Wilderness State Park – Carp Lake, Michigan

We pull up at the campground and take a few minutes to situate Gidget so she is parallel to the crashing waves of Lake Michigan.  Every camper’s dream.  Neil unhitches her from the trailer and unlocks her door.  He tosses me a beer and we start the routine of setting up camp.  Kids run wild on the sand of the shore – just as they should.  And I start to relax into the rhythm of natural sights, sounds, and the layer of dirt that covers everything.  He smiles as he starts the fire and I realize how happy we are here.  Home is where you park it.  This is our happy place.  All of the signs that campers place outside their RVs are true.  We sigh deeply and sink into the hammock.

We are two for two.  Two beautiful campsites in two different states.  Either I just KNOW how to pick them or every campsite is just as lovely as the next.  In all seriousness, I do spend hours finding the perfect campsite, so let’s not discredit my apparent Internet research skills.  I’ll blog about what I look for in a campsite someday.

But basically, I just need to find a place where the blue meets the green.  You don’t see that very much in the city.  And as chaotic and fast-paced as camping with kids can be, it’s worth it to look up and see the blue meet the green.

Wilderness State Park is a must-see for anyone heading to northern Michigan for camping.  Quite a few sites are right on the water of Lake Michigan.  I checked in at the gate and he described our property (Site 109) as a beach-front site.  And the waves actually crash into the shore like the ocean.  Makes for a wonderful background sound.  Now – word around the campground and the quaint General Store is that they are closing down the West Campground in 2018 to renovate the bathrooms and facilities.  And the worst news of all seems to be that they are building a fence right on the beach.  I’m hoping this is just a rumor, but only time will tell.  Either way, the sound of the waves and the ability to probably climb over the fence will make the trip worth it again.  When it reopens, Site 112 and 113 are on a corner on the beach and look like they have a larger camping area.

One downside of this trip was the wind.  It was so windy all day and night long.  Since we were right on the water without any barrier of a tree line, we felt the wind worse than others in the campground, I think.  On the East Campground, you can still be on the water, but a little further back and perhaps sheltered from the wind.  Site 66 has a swingset on the beach right behind it.  This might be a good option for next time!

If you aren’t a camp on the water type, the sites in the back of the campground are set in the forest and are amazing and would be fun for the kids to explore in the trees.   To me, the worst sites are the ones in the middle of the campgrounds.  Not close enough to the water, but not far enough into the trees.

Worth Noting…

  • Bring sand toys – any kind.  We’ve used these both trips and I’m so glad that I kept them in the camper.
  • We also were grateful for Neil’s Woobie from the Army.  There’s a reason they issue these to soldiers.  They really do trap the warmth underneath you. And they dry fast and sand shakes right off.  I’m getting a few more for our next trip.  They are also called poncho liners.
  • When you camp with a full moon, the stars are hard to see.  The SkyView app has been our favorite this trip and last for star gazing, though!
  • Brushing our teeth was a nuisance.  Especially without water on site.  I’m going to try and bring these pre-pasted disposable toothbrushes next time. And just keep them in the camper.
  • Our microwave in Gidget actually fell out and crashed into the full length mirror on the outside of the closet door during our trip up.  It totally busted, but we actually decided that we don’t need a microwave and actually enjoyed the extra counter space on top of the mini fridge.
  • The garbage can I linked to in my first camping post was also a bust.  It just takes up space and isn’t really necessary.  I think next time I’ll bring some clear 3m hooks and hang a garbage bag on Gidget outside.
  • The FRESH DONUTS at the Wilderness General Store were SO GOOD.  There was even a children’s book written about them that I bought and will keep in Gidget!

We will totally be back again.  Although, if I end up saying that after every campsite we visit, our list is going to be really long!  About 4 weeks until we head out with Gidget again!

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Coles Creek Campground – Carlyle, Illinois

We took Gidget out for the first time this week.  After having to reschedule a camping trip to Northern Michigan last weekend because of Tiger’s tail injury, we were excited to get out and away!

