living

Sweet November

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IMG_2179 Sweet November, that wonderful season of preparation, thanksgiving, and rest before the holiday hustle and bustle.   The nights get cooler, the days get shorter, and we wait for glimpses of those first few snowflakes of winter (well, some of us do). But with the rush of the end of the semester, a full teaching schedule, and a few other projects to manage, the rosy glow of my ideal November fades a little.  I admit, this is usually the time of year when I put my head down, do what I need to do each week, and look forward to a fresh, new year when I can take a breath and hit "restart" on goals, plans, and living in general.  I get burnt out on my goals.  I get tired of my routine.  I lose focus.

But this weekend, I took some time to sit still, to be still, and I realized - life is too short to live with your head down.  There are so many things to enjoy in the moment (like the brilliant yellow trees, glowing in the sunlight outside my window right now).  Sometimes I find myself so wrapped up in my to-do list that it doesn't seem like there is time to anything but what is absolutely essential.  Does that ever happen to you?  This weekend, I was reminded (partly from reading this post) that we're given enough time for everything that matters.  It comes down to how we manage our time and the priorities we set.

What really matters?  Here are few things that came to mind:

1. Making time for that passing conversation with someone in the hall 2. Offering a word of encouragement to someone who is feeling overwhelmed 3. Baking cookies to give away to others 4. Making the people in my life a priority and being fully present 5. Going the extra mile with kindness and grace

This is how I want to live my days this holiday season.  This is how I want to spend my time: focusing on what matters.  The rest will fall into place, as it always does.  What will you make happen this month?

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

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With the recent holiday weekend and a long car ride on either side, I finally finished reading 7 by Jen Hatmaker (please be impressed that I stuck with this bit of pleasure reading throughout the spring semester). The book chronicles the author's seven month experiment: seven categories (food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress) stripped down to seven essentials for a month.  Seven food items.  Seven articles of clothing.  Seven items to give away each day.  Seven forms of media to do without.  Seven ways to reduce waste and become more environmentally responsible.  Seven places to spend money.  Seven prayers a day to remind us to pause, give thanks, reflect, and focus on what matters.

My heart has been challenged by this "mutiny against excess" - our lives are so full, so busy and yet we strive for more.  We live with more than we need and yet we buy more.  We value our abundant wardrobes, earthly possessions, and excessive lifestyle spending habits.  Consumerism and the need for more has become part of our societal identity.  Whatever happened to that life of simplicity, abandon, and giving that Jesus talked about?  It's easy to lose sight of what we really need in our lives versus the things we want.

Where are our priorities in life?  What do we value?  Do our spending habits reflect this?  Are we responsible with the things we've been given?  Do we freely give away what we don't need or do we feel the need to hold onto it?  Have we ignored opportunities to help those in need?

If you're looking for a witty, easy-to-read book that will challenge you to live a more fulfilling life, I encourage you to read 7!

Have you read this book?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Read More: The Go-Giver

Give Thanks Always

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gratitude Gratitude.

Everyone has it during the month of November.  You've seen the daily "I'm thankful for" posts and the #grateful hashtag.  Everyone remembers to count their blessings, be thankful for what they have, and give to those in need.  But then, December happens and people tend to get swept up in the season of giving (and receiving), traveling, and those can't-resist holiday indulgences (cookie, anyone?).  Somehow, by the time the New Year rolls around, we're all ready for a break.  We crave a fresh start, a new-and-improved lifestyle, and time to breathe, and we resolve to make changes.  Sound familiar?  I want to break out of this cycle.  I want to find ways to keep that spirit of gratitude in our hearts and minds all year long.

I've been reading through a few She Reads Truth plans on YouVersion these past few weeks and, though I've read it before, these verses really resonated with me:

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

After reading them over a few times, I wrote the following note to myself: Give thanks always.

It's that simple.  In my vision for this year, I wrote that I want to live a life of gratitude, love, and grace.  It starts with gratitude.  So, hanging in our kitchen is a little gratitude list-nothing fancy-just a way for us to thank God for his goodness to us and be grateful every day.  I created a free printable version for you, too!  Just download the PDF file below, print on an 8.5 x 11" piece of paper or cardstock, hang in your home or office, and start making your very own gratitude list.  Enjoy, y'all!  And give thanks always.

FREE GRATITUDE PRINTABLE