On enjoying a moment

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I’m not really sure how to go slowly.

Even on my slowest summer days, I am still wondering what all needs to get done and what I should be doing to best prepare for my next season.

Even when my husband and I are on the most relaxing vacation with nothing on the agenda, I’m still plotting out our hours in our head, wondering how we can have the most fun possible.

I’m realizing this, though. In the slowest of summer days, I still have to choose stillness. A stillness in my heart, and in my scheduling, and in my body. An invitation and an openness to stop and enjoy myself.

It’s in these moments that I have to force myself to be still and enjoy the freedom, space, and relaxation in front of me.

As the water trickles down through the cold brew filter.

As Franklin (our dog) wants to sniff every blade of grass meticulously before picking one to pee on. 

As I clean out old boxes of “stuff” and happen upon pictures that I must sort through, then take a moment to soak up the joy of old friends and old memories.

As the car in front of me takes just 5 too many seconds to go once the light turns green. 

As I drive to the public library for the millionth time to return books that I never ended up reading.

As I wait on my mind to relax and let the words type themselves onto the screen.

I’m realizing that not everything has to have a purpose or a plan.

That sometimes, we can do things that are purely and unequivocally just for us to relax and enjoy.

It’s not a waste of time to stop and enjoy the moment. 

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Why you can embrace each season

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A picture is worth a thousand words, or so they say. I look back on this picture and remember the events that surrounded this engagement photoshoot. It’s really easy to be in the midst of a busy, stressful season and just constantly try to figure out when it’s going to be over. We make our exit plans, research way too many new places to live, and start dreaming of what would be better than whatever is happening now.

I remember wedding planning was kind of like that. When almost every single conversation you have with anybody you see surrounds “How’s wedding planning!!!???” …it’s really hard to not start to shift weight and all your worth towards that one day. And, when the stress starts to build, the pendulum quickly swings from contentment to restlessness to anxiety.

In hindsight, I see some reasons why I should embrace each season:

  1. You’re going to miss out on those sacred moments.

    I see this moment capture in this picture above and my heart swells. I loved this guy when we took this photo, but I did not know what that love would mean in the coming weeks, months, and years. Engagement truly was a sweet time of preparation for marriage, and wedding planning allowed us to hop on our tandem bike using some training wheels. Our wedding was important and provided many joint decisions, but there were not terrible consequences if we got the color of flower wrong. Now, I see how these moments prepared us to make bigger decisions with bigger consequences, especially when it’s hard and especially when neither of us have a clue what is “right.”

  2. People are mobile.

    I think I became aware of this as my college days were closing, and I realized that all of the friends that were an arms length away would soon scatter to cities across the state and country. My very first co-worker friend was there for every step of my first years of teaching, he guided me, supported me, and gave me all his lesson plans. He was the first person I went to when a crisis arose, and he was a steadying force as I flailed around trying to figure myself out. Then, BAM, he moved away. People move away, people move on, and life keeps moving with it. And although this is the most cliches of all cliches, I really should treasure the moments that I have with the people around me. We have these specific days, weeks, months, or years together — and these are not guaranteed to be replicated.

  3. It’s only going to last so long.

    One of our good family friends mentioned this to me. After adopting her second kid as a baby, she shared with me that she no longer cares about if the house is messy or if everything gets cleaned. She’s keenly aware that these years of motherhood will only last so long, and although it’s all encompassing right now, it’s definitely going to be over.

  4. And when it’s gone, it’s gone for good.

    I’m never going to get back these first years of marriage, these first years of teaching, and these years in my 20’s. My twenties are already half gone — sheesh! In the thick of that first year of teaching, I felt everything deeply. Every triumph was as if I had just launched a rocket and successfully landed on the moon. Every disappointment was the feeling of doom as if someone had just snatched my ice cream cone and thrown it to the ground. Yet, now that it’s all over,  I look back on it and am thankful for those trials. My friend Sharon walked with me through that first year, and I see so much of her wisdom to be true…even though I didn’t see it clearly at all. This was a year of refining for me. I’m never going to get a year like that again (THANK GOD.) But, in all seriousness, it was here for a season — and for better or for worse — it’s never coming back.

What season do you need to embrace today? 

