lessons from anne.

Hello there, friends!

Forgive me for being MIA. Quite honestly, I haven’t had the energy for blogging. But I miss you all! I plan to give you a nice Spring Bookshelf post soon, but for now I thought I’d write about what I’m currently finishing up: the Anne of Green Gables series.

I was poking around for comfort books to read, and right around that time my Mom and I watched the movie Anne of Green Gables with Judah and Amelie for their first time. They adored it! Amelie said, “Oh Mom, I just love Anne. She has the best imagination, doesn’t she!?” And Amelie has had a “window friend” ever since, which is, now that I think of it, truly what I always hoped for in a daughter.

So I decided to read back through the series of books. I haven’t read them beginning to end since I first got married, and I was surprised at how much I’d forgotten. Now, I love the Anne movies — at least the original Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Green Gables, The Sequel — after that I stopped watching them.

But I’m reminded that if you’ve only watched the movies and haven’t read the books, you’ve missed out on so much! The series is full of sparkle and insight that the movies just can’t capture. Growing up I enjoyed the books for their stories and romances, but reading them again as a 35-year-old has me struck with just how profound L.M. Montgomery’s writing is. Old-fashioned it may be, but the true lessons I’ve gleaned from Anne this time around are timeless.

Here are a few I’ve been mulling over:

1. Be a lover of nature

From the very first moment we meet Anne, on the carriage ride with Matthew Cuthbert to Green Gables, she’s exulting over nature. And she never stops. I love the way Anne has an actual relationship with flowers and trees and brooks and meadows. She notices them. She enjoys them as if they’re friends.

As a little girl she builds imaginary playhouses with Diana and names her favorite spots, as a college student, she goes for long walks, and as a busy mother of six, she gardens. Her enthusiasm for the great outdoors is so genuine and contagious, that her children grow up loving it too.

Anne makes me want to get outside, open my eyes, and see the things around me — not in order to make a nature lesson for my kids, but just for the sheer pleasure of it.

 

2. Never lose your imagination

One of the things that makes Anne so beloved is that she’s no stranger to adversity. Orphaned as a baby, she lived in and out of the orphanage and foster care until age eleven. It seems that one of the gifts that saved Anne during those heart-breaking years was her imagination.

She had imaginary friends. She loved poems and stories. She spun stories about people, or pretended that life could be different than what it was. And don’t we love her for it?  Her imagination was a wonderful comfort and joy to her, both as an orphan, and later as an adopted daughter.

And as a grown up too! One of my favorite conversations Anne has with her children ends with her saying to her daughter, with the wisdom of someone who has lived and knows, “An imagination is a wonderful thing to have . . . but like every gift we must possess it and not let it possess us . . . you must learn to keep on this side of the borderline between the real and the unreal. Then the power to escape at will into a beautiful world of your own will help you amazingly through the hard places of life.”

 

3. Determine to see the best in people and in life

This is Anne’s second gift that allowed her to live a difficult life without becoming consumed by despair and resentment. There’s a way to read Anne’s story in two narratives: one of her seeing the best in people, and one of her fearing the worst. I found myself reflecting back over the books and thinking of the things she could have chosen to feel about her life.

Even after she found a home, Matthew and Marilla certainly weren’t always ideal caregivers. Marilla could be gruff and strict. Matthew was shy and quirky. They didn’t have a lot of money. And Anne always knew she wasn’t pretty — at least not in the way other girls were. There were hard seasons for her and losses and people that were unkind, and she married a doctor who worked incredibly long hours.

But from the very beginning she had this amazing strength of character that said, “I choose to find the best.”

Because of that, Anne’s life turns out very, very differently from the way it might’ve (you can contrast her to Katherine Brooke, for instance). It isn’t trouble-free, but it is rich in the best of ways: with people and with gratitude.

 

4. Stay young at heart

I love the Meredith children’s speculation about grown-up Anne . . .

“They say she isn’t like other people,” said Jerry.

“Mrs. Elliott says that is because she never really grew up,” said Faith.

“She’s taller than Mrs. Elliott.”

“Yes, yes, but it is inside — Mrs. Elliott says Mrs. Blythe just stayed a little girl inside.

I love Anne’s sense of wonder throughout life. I love her imagination. I love that her growing in life responsibilities and wisdom doesn’t come at the expense of her child-likeness.

