ready.

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This space has been so elusive for me over the past year. I’ve wanted to write. I’ve thought about writing. I’ve actually started drafts upon drafts that now sit half-finished, never published. 

I think it all began in the spring of last year when I was plagued with constant fatigue and some other strange symptoms that I just couldn’t shake. Turns out, it was most likely Lyme disease (all clear now, thankfully), but even after feeling “better,” my creative motivation was zapped.

A few months later, I found myself in that notoriously challenging first trimester getting my tail kicked with nausea and fatigue…and just generally feeling less than stellar. 

Now I’m prepping for the fast-approaching arrival of baby number two, and the inescapable instinct to have everything in order tends to outweigh the time it takes me to complete a post. 

Add to those my inclination toward procrastination and perfectionism (which ironically go hand-in-hand if you’ve never noticed before), and I was basically paralyzed. I told myself I was just taking a breather, but that wasn’t entirely true.

In reality, this “break” has been breaking me.

The enemy used this time to start telling me some pretty awful lies: I have nothing to say. No one will read it, anyway. Who do I think I am, trying to help and encourage those around me when I feel so lacking right now? Don’t worry about finishing that draft – it’s no good anyway. Someone else has already said it, and better. Don’t kid yourself- it’s not like you’re a real writer. No one even notices how quiet you’ve been. ON AND ON AND ON. Seriously, I could keep going, but I won’t.

The thing is, whenever I  choose to listen to that contriving little voice (and accept it as truth), I effectively hand over my power and my gift that God has bestowed on me for His glory. In my silence, I let Satan have what is rightfully the Lord’s. (Yuck. So hard to admit.) Have you ever found yourself in that position? Giving up on what God has so clearly spoken into your life? When I see it from that perspective, I know I can’t keep quiet. He has let me know it’s time to reclaim this calling, this space, this writing life. I want to write with honesty, from the hard places, even when it’s easier to just keep quiet. Especially when it’s easier to keep quiet. I want to see the Lord use these pages to speak through me (and to me, amen.)

I am on the cusp of some major life changes happening, and I want (need?) to be able to come here and get grounded again. Tapping across the keyboard and filling up the page feels a little bit like home to me.

For my Christmas present (and birthday, and new baby – ha), my husband bought me a year’s access to an online writing “workshop” through Coffee + Crumbs (one of my very favorite spaces online, full of beautifully honest articles on motherhood), and it has already begun to re-spark my enthusiasm. Also, it doesn’t hurt when your friend gifts you some pretty new notebooks for Christmas…. 🙂 (Sometimes it takes other people to help you find your footing again).

So, here’s to a fresh new year of beginnings. Here’s to sweeping the cobwebs and opening the blinds, even if I’m doing so with squinted and tired eyes. I finally feel ready.

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{ What are you giving back to God in this new year? You may not want to share, and that’s okay, but if so, leave a comment below and I’ll add you to my prayer journal. 

He can make us brave. }

 

 

 

 

31 Days of Learning to Simplify: Blogging


I’m here at Allume Conference (yipee!) and this morning I got to hear from Myquillin Smith of The Nesting Place. (Love. her.) One of the things she spoke about is the purpose behind your writing and the importance of a mission statement to guide everything you publish. 

I could probably list an entire page of “why I write” but ultimately, as a believer, I write to reflect the glory of God that is in me. We are all called to do that in whatever capacity we have been gifted in. Do you know what that does for me? It totally frees me up. I can speak His truth and be fulfilled no matter who reads it, or what they “get” from it, or what they think of it. That’s because it doesn’t end with me. As Stephanie Smith so aptly stated today, as writers, we are just pointing the way. We are the windows, the go-between, the mouth piece, the messengers. It’s not my message. It’s always His. 

I can simply let Him take the lead. This relieves so much of the pressure I put on myself.

I can simply rely on His guidance. This is how I determine what to speak about and what to not speak about. 

I can simply let Him do the storytelling. This allows me infinitely more joy in the process because it’s always His words. His story. 


It’s all His. 

31 Days of Learning to Simplify: Rethinking My Planner

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Are you a list-maker? Do you have a planner that’s worn from all the use it gets? 

I totally am and I totally do. Probably because my brain has left the building since I became a mom. (It is a thing. For sure.) So, lists and planner notes are essential to remembering anything these days.

I know a lot of people rely on apps like Google calendar now, but I am old school. I need a tangible calendar in my hands. Bonus points if it’s pretty. 

