My “word” for 2018

My “word” for 2018

Until last year, I have never been one of those people who came up with a word for the year. I’ve always thought it was a cool idea, but I simply was never able to think of one word that described my focus for the coming 12 months.

Last year, as 2016 was coming to a close, my word for 2017 just made itself obvious to me. I knew that “intentional” needed to be my word for the year. You can read a little bit about how that word impacted me here, but it really deserves a separate blog post (which honestly, I will probably never write).

Anyway, as 2017 was ending, once again, my focus for 2018 materialized unexpectedly.

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Typology, which is by the author of a book I have recommended several times, called “The Road Back to You.” I have really loved this book, which explains the personality profile system called, the Enneagram.

Each week, the author, Ian Cron, interviews people who are different types on the Enneagram. I love listening to stories of how people have learned to maximize the strengths and weaknesses of their personality type and grow in their faith through the process.

On this particular episode, he was interviewing a woman who is a 1 on the Enneagram, which is the perfectionist. I was especially interested because I also am a 1.

As I was listening to the interview, I kept thinking, “This woman reminds me so much of myself.” About halfway through the interview, the conversation started to change. The interviewer began probing her on questions at a deeper level. I was answering the same questions in my head.

By the end, he suggested to her that maybe she isn’t a 1 at all. Maybe she actually is a 3, which is “the achiever.”

I’ve always questioned whether I’m actually a 1, because some aspects of this personality type really don’t describe me very well. But as I’ve analyzed other types, I’ve always passed over the 3. I knew for a fact there was no way this was me. In fact, as much as I didn’t want to be a 1, “at least I wasn’t a 3,” I would sometimes think!

But now, as he described the 3, an uneasiness started growing in my stomach. (And I knew I had NOT eaten any gluten!) Just the name of this personality type seemed to describe me so perfectly. Achiever.


If you lined up 10 people closest to me and asked them to choose one word to describe me, I’m guessing at a few of them would choose this word.

I haven’t taken the test again to confirm or dispel that I am a 3. But just thinking about it really started to bother me.

I really do get so much of my value in life from what I “do.” I love to achieve. I’m driven to perform. Most people know me best by what I DO, rather than who I AM.

In fact, I wrote a whole blog post about this realization last summer when I took that sabbatical and visited the lighthouses.

After a few weeks of processing this, it became clear to me that I really don’t want to let another year go by, letting my life be defined by what I DO, rather than who I AM. The word I chose for 2018 was “be.” But that seemed short and hard to understand so I eventually came up with a phrase: “Less doing, more being.”

The problem was, I didn’t even know what that meant. How do I DO less? How do I BE more?

Does this mean I can’t DO all of the things I love? Does it mean I can’t do all of my crafts and write in my bullet journal and cook my crazy food and decorate my house?

I realized that the most important part of “Less Doing and More Being” doesn’t mean I have to stop doing all of the things that bring me joy. It is really about the motivation and attitude that come with my need to constantly achieve. I’ve found that doing things is how I gain acceptance and value. The problem comes when I start to place so much weight on DOing and become so focused on my goals that I Iose sight of building authentic, transparent relationships.

But how do you even track your progress when you are actually trying to do LESS? Where does one even begin?

Thankfully, God started to give me some clues. One of the first was a friend from my past came into my life and reminded me about a book she had recommended six months ago called, “Sensible Shoes.” She had told me that my story about my sabbatical reminded her of one of the characters in the book. I’ve already started reading the book, and some of my friends agreed to read it with me and have a book discussion. Discussing a book with a group of friends sounded like a great first step to build relationships based on BEing, rather than DOing.

After that, several other people reached out to me in completely random and unexpected ways with opportunities to BE together.

So, I guess this journey won’t be one that I get to plan. It won’t involve a goal sheet or a habit tracker. I think it’s going to be more of an adventure of being open to opportunities to BE more often and DO less often. I’m going to be paying attention to my heart and motivations when I start to DO too much. Am I trying to find value and happiness by DOing? And how to I replace that with BEing?

I have no idea, but I’m looking forward to seeing what God has planned for me this year.

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A month of creativity

A month of creativity

One of the great joys of watching our kids become teenagers is seeing them grow in their gifts and talents. When they were little, it seemed we were always trying to give them opportunities to experience new things, whether it was a sport or an art class or a chance to learn a new skill.