The Eclipse.

 

Our main reason for heading out this particular week was to catch the Total Eclipse down in the zone of totality.  A short 8 hours away.  I CANNOT do justice with my mere words to how cool that experience was.  I’ve seen partial eclipses before, but when that moon covers the sun completely, something magical happens.  It’s as close to seeing a unicorn as you can get.   The sky goes dark.  The crickets start chirping – poor confused souls.  But my favorite part was the 360 degree sunset.  A literal sunset all around the horizon – in every direction.  Cue the fairies and unicorns and twinkle lights.

Neil and I spent most of the totality time yelling at each other.  He was unfamiliar with the knowledge that you can take your eclipse sunglasses off during the time when the moon is completely covering the sun.  In fact, you can’t see anything through your glasses at this time.  Nothing.  I was begging him to take them off and witness this amazing halo in the sky.  He was desperate to have me put them back on – afraid I was burning my retinas with every lingering second.  He eventually believed me and looked up.  But let’s just say those were some intense moments.  Our poor kids still aren’t sure what to think.

Then the sun peeks out again and a burst of light comes out.  The birds start singing their morning song – sweet little things.  It’s out of this world.   A total eclipse comes again in 2024.  And you MUST go see it.  Find a zone of totality – but get to the middle of it where you can see the moon covering the sun for a longer period of time.  Ours was less than a minute, and it was over so fast!

The Campground.

 

I spent HOURS looking for the perfect campground with the perfect campsite.  And by golly, I think I found it.  We were on a corner lot overlooking water.  Facing west – which meant we could watch the sunset from our camper every single night.  Sunsets are way better than sunrises – their timing is much more considerate of a tired mama with three kids.

The Coles Creek Campground is a hidden gem.  If you are ever camping in Southern Illinois, this campground needs to be a destination.  We were at site 22.  Highly recommend it.  Besides the waterfront view and the sunset, the lake is lined with rocks and boulders that my kids loved climbing on and throwing rocks into the water.  My only complaint on site 22 is the lack of shade in the evening hours before the sun goes down.  Our awning on Gidget just wasn’t big enough.

The beach is within walking distance, but also an easy drive around a loop.  The water was warm and felt so good during a hot afternoon.  The kids were shocked at the slimy areas of the bottom – typical of every lake I’ve been in in Illinois.  And they laughed at the warm spots we swam through – imagining fish pee.  They spent awhile building sand castles in the sand and chasing the gulls on the peninsula near the boat dock.  If you have a kayak or boat, bring it.  Also fishing rods.  We could see fish jumping and watch sea gulls dive for dinner.

I drove around to scout out some other great spots – just in case 22 is booked next time we come down.  Sites 81-87 looked great – with the prime spot awards going to sites 85, 86, and 87.  They have less space than we did, but great shade and a BEAUTIFUL view of Carlyle lake – the largest lake in Illinois!  These sites also still have a rock border for the kids to play on.  Sites 120, 122, 125, and 137 were also great lake views with shade.  If I’m remembering right, though – all of these other spots would position your camper so the back is facing the lake.  We were positioned parallel to the lake, so the minute we stepped out our door and looked up, the lake greeted us.  No turning of the neck necessary.

Camping Tips.

 

Being our first camping trip in Gidget, we learned a lot.  But we also did a lot right!  Here’s what we were SO glad we had with us:

