It’s Your Story

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I was laying down in my bed after a pretty tough day (definitely not the day pictured here).

Not a typical tough day, but one that put me face-to-face with my uncertainty, comparison, and struggles with doubt within my mind.

I grabbed my iPad and began to read one of the books I’m currently going through, Love that Lasts, by Jefferson and Alyssa Bethke.

These folks are full of wisdom. I have really enjoyed hearing their raw and vulnerable experiences in their marriage and family, as well as their take on society’s method of navigating these pivotal moments in one’s life. These two are great at striving to be fully present, and speaking truth into the lives of their readers/listeners.

Anyway, I was going through a chapter Alyssa wrote about her single years in college, and came across this chunk of text that really spoke to me:

 

“Likewise, God is giving you what is best in this very moment. You can trust His good work in your life. God is writing a good story just for you. It’s your story. It doesn’t look like anyone else’s story. It is unique and set apart and beautiful. Even if it doesn’t feel beautiful or is not what you would have written, it is good, and if you let Him, He will bring you into joy that you never thought possible.”

 

I had to pause.

GIRRRLLL…that is SOMETHIN.

 

Take a second, and think of a time when you didn’t lean into the process of the writing of your own story.

When this friend got married.

When that friend had a baby.

When this co-worker got a promotion.

When that family member took a trip.

When that influencer wrote a book.

When that girl lost 20lbs.

 

And you just kinda…were.

 

Do you ever feel that way? That someone is just GETTIN. IT. (woo! get it girl!)

 

And you’re just on hold?

100% been there. 100% done that.

 

How many times have you compared what you’re experiencing in you life to someone around you? And maybe even used someone else’s life as evidence as to why you feel unfairly treated.

I cannot COUNT how many times I have fallen prey to this type of mental game.

 

Even with my post praising COVID-19 brides weeks prior, I find myself struggling with planning a wedding during this pandemic. Not struggling to actually do what needs to be done, but struggling through the uncertainty of whether things would happen the way they are listed in my Google Doc. (Does this make me Type A?)

Why should I have to exclude people that I want to be there? Why must there be guidelines threatening MY wedding, when nobody else in my whole life, to my knowledge, has had to navigate something like this? Why do I have to create a plan A, B and C? It feels like I am on plan Q. Help.

These thoughts swirling in my head has just been breeding ingratitude and restlessness in my soul. How unhealthy is that?? And really missing the point of it all, am I right?

I am a teacher. A large ensemble director. And music programs and performing groups across the country could likely be cut, due to both budgetary and safety reasons. It is reasonable to assume that I am concerned about my job. And at times (a lot of times, if I’m honest), I’m envious of those who aren’t threatened with discontinuation of something they’ve known.

 

Listen, sister. OWN your story.

 

Yes, it is hard to watch others get what you have wanted.

Yes, our hard-earned efforts may crumble, and we will grieve them.

Yes, there is fear in the unknown

Yes, reality may prove to be totally different than your well thought-out expectations.

Yes, you may have to erase items on your calendar, and rework the stinkin’ Google Doc!

 

But the Lord is sovereign through it all.

 

In many little ways througout my life, I have discovered, through tears, that obedience, and surrender to God has given me a sustaining pleasure and a peace, that whatever I thought would make me happier ultimately couldn’t. I’m sure you can think of some little ways too.

 

But can you apply that to the big things?

Your COVID wedding.

Your delayed motherhood.

Your extra unwanted year(s) of the daily grind.

Your transition period, and time spent waiting.

Your unanswered questions.

 

Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

 

We will have struggles. We will experience devastatation. We will see unmet desires. We will have longings that this world simply cannot satisfy.

 

But we must know that the One who overcame death stands on our side. [Romans 8:31]

We must know that our Father establishes our steps. [Proverbs 16:9]

We must know that His plan is good. [Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28]

 

And that through the battles, physical, mental, and spiritual, that He is writing a story.

A story so unique, that can be used to bring Him glory, in different ways than her story, or his story, or their story.

 

I have not mastered this perspective as I would like to.

It’s hard when we see others’ stories play out, and when we have social media at our fingertips.

But if we can turn our attention heavenward, and trust that He is good. We can know that no event, no person, no trial is out of place.

 

-claire

 

At-Home Fitness Tips

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Unless you’re preferred method of moving your body is walking or running, and where you live happens to be nice and sunny most of the time, you’re probably feeling pretty limited on what you can do to stay active.

Jumping jacks?

Pace your house while you talk to Grandma?

Whatever works, am I right?

 

But for those who work a sedentary job, only to spend their off hours on the couch in the other room, may be feeling like their activity level is a little lackluster.

I feel you!

I have come up with a few pieces of advice.

 

Walk with a Purpose

Is she really about to suggest walking…?

You bet I am!

But here’s the deal: have a goal with your walking. I find that my favorite walks (and longest walks!) are to fulfill a certain purpose. Sometimes I walk with my fiancé and we use it as our hang-out time. We work together, and sometimes we can spend all day with eachother, but not feel personally connected. Use your walk to call a friend or family member!

My last post was written entirely on the go. No, I was not driving. I was walking! My sense of accomplishment when I returned home was twofold. I can say confidently that when quarantine is over, and I am in the midst of the busy school year, I won’t have any excuses for putting off physical activity in the name of productivity. You will catch me on the treadmill answering work email in the future! Or you can feel free to call me on it.

One morning, I walked with a hot cup of coffee in my pajama joggers and a big hoodie. My purpose? To enjoy my dang morning!

It. was. awesome.

 

Utilize Free Resources

I have found SO many free, high quality work-out videos on Youtube. What are you interested in? HIIT? Resistance training? Targetting a specific muscle group? Dancing? You will find it!

Here’s how NOT to use these resources. Don’t put the first one you see up on your TV to try. This will feel awkward…but take the time to preview the exercise videos, or diagrams, you think you’d like to do. I did this. Yup, I sat there, eating a snack, watching other people work out. Ha! It was pretty ironic.