Travel Journal: New Orleans

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This is a guide for all you homebody introverts who love a good adventure and want to see the world, but don’t love being drained beyond reason by the time you get home. In this series, I share my city tips on how to conserve your introverted energy and have the best time ever all at once. YOU. CAN. DO. IT. Some people like to call this traveling, but I like to call all trips a vacation. Welcome to a vacationer’s guide to easy travel. You’ll see me uses (+) to denote added energy and (-) to denote lost energy. 

5 Things to Do:

Ferry Boat Ride ($2 each way) 
Energy Level: +5

Practical, relaxing and scenic all at once. If you decide to stay across the river from the French Quarter, this provides views, seats, and a very short “cruise” across the Mississippi. Bonus points for a sunset ride and enjoying the water.

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City Park + Sculpture Garden all at once!
Energy Level: -5

This is just a park, but it’s a pretty park with great trees, interesting sculptures, and a playground. It was fun to walk around this area, appreciate the art, and take a break on a bench every once in awhile.

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Bourbon Street
Energy Level: -10000000

We simply just walked down the street and looked around. Josh bought a drink at one of the stands along the street, just to have the rebellious feeling of carrying a drink in the streets. New Orleans is the only city that allows it, so it’s basically a cultural experience, right? This is loud, dirty, entertaining, fun, and mostly draining if you hate crowds, but love a good scene. Walk through it anyway.

Jazz Bars
Energy Level: +5

After walking along Bourbon street, listen with your ears for the sound of live jazz. I’m sure you’ll find it – just walk towards it until you’re inside and sitting. Ahhhh, jazz music and sitting and drinking. The best. Once you’re inside and find a seat, it’s very relaxing and chill. It’s just getting there that’s the hard part! We went to Fritzel’s and Maison Bourbon Jazz Club. We looked up other places, but ended up here using our mere instincts and grit (ears). Let your ears guide you, people!

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Harrah’s
Energy Level: +2

Casino. So, this only works if you’re with someone who likes to play cards or throw away money into machines. Josh likes to play cards, or that’s what I call it. 😉 This is inside, which was great on a rainy day. It was a surprisingly calming to be in a clean space that felt organized and maintained. (Contrast: Bourbon) This is also called #compromise. I don’t play cards, but had a leisure stroll around the casino and thought about taking a small nap in the bar area. (I didn’t. But I could have. It’s all about having that option, you know?) I ended up watching Josh play cards which was actually entertaining.

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Book Shops: Mid-City Book Shop & Garden District Book Shop
Energy Level: +5

I love a good local book shop. It’s hard for me to justify dishing out $20 for the latest book, so I rarely every buy brand new books. But, I love looking at the locally featured authors and the selection that each shop has. It’s quaint, quiet, and cute – and that for sure refills my energy for a bit. Bonus points for sitting and reading part of a book for a bit, too.

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5 Things to Eat:

Cafe Du Monde (+5)

The line goes by super fast, especially at 11pm at night. Or, it did when we were there. It’s worth the wait to get a table and sit down, don’t be deceived by the “to-go” line that looks shorter. In my opinion, it’s probably not. This gets a +5 energy rating because SUGAR COFFEE DOUGHNUTS, ya hear?

Hansen’s Snow-Bliz Shop (+8)

Refreshing, snowy, and yum. This is a shaved ice place, but with ice that is super smooth and flavors that basically make it taste like ice cream. Thus, it’s the perfect blend between shaved ice and ice cream. Aka the best things ever invented.

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Canjun Seafood (-5)

Crawfish is hard work, so there’s that. There’s no pictures of this because who can pick up a camera when your hands have absorbed all of the juices involved in crawfish. So very tasty, but so much work.

Restaurant Rebirth (+100000000)

An introverts dream! Small, quiet, not crowded, comfy, great bathrooms, and the best and most fancy seafood we’ll ever eat. This is a fancy pants place where you have to be prepared to spend a lot of money, but it’s totally worth it. If anything, you can save all your money eating just this meal and beignets the whole time. It’s worth it. Best and most fresh seafood we’ve ever had. Reservations only. Do it.

Mojo Coffee (+2)

Low key coffee shop that is spacious, has good bathrooms, and good coffee. We had to sit outside in the cold, but that was a small price to pay for the laid back atmosphere and break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Bonus points for reading a book for just a couple of minutes. It’s always worth it.

