning to send email newsletters to those who would like to receive updates on recent blog posts and other relevant news. If you wish to receive updates on individual posts, I recommend using Feedly or Bloglovin’, but if you’re fine with hearing from me every 1-2 weeks or so, subscribing to my email newsletter would be your best bet.

Lastly, I want to let you know that hearing from you encourages me. When you read something that resonates, it helps to know. When you share your stories and hearts with me, I am deeply encouraged. I am honored by the time you would spend to read my words, by the ways you reach out to connect, and I hope that you’ll continue doing both as I keep on this journey.

Thank you so much for your encouragement.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6

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I have some exciting things to share in the near future, and would love for you to be among the first to hear about them. If you’re so inclined, please sign up for my email newsletter here and I’ll send out updates as they become available. Your address will never be shared. Thanks!

Life & Faith / Motherhood / Soulful Simplicity

A Simplicity Journey

Welcome friends.

This is day 29 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October. The series can be found here, and I hope you find it enriching and encouraging. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.

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I’ve been taking small steps toward simplicity every day for half of my life.

When I started, I wouldn’t have called it simplicity. It looked more like survival. I was the oldest child in a family fractured by divorce, my heart torn into five pieces that will never find their way back to the same original shape. I navigated my last years of high-school, attempting to feel as little as possible so I didn’t hurt so much. I chose Jesus for myself in that time, and have never regretted it a single day.

After survival, the steps looked like grief. When I left my mother’s home and went to college, I let the dam finally break and cried buckets of tears for months. I cried daily, prayed often, and poured out my sorrows into songs that I wrote with a sweet friend who journeyed alongside me through that tough season and every season forward.

After grief, the steps looked like drama. A young man sought my hand in marriage and I was all kinds of terrified about it. I tried sending him another direction. I tried to deflect his love with excuses and intensive conversations, but the good thing was: for the first time, I was thinking about my heart and what I wanted for it. In the end, he won me over and has added good things to my life ever since.

After drama, the steps looked like loneliness. I spent my first year of motherhood in an unfamiliar city without an established community to look to for support. I was 23 and knew nothing about raising a child, only that the deafening silence of being home alone with her for hours a day made me feel desperate to fill the empty space with anything. Except I couldn’t. For the first time, I tasted what stillness of the soul can accomplish…how margin and whitespace makes room for deep work within my heart.

After loneliness, the steps looked like surrender. The news of a third baby felt initially like an ill-timed joke, falling in the middle of our very poorest, most vulnerable time as a family. It was no joke, and after a stretch of wrestling with God about that timing, I started embracing the reality that I could argue with God about what is good for me, or I could give myself to the tasks He put before me. I chose to give myself to it.

After surrender, the steps looked like grace. I grew in faithfulness to my mothering task, and started learning about what it might look like to put my whole heart into the purpose of seeking the highest good for my family, even if it meant humbling myself, and learning how to receive what God gives with gratitude despite the times I do not completely understand it. I learned how to value small things done with great love.

After grace, the steps looked like diligence. I dealt with a minor health issue through my fifth pregnancy, and learned how to create new habits and live by my priorities like never before. I discovered a strength in me I didn’t know was there.

After diligence, the steps looked like joy, and that is where I currently stay; aware that life is a gift and that God really does heal, mend, restore, and redeem. I am walking proof of it.

Soulful simplicity is a journey, not a destination.

It is not an ideal to be worshiped, or an island to land on. It is an invitation to discover the peace, goodness, and healing of God in your own everyday life.

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 1:13-18

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I have some exciting things to share in the near future, and would love for you to be among the first to hear about them. If you’re so inclined, please sign up for my email newsletter here and I’ll send out updates as they become available. Your address will never be shared. Thanks!

Life & Faith / Motherhood / Soulful Simplicity

Simple, Faithful Heart

Welcome friends.

This is day 28 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October. The series can be found here, and I hope you find it enriching and encouraging. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.