Hear me out. You do not want to try something new, get part way into it, and then feel defeated. Make conservative estimates as to what you think you can accomplish. If it’s too easy, you have confidence to move on to something new! If it’s way too hard for where you’re at, your humbling experience may prevent you from doing it again.

I found a lower ab circuit that I just was NOT ready for. Tough stuff. But that was after I had completed two other at-home workouts that I felt good about. It’s ok to know the areas in which you need to grow, but let’s set ourselves up to succeed first. The new at-home protocol has a better chance of being sustainable that way.

Here is a playlist from some channels I have been liking:

Try Some New Gear!

Please don’t think that I’m suggesting that you need more “stuff” to be successful at this. Definitely not necessary.

However, for some, this could be the ideal time to try out that pair of shoes, that home gym set-up, or some new fitness gadget you’ve been investigating!

As I mentioned in the past, I am loving my new Garmin watch. So I won’t go much into that. It was very much time for an upgrade. I have had fun playing with that.

This is not a new thing, but RESISTANCE BANDS.

I thought I hated them because I bought a pack of three a few years ago. They were the Gold’s Gym brand, flat, and too long to fit snuggly to my thighs. They also pulled my skin because they were just stretchy, and not coated with anything. Not comfy. Not a fan.

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I recently gave my fiancé’s resistance set a try, and they are SO much better. They are C9 Champion brand, tube-shaped, with handles. These are so versatile, and I have been using these in place of the weight-lifting I would do at the gym.

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For the legs and #bootygainz (still waiting on those), I love my Mari Fitness band. It was designed for the very purpose of toning your bum. It is a great size, doesn’t roll, and doesn’t pull the skin. Again, there are many demonstrations on how to effectively use it.

 

 

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Consider YOUR Goals

As we’re surfing Instagram, in search of free resources, or inspiration, it’s easy to find someone with your ideal body shape or fitness level and just want to copy everything they do. If I use Whitney Simmons’ macros, Maddie Lymburner’s workouts, and Marisa Chaela’s top tips, I’m inevitably going to look like a mixture of all three, right??

Wrong.

Your height is different. Your medical history is different. Your lifestyle is different. Your genetics are. different.

You can train like the pros all day long and not look like them.

Strive to set personal goals, and take steps to tackle those specific to you. Try to be the best YOU can be. That is what you’re investing in with the energy you devote to fitness.

 

I hope you feel a little more encouraged, and a little less fearful when it comes to moving your body at home! I’d be curious to know what’s been keeping you motivated during these past couple months.

 

-claire

The Burden of Control

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I told my fiancé the other night, “I hate feeling like everything is out of control in my life!”

That has been the biggest desire of my heart the last year.

This is my post (my post, dangit!! just kidding…). So I’m allowed to give myself the benefit of the doubt in mentioning that this has been a very overwhelming year for me, in good and bad ways.

But still. This longing is deep.

I recently heard someone talking about what she thought of a book she was recommending and she mentioned that it’s purpose was to help people “surrender the burden of control”.

I had to pause and think about that one…



Was control a burden?



Everybody desires met expectations. Why should this be burdensome for us?

It must be important to look at how we seek control.

Well, we may manipulate, bargain, negotiate…

We may change patterns of our thinking, or change our habits.

We may meditate on areas outside of our control, and devise ways to bring uncertainty within our tight grasp.

Maybe this is a fight…

This brought me back to some of my daily practices.

Stressing.

Harboring bitterness.

Tirelessly fighting uphill battles to get the upper hand in matters that I should lay down at the feet of the Father.

Dude. Control IS a burden.
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This would be the part of the show where I give you a 3 step method on how to fight the desire to control.

“How to Control Your Control Problem”

Ope…

See why this is problematic?

This is us! This is how we think. I can’t be alone here.

I don’t mean lose the fire. I don’t mean give up. I don’t mean to stop acting in love. I don’t mean to be silent.

I mean to examine those intentions. And those ideas and plans that may currently be on the throne of our hearts. Because they shape us.


So I’m urging us today, myself included, to take a hard look at our longings.What we wish was different.What we are trying to manipulate.What we are beating ourselves up over.And hand it over.Open fist.Pure intentions.Surrender those unmet expectations to the Lord, who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine with our little.With our biggest little longings.Our five loaves of bread, and two fish.

What I desire to desire is my true portion. Forever and ever.

April’s Best – Honest Favorites and Discoveries

April is almost over. While I know that quarantine has felt like forever and a day, the weeks still seem to fly to me. This is the sure mark of “getting older”…

I have seen my fair share of “favorites” round-ups, mostly videos actually. Some of these favorites I’m sharing are new discoveries this month, and others are rediscovered oldies that have made their way back into my life. Here are the first five things that came to mind:

Yogi Bowls

This month I have been enjoying watching Autumn Bates on Youtube. She is a certified clinical nutritionist with her Masters in Health and Human Performance, and as I embark on my own journey into nutrition and personal training (surprise!), I have found her information extremely compelling.

Anyway, she makes this raspberry compote bowl, which inspired my version: the Yogi Bowl (or Yogurt Bowl, if you’re a real adult).

There are no rules, people. You just throw together stuff that tastes good. I’ve been taking plain greek yogurt, topping it with thawed raspberries or blueberries (or frozen berries blasted in the microwave for 30 seconds), reduced salt and sugar peanut butter, protein powder of choice, and chia seeds (mixed with water until they become gelatinous). Dude. The best spring treat, or meal. You can make it your own by changing up the fruit, adding coconut flakes, granola, flax, flavored yogurt, or whatever else you have sitting around. I’ve been making these a bunch.

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Read Scripture App

This is not a new discovery, but an app I have come back to in this season of my life. I used it during student teaching while I was reading through Job. This month, wow. I have gotten through so much more of the Old Testament than I ever have in such a short amount of time. Don’t get me wrong, the point is not to make it a race. I do, however, enjoy the way I’m reading right now. I have been the person to read Scripture, read commentary, take notes on all the commentary, add maybe a supplemental sermon on that particular chapter, repeat…

It took me a while. It was very detailed-oriented, and I had a harder time seeing bigger picture things.