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Summary:

New Orleans is known for being a crazy party city, but with the right stops throughout the day and a little bit of research in picking out a cozy, yet lively jazz bar for the night, it’s totally doable. I didn’t feel drained at all throughout this trip and my husband Josh and I were quite proud of our ability to stay out #alldaylong. Feel free to leave questions in the comments below! Happy vacationing!

 

You Have Nothing to Prove

Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard
Jennie Allen

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“The constant feeling that no matter how hard I try, I cannot be enough.”

You know a book has the potential to really wreck you, when you are looking at the cover already questioning the idea that is possible to NOT try so hard. This idea is so contrary to what I so often think and believe. I’m always trying to figure out ways that I can try harder. It’s in my nature. It’s who I am. Simultaneously, it plagues who I am and keeps who I am from actually living.

“I am not ________ enough.”

I remember uncovering this at my college ministry’s winter conference, Epic Anthology, my freshman year of college. The more I reflected on my life long walk with God, I realized how so much of my story was written with these words.

I remember sharing this visual as a youth leader, literally unpeeling the sticky notes of all of the traits I so easily grasped for and eventually revealing that I am actually not enough. In sending this message to teenagers who probably held some sort of idea that I had it all together, and to a group that I was constantly trying to prove my enough-ness to, I experienced the power in being transparent in my journey of letting Jesus be my “enough.”

“We strive to be seen, to be known, to matter.”

This could hold no more relevance to what I continue to struggle with. In my real life career, in my writing endeavors and passions, and in my relationships/friendships – I want to be seen, to be known, and to be matter. And, when I feel like any of these tenants are withering their way out of my hands, I feel a low grade anxiety that fizzles into panic the longer that I let it fester.

“Jesus is better than happy stories that work out perfectly.”

From my lengthiest memories dating back to childhood, I always felt like the stories that played out in my life fell short of a happy story that worked out perfectly. Although I got by, this falling short of perfection that my life seemed to have continued to nag at me. Why didn’t I have that picture perfect best friend that I could confide my adolescent years in? Why didn’t I have that picture perfect ugly duckling turning into beautiful swan story by the end of my high school years?

What I continue to see time and time again, is that I don’t need to have that picture perfect story. I don’t need to have a happy story where everything works out perfectly, because Jesus is better than all of that.

This is a truth that I am speaking to myself in depth today, as I battle what the future holds in these next months for Josh and I. This is a truth relevant to me each day as I wake up and wonder what the day will hold as a teacher – it certainly hasn’t been a perfect story working out perfectly like I had imagined. And you know what? That’s okay.

But, that’s so so so so so hard to believe.

This book spoke to me in ways that I am constantly trying to speak to myself.

Jennie’s words are the words of truth that myself and countless other people throughout the course of my life have been trying to tell me.

It was incredibly life-giving to have a book speak to me in a way of prose that my heart needed, and in a style that my literary brain is drawn to and appeals to.

The idea that I am not enough is indeed crushing at first, but freeing in my exploration of it. Jennie repeats the message of Jesus’ enough-ness on every page of the book, poignantly pointing to the cross with every word she speaks. Jesus is enough, so we don’t have to be.

This book is for the girl sitting on the sidelines, feeling invisible. It’s for the girl striving to be her best, but never actually being THE best at anything. It’s for the girl constantly trying to do better and be better, but never getting noticed. It’s for the man who feels like he doesn’t have enough ______ to support his family and be the leader, strength, and head that he is called to be. It’s for all of us who are clamoring to be heard, seen, recognized, significant, known — to matter.

I know this because I am this person. And if you’re being honest, you are probably this person too. 


I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Top 5 Letters in My Alphabet

My February series was a doozy for me, but I keep thinking about how much  I learned about discipline in my writing from it. I’ve also been reflecting on what caught people’s eye the most.

Here are the most popular posts of the alphabet:

5. B is for Books – 4 Reasons to Pick Up a Book Right Now

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4. C is for Change – How to Make a Change Right This Second

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3. S is for Start – What You Need to Do Right No to Jump Start Your Passions

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2. F is for Faith – The Beginner’s Guide to Writing About Faith

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1. A is for Asian Americans – What You Need to Know About the Asian American Identity

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Which one of these stands out to you the most? How about in the rest of the series? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!