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“It is night. I sit, reclined with baby in arms, awake with my eyes closed. There is a slight give in the chair, and I bounce rhythmically to the sound of easygoing rain. Only glass between us, the sky-water patters near to the ears and the soul in the otherwise quiet house…I recognize am not called to live a comfortable life, but one that is fruitful and marked by faithfulness, which sounds a lot less glamorous than the comfortable alternative. I struggle to lay down my pride, take up a humility that is beyond me, and order my life in such a way that my garden is well-tended. Consistent, constant, faithful, committed, thorough, invested, loving, patient, grateful. Jesus Himself, said that He did not come to be served, to but serve and give His life as a ransom for many. I hold those words to my heart and hope they sink in where I can learn to be the same kind of person, no matter the weather.” (from Rain and Rocking, February 2015)

Faithfulness is the natural result of a soulfully-simplified life. If I want to be a faithful person, I begin by simplifying my heart and home. I see my purpose, and I know my priorities. I faithfully attend the tasks required to tend them, even if those same tasks require much from me.

My life is not complicated by unnecessary commitments, or overburdened by excess things.

I don’t take my cues from social media and I don’t have to prove myself ‘enough’, but instead show myself capable, willing, and faithful in the small things. I can focus on what I’m actually responsible for and get rid of the rest.

I do not exhaust myself for pursuits that don’t make the list of my highest priorities, and I don’t find myself weary at the end of the day for no good reason.

I am not easily blown off course because the ties that would tug on me from this way or that have no hold here.

For you who long for this kind of peace, this kind of wellness within your soul, this kind of order within your home, I encourage you to be still, quiet your heart, and seek God. Ask Him for help. Ask Him for His peace, His wholeness, and His love to sink in to the deepest places. Pursue simplicity, one step at a time, and see if you do not discover the upside-down, beautiful, humble road to success in your pursuits.

“He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might, He increases power.” Isaiah 40:29

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I have some exciting things to share in the near future, and would love for you to be among the first to hear about them. If you’re so inclined, please sign up for my email newsletter here and I’ll send out updates as they become available. Your address will never be shared. Thanks!

Life & Faith / Soulful Simplicity

Comparison vs. Simplicity

Welcome friends.

This is day 27 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October. The series can be found here, and I hope you find it enriching and encouraging. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.

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It only takes a few minutes on social media before you feel a pang.

Comparison.

You see women who are fit, beautiful, and bold. You see their flawless homes and their cherub children, their incredible vacations, and you immediately feel insecure, inadequate, and unable to keep hold of contentment for yourself. You may begin feeling sorry for yourself, or you might find something about those to whom you are comparing and become hyper-critical of them. It always swings one way or the other.

Comparison brings about discontentment, opens the door negativity, and makes the one who is comparing overvalue or undervalue themselves in the form of either pride or insecurity.

Simplicity is a quiet, but effective war against comparison. It is a philosophy that sits in direct opposition to evaluating ourselves, our homes, and our bodies against an ever-changing standard of what is desirable. It is a shortcut to contentment because it slices through the incoming messages that we are not or cannot be enough.

With simplicity, I discern what the highest priorities are in my life and I take action to protect them. I have my purpose in mind, and my life intentionally well-ordered, and I am no longer trying to hit the moving target of competition because my target is defined by me and is not dependent on what anyone else has or does.

Simplicity is a short-cut to contentment because if I am a champion of simplicity, I grow to value my core priorities higher than anything else. Simplicity allows me rest from striving to meet outside standards and instead invest my energy into establishing a life that is reflective of what is desirable and lovely…to me.

Simplicity liberates me from the ties of insecurity because comparison is rooted more in the appearance of wellness, adequacy, and beauty than the reality of them.

Simplicity allows me to methodically pursue wholeness and become truly well, recognize my  beauty, and see that when I am free from the standards that would be applied from a place of comparison, that my simple life is not only adequate, but desirable and full of value if I have eyes to see it.