This month I started reading the OT like the story that it is. I think, as a result of that, I have been able to enjoy the wide-view themes, and characteristics of God, that I’m confronted with: rememberance, faithfulness, justice, holiness.

This app provides you with a chronological view of the Bible (though you don’t have to read it that way if you prefer to jump around). The books are grouped according to category or major chracteristic event. For example, “Creation and Fall” is Genesis 1-11. “The Exodus from Egypt” is Exodus 1-18. I love the organization, and the three chapters and a Psalm you read per day is the perfect amount for my mornings.

If that wasn’t good enough, some days you’ll have a Bible Project video to watch to help solidify what you read, and trace specific themes through the text. Get this app!

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Peanut Butter Cookies

I could eat these every night. I don’t…but I could. I have tried a few different “healthy alternative” recipes in quarantine, and this remains my favorite. If you aren’t trying to watch sugar, maybe skip these. They obviously can’t compete with the real thing. But for those of you who need a sweet treat, are trying to avoid added sugar, and love peanut butter, you need to give these a try.

This dessert reminds me of making these for my dad and me when I was home for the summer before my junior year of college. It’s a nostalgia thing. It’s also a peanut butter thing.

I’ve tried both of these (and more), and can’t remember which was better.

Keto Peanut Butter Cookies

https://everydayketogenic.com/keto-peanut-butter-cookies/

I’d recommend searching Pinterest and seeing which recipes fit with the ingredients you have on hand.

Garmin Training

Game changer. Though this was late in the month, I recently upgraded from my Fitbit Alta to a Garmin Vivoactive 3 watch. My fiancé bought his before I did (let the record show that I am the copycat), and when he saw them on sale at Target, for the same price I paid for my Alta three years prior, I had to get it. When I was training for both of my half marathons, I wasn’t even using the tracking that came with the Fitbit app. I preferred Strava for accuracy and detail during my runs. For experienced runners this sounds so dumb to say, but it’s amazing to see my pace on my wrist at all times, as well as my heart rate and run duration. Also, having my training plans sent directly to my watch instead of memorizing them? I love it.

Totally worthwhile if you’re someone who finds encouragement in seeing the details of your fitness training.

 

 

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June 2018 { coffee time is not a new ritual }

Simple Rituals

Man, life can weigh on you. It has been weighing on me. You may fear the unknown, or be caught in trying times. It’s essential to seek out things that are constant. I like anticipating “Office Mondays” with my fiancé, Wednes-Date Night, and Claire’s choice Thursdays (that’s a good day). I enjoy the rhythm of waking up naturally, or to the radio, pouring my coffee, and reading my Bible.

I know life won’t always be like this. In fact, I am dreading the return to normal. I know that life may look wildly different to you, maybe even very chaotic. But find something, even if it’s small, to keep in your every day. We crave structure and consistency in the midst of trial. Seek it.

And know that the most consistency is not found in practices, people, or places. Hope in the Lord. He will renew your strength. [Isaiah 40:31]

I’d be curious to know your favorites!

-claire

You’re Either Growing or Dying

There are two very different sides I see being promoted in our current reality.

How to live your “best life”.

Some people say it’s using this time, where we have nothing to do anyway, and actually accomplish the things we’ve always wanted to do.

Drop 20 pounds.

Deep clean your whole house.

Transform into the two-in-one teacher-mom! Math hasn’t changed since you were in high school, c’mon you can do it!

…right?

Then there are other influencers who are pushing back on this “shaming” motivation to hustle during quarantine.

We are literally in a PANDEMIC.

You’re not “wasting” time.

We are all mourning the loss of something.

Take your time to heal.

This is quite a different feel.

Honestly, entertaining both sides of this argument can be confusing at times. Is there a right answer?

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Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush on Pexels.com

Work and Rest

Recently, I have allowed two influencers to shape my view of work and rest, in some ways I was well-aware of, and in other ways unknowingly.

 

Before I go any further, you should know that I have gained a lot of valuable knowledge from each of these influencers and their families. The purpose of this article is not to bash either of them, or their positions on work-rest balance. I think these stark differences exist due to the diversity of the population, and therefore, serve different people with different needs. You would never tell an addict to “live a little”, or a workaholic to “do better and hustle harder”. We will never hold to just one perspective, not even a single person in their lifetime. That was my lengthy disclaimer…

 

So here are the perspectives I’m examining for the sake of provoking deeper digs at how we view the work-rest balance (if we believe there is one), “hustle culture”, and “Jesus’ pace”:

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The first I ran across was the discussion by Jefferson Bethke. Jeff is a well-known author, speaker and Youtuber in the Christian sphere. Living in Hawaii, his wife Alyssa, and their three young kids, demonstrate a slower pace of life, filled with depth and meaning. Jeff’s newest book “To Hell With the Hustle” completely changed the way I saw a lot of mundane aspects of American culture, and encourages us to reconsider our “life-hacking”, and take a cue from the Son of Man, welcoming inconvenience and making time for it, and speaking Truth over the lies in a works-based salvation. Incredible read. (well, I listened to it in the car as I traveled between my five schools in a day this year. the irony hurts, i know…)

 

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The next person, and seemingly opposing discussion, is Rachel Hollis, and her perspective, as a self-made, industry-climbing super-mom. She is a recent discovery for me, and her teaching is met with immense passion by consumers, in a positive, and also hyper-critical sense. Rachel and her husband Dave live in a big house with their four kids (I think). Rachel is a NY Times best-selling author, motivational speaker, and content creator, and her business is built on the foundation of helping women set goals, and achieve their dreams. My experience with Rachel’s content came from watching her Amazon Prime documentary, as well as select Youtube content.