It makes her a delightful friend and wife, and a wonderful mother. My favorite thing that Anne’s children say about her is that: “Mummy understands.” It doesn’t keep her from setting rules and disciplining and keeping house and sometimes doing things for herself that she enjoys doing.  She never tries to be her kids’ best friend. But it means she can put herself into their shoes and truly remember what it felt like to be a child.

They love they way she listens to them. They love that she doesn’t laugh and make light of their funny sayings. They love that she takes their dreams seriously. They feel accepted by her, exactly the way they are.

 

5. Embrace a simple life

Here’s something that just astounded me on this most recent reading through the books — something I’ve forgotten from years of re-watching the Anne movies and forgetting how the story was changed. Do you know that in the original story, Anne never gets a book published?

I was so certain that was a fact in the movies that I looked avidly for it, but couldn’t find it!

When she graduated from Redmond College, Anne was full of promise. She was smart. She was popular. She’d had several small pieces published in magazines and had lots and lots of potential to do great things.

And she chose the other path.

She settled down. She got married and had a bunch of kids and kept house and reflected that there was no time any more to really write in the way she’d once dreamed of doing.

That is my favorite little hidden gem.

Does Anne ever feel a pang thinking of the “what might have beens”? Yes, probably. But she is happy with the simple life she chose. She keeps learning and growing within the limits of her life. She never ends up needing to prove anything to herself or the world in order to feel joy.

She is content.

She knows that people matter more than success.

This, more than so many things, is what I long to teach my children. Yes, I want to encourage their dreams. Yes, I want them to be passionate and inspired and work hard and have great opportunities. But most of all, I want them to see that success does not always equal what a lot of the world says it does. I want them to see that there is great value in a simple life. And no matter what form it takes, success never, ever makes you happy.

Oh, Anne, thank you for being so delightful and for teaching us so many things!

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on creativity (or the lack thereof) and the bullet journal.

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Happy weekend, dear readers!

I’ve promised you a blog post about the bullet journal, but first, a confession:

I’m having a very hard time writing on the blog these days.

Oh, it’s not that I don’t enjoy writing, or that I don’t have any ideas. I do! I have two full page spreads in my bullet journal of ideas. It’s just that when it comes time to actually sit down and write, I stare at the screen and my head feels like mush. I do have the time — I can make the time. But where oh where is my creativity?

I look longingly at my DSLR camera and think how lucky I am to have it, and how much I love photography, but truthfully, I’m bored of taking photos of my kids and my house. But that’s who I’m with, that’s where I am. Every day.

Is it just me, or is it hard to create in this season of life?

I feel like it’s just me, because bloggers and writers I enjoy somehow churn out books and gorgeous photos in the midst of changing diapers and making dinner and homeschooling or attending PTA meetings.

They tell me in their introductions that they seized every sleep-deprived scrap of time they could find to write, late at night or at 5:00 am and in between loads of laundry.

Truly, I am baffled by this skill. I do not have it.

Do you know what I do when I’m sleep-deprived?

I sleep!

I love my children, but right now, I feel like I’ve actually lost brain cells at the end of every single day. I have just enough energy to help David tuck the kids in bed (bonus points if I don’t snap at anyone in the process), do my twenty minutes of stretching exercises, and then collapse onto the sofa with a book or a BBC drama.

I’m just plain tired.

I know what you’re thinking: Take a break, Julie! Stop over-analyzing everything! Your hands are full: this isn’t the season for writing and creating.

And I know that you’re exactly right. But can I just say that the truth of that fact is a bitter pill to swallow? I want to write. I ache to write. I love it and it’s an outlet and it makes me happy. I love this little blog. I love taking pictures and trying to get better at doing it. I feel so thankful that I get a tiny online space to actually practice creating, and that you respond!

The truth is, some days I feel plain resentful that my life is so full and exhausting that it leaves little margin for creating.

That is very wrong of me, and I’m asking God to change my heart. I am truly living my dream, in a charming little house full of children and a husband who loves me and stacks and stacks of books. I am not carting water in pails or plucking chickens for dinner or mending clothes by candlelight.

I have hours to sit and educate my kids and I have money to shop and cook healthy meals. I’m embarrassed to admit that I even have a house cleaner who faithfully comes each month and leaves us with a sparkling-clean house. I have evenings to read and no one is waking me in the middle of the night to nurse.

Why am I telling you all of this?