As they make their way through junior high, and now high school, it’s been fun to see them start to settle in and take ownership of their gifts. All four of them (including the first grader) are great about regularly practicing their creativity, without being prodded by their parents. After school around our house often looks — and sounds — like a drum solo emanating from the basement, girls doing backflips on the trampoline or choreographing a dance in the living room and someone walking around with a video camera, excited about his next idea.

This past month was a floodgate of creativity at our house, so I decided it was time to write a super braggy mom post about all that’s been happening.

All three of our older kids got to participate in an annual talent show for the youth at our church. But this isn’t an ordinary talent show. They are put together in teams with other kids their age, and they have to draw a card with the type of act they have to perform. They get about a month to work on their idea.

Our 14-year-old was especially excited about his group. They were supposed to perform a song, and I knew that because of his passion for drumming, he had encouraged his group to do something that involved using buckets for drums.

Parents aren’t invited to the show, but I got to attend because I needed to take photos for the church. About 30 seconds into his act, I realized I better pull out my cell phone and also take video. This was really funny!

Check out his performance here:

At the end of the evening, all of the students voted for the acts in three categories: Best displays the theme of “Bold Love,” Best Teamwork and Best Overall Performance. After watching all of the acts, I was confident he would probably win at least one prize. However, I think we were all shocked when his group won ALL THREE awards! So. Fun.

In addition to his bucket drumming skills, he got to perform twice this month with his percussion ensemble at school and also gets to play as part of the youth worship team at our church on Monday nights.

I also loved the performances by our other two. Our seventh grader helped choreograph a dance for her group of 6th and 7th grade girls.

Our 16-year-old and his team had to do a rap song. While our other two kids practiced for weeks, they literally put their act together about five minutes before the show. They were still one of my favorites. They simply had so much fun performing!

Earlier in the month, our oldest son got to perform in two other amazing ways. He had been working for about two months on a short film that he entered in his high school’s first ever Film Fest. All of the entries had to display the theme of the year, which is “The Best Day Ever.”

He took a serious approach with his positive message of how a student stood up to a bully to find her best day ever. He wrote, directed, edited and produced the film, which won second place. He was so excited, especially since his film was up against those of several junior and seniors. The big thrill for me was reading through the comments of the three judges, who are professionals in the film industry. It was amazing to read their (mostly positive) critiques of his talent.
Check it out here:

As soon as the Film Fest was over, his mind was already racing with his next short film. He enlisted a couple of friends as actors and filmed another one the very next day!

He also made his high school acting debut in February in the freshman-sophomore play. The play was a series of short stories written and directed by the juniors and seniors. He had a blast, and did a fantastic job in his performance.

He played Alexander Hamilton.

Our 12-year-old daughter has had some downtime, now that cheer season is over. However, she also has been really growing in her music ability, playing the flute. We got to watch her perform last night in one of her last concerts of the year, and it was amazing to see how far she’s come since starting band last year!

She also got to be in the spotlight for her performance in her brother’s film. On the night of the Film Fest, all of the directors and actors were invited to dress up like they were going to the Academy Awards. The girls and I had a blast getting dressed up for the show.

That brings me to our little one. She is still hard at work doing gymnastics five hours a week. But she also has been trying some new things this winter. She started a tap class, and she also is taking an acting class on Saturday mornings. Of all the things she is doing, she has decided acting is her favorite! We get to see her class perform a very condensed version of The Little Mermaid in a few weeks.

Well, my blog was starting to sound pretty dull the past few weeks since all I ever talk about is what I’m giving up and what I’m NOT eating! I thought it was time for me to record some of the other exciting stuff happening in this crazy house full of kids and their creativity.

Have a great weekend!

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When giving up is a good thing

When giving up is a good thing

Until a few years ago, I had not ever participated in the practice of giving up something for Lent. I heard my friends talk about what they were eliminating during the 40 days leading up to Easter, but I couldn’t get up the motivation to do something that would purposely make my life more difficult. I loved the spiritual reasoning behind it, but I didn’t feel it was necessary. And, come on. Isn’t life challenging enough the way it is?

During the past year, however, the act of giving something up has become a recurring theme. Whether it’s been for spiritual reasons, health reasons or just to make my life better, this practice of self denial has been an awakening for me. In fact, part of my journey in 2017 is to give up one thing for a month, each month of the year.