 

Let’s talk about what these two figures, and their platforms, have in common:

  • They both go about disseminating information in the same way. Books, podcasts, videos, and social media. This is how they communicate their points of view.
  • They believe that the general public is out of balance in some way or another.
  • They are passionate about what they have to say about our modern culture.
  • Their followers are seeking fulfillment (maybe because they feel a lack of contentment at the outset of discovering their material).
  • They are both incredibly likeable people, who are captivating when they are doing their thing.

Those are the obvious ones. Another point, that may or may not be worth noting, is that they both live in ideal conditions for the lifestyle they choose. The Hollis’ have their workspace, gym, and family life in one concentrated spot. This is perfect for the type of lifestyle they promote. The Bethkes live in Hawaii, with it’s drool-worthy climate, and space and time to enjoy the team-like atomosphere of their family. In other words, the Hollis’ don’t live in a rural commune, and the Bethkes don’t live in NYC. Though they haven’t always been in ideal situations (as they are very open about their past trauma) they are both atypical to their content consumers, in how they have achieved the lifestyles they promote.

 

Hustle vs Rest

So what about hustle culture? Depending on who you are, and your season of life, opinions on this differ greatly.

Hustle culture bombards our thinking. Target mugs adorned with “daily grind” and “boss babe”. Gettin through the day on coffee, and a dream. You have to LOVE your job, or you’re doing the wrong one. The hustle separates the passionate from the so-so.

There is a dark reality of hustle culture: it’s never enough. The steady stream of discontentment follows those who are after the “next best thing”. Once we achieve this, we’re hungry for more. Bigger mountains, greater challenges. Some are even in chains to their commitments and successes, as if their worth depends on it.

But we feel guilty for resting. It has a negative connotation. Laziness. Neglect. The effects of our rest can lead to guilt, and the effects of others’ rest can lead to frustration. “If they would just do their job…” HOWEVER, when viewed biblically, these “lazy” decisions become “HOLY”. Like “oh that person is bold enough to set boudaries, how admirable!”

Because we can already mistake rest for laziness (and vice versa), this indicates a pre-existing concern regarding rest: how do the things that have to get done… get…done? If I rested as much as I needed, my familiy wouldn’t eat. Changing my perspective on rest would involve me quitting my job. Rest seems more like a luxury for the elite, than daily bread for the common man. We are truly broken.

Cautions (with love)

What initially concerns me about Jeff’s perspective is honestly how great it sounds to be able to be as balanced as his family is. His approach is so counter-cultural that it feels discouragingly impossible for the modern American. Is it reasonable to assume that ALL people can clear space in their lives, while still being able to support their loved ones at a basic level? Maybe Jeff was never out to make that assertion, and we can’t hold that against him. However, it is a reasonable question to ask. Is this going to work for everybody? And is this emphasis on rest still sufficient when practiced in lesser quantities? Is my 5 minute quiet time still meaningful, and once per year “date” with my kid enough? Or should I prioritize this area of my life, even if it means my kid doesn’t get to play soccer, or I choose a different job.

After listening to part of a video of Rachel and her husband, I marinated on a quote they discussed that I found rather disturbing: “if you’re not growing, you’re dying”. In other words, you’re either achieving, or marching slowly to your grave. Rachel Hollis is the biggest go-getter I’ve seen, and makes it as simple as possible for women to follow suit. But there is great danger in putting so much of our mental energy into our own plans. Has life ever gone according to plan? I’d say my biggest seasons of growth have occurred when my plans crumbled, and I leaned on the Lord, and NOT my own understanding. Sometimes we don’t need to see a task/goal through, and letting it die is to find freedom. What place does “loving your neighbor as yourself” and “lay[ing] down his life for his friends” have in this? Is that to assume we can’t hustle for ourselves, and only hustle for others? I’d say that’s a pretty blurred line.

I don’t know what kinds of conclusions you’re drawing from this, but I urge you to think about how your perceptions have been shaped by your culture. Or reading material.

You are not purely a measure of your successes. You are not failing if you can’t get nine hours of sleep per night like Jeff. If you don’t willingly wake up at 5am, you’re not a slacker, and you’re not dying.

I think, like a lot of what I’ve been reading lately, it all comes down to motive.

 

Your Why

Why are you hustling or resting?

Are you hustling to get ahead? For status and self-elevation? Or are you hustling for the sake of the Kingdom? And are you glorifying yourself, or your Creator?

And likewise, are you resting to be cozy? To excuse obligation to others? To avoid uncomfortable risk? Or are you resting to listen, and to pause self-focus long enough to seek the will of God? Are you resting to resist a toxic culture of fulfillment derrived from work?

The truth?

Sometimes you just gotta roll up your sleeves and get. it. done.

Sometimes “boss babes” take a dang nap.

We need both. Knowing that…

Rest is not true rest if not found in Him. And hard work is a meaningless time-filler if not done unto the Lord.

You have permission to take naps during quarantine.

To knit blankets.

To read books on things you don’t understand, to grow your own knowledge base.

You have permission to try and get just a little bit better at homeschooling your kids with each passing day.

Permisson to cry, and be held until you pass out.

To abandon your professional responsibilities to take care of your family.

To take up a new hobby.

To bake all the treats, and break your diet if your priorities in this season lie elsewhere.

And to attempt something far greater than you imagined you could because you happen to have the time.

Know your WHY. Check your motives. And take care of yourself accordingly.

 

-claire

 

 

4 Practical Ways to Combat Worry

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If you’re anything like me, you’re probably feeling anxious in this season.

Maybe you’re anxious about how this crazy virus has impacted your job.

Maybe you are worried about how you are going to entertain you kids around the house for yet another day.

Maybe your fridge is empty, and you’re dreading going to the grocery store.

Yup. This is new territory for us all, regardless of your specific circumstances.

 

 

I have had my FAIR share of worry during this time, and wanted to share my top suggestions that have been the most fruitful.