I guess to confess that in my deepest heart, I struggle with contentment. I have more to be thankful for than I could ever list here, and yet I’m selfish with my time and energy. I don’t want to give them away to my family, I want to hoard and collect enough moments to write without interruption — whenever inspiration strikes. I want to be a hermit.

It’s hard to make myself come back again and again to the blog when my brain hurts. It’s hard to accept “good enough” when I want “brilliant.” Does that make sense?

This post is not punctuated with pretty pictures because I’m too tired to take pictures.

This post is a little scattered because I’ve had a dozen interruptions while writing it, including a four-year-old who’s currently sitting on the arm of my chair, asking to “press buttons.”

So we’ve established that creativity isn’t exactly working for me these days. You know what is working?

My bullet journal!

Now that I finish this long rant I have to smile because when I first saw blogs and YouTube video describing the bullet journal, I thought:

Eew. No. Too sterile. What about space for rambling thoughts and quotes? What truly creative spirit could possibly consolidate their life into dry bulleted lists?

Ha.

Now I’m eating my words.

Journaling is not what I need right now. Who has time for journaling!?

Bulleted lists are exactly what I need right now!

I’m not going to describe for you how to bullet journal, because there are those who have done it wonderfully. There are two posts David and I followed to get started: this one from the official Bullet Journal website, and one from the Lazy Genius Collective. You can’t do better than to read their posts thoroughly as you begin.

So why do I love my bullet journal so, so, so much?

I’m so glad you asked! Ready? Here we go:

 

1. Everything is in one place.
And I mean everything. Monthly calendar. Meal plans. Grocery list. Blog ideas. Christmas gift lists. Homeschool ideas.

Before I had dozens of scraps of paper, floating in my purse, taped to the fridge, drifting from basket to basket in my house.

I constantly felt like I was forgetting things, searching for lists, trying to remember what today’s priorities are.

Now I keep my one notebook close by throughout my day and carry it in my purse so I can always access it, always keep my notes in one spot. I guess that leads me to clarify: I take my bullet journal out in public, so it includes anything I wouldn’t mind someone finding and reading. It’s not a diary. But it is a faithful record of my days.

The daily lists help me see exactly how much I get done every day (and it’s a lot!), they allow me to remember that date night to Barnes and Noble I had with Judah. They’re sort of an in-your-face, glass-half-full reminder. Yes, it was a crazy week and I never got around to writing that blog post, but David and I got to take a sushi class!

I’ll give you one example of how it’s dramatically helped me, and that’s with meal planning and grocery shopping. Look at the photo at the top of this post: when I start a new spread I always fold a middle sheet of paper in half. The front lists dinners for the week, an exercise log, and homeschool ideas specific to that week. On the back fold is my grocery list. It is always with me.

Before heading to the grocery store I simply rip out that little flap of paper and take it with me.

Do you know how the moment you come home from Publix with your arms overflowing with groceries your child reminds you that you’re out of peanut butter?

Well guess what, you now have a running grocery list, so you drop everything, grab your bullet journal, start your next Grocery List, and jot down “peanut butter.” Of course I’m still frustrated as heck with myself for forgetting, but I take it in stride because it’s right there written down, I’ll see it today and tomorrow and someday soon my child will have his peanut butter.

If I’m sitting at the kids’ swim practice and a parent says, “We had the most amazing chicken enchiladas for dinner last night,” I grab my bullet journal and jot down the idea for next week’s dinner plan. (Or that Spelling curriculum I’d like to research, or the book I wanted to request from the library.)

Does this make sense? I guess you could say since they’re always in front of me, my meal plans and grocery list are a constant work in progress, so if David texts to say he stopped at Whole Foods, do I need anything, I know exactly what to say. And on Grocery Day, rather than staring at Pinterest in despair, wondering what on earth to feed my family, I take just a couple minutes to complete my lists, and I’m off.

You don’t need to do this, but I have a Go-To Meals spread in my bullet journal that I can work from.

All of this reduces my stress considerably.

 

2. It’s impossible to mess it up.
Because the bullet journal is just a notebook I’ve created, there is nothing to mess up! If a page looks ugly, I just finish it up and turn to a new page and vow to use better handwriting. As much as I adore sparkling, gold-foiled Yearly Planners, I’d end up wasting gobs of space, year after year, because none was ever exactly what I needed.