As I enter the third month of 2017, this is my third time giving up something this year that I enjoy. Strangely, as a new month approaches, I’ve grown to look forward to getting rid of the excess in my life. Instead of feeling dread and fear of the pain that will inevitably come with self denial, I’ve started feeling a sense of excitement to crack down on a new area of my life that has gotten out of control.

In fact, in several cases, I’ve found my life to be so much more pleasant without the habit or practice that I once loved, that I’m not anxious to go back to my old ways.

  • For example, last year, I gave up watching TV for Lent. I have loved learning new things, having time to practice my hobbies and being free from the distraction of television shows. More than a year later, I haven’t reintroduced TV into my life.
  • Last June, I was forced to give up gluten when I found out I had Celiac Disease. Having something taken from you is quite different mentally and emotionally than giving something up. Obviously, I haven’t even considered going back to gluten because of the devastating effect it has on my health. However, I’ve taken it two steps farther. In January, I removed sugar, grains, soy, dairy, legumes and artificial ingredients from my diet. Just when I thought there was no way I could add to that list, it became clear to me in February that I also needed to give up all inflammatory foods, including eggs, nuts, seeds, coffee, cocoa powder and nightshades. As I’ve been carefully monitoring the improvement in my health with this radical change to my diet, I don’t have plans to start eating those foods again anytime soon.
  • I also gave up social media in February. The best word I can think of to describe my life without it is “lighter.” I’m not as anxious. It freed me from carrying the weight of so many issues that are posted on social media. (I did cheat once, but other than that, this post will be my reintroduction, I suppose!)

What I’ve found to be so interesting about this practice of giving up is that it seems to be a discipline that is becoming easier for me to practice. It’s almost like I’ve been exercising my self control muscle, and it is growing stronger, making it less painful for me to use in new areas of my life.

This month’s elimination will be different. Giving something up for Lent isn’t just an act of self control. It is something we do out of spiritual conviction. This self denial is a way to help me focus on the sacrifice Christ made for each one of us on the cross. It’s tempting to give up the easiest thing. To chose the thing that will cause the least inconvenience, disruption or pain. But denying yourself something difficult can serve as such a great reminder of what this season is about — that He made the ultimate sacrifice for mankind.

Whether you want to give something up for Lent, for other spiritual reasons, to improve your health or even just as a challenge, here are a few things I’ve learned this past year about giving up:

  1. I’ve found it helpful to learn that some people are abstainers and others are moderators. I wrote about that here. It’s easier for abstainers to go cold turkey, while moderators often prefer an approach that involves “tapering off” or “setting boundaries.”
  2. Taking a before shot can be a powerful motivator. This could be a literal photo or it could take another form, such as a written statement of what life is like and how you want it to change. This act of marking your starting point is like a commitment you are making to yourself that things are going to change. With every “before” shot, comes an “after.” You are committing that things will look different in the “after”. I wrote more about that here.
  3. Change your perspective. Instead of seeing your denial as something negative, reframe it as something good you are doing for yourself. Click here to read about how I’ve been reframing my food choices as a gift I’m giving myself.
  4. I’m a believer that giving something up for Lent should be a personal decision that comes from a spiritual conviction. But for your everyday acts of giving up, it’s always nice to have a support system. Giving something up with a friend or at least sharing your goal with someone can turn it into an exciting journey!

What about you? Did you decide to give something up for Lent? Is this a practice that you think can make a positive impact on your life? 

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The gift I give to myself

The gift I give to myself

My husband and I aren’t coffee drinkers. Hot tea is our caffeinated beverage of choice.

But at the beginning of winter, I started getting into a habit of making myself a cup of decaf coffee mid morning. It’s a nice way to warm up on a cold winter day, and let’s be honest. It’s more about using coffee to water down the cream, right?

Because I’m the only person who uses the coffee maker, and I only use it to make one cup of coffee every other day or so, I would usually forget to clean it. I would let the old coffee and coffee grounds sit there until the next time I made a cup. Then, I would have to rinse it out before brewing my single cup of coffee.

A few weeks ago, I had some extra space in the dishwasher and decided to actually wash the coffee maker. I know. Gasp! The next morning when I wanted some coffee, it was such a nice surprise to find a sparkling clean coffee pot and a filter basket that wasn’t full of old coffee grounds.