 

1.Use Your Resources

Text, email, Snapchat, Zoom, literally anything. Use it. Call your family members. I’ve talked to my Grandma more times during the last month than I have since the start of the year. The college roommate Snapchat group has been revived, and I love it! It is so much easier to let your thoughts spiral while alone. Go out of your way to surround yourself with virtual community. We’re in this TOGETHER.

2.Take a Walk

I stew. Ooh I stew with the best of them. I will sit with one little negative thing for far too long, and let it affect my whole day. Ask my fiancé (sorry Daniel…).

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says this: “Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.”

Five minutes?! I thought that was amazing.

“According to some studies, regular exercise works as well as medication for some people to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the effects can be long lasting. One vigorous exercise session can help alleviate symptoms for hours, and a regular schedule may significantly reduce them over time.”

While the article does say that some people may experience a very minimal effect, try it for yourself! I don’t think anybody needs to be convinced that exercise is good for us in more than one way.

Instead of stewing on those negative thoughts, move a little, if only for 15 minutes. Boost those endorphins, and enjoy the beautiful spring weather.

3.Create Routine

Find something familiar to incorporate into your every day. We are all mourning the familiar right now, as we live in new territory. Try having a structured morning time! Mine looks like keto coffee (yup, I’ve taken to it. with the coconut oil this time!), reading, and answering emails from my school kids.

Another rhythm my fiancé and I have come up with is TV time at night. We watch our church’s daily devotional while we eat our homemade dinner, and then follow our watch schedule. Yesterday was The Office Monday. We’re on Season 3 now. I’ve literally never seen the show, please don’t stop reading…(I can see why people love it).

Anyway, come up with YOUR thing, and work it in. It can take up as much as a few hours, or as little as 5 minutes. There will be one less choice you have to make, and one more familiar thing among the chaos.

4. Girl, PRAYYY.

When I was still teaching in-person, I had a time where anxiety got the better of me. Doing my day felt like torture. I found myself asking the Lord “take this worry from me, please” and “give me the strength to endure this”. That was the season I was in.

These past couple months, when I remember to reach out to the Lord with my worry (this is a thing, it is not automatic, you have to train yourself to think like this. don’t beat yourself up!), I remind myself of what I was told by a wise counselor: “invite God into your worry”. Take some deep, DEEP breaths. Good ones. Then maybe ask the Lord to be in it with you. Maybe not “why am I feeling this way?”, but “what do you want me to know about this?”

That same wise counselor said this to me:

“I can’t help but wonder if what you’re going through, that causes you to struggle, is an invitation to run to Him, where you wouldn’t as much otherwise.”

How profound is that?

Isn’t that what we’re all going through right now? A situation so out of our control?

The whole world is being offered an invitation to run to Him, where we probably wouldn’t otherwise. Are we gonna take it? This could be a question to ponder.

This mindset shift turns our prayers for survival into a request for eyes to see how He might be moving in our midst.

(Side note: I can’t think of a single person who regrets their decision to talk to a pro, or a trusted person, about their battle with their mind. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. We all need to learn and keep relearning this. You’re not meant to navigate these waters alone.)

I encourage you to take a bold step to fight your worry this season. EVEN IF your bold step is stillness.

-claire

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Verses for Worry:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”. ~ Isaiah 41:10

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

“When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” ~ Psalm 94:19

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” ~ Matthew 6:34

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”~ Psalm 46:1

Sources

“Exercise for Stress and Anxiety.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, ADAA, 2018, adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety.

 

Dear COVID-19 Brides,

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When I got engaged back in December, I was invited by one of my friends to this online wedding group, The Wedding Connection.

It is a black hole, people. It’s like Pinterest. Once you start scrolling, it’s hard to get out. There are so many great ideas! And they are given so freely by those who have joined the group, did the planning, got married, and delight in sharing their rewarding expenses, along with regrets. It’s like having 80,000 big sisters who are only here to give you bridal advice.

As a daughter of parents who didn’t have a formal, extravagant wedding, the concerns of the women posting in this group were so foreign to me.

You spent HOW MUCH on a dress you’re going to wear once?

Your one bridesmaid is being hard to handle? Why are you including her?

Centerpieces? Napkin colors?

Zola or The Knot?

Photographers in the Seattle area?

“STDs”?!?! WHAT?!

(ohhh Save the Dates…)

. . .

As a 24 year old,

the oldest sibling,

the first of my cousins to marry,

having only attended a handful of weddings myself,

I had no idea what I was doing. Still don’t!

So I read. I looked at their photos of the beautiful white dresses, rings, and decor inspirations, and by then, I was fully immersed in the wedding culture.

My wedding planner app was giving me deadlines for certain tasks, and my fiancé and I had started getting our venues, attire, and vision in order. We were our own wedding planners, and I was determined to make this wedding uniquely meaningful to us. Including things that held deep meaning to our relationship, and ditching old traditions that didn’t seem important.

Then this virus hit. It hit our country hard.

I know you probably hoped that, even in my corner of the internet, that you could escape more talk about what everybody’s already talking about. But here’s the deal…

I have learned something so important from being a part (well, honestly more like creeping in the background) of the group in this one-of-a-kind moment in time. So I will thank them, in the hopes that maybe one of them will receive this.

 

Dear COVID-19 Brides,

Your hurt is real. Your plans have fallen through, your money washed away, and your vision shattered. Your tears are natural, expected, and encouraged. Turn to your people for comfort because they hear you.

To have had something to look forward to for so long, maybe since you were a young girl, taken from you just stings.

Your families love you, your friends feel for you, and your guests were so eager to celebrate you. That does not change.

Thank you COVID-19 brides. You are teaching us what marriage means.

Marriage is not in the party.

Marriage is not in the food, the drink, or the dancing.

Marriage is a life of love with your favorite person.

With every joyous home wedding,

every beautiful backyard ceremony,

every incredibly intimate gathering,

every post-poned party announcement, full of positivity,

you show us that we have the opportunity to refocus.

With every DIY,

every casual ivory dress,

every loving, living room cake-cutting

every enthusiastic kitchen toast,

we feel the urgency to pursue what really matters.