  • Outdoor rug.  Ours was 9’x12′ and made of this really great plastic that was soft on our feet, stayed dry even through a rainstorm, and kept almost all the dirt out of Gidget.
  • Our beloved hammock.  It finally made it’s debut outside after spending the first few weeks of it’s life in my living room.  I definitely didn’t get to lay in this as much as I wanted, but one kid took a nap in here and the times I did spend in it were totally worth it.  The stand is also pretty necessary as there wasn’t a tree to hand the hammock from on our site – nor would I know how to tie it to a tree if there were.  We could pull the hammock to the follow the shade after the campsite thanks to the stand.  The stand also folds up for easy traveling.
  • Garbage can.  There was no garbage can on our site, so this was a lifesaver for all the trash we had.  A collapsable one didn’t end up being necessary – we didn’t fold it back down for the trip home.  Just threw it in the camper.
  • Electric Kettle, Hot Plate, and Cast Iron Skillet.  All used multiple times for cooking and COFFEE.
  • These were an awesome purchase.  They were wireless and we hung them inside the camper so we could turn on a light with a normal light switch and illuminate the inside!  I don’t understand how they work – besides pure magic.  Especially because we lost the remote to the only indoor light and didn’t find it until the last night!
  • Neil’s favorite products that he brought were is 550 Cord, 100 mile an hour tape, and his Sog multi-tool.  I’m pretty sure that’s all he thought we needed.  And I will say – they all came in handy.

What DIDN’T work:

  • The globe lights I bought from Target.  I didn’t think about the fact that they were glass, but our awning ended up blowing over on the first night. Mostly due to our mistake of not setting up the ropes in the right way.  But, a few bulbs broke in the crash.  And then when I tried to plug them in to see if the rest still worked, they flashed and died.
  • I had brought these solar powered lights as a backup.  But they were SO DIM.  I love the fact that they are solar powered, so we might hang them on the back of Gidget for a dull light to show her off all hours of the night.
  • Since I had to make an emergency trip to CVS for monthly products (ya know what I mean?), I luckily happened upon some plastic globe lights for 50% off.  They aren’t as bright as the first pair, but brighter than the solar powered ones.  So, they will do.
  • I need to bring these next time to help me hang them up.  It took some MacGyver skills to get them hung this go around. Speaking of MacGyver… I think my kids would LOVE that show.  Is it streaming online anywhere?

We are driving home and I’m already anxious to get back out camping.  12 more days until our next adventure in Gidget!

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Meet Gidget!

A month or so ago, a friend of mine posted that they were selling their 1956 vintage trailer in order to upgrade to something bigger for their growing family.  I stumbled upon the post on Facebook and my heart jumped out of my chest and up into my throat.  I couldn’t breathe for a minute as I pictured the adventures we could have pulling that sweet beauty behind our car.  I wrote a simple comment on the post.

“Neil?  YES?!”

And in two short words, that trailer became ours.

We have been saving money in an investment account for 3 years – not sure what it would be for, but knowing that it was a good idea.  College fund?  Down payment on our next house?  Flood insurance?  Never in a million years did I think we would spend some of it on a vintage trailer.  Until we did.  We had exactly the amount we needed in our available cash to easily withdraw and with a phone call and transfer of funds, Gidget was a Smith.

Living in the city leads to craving the country.  Wide open spaces where the green meets blue.  Crickets, bird chirping, deep crowded night skies filled with stars.  We figure Gidget will extend our city-living-life a few more years.

Here she is:

My plan is to update you on our campsites, what we wish we had brought, what we’re glad we did, and turn you all into expert campers along with us!

Here’s to our first adventure!

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My DAILY Protest to Love.

For the audio listener and learner – I’ve been recording all of my blog posts.  So you can continue to wash dishes, fold laundry, or just rest and close your eyes while you listen.  I like to follow along with the words while I listen to an author read me what came from his soul.  Tip: click “listen in browser” if you are on a mobile device.  


Despite my best efforts to go dark over the past 7 days, I found myself on Facebook quite frequently.  It was really hard not to know what was going on – especially after I heard our borders were closed on Friday.  And then, like clockwork, I watched the protests, blog posts, news articles, and hysteria follow.

I live in a highly immigrant community.  My business seeks to reach out to and hire women who have barriers to employment – refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers being a high priority.  My neighbors are Yemeni and Iraqi.  My newest seamstress is from Syria.

These are not simply red colored countries on CNN’s graphic to help us visualize this unfamiliar part of the world.