Simplicity is a bold choice to shut out influences that sow discontent in my life. By choosing my influences wisely, I can keep comparison from taking my joy, confidence, and contentment.

“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” Philippians 4:11b-12

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I have some exciting things to share in the near future, and would love for you to be among the first to hear about them. If you’re so inclined, please sign up for my email newsletter here and I’ll send out updates as they become available. Your address will never be shared. Thanks!

Life & Faith / Soulful Simplicity

On Stewardship


Welcome friends.

This is day 26 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October. The series can be found here, and I hope you find it enriching and encouraging. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Stewardship is the responsible management of something entrusted to us. Many people automatically think of stewardship as where you put your financial resources, but stewardship is applicable to many other areas of our lives. We can steward money, time, energy, belongings, and opportunities. We can also steward our households, our relationships, and our own well-being.

Stewardship refers to how we utilize every resource we have—toward fruitfulness or toward wastefulness—based on the intentions we have and the actions we take. 

We can steward all of the above things well, or we can steward them poorly. I find that when I’ve stewarded something well, I am glad to own it and pat myself on the back, but if I’ve done a less than stellar job, I am likely to blame it on something or someone else. It is unfortunate, because even when we make mistakes, we have the opportunity to steward our mistakes well, if we own our choices and learn from them.

Stewardship requires that we keep a focus on ultimate purpose and long-term vision so we don’t squander what we’ve been given care of in the present.

We have a responsibility to use well what we have. We have freedom to do that how we see best, but as we make choices, we have to remember that shortcuts today often mean costs tomorrow. This goes for finances, raising children, marriage, working through problems, and how we spend our time.

Resources come through us—not to us—which is a way of saying, we have the opportunity to multiply what we have been given, and to produce a return on our investment.

For this reason, discernment and discipleship become important in the life of a christian because stewardship requires that we look to Jesus as a compass to discern what is worthy of our time, energy, and perseverance, and also for the strength and diligence we need to put our hands to what needs to be done, even if that means coming face-to-face with things we feel shame about or wish we could ignore. We don’t steward well by accident, but we can steward poorly without giving it a second thought. My prayer is that you will take a look at what stewardship looks like in your life, not because you need to ‘do better’ or ‘perform well’, but because you will ultimately gain more—more freedom, more fullness, more abundance—if you are doing well in these areas on purpose.

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48b NIV

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?” Luke 16:10-11

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I have some exciting things to share in the near future, and would love for you to be among the first to hear about them. If you’re so inclined, please sign up for my email newsletter here and I’ll send out updates as they become available. Your address will never be shared. Thanks!

Motherhood / Soulful Simplicity

Create a Sustainable Schedule

Welcome friends.

This is day 25 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October. The series can be found here, and I hope you find it enriching and encouraging. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Today, I have gathered 8 tips for creating a sustainable schedule.

1—Identify the underlying purpose behind what you commit to, and if something no longer serves it’s intended purpose, don’t be afraid to let it go. If you are asking yourself, “What is the point of this?” you will have a hard time following through on a commitment as soon  as you have some resistance or challenges come up. If you have already identified the purpose of an event on your calendar, you can put your heart into preparing, getting there, and engaging in whatever it is.

2—Honor the rhythms and limitations of your family without apology. You know better than anyone else what things will and won’t work for your family. Sometimes other people will try to make you feel guilty or otherwise pressure you to add something to your schedule, but you do not have to explain why you choose not to commit to them. Make the best decisions you can and stand by them.

3—Be protective of your family’s top priorities. Maybe you love travel? Guard your budget and time off to be able to invest in that. Maybe you love making memories together? Schedule in your family adventures so they don’t get pushed out by urgent unimportant things. Maybe you value having dinner around the table together? Plan your meals ahead and get your kids in the kitchen with you to bring it together every night. Whatever your priorities may be, it is important to keep them in mind when making decisions about your calendar.