A lifetime of memories.
A sacrificial love.
An enduring partnership.
In sickness, and in health.

In seeking what matters, the details are free to become just details.

 

Thank you, COVID-19 brides. For putting your love above your plans. The world needs more people like that.

 

-claire

 

Sister, It’s Ok to Change Your Mind

(in fact, you should!)

romans12.2

I talk myself out of a lot of things.

I’m one to start something, and unless I feel SUPER strongly about it, or have to, I normally forget about it, or abandon the idea, or activity.

Unfinished journals

Half-eaten bags of health foods in my pantry

Households surfaces still covered in what was supposed to be “my new thing”…

I’m good at starting things. Not great at finishing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very reliable. You can count on me when you come to me with something you need. I’m talking about things that are for myself. I have a hard time trusting that anything I start is “good”. It feels uncomfortable doing something “different” than what I’ve always done. It’s risky. I don’t like the feeling of something “not going anywhere” after I start it, so I tend to give up before that has a chance to reallly set it (I’m trying not to let that happen with writing, even though everything has its season. hey, i’m not makin any plans! that’s not goin too well for us here in 2020…).

But whenever I “quit” something, or ditch an idea that I’ve been tossing around in my head, I feel a strange sense of shame. And that’s where it gets weird.

Maybe some of you don’t think like this. We all have different tendencies, and we all need balanced perspectives. But maybe some of you can resonate with this feeling of fearing change mid-process.

Maybe you were once able to enjoy a particular person, activity, food, etc. with a good conscience, and now you’re feeling convicted.

Maybe you had this great vision of how you wanted your wedding to be, or your big project at work, and now, after hours upon hours of work, it’s looking nothing like you planned.

Maybe with your first kid you were all homemade baby food organic cloth diaper no technology, and now you put on mesmerizing Baby Shark while they eat their Happy Meal because you are exhausted.

It’s easy to feel shame in parts of your life not working out how you thought they should, or not meeting the Instagram-worthy standards you set before you started.

As women, I think we need to shake the shame in changing our mind, and drop the fear of appearing “fake”.

From mid high school through grad school, I was super into changing my hair color. I did it myself so I guess it felt like more of my own creation. I liked the routine change.

People close to me told me things like “you change your hair color every other week!”

My sweet Grandma would occassionally gasp when she saw me.

“What?…”

“You changed your hair again!”

“No I didn’t Grandma…”

“…are you sure?”

We had all forgetten what was natural at that point, it’s fine. But that wasn’t what I was trying to get at.

The most revealing part of this was my reaction. I felt oddly a bit ashamed and defensive when people commented on how often my hair changed its hue. They were right. So why did I feel kinda bad about it?

I was a plant-based vegan for almost 2.5 years. Now, when folks ask if I’m still vegan, I reply, “haha no…”. Knowing that they’re probably thinking “how could someone so hardcore about this abandon it?”

Reflecting on these two examples has revealed a few things to me.

I overthink MANY things. Sorry…

I feel a lot of shame when I seem flaky, wishy-washy, on noncommital.

And I have a strong, unhealthy fear of man.

Sister, it’s OK to change your mind.

Imagine if you stuck with the first diet you ever tried

With the first guy you ever dated

The first music genre you ever liked

With the first philosophy you held, dictating the purpose of the rest of your life

ALL BECAUSE you were afraid of how people would perceive change in your life.

To add to the ridiculousness with a personal example, I would surely be unhealthy, unhappy, uninformed, unchanged for the better, and still listening to Now That’s What I Call Music 21. Yikes.

We have this unspoken (or maybe it is, but i never hear about it) expectation that we need to be rock solid until WE tell people “this is what I’m doing, and here are my well-thought-out reasons for making this choice”

Why do we need to sell it to people?

Why does it matter if so-and-so’s sister-in-law Brenda on Facebook thinks you’re being hasty, or controlling, or inappropriate, or ignorant, or whatever else one could come up with?

Must we create an internet poll for our high school friends to tell us “no, you shouldn’t have another baby at your age”, “no, you shouldn’t go back to school while you’re this far in debt”, “yes, you should wait til you’ve dated ___ years before you marry”, or “no, you shouldn’t be so jazzed about your workouts until you’ve reached your weightloss goal”?

Sometimes we can fall into the trap of being more concerned what others think than what our Maker thinks of us.

I experienced some quality teaching put on by my church about a few months ago, which really illuminated this key idea that is so often forgotten about: i d e n t i t y.

Here are some questions to ponder:

Where does your identity lie? In the sum of the opinions of others? In the shame you feel in redirection, whether you make a true 180, or turn just a few degrees? Does your identity lie in your own concrete plans? And when life doesn’t go according to plan, does your identity then crumble?

Or does your identity lie in unchanging Truth? What if we were free to change our minds, redirecting our lives, living in the light of the Word revealed to us in THIS season, BECAUSE our identity never changes.

And this is that identity…

I am a child of God (John 1:12, Ephesians 1:5)

I am complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10)

I am free of condemnation (Romans 8:1-2)

I have been chosen and pointed to bear fruit (John 15:16)

Ooh and this one that’s a hard one for me: I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)

Among many other powerful statements of identity!

We can’t be transformed by the renewing of our mind if we refuse to challenge those thoughts about what defines us.

And good news! It’s not your work, your hair color, your diet, your habits, your upbringing, your trauma, or your insecurities. We aren’t stuck. And when we know that, we are free to be teachable, to be called, and to go about His work, in whatever corner of the world, in whatever circumstance, in whatever season.

I don’t know what this means for my hair color, or the food I eat, or any of the choices we make down the road that may be wildly different from the people we once were. But I hope the truth of this begins to seep into my soul- that if we are to be conformed to HIS image, we can’t fear appearing indecisive, tentative, or wavering. We are, and always will be. Cling to what isn’t.

-claire

 

 

I Put Butter in My Coffee

(so you don’t have to)

What an interesting turn of events.