These are my friends.  And their families.  And I’m confused.  And I have questions.  Lots of them.

Who said this could happen?  How were the countries chosen?  What about the refugees.  What about the card holders?  The vetting process?  He’s right to do this.  He’s a pig to do this.  What about our faith?  What about Jesus?  What is my role?  What part do I play?

It all becomes so much.  Like standing on the wrong side of a batting cage.  Dodging fast balls and trying to decipher which ones I need to throw back.  Which side is the right side?  Where do I stand?  What do I do?  I’m so easily swayed.

So, I start walking.  It’s becoming a safe place to think and pound out thoughts as my feet pound the pavement.

I pass protestors at our city hall.  Last year, our city elected the first Muslim majority city council.  It’s not scary to us.  They are not scary.  The protestors all have their signs and I read as many as I can.  One carries an upside down American flag. Should I be standing in the middle of that crowd, too?

The thought comes loud… What if my LIFE was a daily protest?  This works well for my rebellious tendencies and I encourage the thought to keep going.  Keep working itself out.

I pass a group of Arabic high school students returning from their first visit to the local library.  They are carrying “I LOVE the Library” plastic sacks.  Their American teacher walking on the part of the sidewalk closest to the road – a sign of protection.

One oblivious teenage girl crouches down right as I’m walking – forcing me to stop.  I stand – awkwardly – and watch her scoop up snow with her bare hands reaching out behind her curtains of black fabric.  Maybe one of her first times experiencing the cold whiteness.  She catches my eye on her way up and I smile.  I can’t see any part of her – except her eyes – but I know she is smiling.  Eyes can tell so much.

I try to meet eyes when I pass Muslim women while I walk.  Make eye contact to somehow send messages across the air – that I am in this with them.  That I care.   They are so trained to keep their eyes down that I start staring with laser vision as soon as I see them up ahead.  Willing them to look up.  To see my American blue eyes looking back with kindness and compassion and open arms.  To say, I’m sorry.  To say, I don’t love what is happening.  To say, I’m not one of them.

Can a look convey everything my heart is so confused in feeling?  I think it does.

Can eye contact cross language barriers and break down walls?  I think it can.

While Facebook has been loud and jarring this weekend, when I walk the streets of my city, it feels quiet.  Contemplative, but wounded.  Confused and hurting, but not angry.

A daily protest.  I don’t need to be in the crowd holding signs.  I need to be in living rooms, embraced in hugs, and sharing meals with my immigrant neighbors.  These protests don’t have a day, time, and place attached to their flier or Facebook Event.  These protests happen daily here.  Through the generous smiles, curious questions, cross culture friendships, and genuine neighborly community.

Wars are not won in protests or battle fields or courts or Facebook feeds.  They are won in relationships.  On couches.  Through friendships, tears, and laughter.

Go to the protests.  Hold the signs.  Carry that upside down American flag.  The Kingdom of God is pretty upside down in it’s thinking, after all.  But don’t just go home and be done.  Don’t open your computer and start posting the articles and fighting a Facebook battle and call that your contribution.

Protest differently.  Protest daily.  In small, quiet, underground ways that may not be as flashy or newsworthy, but this quiet way makes the biggest impact on the most people.

I’ve been told before that if I don’t speak up – if I stay quiet – then it’s the same as choosing the side of the oppressor.  I disagree.  Make your movements in secret.  You don’t have to post three blogposts and a news article on your wall to choose a side.  The better way – the third way – is to enter into relationship with the affected party.

Jesus gave us an executive order, too.  Love people.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Make disciples of the nations.

I keep walking and pass an art studio with open windows.  He is drawing intricate patterns on large white paper.  A cardboard sign hangs in his window.  Love lives here, it says.  I send him a silent fist bump as I march along.  Promising myself I’ll stop in someday and make the silent agreement a public nod.  But today, I keep walking.

Let love live here.  In your hearts.  And in your neighborhoods.  And in your homes.  And on your Facebook feeds.