But my bullet journal is exactly what I need. Some days I use it a ton, other days I don’t touch it. Some days Amelie and I sit and doodle cute pictures next to the date, some days it’s sparse. There’s no pressure to make it look a certain way (stop looking at Pinterest, now! Unless you love to doodle, and then have at it). No space is wasted.

In case you’re wondering, I keep almost everything in my Daily and Monthly lists and just add page numbers to the Index as I record important information. I’ve made a few extra lists, for Gardening tips and Book ideas, but I rarely refer to them. The Daily List is for me.

An example of the bullet journal’s flexibility I tried the Bullet Journal website method of planning out my month in a list for two months, and didn’t love it. I missed those squares. So in January, I made squares! And they’re just perfect.

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3. It helps me feel less scattered.
So here’s exactly what I do if I really have it together: I spend a few minutes before bed at night starting the next day in my bullet journal. I write the date and the weather, then what’s for dinner directly under it. I write appointments, migrate any tasks I’ve left undone.

But if I don’t have it together, I wake up in the morning, pour my coffee, and spend about 5 minutes writing out those things. It’s like emptying my head, in the most pleasant of ways.

Then I pull out my Bible and read, and I can focus much, much better. I’m not worried about forgetting my to-do list, because I’ve already started it. It’s right next to me.

I guess you can say that it feels like starting the day on the offensive, with a plan in place.

 

4. It’s pretty.
Finally, I just think it’s pretty. Despite the fact that I no longer need to buy a Planner, I like nice things, especially nice bookish things. I won’t lie, having a good-quality, clean notebook and pen for my bullet journal makes a difference.

I like the feel of it in my hands. I like the gray cover and the silky smooth pages. I like that those pages are numbered for me. I love my $3 pen that doesn’t smudge, ever. The last thing I bought is a tin of book darts to mark my most-used pages (for me that’s the Future Log and Monthly Calendar), and I think those are pretty too.

Do you need all of this to Bullet Journal? Absolutely not.

But David and I have found them a worthwhile investment in feeling organized.

I wish he’d write his own bullet journal blog post, but he never will.

Suffice it to say, he’s a convert too.

Neither of us will return to more conventional calendars or planners.

One day, I’ll really write again. For now: I’ll bullet journal!

There. Now don’t you want to try it!?

Happy Saturday!!!

 



in memory.

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My mom’s mother passed away last Monday after a 10 year battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Our family gathered in Florida this weekend to celebrate her life. I had the joy of gathering memories from the grandchildren, which my cousin Lindsey read at the service, and I thought I’d share it below in case you want to get a glimpse into the kind of person my grandma was.

 

Our Grandma was a lover of children. First she had six of her own and in the blink of an eye it seemed, she had 17 grandkids too. Her life was filled up to the brim and overflowing with children. Our earliest memories include the delight she felt for us, the way she pulled us in tight for hugs and made us feel special every single time we saw her. Our Grandma was a safe haven.

She welcomed us with joy, always. She was strict and made us behave and we loved her all the more for it, for seeing that dignity tucked deep inside us, under all the layers of naughtiness, and helping us rise to the occasion and obey. She was also known to indulge us though, dispensing treats, sneaking us some of Granddaddy’s peanut M&M’s. More than one of us girls, found guilty of getting into Grandma’s jewelry cabinet, were joined by her at the vanity, as she helped us pick out clip-on earrings to try on.

Our grandma had a special closet in each of her homes, overflowing with toys, thrown open whenever we walked in the door. She thought of us at church rummage sales, picked out the most colorful clothes she found from the missionary bin for us to play dress-up. She always had us on her mind.

She made her life available to us. She raised us to know and love stories of our family—of her parents and siblings and Grandaddy’s.  She didn’t just tell the good stories, she told the really sad ones too, even the ones where she sinned. In doing so she pointed us to God and His faithfulness and forgiveness, rather than to the idol of family.

Time and time again she snuggled with us on the sofa to page through stacks of photo albums, of us and our parents and their parents. She raised us to know with confidence where we came from, who we were in our family, and therefore who we were in the world.

She loved to cook and give treats. I don’t think one person in our big family can sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner without tasting Grandma’s mashed potatoes and gravy and her sweet potato soufflé.

As if piles of kids and grandkids weren’t enough, Grandma worked for years in a school for severely disabled children. When we went there to visit her it was scary sometimes, and yet even as very small children we swelled with pride that our Grandma loved people that others didn’t love—and often pretended not to notice.