I’ve knocked the keto diet for a lonnnnggg time. Ever since I had heard about it.

“So it’s a carnivore diet with butter coffee, right?” That was my perception.

I am not saying I’ve gone keto, by any means. I love veggies and fruit, and I am not a perfect eater. I think that disqualifies me.

Let me explain how I arrived here:

From the summer of 2016 to the fall of 2018, I had been a hardcore vegan. It was 100% a selfish choice, as I resumed eating animal products when the health benefits I touted had seemingly worn off.

From fall 2018 to summer 2019, I was a vegetarian. I started having more health issues. My bloodwork was totally normal, maybe slightly low iron, but definitely not a big deal. But some unexplainable symptoms led me to add meat back into my diet. I was done restricting if I didn’t feel it was paying off, especially when it meant that it was harder to share meals with my boyfriend.

Fast forward to now and not a lot has changed in terms of my diet. Many dollars poured into tests. Two new medications, one for anxiety, that is seeming to make the most difference in my problematic symptoms. And several trips to my counselor- uber good for anyone struggling in this way, 100% recommended.

This past year of teaching, I have not been blessed with a lunch break, or the ability to eat while conducting a rehearsal, orrr a plan period within normal eating hours (probably illegal, but whatever…). I also travel between five different school buildings #orchestrateacherprobs. So I’ve had to get creative. But before that I complained about it a lot. Yup. Sigh..

I would eat a good-sized breakfast between 6:45 and 7:30am and be ready to EAT by the end of 8th Grade Orchestra – 9:40am. Most of the time, my stomach is making audible whale noises, that I’m sure the cello section can hear. I would eat snack #1 as I leave the parking lot for my next school. I would eat car snack #2 at 11:00am and then maybe snack #3 (depending on how filling the first two were) at 12:05pm. No joke, sometimes I would eat two protein bars for my mornings snacks #1 and #2. Then, at 1:10, while Daniel is getting our first high school class started, I’m warming up my real lunch in the office microwave. Sound excessive? I’d agree. I clearly have a satiation problem. Which brings us to this experiment…

 

What is this sorcery?

“Keto coffee”, as it is called, is meant to be used as a morning drink, to supply your body with energy and satiation to get you through fasted morning hours. This is a tactic used in the intermittent fasting community, where people will dedicate a window of time in their day to eat, with variations of their choosing. That is, if you’re fasting during the day? I need clarification on this…it is not meant to be consumed alongside your normal breakfast. I’m not getting too science-y here, but you can read more about that elsewhere. I’ve done a bit of reading and it’s quite interesting.

Anyway, here’s what is supposed to go in your morning beverage:

Coconut Oil or MCT Oil- supposedly aiding in fat loss

Grass-Fed Butter- full of Vitamin K2 and Omega 3 fatty acids

Coffee-ok, I can get behind this one

Heavy Whipping Cream – optional

Optional Flavoring- sugar-free of course

Apparently with the correct ratios of these ingredients, you’re left with a foamy, filling latte-like creation. I’m down.

So I normally take my coffee black, unless I’m getting a latte out somewhere. For the past 3 weeks of social distancing, it’s just been black coffee. Therefore, I was scared and modified the recipe slightly. (I chickened out ok I’m sorry!)

Traditional Keto Coffee Recipe (this is from delish.com)

3 c. brewed coffee

4 tbsp butter

2 tbsp coconut oil

2 tbsp heavy cream

This supposedly makes two servings.

Claire’s Modified Recipe for Scaredy Cats

12 oz. brewed coffee (I used hazelnut coffee I had on hand)

1 tbsp grass-fed butter

4 oz. coconut milk

a splash of vanilla extract

This made an overflowing normal-sized coffee cup

(creepy…)

Since I substituted coconut milk for coconut oil, I can’t claim the benefits of the coconut oil. This coconut milk has 7 grams of carborhydrates per cup, so with my half cup is this beverage really considered “keto” anymore? That I don’t know. But my experiment was to measure satiation. I’m not the keto police.

I put the ingredients in the ninja blender and blasted that sucker til it had a frothy consistency. Looked like a good latte to me!

First impression: “oh?…oh this is good…”

Within the first 10 minutes of drinking it, I didn’t feel like I needed to rush to get breakfast before my stomach makes whale noises, like it normally does.

Final observations: a little over an hour in, I am ready to eat. This is pretty unimpressive, given that the ingredients are supposed to provide hours of satiation. Could it be the excluded coconut oil that’s the ticket? I may have to follow up with another experiment. However, it had been 14 hrs since dinner before I had the coffee, and the coffee led me to the 15+hr mark. This was totally unintentional, as it is just the way my schedule worked out these past two days. Could this drink aid intermittent fasters? Sure seems like it.

If you’re feeling adventurous during quarantine, and craving a frothy latte, maybe give this a shot as you’re working from home. I can’t say I won’t make this again…

-claire

Enneagram 9

Infographic-Enneagram-9-Infographic-by-celestehillarydesign

Enneagram 9 Infographic by celestehillarydesign

 

It’s 6ish (sorry, I don’t know what day it is anymore, #pandemicprobs), and my fiancé is prepping the ingredients for Instant Pot chili, as the attic fan is whirring in the background. As I mention that I’d like to ask him some questions, he’s made sure to tell me that everyone on the receiving end should know that he was in the middle of food prep. He is unaware that my questions are being asked to see how someone of his type would respond, and how closely his responses would match the generic descriptions. An experiment of sorts.

I have been following the Enneagram for probably about a year now. I had heard about it months before that, but hadn’t looked into it. I thought “well the Myers-Briggs test gives me four letters to look at, that has to be more revealing and detailed than a number…” I have grown increasingly intrigued as I’ve learned more about what motivates each type. I’ll save my own number for a later time.

As always, my perspective on the Enneagram is that it’s a tool. It’s not meant to excuse behaviors that aren’t helpful, or healthy. When you are aware of your tendencies, you know how to better set yourself up to have successful relationships with others, and accept love given to you. I am a child of God before I am a number. When we are aware of where we are beginning, and how we are motivated, we can know what to work on, and pray over, and how to use our unique gifts to serve others. That’s my little disclaimer. This isn’t the end-all, be-all.