And let that love stretch you.  Look around at the people in your lane.  Do they all look like you?  Believe what you believe?  Eat what you eat?  Sure, love the people in your lane well.  But, put people in your lane that are different than you so that compassion, concern, and commitment can be lived out in true genuineness.  So we can take ideas and policies and assumptions and filter them down to make them work themselves out in the awkward parts of life on life living.

I think this is Kingdom living.  This is walking out what it means to be an Ambassador of Christ.  A representative of the values, principles, and governing laws of a different world.  One where Jesus is on the throne.  One that is coming to set everything right.

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I spent my 7 days offline reading two books.  This one from the Inspector Gamache series.  And a new Kindle thriller that has me swiping pages as fast as I can.  When I go #inthequietplace, I make sure to have the Kindle app downloaded on my phone so that when I’m laying down with the kids at night, I can read instead of scroll Instagram.  I thought I would finish both books, but perhaps I was a little ambitious.

We got a little bit of a handle on screen time.  The kids each now get 30 minutes a day and we are using the Kidslox app to “lockdown” their phone after the 30 minutes is up.  I like this because they can still use their “phones” (aka, our old phones) to listen to podcasts or music – which to me are acceptable uses of screens.  But the rest of their apps disappear until the next day!

Speaking of listening.  The kids and I started listening to Little Women this past week on Audible.  We bought the one narrated by Christina Ricci (remember her?) and we are all loving it.  Especially Jonah!  I can’t believe I’ve never read that book.  (If you don’t have Audible yet – use this link to get 30 days free AND 2 free books of your choice!

Well, I’ll see ya on Instagram!  It feels good to be back.

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In The Quiet Place

If you are listening via a mobile device and want to follow along while you listen, click “Listen in browser”.

I can feel it happening again.  The tireless comparison that results after spending too much time online.  The fuzzy brain as I can’t decipher what’s real from reality.  The glazed eyes and sore thumb from endless, tireless, scrolling of images.  The dead lifeless well of creativity – sucked dry from watching more than doing.    

I get online thinking I’m going to be encouraged, inspired, and spurred on.  But really.  It ends in despair and deep void for what I appear to lack.    

Every time I get online, a little part of me dies.  The true part of me.  At first it’s unnoticeable.  Exciting even.  Seeing what everyone is creating and starting and making and writing.  What good gifts He gives to us!  What talent.  What passion she has!

And unnoticeable at first, the exclamations turn toward me.  Wait.  Where is my talent?  Why am I lacking passion?  Where is my remodeled kitchen, shiny new car, and well dressed toddler?  Don’t I deserve all that she has?   

Why doesn’t my husband adore me like hers does?  Why do I live in this neighborhood and not theirs?  Where are my friends who anticipate my unspoken needs and come over with coffee and macarons just when I need them?  Where are my good gifts hiding?   

I sound like a spoiled 8 year old child complaining that she has nothing to play with when her room is already exploding with toys. 

And slowly.  Quietly.  It creeps in.  Comparison stealing joy.  Hustle robbing creativity.  Envy choking contentment.  Soft at first – then louder and louder until it’s deafening and I throw my phone in disgust. 

Then I decide to get quiet.  Go dark.  Live in my reality.  Touch faces and hearts and stories in the flesh surrounding me.  Hide from the fast traffic that online life brings.  Pull my virtual car off to the side of the road and start to walk.  Decide that walking is good enough for me.  Because when I’m walking, I can see the gems of goodness on the side of the road.  The lost wedding ring, the silver dollar, the secrets meant just for me. 

I get quiet enough to hear them whispered to my heart.  He has shown me what is good.  He delights in the very person that I am.  My house is enough.  My kids are wonderfully created just for me. 

It’s so loud online.  So much noise and bustle and color and energy.  Inspiring for a moment.  But murdering when taken in without a break. 

If you are a consumer of content online – you need a break from the consumption or you’ll burst.  A time to fast.  Let all that you’ve seen soak in, have time to rise, and bake within the confines of your heart. 