4—Keep in mind that your schedule should be serving you, and if it isn’t, make some changes. It is easy to feel like we are at the mercy of our schedules and that we have no choice  but to do this or do that. We always have choices. That doesn’t mean they are easy choices, but there are ways to simplify, alter, and organize our lives to create a weekly rhythm that works for everyone in the household.

5—Simplify home and household systems so you can get through necessary tasks without wasting excess energy. There are many tasks that are necessary to keep a home together and moving forward, but that doesn’t mean that you should have to expend all the energy you have on those things. Look for ways to clear out what you don’t need and streamline tasks that you can’t get out of so they’re not so overwhelming when you get to them.

6—Develop a vision for your week ahead, or take a moment to plan just one day ahead. If you can see what is happening next, you can communicate with your family about what they might need to do to prepare. If you have a list of things that need to be tackled, you can stay focused and get those items knocked out.

7—Commit to things you can joyfully give your time to. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be things that are sometimes a stretch or a struggle, but you will be happier if you only commit to things you are excited about, or at minimum, able to show up with a willing heart to.

8—Keep an eye on margin and flexibility. Let’s face it. These two things are sustainable-schedule essentials.

“Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.” 2 Chronicles 7:15-16

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I have some exciting things to share in the near future, and would love for you to be among the first to hear about them. If you’re so inclined, please sign up for my email newsletter here and I’ll send out updates as they become available. Your address will never be shared. Thanks!

 

Motherhood / Soulful Simplicity

Celebrate Small Victories

Welcome friends.

This is day 24 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October. The series can be found here, and I hope you find it enriching and encouraging. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.

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It is easy to get caught in a cycle of looking ahead to what might be in the future, or looking behind and dwelling on everything that happened in the past, but never really owning the space we fill in the present. It is good to dream and cast vision for what is ahead, and it is good to reflect on experiences and lessons learned to process how we feel about them and how we have been shaped by them.

It is also good to find joy in the small place of this present moment, which might feel ordinary and like nothing special.

Let me tell you, today is special, and it holds unique opportunities for you. Maybe it’s not a terribly exciting day, and maybe you’re not doing terribly exciting things, but it is my guess that even if it’s just an ordinary day, you are pressing forward with all the courage you’ve got, attempting to do whatever is in front of you to the best of your ability.

Maybe you are gaining ground, little by little, and while your accomplishments for the day may not be garnering public attention and praise, you are taking steps forward from where you are. You may be inching along, or you may be sprinting to the finish line of a goal, but in either case, today I want to ask you to celebrate your small victories.

When you celebrate small victories, you acknowledge that the beauty of life is not only about big milestones, but also includes the in-between choices to be faithful in small things that turn out to be not so small after all.

An abundant life comes about because of seemingly insignificant choices to be faithful in everyday, ordinary tasks. These choices are not insignificant. They are the very things that build memories, build character, build a family, and ultimately build our lives. We look back on the highlights of our lives and can easily forget about all the living we did between the milestones. The interesting part is that the choices we make between milestones make a far bigger impact on the way our lives unfold.

The small choices you make matter. The choices you make to do the next right thing—to engage hurts and troubles, to invest in others, to connect, to create, and respond with love—build on each other and lead to bigger victories in life.

I see it like adding dry beans to a scale. Each little bean seems rather insignificant on its own, but as you add one after another, at some point, the scales are going to tip and you are going to recognize the greater accomplishment of what you have produced with your daily efforts.

Every step toward simplicity, toward wholeness, adds up. I’m comforted by this reality because there are so many days that are hard for one reason or another, but celebrating my small victories makes encouragement the force behind the momentum I have to continue forward. Whether you are gaining ground by inches or miles, the point is, you’re gaining ground.