She wasn’t just a lover of children; she was a defender of them.

For most of our growing up years, Grandma lived in neighborhoods with other retired people. Many of her neighbors were kind to us, but some of our fondest memories were the times the “old folks” had her up in arms for scolding the children — any children. She shook her head when they shot us dirty looks in the swimming pool for being too noisy. She said, “Oh don’t you worry about them, you all are just fine.”

She was a strong woman like that, we’d like to say a feminist in the very truest sense of the word. Grandma knew who she was and she didn’t need a fancy job title or a long list of credentials to prove it. She trusted that God loved her and created her for a purpose, and she was at peace with that purpose.

Some people would look on her simple, quiet life and pronounce it oppressive, even stifling, but Grandma understood the truth: She didn’t settle for her life as as a wife and a mom of six and a teacher; she chose it. She knew the secret that many people search the world over and miss: that in order to find your life, you need to give it up.

She lived the joy of that knowledge, even in the hard years.

Grandma was feisty! She didn’t pretend to be perfect and got frustrated; sometimes with us, sometimes with Granddaddy. When we played Yahtzee or Mexican train, she invited the littlest ones to be on her team so they’d win, and her competitive spirit made her a sassy player.

When Allison was a teenager and went to give blood at the American Red Cross, she was turned away for being a pound too light. Grandma told her, “Sweetie, you need to fill your pockets up with rocks and turn around and go right back in there. They need your blood!”

Though Grandma had many opinions, she was also one who loved without judgment. Both our grandparents were like that. More than once they opened their arms and their affections to someone who’d messed up, whose choices they disagreed with. Despite whispers of, “Don’t you know what they did!?” Grandma and Granddaddy chose the path of grace. Theirs was a love that bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things, and endured all things, for one another and for other people.

Over the last ten years, our beloved Grandma got more and more sick with Alzheimer’s Disease. Sadly, for some of us grandchildren, the majority of our memories of her are of visits to the nursing home’s Memory Care Unit, with its kind staff and sunny butterfly garden. They’re of a grandma who increasingly slipped away from us as she grew unable to recognize her own family.

And yet, we remember that she loved us. Her face lit up when she saw us, even if she didn’t know our faces anymore. She never, ever stopped inviting the little children to come to her. She hugged us. She held our own kids on her lap, cuddling them close, nuzzling their soft heads with her face.

On one visit, when Alden walked in the room to see her, he knew in his gut that this time she didn’t recognize him. After her warm greeting, he decided to ask her, “How’s your grandson, Alden?” and was treated to a gush of loving words. “He’s doing well! He’s doing great in school and starting to get into sports.” Alden said, “And how old is he now?” and without hesitating she said, “He’s seven!”

Grandma’s love was so true that it could bridge the gap of all the years of illness and fading memory and tell 22-year-old Alden, “I know you. I love you.”

We miss her so, so much. The memories of growing up in her love are the greatest gift she left us. We are very thankful God made us her grandchildren, and we’re thankful that today she is with Jesus.



the challenge in hindsight.

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I’m sorry things have been quiet on the blog lately. I loved the October writing challenge, but I’ve also very glad for a break from writing every day. Now I feel rested and have some ideas for the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a some thoughts on my experience with 31 Days of Purposeful Simplicity.

1. I’ll never forget my writing process for the series, because in September I experienced a terrible bout of insomnia. I’ve struggled with sleep at different times of my life, but this was unlike anything I’d known. Ambien did nothing for me. I’d pop awake at 1 or 2 in the morning and be filled with dread at the long, lonely hours stretching ahead of me until everyone else woke up.

You’d think an introvert would enjoy that, but stack up a few sleepless nights up and you feel like a crazy person. But somehow, in those hours, I wrote. I wrote half the blog series during those nights. That and watched Pitch Perfect way too many times. Thankfully things are much better now, thanks to an adjustment in my anxiety medication.

2. I was surprised by how much I loved writing all month. I just kind of got swept away in my topic and lived in my head way too much, but I even enjoyed that. I thought several times, I wish I could do this every day. But I can’t, and I realized it firsthand. Things suffered around the house and I sort of lived in a perpetually distracted mode with my family. They were gracious, but it was good to come back to myself at the end of it. One day I’ll really write.