If you are a creator of content – you need a moment to realize that what you say and create doesn’t come inspired from what everyone else is doing.  It comes from the quiet moments of meeting with God.  Of sitting in silence.  Create from rest.  Create from silence.  Create from the depths of who you are inside.  Not what you see.

Did you know it can get so quiet around your house at different moments during the day?  When our phones are off and our kids are sleeping.  It’s deafening and relieving at the same time. 

This Internet is a gift.  A good good gift.  But one that we need to learn to steward and ration. 

It’s what I create in the quiet and secret places that have the most value.  The endless expressions of me.  The heavenly inspiration from Him.  The words I write that never meet the published world.  The thoughts I have that I only share with those around me.    

On Wednesday, I’m going to start my yearly rhythm of staying off the Internet for the last 7 days of each month.  Getting into the quiet place.  Listening.  Creating from silence.  Resting.  Remember and counting the good gifts He has given secretly and solely for me.

Come with me.  Take time away from the highway of chaos and enter into the depths of the quiet country roads.  See what treasures you can find.  And then lets come back together – refreshed, renewed, and ready to keep on going. 

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It may be strange to be on the Internet while I’m inviting you to take time away from online, but it is what it is.  I’m doing the last 7 days of each month – to revisit my goals and gear up for the next month.  I’ll also be crafting, reading novels, and binge watching Nashville on Hulu.  Mostly, though, I’ll be relishing in the quiet and connecting in a deeper way with God – without distraction and noise.  You do what works for you. 7 days.  2 days.  All media.  Everything but email.  There are no rules.  Just an attempt to go slow and quiet.  

I’ll be using this graphic below and the hashtag #inthequietplace to leave a standing “away message” on Wednesday on Instagram.  And will post again on February 1st to share any insights or revelations I received while away.  Let’s get small and quiet!  Feel free to grab it and use it as well – you know, so people don’t think we dropped off the face of the earth.  

Here are the two Facebook Live videos that Alissa Keeton with Revelation Wellness did on “Less Internet.  More Intimacy.”
Part 1.
Part 2.  

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Walking With Jesus

I’ve been walking with Jesus.  Literal walking the pavement with my legs and feet.  Circles around our neighborhood like I’m praying down the walls of Jericho.  Bundled up in two scarves, gloves, and winter boots – because this is Michigan winter.  Wind blowing against my face – head down.  With Jesus.  With the warmth of Jesus. 

After spending days frustrated and wondering what my purpose is and where my energy is and should be going, I decided to just start walking.  Actually, my husband told me to start walking.  To clear my head and gain clarity.  He usually has the best ideas. 

“Walk until you see the water”, he said.  

I never found the water that day.  In a neighborhood not my own, I walked in-between beautiful mounds of brick piled high on each other to create rooms and roofs and homes.  Homes that held families and friends and gatherings and dinners.  I walked down streets and ran across streets and never once touched the water. 

I saw it from a distance once.  But a DEAD END sign dug deep in the sidewalk was warning me not to go.  But that water was so beautiful.  Shimmering at the end of the short pavement with the DEAD END sign.  That end didn’t look dead to me.  It look brimming with life and love and hope. 

But I didn’t turn down there.  I kept walking.  Kept looking for the sign that allowed me to walk right up to the water in freedom.  It didn’t come that day.  I kept walking parallel to a large body of water hidden from my sight by neighborhoods. 

Instead, I walked with Living Water that day.  Every beat of my foot hitting the pavement was a beat of my heart aligning with His.  Rhythmic slapping of Living Water on my soul.  The tide was in.  He felt so close.  I felt so alive.  Slowing down to feel the snow hit my face – endless, unique pieces of grace – sticking to my hair and my coat.  Remembering by name the times of grace that He has extended to me that week.