Celebrating the small victories of my children are the very things that shape their character. Sure, there have to be limits and boundaries and lessons, but children are most motivated to do what they believe will be valued and celebrated. For this reason, I give high praise for the times they display servant-heartedness toward others in our family because that makes them interested and willing to serve in the future, knowing that their contributions and attitudes really make a difference for everyone.

I think the acknowledgment of small victories brings about affirmation that we are doing well. So often we want praise from others, but we can be encouraged in the quiet of our hearts by recognizing what we have accomplished in the small spaces of life and celebrating those efforts in our own ways.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

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I have some exciting things to share in the near future, and would love for you to be among the first to hear about them. If you’re so inclined, please sign up for my email newsletter here and I’ll send out updates as they become available. Your address will never be shared. Thanks!

Life & Faith / Motherhood / Soulful Simplicity

Prioritize Rest

Welcome friends.

This is day 23 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October. The series can be found here, and I hope you find it enriching and encouraging. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Soulful simplicity is ultimately about ordering your life in such a way that you have time, space, and energy enough to nurture relationships, establish a peaceful home culture, and let your soul breathe in the midst of your everyday life demands.

I have learned that it is not possible for me to do any of these things well if I am starting off the day exhausted, or if I’m trying to push myself too far beyond my physical limits.

Our limitations can be frustrating, but they’re also important. Limits help us keep a measure of balance in our lives…sometimes against our wishes.

It might sound weird to say, but when I was considerably younger, I often thought to myself, “Why do I even need sleep? If I could just keep going without having to stop for that, I’d get so much more done.”

True, I would, but that statement reveals a bit about what was most important to me in that stage of my life. It also reveals how little I understood my need for adequate and restorative rest. I valued productivity over all other things. Now, I still love productivity—very much—but I also see that living whole-heartedly is about so much more than having a list of accomplishments to show for my time spent.

I still struggle with this aspect of soulful simplicity. I am not good at resting, but I have experienced first-hand that when I prioritize rest and intentionally make it part of my life in different ways, it provides so many benefits that I can’t ignore it.

If you feel constantly exhausted, I would encourage you to build rest and refreshment into your week. To help you think about ways you can begin or improve your intention for rest in your life, I am listing some of the ways I prioritize rest in mine.

10 Ways I Prioritize Rest

1—I set early bedtimes for the kids, even our older ones, so that my evenings are typically an open space for me to tend my soul through writing, meeting up with a friend, studying the Bible or doing a creative project.

2—On the days we are home in the afternoons, I have everyone do quiet/rest times to recuperate from our morning activities. The little ones take naps and the older ones read or play quietly in their beds.

3—I schedule a “rest” day on my weekly calendar where I plan a little ahead so I have at least a small reprieve from the constant household tasks (meal-making, laundry, cleaning, etc). Sometimes I am only able to do it for half the day, but I find the intention to give myself that space helps me tackle those tasks with more diligence at other times during the week.

4—I consolidate as many tasks as I can in order to “gain” time later. This refers to creating household systems that allow me to give consistent effort in the same direction to what needs to be done, so that when I set them down for a stretch, I don’t feel like I’m stuck behind the curve.

5—I communicate with my family about what I need from them in order for our home care to be shared among all of us. I still do a majority of home tasks, but having help from the others encourages me a lot and helps me get through tasks more quickly.

6—I try to make time monthly or quarterly for a quiet retreat to re-group. For me, this is typically a simple date alone at a coffee shop for some hours to myself, but it could easily be an actual getaway to be refreshed.

7—I re-evaluate my schedule every so often and simplify my commitments, so I can be sure that everything I’m giving my time to is something I am able to joyfully give my time to.

8—For my heart, I thoughtfully disengage from social media for a periods of time so that I am not overwhelmed with all that input.

9—I have found that I really enjoy contemplative prayer and reflective writing. Both help me to clear my mind of all the things that cause anxiety and help me to find my center.