I almost always have my Planner with me. Unless I forget it or I’m on vacation, it’s usually in my bag or at least in my car. My inner nerd comes out over my planner. Sitting down with a fresh new planner, armed with pens, highlighters, and tabs is one of my very favorite things. It’s slightly alarming, the joy this brings to me. I told you, #nerdstatus.  But here’s why: my planner is my life tracker. It is way more than a place to fill in my work dates or make an errand list. It’s a sort of memory book of all the mundane in my life, like a regular old Tuesday at work, paired next to a memorable event like my wedding anniversary. As much as I try to avoid hoarding important mementos, I keep most of my old planners. I just can’t part with them. Especially the ones from significant years in my life. Every once in a while I will flip through an old calendar and see important dates from my life: 

Engagement day!, April 2007. 
Adopted our boxer Hudson, September 2010. 
Aven Harper’s birth day,  9 lbs 4 oz & 21 inches, February 2014. 
Aven’s first steps today!, February 2015.



I love the Gratitude box at the end of each week; it’s an intentional way to reflect back on the blessings from the week.


So I would encourage you to grab a new planner or open the one you already have and write in it every day. Use it as an abbreviated journal where you can track your special moments, sweet memories, prayers, and goals. Planners by nature are meant to simplify your life, but you can really capitalize on it’s uses:

– Get rid of your Post-It notes and keep track of small reminders on the pages of your planner.
– When you get a party invite, copy the address and all other pertinent info into your calendar and then toss the invite itself.
– Or if you want to keep that invite for sentimental reasons, tape it into your planner. You can even do this with keepsake notes from your spouse or doodles from your child, which prevents them from piling up in a storage container in the attic. 
– Have a master to do list on one specific page of your planner. Add and check off items as you go. 
– Meal planning. 
– Blessing counting.

It’s a simplified way to track the every day, the significant, and the significant found WITHIN every day. You don’t have to be confined to the typical ways a planner is meant to serve and simplify your life.

On the first empty page of the planner I doodled a brainstorm of personal goals for the upcoming year. This is the page I flip to when I need a reminder of my purpose or if I need to think through a decision I’m having a hard time with. 


My current planner is a thin and simple version of the Day Designer. It has a section for to do’s every day and a gratitude box at the end of every week.  I’ve also heard great things about Erin Condren planners

31 Days of Learning to Simplify: My Morning Routine

Friends, this Write 31 Days Challenge is GETTING REAL. I have been behind a couple of days, but I’ve managed to catch up so far, and this is technically Day 9’s post. I’ve been talking about simplifying my home, my decisions, and the past few posts have been a bit heavier. So we are going to move back into a lighter topic for tonight. I’m covering something superficial – my morning routine. 


It’s actually humorous to think about how much time I used to invest into getting ready each morning, pre-baby. Whether it was work, church, or just errands, I washed my hair, then came the blow dry, straighten or curl, (those first few steps alone are like a lifetime for us thick-haired gals) makeup, try on eight outfits, try on three pairs of shoes, and then get my bag together. At least an hour of my life – gone. 

Fast forward to every day since February 6, 2014, which just so happens to be the day my daughter entered the world, and OH HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED.

A lot of this is because I just care way less. Yes, I still want to look acceptable and decent, and okay, I admit I want to look cute, but if I’m going to be somewhere with my daughter, you can guess where all of the attention goes. And do not get me wrong, this is possibly my favorite thing. I love when people notice her and not me; I am a spotlight dodger while she basks in the glow and waves at her adoring fans. You could say we balance each other.

But also, I’ve just gained some perspective on lots of things, and being practical wins out almost every stinking time.

HAIR
For starters, I would say the #1 contributor to a simplified and efficient morning routine is that I try to only wash my hair every two or three days. I have naturally oily skin and hair, so here is how I get away with it:
1) Start with shampooing using a quality product. Yes, it really does make a difference. I currently use Bumble and Bumble Gentle and then minimal amount of conditioner (B&B Super Rich) only on the ends of my hair. I do not add any additional products the first day. 
2) The afternoon/evening of the first day I pull the top half of my hair into a tall pouf (is that a word? I have no idea. #notabeautyblogger) and secure with a clip. I look 100% ridiculous but no one sees me so whatevs. I try to get as much of my hair away from my scalp as possible.
3) That same night I either sleep with my hair in a loose top knot – literally on top of my head, or just very loosely in a clip – again to keep the hair off my scalp while I sleep.
4) The next morning I do not wash my hair but instead use a GOOD dry shampoo (my friend introduced me to Batiste and I don’t think I’m going too far when I call it life-changing. I buy it at Marshall’s). I also do not brush my hair very much. Only the ends as needed.
5) For the daytime, I typically wear it half up or in a pony tail. If I have time I may curl it, and then I will be able to wait an extra day before washing again. PONYTAILS, TOP KNOTS, BUNS…THEY ARE YOUR DIRTY HAIR FRIENDS.