Soaking in His extravagant love is a high priority for me on these walks.  Closing my eyes, raising my chin, deep breathing in of his love.  Sometimes, my arms can’t help but rise up.  And my swing can’t help but sway.  His love does that to us.  Fills us to the point of overflowing where we can’t keep it in – no matter where we are.  We raise our hands.  We love our neighbors.  We fight for injustice.  We give money to the guy on the street without judgement.  We start businesses with Him in mind.  We write letters.  We hug our spouse just a little bit longer than yesterday.  We have patience with our kids.  So many kids with such demands to eat ALL. THE. TIME.

I think this daily appointment of walking with Jesus is going to be big.  Life changing.  I get the sense that my story is happening right now.  That somehow stopping the busy to just walk is going to change my perspective on my stained carpet, cluttered closets, and filthy family car.  That seeking the sane above the insane is going to bring clarity and rest and relief.

I’d love for you to join me as I embark on a #walkingwithJesus2017 experience.  Not a challenge – but an experience.  A way to mix faith and fitness in the way it was probably always meant to be.  It’s easy.  We are focusing on nearness to God over numbers of miles, minutes, and steps.  We aren’t running if running is too much.  We are just walking with worship music in our ears.  Listening to the words and letting them wash through us.  It’s been most helpful for me to walk circles around my block – right outside my door.  I don’t have time to go to a gym – and this gets me out and toe to toe with the needs of my city.  

His love – drinking it in – deep allows us to walk past what seems to be a dead end.  Relationships that seem dead can come to life.  Hearts can be healthy again.  When we walk and remember and let Truth wash over our hearts.  I promise you that getting one more load of laundry done will not compare to what taking a 20 minute walk around your neighborhood with Worship music in your ears will do for your sense of peace.  The laundry will still be there when you come back with a renewed sense of WHO and WHOSE you are.

Drink deep, my friends.

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I also highly recommend a subscription to Apple Music or some streaming app – the Bethel Music station has been most life-giving to me.  But also check out the Revelation Wellness podcasts.  They are so unique and so perfectly made for combining the spiritual with the physical fitness. 

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December Goals

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I write these more for me, but also for accountability.  And maybe you can glean a bit of where I am by seeing where I want to go.

I caught puke in my hands this morning without freaking out.  So, I feel like I should lead with that.  Because whatever else I “accomplish” this month will forever be trumped by how December started.  I’ve already done So. Much.

December for me is the best month of the year.  But usually it goes by in such a fury and hustle that I miss much of it.  But not this month.  I’m determined.

So, hold me accountable to these things:

  1. No shopping.  I’m actually completely done with Christmas shopping for the year.  Partly because I love gift buying so much and am usually scouring the sales and the catalogues and researching the gift guides.  I love the possibilities and all the options of what I could possibly buy for the kids and our family.  It’s usually a huge letdown when the gifts are bought and no more searching can be done.  BUT, since I am done, I need to stop looking.  Our house doesn’t need anymore decorations, we don’t need any new clothes, and all the gifts are done.
  2. Social Media Break.  Especially after a conversation I had yesterday with a friend of mine who also works online, I’m even more determined to take a break from inhaling the Internet.  The more I scroll, the more I wish my house looked like so-and-so’s.  The more I see friendships flaunted online, the more I feel in a place of lack.  The more I spend time online, the less I spend in real life.  The more I see you showing off what amazing thing your husband did for you, the more I feel like my husband isn’t enough.  It’s a dangerous place, that Internet.  Consuming too much of it will make you sick.  I don’t even think I’ll post much for the month.  I don’t want to become that trigger for lack in someone else’s life.
  3. Write more regularly.  For me, this isn’t a contradiction of #2.  I may write online as I process my thoughts offline because this blog is a collection of essays and my time stamp for life as it stands now.  I process life through writing. I’ve started more journal writing, though – things in my actual real life journal with an ink pen.  Feels ancient, but oh so good.  What good can we do or post online when our actual lives are so void?  I hope to specifically blog about Advent and the waiting of our King to come back – what a weary world we live in.
  4. Drink 16 cups of water a day.  I’m being realistic here.  I’m not going to exercise much in the month of December.  I’m probably not even going to eat the best.  I mean, Christmas cookies are coming.  But I can force myself to chug 128 oz of water a day.  Cold ice water.  Because that will make my body work harder to bring it down to room temperature.  Right?  Dieting hack?   Maybe.
  5. Focus on Advent and Family.  I’m currently re-reading Ann Voskamp’s Advent books with my kids and for myself.  I just love the way she brings the Christmas story alive and with new meaning.  I want to quiet my soul so that I can hear His coming.  Because so often His coming comes in whispers and small voices and in the quiet falling of snow.