I smiled. It was like a gift I gave myself. 

Since then, I’ve been putting the coffee pot in the dishwasher immediately after I use it. Each time, I think, “This is so nice of me to give myself the gift of a clean coffee pot.”

Eating clean and Whole 30 is the gift I give to myself

I was thinking about this concept the last few days as I’ve been learning more about nutrition and health. Since I changed the way I’ve been eating, I’ve become a little obsessed with the topic. I started listening to a Paleo podcast, and I have a long list of books I want to read on topics like fat, sugar and nutrition.

I’ve noticed that my mindset also has started to change about the food I eat. When I found out I had Celiac Disease last summer, I was really angry at this invisible force that had robbed me of my ability to eat gluten. How could all of my favorite foods just be taken from me without any warning?! I revolted by overindulging in chocolate, ice cream, candy, ANYTHING that I COULD eat.

I quickly found out that gaining almost a pound a month wasn’t going to be a good long-term solution for me. As January approached, I knew I had to make a change to my eating. I carefully researched several different options to determine which one I liked the best. “That one says I can’t have fruit…. This one lets me eat potatoes and caffeine,” I thought. “That sounds good to me.”

Now that I’ve been eating this way for almost 45 days, I can really tell how foods affect me. Certain foods make me feel really full. Others seem to make me crave something sweet. I started drinking milk and then decided to go back to almond milk because cow’s milk made me feel so heavy. Just because I CAN have something (like potatoes) on a certain diet, it doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for me.

I’ve realized that my food choices are my own. I can’t just pick a diet because it gives me options that sound good to me. I have to make the choice based on how healthy I want to be and how I want to feel.

There’s not some unseen force that is making me give up certain foods or eat others. No one else has to live with my bloated stomach or my sugar cravings. It’s all up to me. I can choose to give myself that gift.

I’ve realized it’s great to wake up to a clean coffee pot. And it’s even better to take the time to chop some veggies and snack on protein. It’s the gift I give to myself.

So, what about you? I would love to hear your reaction in the comments. Have you made any lifestyle changes that feel like a gift to yourself?


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The powerful motivation of a before shot

The powerful motivation of a before shot

At the beginning of January, I did something I had never done before. I put on my workout clothes. I stood awkwardly in front of a blank wall, and I asked my daughter to take a photo of me.

It was weird.

I don’t love having my photo taken in general. But when I do, I make sure to at least wear a cute outfit. My tightest workout clothes definitely don’t qualify as cute!

But more than that, it was scary.

Taking that “before” shot was a vulnerable moment for me, not just because I hope no one stumbles across it in my camera roll and sees my flabby self. It was scary because I was making a statement to myself. This is the before.

That means, I’m committed to an after.

The magical motivation of a before shot

I can’t believe what a big impact that before photo had on me during the month of January. I looked at it several times, wondering if I would notice a difference at the end of the month. I thought about it when I wanted to eat sugar or grains or dairy. The before shot reminded me not to eat a bowl of ice cream before bed.

That before shot was helping me commit to the after.

This week, I took my after shot to compare. I had completed the Whole 30, and started working out more regularly.

I doubt that anyone but me could see the difference. But I could definitely spot the changes. Now, I’m happy to have my February photo as my new before. As I look ahead at this month and those to come and my plans to live more intentionally, I’ve been thinking about other types of before photos I need to take.

In February, I’m giving up social media, and adding in “truth.” My “truth” is an effort to seek affirmation and acceptance from God, rather than people (in the form of social media). This month, I bought a new journaling Bible, and I’ve been journaling my way through the Psalms. Writing down my thoughts, highlighting important phrases and copying verses in my Bible is one way I’m taking a before shot of the state of my heart.

In future months, my before shots might look like:

  • a photo of the clothes in my closet before I start the purging process
  • a printout of our budget before I take steps to reduce my spending
  • a copy of our calendar before I institute a day of rest into my schedule

As I looked at the two photos of myself this morning from the first day of January and then the beginning of February, I had to smile. The photos were proof that I’m a little bit closer to where I want to be. That before shot had a motivating power I didn’t expect. I’m more determined to keep working on my after until it becomes my new before.

What about you? Have you ever taken a before and after photo? Was it motivating for you? 

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