3. I tried my hardest to keep blog posts short and pithy and clever, in the style of other blogs I read. But I just couldn’t. Short blog posts aren’t really me. That’s okay though, because I learned that those who have trouble writing short blogs are probably better suited to writing a book. Writing a book! That’s a fun thought.

4. I needed the words I wrote. I can’t tell you how much junk God brought up in my heart as I shared the things I’ve learned. It’s as if He was gently reminding me, The learning never stops, Julie. You write these things as one who’s still in process. I’m so glad He did it, because it’s always, always worth it to face the hurt and sin in my heart. Repentance and healing happened, and November truly feels more peaceful as a result.

5. Finally, my very, very favorite part of the challenge was talking with you about the series all month. Thank you to those of you who brought it up in emails, texts, conversation. You all help me learn by processing what you’re learning and you encourage me to keep on going. This blog wouldn’t be what it is without you. I love this little community.

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To read this series of blog posts, click here.



day 31: resources for purposeful simplicity.

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Well friends, we made it. Thank you very, very much for journeying along with me this month, through peeling back layers of noise to find a quiet heart, through applying Purposeful Simplicity to different areas of life. It’s truly been a pleasure.

I leave you with just a few of the resources that have helped me move me toward a life of Purposeful Simplicity. I highly recommend all of them. Happy end-of-October!

Crazy Busy, Kevin DeYoung

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Tim Keller

Sensing Jesus, Zack Eswine

The Nesting Place, MyQuillyn Smith

One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp

Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne

A Praying Life, Paul Miller

The Mitford Series, Jan Karon

the novels of Marilynne Robinson, particularly Gilead, Home, and Lila

Lara Casey’s Powersheets goal-setting system

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day 30: simply bible study.

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Sometimes the hardest thing about reading my Bible every day is not knowing where to begin. So I thought I’d tell you about my very simple Bible reading plan this year, which David shared with our church a few months back.

We’re reading through the letters of Paul in the New Testament, and if you read two chapters a day you can read all of his letters 8 times in a year. Here’s how it works:

There are two lists to read from each day, the first is Romans – 2 Corinthians, and the second list is Galatians – Philemon. I started by putting a bookmark at Romans 1 and Galatians 1 and reading a chapter from each a day. When I finish list one (i.e. arrive at the end of 2 Corinthians, I begin the list again).

Sound confusing? It’s really not. Because the lists are uneven in length, you’ll never read the same two chapters together. I’m loving this plan because of it’s simplicity, it’s brevity, and because of all the unity to be found in Paul’s writing.

I though I’d go ahead and tell you how I spend my “quiet time,” not because it’s the only way to go about it, but sometimes hearing what someone else does sparks an idea in your own mind.

I do my Bible readings with a cup of coffee and notebook in hand, and choose a verse or two each day to copy out when I’m done. This makes me slow down and reflect on what I’m reading. I’m always surprised at how often the verses I copy are exactly the truth I need to hear that day.

After this, I pray. My prayer life was revolutionized when I started writing out my prayers. This works for me because I love writing and it helps me concentrate. I either do this in my notebook or on my laptop in a Word document. I don’t over-spiritualize my prayers: praying is just talking to Jesus. I tell Him about my life, the highs and the lows. I thank Him for his gifts. I ask Him for help — for me and for other people. I ask Him to weave the words I read that morning into my heart and make them apart of me so I will be more like Him.

I love my time with Jesus now, I look forward to it, I go to bed earlier and wake up earlier for it. It’s my lifeline.

I close with a word to moms of very young kids who are just trying to snatch what sleep they can get — forget waking early for Bible reading. Way back when I had two kids under two years old and was in the same boat, my counselor told me, “Julie, just choose a verse a day and if you can, copy it out on a note card. Hang it above your kitchen sink and let that reading be your quiet time. This isn’t about checking something off a list; it’s about spending time with Jesus throughout the day.” That was immensely comforting to my harried, exhausted soul.

My prayer for you today is that you come to know your need to spend regular time with Jesus and that you find great joy and help in it.

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day 29: purposeful simplicity is spending time with jesus.

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We’ve talked all month long about Purposeful Simplicity and some of the barriers that keep us from it. I’m learning that the one vital thing that helps me remember my purpose is spending time with Jesus.