MAKEUP
My makeup routine is super quick, and has never been complicated. I stick to the basics, and go for a glowy, fresh look rather than a heavy I’M WEARING MAKEUP look. (I’m just noticing all the CAPS in this post and I apologize for that. They seem necessary at the time.) I’ve also never timed it, but I would guess my makeup is completely done 4 or 5 minutes, tops. If I’m really rushing, I will just do powder, bronzer/blush, eyelash curler (heat it up for just a couple seconds with the hair dryer first for a better curl), and waterproof mascara (more substantial than regular-wear mascara).

CLOTHING
I always have my outfits picked out the night before. Well, almost always. And when I don’t, I have much less to choose from and genuinely LIKE everything in my closet since I simplified my wardrobe. This saves me SO MUCH TIME. 


I also prep as much as possible the night before – my bag, Aven’s bag, her lunchbox, her toy bag. And I’m enjoying the perks of having a garage for the first time in my life, so I often go ahead and load the car as well. 

When I follow this simplified routine, I can be ready to walk out the door in about 35 minutes. Which leaves me with plenty of time to get Aven ready, and if I’m lucky, a little cuddle time on the couch with her before we rush off to start our day. 


BOTTOM LINE: You can be low maintenance and still look cute! It just takes some preparation and thinking ahead, as well as decluttering the number of tools and unnecessary elements of your morning routine. I repeat: simple and cute is a thing. You should try it. 


31 Days of Learning to Simplify: When to Say Yes


Have you ever thought about the fact that every Yes you say to someone is by default a No to your family?

This is something I’ve heard from many different people over the past year, and it always comes to the forefront of my mind when I’m trying to make a decision on a commitment.

As a recovering people pleaser, “No” has always been a tough one for me. But a funny thing happened after my daughter arrived. The No’s came out more freely and boldly, in an effort to devote as much as I could to her and my newly formed family of three.

Settling into a new season of life requires so many adjustments. One major one for me was stepping back from work a bit, just like so many other moms.

I work as a Registered Sonographer at a couple of hospitals in my area. Technically my position is “PRN” meaning “as needed.” I know it sounds a little iffy, but in the hospital world, “as needed” is code for “often.” I decided that I would only commit to three days a week after maternity leave, and except for a handful of times, I have stuck with my plan. The welfare of my family is worth protecting, and for me, work needed more boundaries.

A big yes that surprised some people? My mission trip to Thailand earlier this year. I had family members tell me with no hesitation that they thought I was making the wrong decision. I can appreciate their concern, but in my mind there is no more worthy a cause to leave my family for. 

Even though I knew it was the right decision, saying yes to God and Thailand was not easy. My daughter was 14 months old at the time, and had only been weaned for a month. A trek to and from Asia is not cheap. And then we have the emotional stress of leaving your baby for the first time for TEN days to go to the other side of the world, and there are more than enough reasons to say no. In the end, I had more peace with my yes than I ever would have had with a noGod has given me a heart for the people there, and I cannot ignore His call. 


So how do I decide what gets my Yes and what has to be passed on?  I’ve simplified my qualifications to these three things: 

A) Do I want to do it? Do I feel called to it? Make it a matter of prayer. Even small decisions deserve a consult with God – let Him decide for you.

B) How does it fit into my schedule? My family’s schedule?

C) Is it worth being away from my family for that time? 

You’ll notice there are no clauses for things I feel obligated to do, pressured to do, or things imposed on me. I just don’t have the bandwidth to accommodate everyone else’s expectations of me right now.  

Do you ever feel overwhelmed because you’ve handed out too many yeses? Maybe now is a good time to pull back on the reigns a little and re-evaluate which commitments are worth your time.

31 Days of Learning to Simplify: Hospitality

Technically I wrote this yesterday, but I had a super busy day and didn’t want to publish it without the final edit. That would be against my religion. Or something. So anyway, here is my catch up post and I’ll be back later today with another Simplify topic. Thanks for following along in this series!