10—For me, time conversing with a friend (in person or on the phone) is incredibly life-giving. I could be dragging along all day and then share a bit of time talking with someone I care about and I am re-energized and ready to face the rest of my day.

What would you add to this list? How do you prioritize rest?

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” Hebrews 10:36

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I have some exciting things to share in the near future, and would love for you to be among the first to hear about them. If you’re so inclined, please sign up for my email newsletter here and I’ll send out updates as they become available. Your address will never be shared. Thanks!

Life & Faith / Soulful Simplicity

Living With a Lighter Heart

Welcome friends.

This is day 22 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October. The series can be found here, and I hope you find it enriching and encouraging. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.

P.S. If you’ve been following along in real time, you’ll notice I’m a few days behind. I am slowly-but-surely catching up! Thanks for your encouragement!

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Yesterday I shared about forgiving others as a way to finding freedom for yourself. Today, I want to talk about a little trickier aspect of forgiveness — the notion of forgiving yourself.

I am assuming you have something from your past that you are not proud of. Maybe it’s small or maybe its big, but you have likely made a mistake at some point that still eats at you a little bit. Or maybe you can think of so many things you have failed at, your head is now spinning.

In either case, I relate to you.

I am a professional mistake-maker, and at one time in my life, I was also a perfectionist. That combo is a quick way to make yourself crazy. I have struggled to live with a light heart because I am one of those people who feels responsible for everything under the sun, even if I know it is not my responsibility. So if its not my outright mistakes, it is the constant pressure I feel to hold everything together with my own two (admittedly puny) little arms.

For many years, I was never able to fully rest. I was always striving, always working harder to meet ever higher standards for myself, and never feeling like I could ever quite get there. I felt like I was sliding down a slope of negativity and self-loathing that felt impossible to dig out of. I also found myself spending an inordinate amount of time searching for love, affirmation, and any indication that I was “ok”—often times from people who couldn’t fill that need even if they wanted to…not in any lasting way.

It is very easy to get buried under our mistakes, failures, personal limitations, and weaknesses. It is easy to think that if we can just work harder, do better, and maintain control of everything around us, maybe we can muscle through and find our way out of it.

There are times to see what I am made of and stick with something that may be hard to do, but there is also a time to acknowledge that I just can’t. Or that I didn’t. And that I won’t be able to. And I have to make a decision to receive the grace that God gives and find my way out of the piles of failures and mistakes by way of surrender to God’s work in my life.

It is good to be humbled.

I have learned that humility an essential part of soulfully-simplicity. In humility, I find a lightness of heart because I acknowledge that I am human, that I have a need for God’s grace in my life. If I won’t surrender, receive grace, and learn how to accept my own weaknesses and limitations (acknowledging that God is not finished with His work in me), I can’t possibly live graciously with others either, and I also can’t dig myself out of the self-loathing hole. None of this really hit home for me until I realized I have children whose eyes are on me every day, and they are taking cues and taking notes on how to navigate life from what I say and what I don’t say.

My children watch the way I talk about and treat myself. If I am never satisfied with my own efforts, and always dwelling on the ways I am not measuring up or not reaching my potential—they will internalize those same messages about themselves.

I want to suggest that you set down the burden you carry—especially as it relates to your own shortcomings—and ask God for His grace in your life. It’s not a big fanfare thing…it can be a quiet prayer of your heart to say, “I cannot hold the world together. I cannot fix myself or any of these situations around me, but You, Lord, are able. Help me let go of anything that keeps me from freedom and show me the way there.”

It may not happen overnight as all of life is a journey, but if you pursue simplicity from this angle, from this place in your heart, you will find incredible, indescribable treasures in the arms of God, the first of which is being freed from the need to be good enough. He is good enough for all.

“I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

“He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:2-3

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I have some exciting things to share in the near future, and would love for you to be among the first to hear about them. If you’re so inclined, please sign up for my email newsletter here and I’ll send out updates as they become available. Your address will never be shared. Thanks!