There are voices all around me and voices inside of me beckoning, tugging me away from Purposeful Simplicity: telling me there’s no happiness to be found there, no joy, no fulfillment. They tell me I need to prove my worth by how I look and who I know and what I do. They tell me to compare myself to women around me to make sure I’m doing better. They tell me there’s no way God’s Word is relevant to what concerns me here and now in 2014.

But they’re wrong. Those voices are dead-end streets, promising many things and delivering emptiness and heartache.

In the end the problem isn’t with the voices; it’s with my own heart which so desperately grasps at anything that will give me comfort and a sense that I’m somebody special. My heart is like a writhing, tantruming toddler, demanding what I want and totally blind to what I need.

And so my heart needs help. It needs help every single day. It needs to pour out all these burdens and desires and dead-end-road stories to Jesus. And then it needs be still and listen, because God’s voice is quiet and He will never force Himself on me. That’s not the way He works. His love is gentle — not like the other voices that bombard me and clamor for my attention. His love is patient and He will wait. But I won’t experience the blessing of hearing Him if my heart is noisy.

I can make a plan, I can become organized, I can research and learn. But in the end none of it will work without the One True voice.

That’s where I find a life of rest. That’s where I find Purposeful Simplicity.

I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free. – Psalm 119.32

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day 28: purposeful simplicity is learning who I am.

Yesterday I wrote about finding contentment in knowing my place.

One way to find that contentment in the here and now is through learning who I am.

It’s so funny, in my late teens and early twenties I would’ve told you I dreaded my thirties. Getting older sounded so . . . boring. I felt like fun needed to be had as quickly as possible before I got old.

Isn’t that silly? The greatest surprise so far of my thirties is how much I enjoy getting older. Sure life has way more responsibility know. But lately I see so much value in growing up.

I’m not quite 33 years old, but thus far my thirties have found me living in a new kind of settledness. I think it’s about me learning: 1. Who I am, and, 2. Finding peace with who I am rather than trying to be someone else. It’s about me letting go of what others think about me. Now I’m excited to see how much more settled I’ll be in my forties and fifties and beyond. I hope I never stop growing and changing and becoming more settled in Christ.

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I’ve begun to learn to take responsibility for my own well-being. I’ve begun to learn not to lose myself in motherhood but to be my own separate, unique, growing person. I’ve begun to give my husband freedom to do the same. I’ve begun to learn how to be fun. Doing this has the benefit of helping me love my family even more. It also inspires our kids to see their parents enjoying life and being interesting people rather than racing around catering to their every whim.

This is a process, friends. Some of it has happened through suffering, through God taking away things I thought I needed to give me what I really need. Some of it is finding people I look up to, who are living quiet, interesting lives at peace with who they are. Finding someone who lives in that settledness is a beautiful thing. I ask them lots of questions. I learn from the lessons they’ve learned.

Some of it has happened through trial and error. I’ve tried out ministry and failed at it. I’ve tried it and been able to do it but found it draining. And then other things I’ve tried and loved.

The same is true with hobbies. I read an article about how the very act of trying new things regularly stretches our brains and makes us healthy. So I both want to continue hobbies I love (like reading and writing), and regularly try new things (like crochet or camping). Even uncomfortable things, like public speaking, have allowed me victory over fears and I have a greater peace with the person God made me, and also the way He helps me take risks.

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David and I are in a season of wanting to have fun with our friends. Intense spiritual conversations are valuable, but what about going bowling or going to the movies or a day at the zoo? It’s deciding to play a game together instead of turning on the TV. It’s taking a break from a myriad of house projects to go see a matinee with our kiddos. We’re learning that shared experiences add to our memory banks and that laughter is good medicine.

For me part of learning who I am is not taking myself so seriously. I’m a perfectionist and want to get everything right the first time. Which, clearly, does not happen. So I’m in a process of learning to laugh at my own self-introspection and lighten up a little.

It’s also learning my personality style and living within those natural limits. I’m such an introvert that after an evening out I most certainly need an evening in to read and go to bed early. After a couple busy days filled with people, the kids and I need a whole quiet day at home where we don’t see anyone and just focus on being together. Finding peace with the personality God gave me brings rest and joy to my life.

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Finally, learning who I am means facing my weaknesses and asking for help. It’s realizing the ways I’m most tempted to sin and to believe lies, and seeking accountability and people who will speak truth to me. It’s accepting that parts of who I am need to change so I will be more like Jesus.