I have several friends and family members who are total pros at this hospitality thing. Party planning, get togethers, hostessing…it’s all right up their alley.  I, on the other hand, have to be very intentional in this area. It does not come naturally to me. But for those of you who would fall in the same category as me, we have to remember not to let this be an excuse to shy away from community. 

I’m learning what it really means to be hospitable, and I think we sometimes miss the mark. It’s much less about a spotless house and flawless meal, but providing the space for people to come as they are and just be together. It’s really about being people-focused. Now THAT is something I can do. I can facilitate togetherness.

It does not have to be fancy. I repeat: It does not have to be fancy. 

I’m currently co-hosting a book club for Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love, and one of the topics we talk a good deal about is how we complicate this hospitality thing. Can you throw together some pasta? A burger? Anything? Okay, then you can gather people around your table. A dining table is sacred ground, and is the place where people tend feel safe enough to tell their stories.  As far as the food, no one really cares, because hey, it’s a break from planning a meal themselves! A low-key, simple vibe is probably more welcoming for vulnerability and genuine conversation anyway. 

I’ve also been reading and listening to Shauna Niequest lately, and one thing she says is that people should feel better about themselves after leaving your house, not better about you. That’s something I think I can do. I may serve you a burger on a paper plate and tell you where the ice is instead of getting it for you, but I think you’ll feel welcome and loved here, even if you are unimpressed with my (lack of) hostessing skills. Again I say, it does not have to be fancy. 

Here’s what hospitality requires: an open heart and an open space. That’s it. That space can be your home, for sure. It can also just be your front porch. It can be a shared park bench with another mom. It can be your car as you carpool to work or an event. Let’s not forget the purpose of hospitality which is cultivating community. And friend, that can be done anywhere. 


I’m challenging myself to be more intentional with a hospitable mindset. If you’re like me and it doesn’t come naturally to you, that’s okay. Just start simple – plan a hot chocolate and s’more roasting party at your home for one or two other couples. Snacks and conversation – easy! 

31 Days of Learning to Simplify: A Cohesive Home


My home decor style has come a long way since I was clicking away with the scanner in Bed, Bath, and Beyond when Brandon and I set up our wedding registry. I’m sure I’m not the only one. 

I was going from my parent’s home directly to my newlywed apartment, and I knew nothing about decorating a home. Like, zero. Each room was decorated individually with no thought about the rest of the house. 

Several years ago when I began reading blogs, I really gravitated towards home design blogs. My mom introduced me to Young House Love and I finally started to understand how to build a space from a design perspective. John and Sherry of YHL are not trained interior design professionals, so it helped me realize anyone can create a beautiful, unique space that tells the story of their family. I don’t claim to have a perfectly styled home (nowhere near), but it IS cohesive and (in the process of being) simplified. Each room “talks” to the other. I can easily move pillows, lamps, tables, blankets, mirrors, and other accent pieces from room to room and they would work well in another space. 

The element I use the most to create cohesion is color. I learned that I am drawn to happy colors balanced by neutrals. Specifically, I love a cooler palette, reminiscent of the sea: aqua, teal, mint green, sage green, and blue-grey. My favorite neutrals are light and dark grey, and the combo of black and white used sparingly. I also add in small pops of coral, peach, and yellow. Most of these colors show up in my accent pieces while my furniture basics are neutral. 


In a nutshell, here’s how having a cohesive home helps me simplify:
1) Shopping. I don’t ever have to wonder if something will work in my home – either it fits in the template or it doesn’t. I also buy less “filler” stuff – only things that really contribute to the overall feeling and style of my home. 
2) Rearranging. Like I mentioned earlier, I can move accent pieces throughout my home and they work well in all spaces. Myquillyn of the Nesting Place blog calls this “shopping your home” which helps me do less “shopping in Target” 🙂
3) Less stuff / Greater impact. I really want the common thread of my entire home to be simple and well thought-out. When you have less going on, each piece becomes very intentional. The Nester also talks about “quieting a space” before beginning to decorate a room. This is just taking a room down to the essentials so you can see what you already have and what you need to finish the space. By approaching the process this way, you tend to decorate with less items that make a bigger impact. (P.S., I really love her Cozy Minimalist e-course where she walks you through designing a space from beginning to end.)


Think about some ways you can begin to create common threads throughout your home. Can you “shop your home” in it’s current state? Or would the pieces from one room clash with another? Start with just one room and think about each element in the space. Decide which pieces are just fillers and which ones contribute to the room. 


I would love to hear how you are simplifying your home in the comments! I may even steal an idea or two because I am still learning in this area. 🙂