 

A Little About Type Nine

Type 9 is often called “The Peacemaker”. They are receptive of others, non-judgemental, patient, optimistic, idealistic, and reassuring. They are good at mediating, and communicating with others. They are inclusive and stabilizing in group settings. They are often able to see both sides, and are very balanced and approachable people. They are generally very polite and kind-hearted.

Type 9s can also become complacent, or go along with others’ ideas, in order to keep the peace. They tend to downplay issues, and minimize potential conflict. They can also be passive and stubborn. They can absorb a lot of the negativity given to them, and tend to escape, rather than fight.

In postive upbringings, nines feel secure, and have a good extended family dynamic, remembering family memories as joyous and comforting. In other cases, nines may dissociate with others that may have caused trauma, or pain.

At their best, they are able to bring people together, and solve problems among people in conflict. Nines can most often be found with a friendly smile, and something good to say about everyone. They always want to believe the best about other people.

Daniel

“Would you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert?”

“Well, it depends on the crowd, but more often than not, an introvert. With new people, an introvert, but with friends, more of an extrovert.”

“What is something you can’t go a day without doing?”

*thinks for 20 seconds* “Having human connection?”

“Biggest pet peeve?”

“…probably just rude people.”

“Umm..what’s your favorite hobby to do alone?”

“…watching a movie I guess”

“What is something that overwhelms you?”

“Umm..the end result of my procrastination.”

I laugh. “But does that keep you from procrastinating?”

“Sometimes. Depends on what we’re talking about”

“Do you work better under pressure?”

“Sometimes. It depends on the pressure I guess”

“Hmm. Ok.”

“I’m not a good interviewee, I’m sorry”

“No that’s fine! How do you recharge?”

“Sleep?”

“Is there an activity that calms you? A place, or a thing?”

*points to me*

“Aww…” *heart eyes* “sometimes I make you more stressed..”

“The question was recharge me? Prayer helps a lot. Finding something comfortable like a tv show that’s familiar, or just laying on the couch.”

“Have your priorities changed over time?”

“…I’ve kinda swung the pendulum on work-home ratio. When I first started teaching I was way…*swings arm to the right*…not doing anything outside of school for school, and then when I realized that was awful, I went too far the other way *swings arm to the right* for a long time, and spent too much time doing school work. And then I’ve swung back, not as far as I used to be, and then swung back to doing more work than not, and I’m trying to find the medium ground right now.”

“Have you found the medium ground?”

“Ish? I still find that when I start working I stay working too long, or I’m the other way where I don’t want to work and that catches up with me. When I’m in the groove, I want to keep doin what I’m doin.”

“Is that a change in your adult life?”

“Umm…no. Probably always.”

“What’s the most memorable lesson you’ve learned from your parents?”

“Well, as you know, my mom has a really kind heart, and I think I learned a lot of that from her.”

“That’s true.”

“From both of them, just being able to work hard to provide for yourself, because if you don’t, you’re going to get fired. Not that they got fired. But because of the opposite. My dad always worked long nights and some weekends, and my mom would do that too. Just to be kind to other people. My dad, when I went to Camp the first time, he’d come out extra during the day to come check on me, and we’d walk on the trail, and he would show me to say hi to people as we walked by. I know that’s still a thing I do, whether at school, or out walking. I always try to smile at people, or wave.”

“This is a harder one: tell me about the facts or harsh truths you choose to ignore, but know you shouldn’t.”

“…I feel like procrastination is becoming a thing, are you doing this on purpose?”

“Haha, no”

“I don’t know if I have any harsh truths that I choose to ignore..chores? I have harsh chores that I choose to ignore…I don’t know, I tend to be realistic with a lot of things.”

“Which is a perfectly acceptable answer! Uhh..which part of your culture are you most proud of, and then least proud of?”

“Most proud? Probably that my family is a big deal, both sides. My dad’s family gets together all the time, and my mom’s extended family gets together a few times a year. And that church is a big deal, for both sides too. And the least proud of?….I don’t know.”

“Ok!”

“I don’t know that I’m ashamed of much of my culture.”

“What is one thing you wish you knew how to do?”

“Fly.”

*gasps* “Fly?!”

“I wish I was a better handyman. With cars, and building things”

“What would your best friend say is your best quality?”

“My personality. That’s kinda bad..”

“That’s broad!”

“Probably just how I treat other people. I try to be polite, especially with people I don’t know well.”

“Yeah! What’s your day-to-day mantra?”

“I dont know. I kinda like the Golden Rule. Treat others how you want to be treated.”

“Do you think about that every day?”

“I don’t know that I need to think about it. It’s more ingrained in me.”

“Good on ya. What are things you value most about a person?”

“Again, how they treat other people. I think that’s a big deal. Not being rude. Umm..sense of humor. And trust.”

“And kind of a follow-up to that question- last one! What values do you think are critical to communicate to younger men?”

“I would say just being true to your word.”

“Integrity?”

“Yes. Have integrity, and always follow through with what you say you’re gonna do.”

“That’s good! That’s good babe, thanks!”

//

Man. I love my 9. Like all people, we are not perfect, nor will we ever be. We still have hang-ups that keep us continually dependent on the Lord, and continually in need of others in our lives. My precious nine has been so beautifully equipped to both calm kids who have suffered ugly instrument mishaps, and be the steady and consistent presence in my own life. Daniel most definitely conforms to the kind-hearted stereotype. This nine has a steadfast kind of love, full of patience and compassion, that so beautifully mimics that of my Savior.

Hug a nine in your life (when this whole quarantine thing is over). They are the people we need.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” [Matthew 5:9]

 

-claire

 

For more info on the enneagram check out these resources: My Enneagram Coach (my favorite), The Enneagram Institute, EnneagramAshton (Instagram)