What are ways you’re learning who you are, right here and now?

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day 27: purposeful simplicity is knowing my place.

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. . . that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. – I Tim. 2.2.

I’m coming to learn that a life of Purposeful Simplicity is understanding my place in the world and finding contentment in it.

I think most people — especially women — bristle at any reference to “knowing our place” because it’s reminiscent of the 1950’s propaganda that a woman’s place is in the kitchen.

That is not what I’m talking about. But. It may be a little what I’m talking about.

Let me explain.

We’re fed the belief from all around us that we can have it all and that we should have it all right now. We should have an awesome marriage (if we want to be married) and healthy, talented children, and a great house, and a job that’s fulfilling. We should get to pursue our dreams.

The form this message takes in the Christian world is the push to “make an impact” or “change the world.” I understand that the sentiment behind these phrases is for us to look outside ourselves and reach others. But sometimes in focusing on changing the world we can start focusing on making a name for ourselves. We can strive for a bigger and better ministry than God wants to give us. We can forget that following Christ is leading a peaceful and quiet life, being faithful in the little ways that no-one notices.

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Not all of us get to have awesome marriages. Not all of our ministries are successful and growing. Not all of us have healthy and talented and thriving kids. Most of us wouldn’t say we live in our dream house or even that our job is always fulfilling. Some of us are involved in the, let’s face it, very mundane work of keeping house and raising children. Life seems to throw constant curve balls and just when we take a step forward financially we seem to take two steps back.

We can begin to feel like this isn’t what we signed up for, this isn’t our “happily ever after,” that this isn’t “making an impact.” We can be frustrated and bored and unfulfilled. We can look ahead to a better season of life when we really get to pursue what we want.

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I know I’ve felt that way. If you asked me 12 years ago, graduate school was a non-negotiable. It wasn’t “if” I’d go, but “when.” But I got married and needed to work so we could have health benefits while David did ministry. A couple years later I got accepted to a graduate program in Philadelphia, then got pregnant with Judah and decided to be a stay-at-home-mom. We’ve considered grad school on and off over the years but I’ve never felt a deep-down peace about it.

So I’ve set aside my dream — maybe forever — for the dream that God has for me. Of following my husband in ministry and being home for my kids. And yes, actually this new dream very much involves my place being in the kitchen. I’ve chafed and resented this at different points, but lately I’ve come to find peace in it. It’s the place God has for me. Why am I striving for more?

I love to write and to blog, but have a very specific sense that this is not the time to promote my blog. I don’t regularly check my stats. I don’t promote it on social media. I don’t think those things are wrong, but deep down I know they’re wrong for me right now. They’re striving beyond the place God has for me in this season. He’s given me this opportunity to write, but He’s said, “Your place is to be small and to find freedom in being small.”

I love to do ministry and have intentional relationships with women, but because I’m homeschooling two grades I can do very little of that right now. My mentor said to me, “Julie, there will be years when you have time and space to pursue women; now is not that time. Will you accept that? Will you accept that God can use other people to disciple women right now and that He wants to use you in a different way, in your home with your family?”

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I share these specifics in my life, but of course  your place may be completely different. That’s the beauty of how God made us all.

Maybe you’re a working mom, and so your place is accepting that you can’t be really involved in your kids’ school or in many other friendships right now.

Maybe you have very young babies and your place means you have to say “no” to regular serving in church.

Maybe your marriage is struggling and your place is to accept the struggle and reach out and ask for help.

Maybe your husband works crazy hours and your place is knowing you can’t practice hospitality in this season of life because you need any family time you can get.

Maybe you’d love to go to graduate school but have a sense that you shouldn’t be taking out more student loans, so you wait until a season when you can afford it.

Maybe your place is finding contentment in plodding along in a mediocre job, working hard to get out of debt before you pursue your dream career.

I think having dreams is fun and good. But demanding dreams is bad. Pining for dreams can be bad. It makes us miss the gifts and the calling God has for us here and now. It can make us miss a life of purpose.

God offers so much freedom and fulfillment if we humble ourselves and accept our place, if we accept that our lives and our families may very well look unremarkable to the world and that’s okay.

We find freedom when we accept that there are dreams we may never get to see realized. We find freedom when we give to God the unfulfilled places in our life and let Him fill us up with Himself. I think this sort of simple acceptance is the path to joy.

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