Much love to you this Christmas as you cozy up in your robe and slippers – maybe a new kitty on your lap – sitting by fires and under twinkle lights.  Let’s quiet ourselves and the noise and the hustle.  Let’s be ok with not knowing, not having, and not being there.  Because the Gift we have and have been given is so worth the pause.

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A Few of My Favorite Things – November 2016

The other night, I sat down with my friend for our bi-weekly chat.  She demanded that I bring my notebook and pen so we could brainstorm about blogging.  We both love writing, and we both can feel paralyzed by not knowing what to say.  That night we committed ourselves to taking “imperfect action” and we also brainstormed a few blog post ideas that we enjoy reading on other blogs.

Posts about “Favorite Things” was on my list.

I enjoy learning about what other people are loving, and I for SURE love to share the things I’m currently digging.

So, I gathered up some of my favs for a little photo shoot on our dining room table and am sitting down to write about them.

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  1. Propagating my succulents.  Did you know you can do this?  You just break off the succulent leaves, let them callous over, then set them on top of soil – spraying with a water bottle every few days.  They will eventually (hopefully) sprout a new baby succulent!  This is my very favorite Gardening Expert.  I’ve watched every video she has about gardening and basically wish I was her.
  2. Natural Red Essentials.  This stuff is hand-batched in Detroit.  The owner, Amy, stopped by the workshop last weekend and left us a bunch of product.  I immediately grabbed the Cracks in Whack hand cream.  It’s amazing.  I’ve never used anything better.  Honest to goodness truth.  It’s thick, it lasts a long time, and I can pronounce all the ingredients.  And her creativity with those titles.  Hilarious.
  3. Lipsense.  LIPSENSE.  You guys.  If you follow me on Instagram and you watch my InstaStories, you KNOW I’m obsessed.  It’s a long wearing lipstick product in so many shades.  I have about 12 different ones, but considering you can mix colors together to make new ones, I have probably 2,000 shades.  I wear it almost every single day – and my other lip glosses and lipsticks are pointless to me now.  My go-to color for everyday wear is Bombshell.  I can’t believe how long it lasts.  My mom was always right when she told me that I just look more alive with lipstick on.  And now I don’t have to fuss with reapplying every 17th minute of the day.  It’s a self care item that I’m happy to check off the list.  {Here’s my lip lady. And her IG account.}
  4. Famous in Heaven and at Home by Michelle Myers.  I’ve really been enjoying moving through this book on a daily basis.  It’s a devotional book taking you through the character of the Proverbs 31 woman.  But in a way that is challenging yet grace oriented.  I love that she talks a lot about online life because that is super prevalent and real to me and not many people are talking about the realities of it.
  5. Sudio Sweden headphones.  I was gifted this pair of wireless headphones back in the middle of the summer.  I use them every time I go to the gym.  I love the way they look and the cute leather case they come in.  And I especially love that I no longer accidentally get caught up in my headphone cord on the treadmill and send my phone flying across the gym.  I wish they were a little louder, though – I hate hearing myself pant while running.  And if I get running too fast (usually nothing to worry about – ha) or am doing jump rope rounds, they don’t stay in my ears.  I believe my code for 15% off anything on their site is still valid if you want to get a few Christmas gifts: rebecca16

What’s something YOU can’t stop talking about lately?

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