the loch, lake of glass, & sky pond

Summer is nearly here, and it’s got me dreaming of spending time in the mountains and getting out to adventure. While COVID-19 continues to leave us in uncertainty of what’s to come in these warm weather months, my hope is that we’ll still be able to make the most of our summer days. And to help inspire that a little in myself, and maybe in you too, I’m here to share about my favorite hike from last summer, and possibly my favorite hike I’ve done to date: Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park. Please bear with me, we did this hike eight months ago, so I did my best to remember as much detail as possible. But if the details aren’t your thing, feel free to scroll through for some pictures of this beautiful hike.

This hike made it to the top of my hiking bucket list when I saw a friend post some pictures of it the summer before last. As a difficult 9 miler, it felt a bit out of my league since I still consider us very novice hikers, but it gave us something to work towards. After getting a few hikes under our belts over last summer, I felt prepared enough to give it a try, and the timing worked out perfectly in every way.

We waited until the end of the summer to give it a go because 1) like I said I wanted to work our way up to it and 2) Adam was training for a marathon throughout the summer, so we wanted to wait until he ran it at the beginning of September so we didn’t hinder his training. So a week after he completed his 26.2 miles, we set out for the mountains.

As a reminder, we live about an hour and a half away from the Estes Park entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) so it’s extremely accessible to us as a day trip (plus we have a free annual military pass to national parks, so that helps too). We left our house early in the morning so we could get to the park before it got too busy, but we also knew that we had some more flexibility than we did earlier in the summer because it wasn’t peak season anymore. Thankfully, the Park and Ride lot on Bear Lake Road had plenty of spots when we arrived at 7:30am. We gathered up our stuff, took the shuttle to the Glacier Gorge trailhead, and set out on our way (probably starting the hike around 8:15ish). The forecast for the day was seemingly perfect – chilly in the morning, but sunshine, blue skies, and a high of upper 70s were projected for the day. We layered up, and we were able to shed them when it warmed up, and then put some back on the higher we went in elevation. It never got too hot or too cold, it was just right.

The first leg of the hike is to Alberta Falls, which we’ve hiked to a few times previously. It’s a popular hike in the park and it leads to a 30 foot waterfall. I’m guessing with the time of year, and by starting just a little early, the trail wasn’t too crowded like it has been in the past for us. We made it to the falls by 9am, took a quick rest to enjoy the always-spectacular views, Adam made friends with a chipmunk, and then we continued on into new territory for us.

After Alberta Falls, I remember the trail became rather steep, and there were a handful of switchbacks. Adam has much better endurance than I do, but thankfully we’ve found a good rhythm on our hikes where we each go at our own pace. Usually I fall a little behind, because I try to listen to my body and rest when I need it (and I stop to take pictures and stare at the views), but Adam always stops and lets me catch up along the way. As we slowly trekked up the switchbacks I was admiring the gorge full of these tall slender trees.

By about 10:30am we made it to The Loch – the first of three lakes we’d come across on this hike. You can walk right up to the shoreline of one side of the lake, so we took some time to admire the surroundings of trees and mountains and glaciers. As we continued our way around the lake, we stumbled upon a small harem of elk on the trail. It wasn’t until I was a few feet away from one that I looked up from the path and noticed them. Thankfully we were at a spot in the trail that had a small detour so we could safely keep our distance. They weren’t threatening in any way, but soon after we came upon them we were pretty sure we heard a bugle in the distance and we weren’t about to wait around to see who else would join them.

We moved on from The Loch, and made our way through some meadowy terrain towards Timberline Falls. Based on reviews I read on AllTrails we knew that we’d have to do a bit of scrambling to get past the Falls, but it was uncertain if it would be too icy or not. We got a little nervous shortly after we left The Loch when we ran into some people on their descent who said the rocks at the Falls were too icy and they had to head back. We decided to keep going, hoping that as the day progressed the ice would melt, but I also tried to adjust my expectations in case the Falls were as far as we got. In hindsight, if the hike ended at Timberline Falls, it still would have been a great hike – well worth our time. But the end goal was still to go further, so I was holding out hope.

We started to approach the Falls around 11:30am, and when they came into view we saw a small crowd of people getting backed up at the base. I became hopeful when I saw many people slowly scrambling up the rocks to the right of the Falls. After we made our way up one of the steeper parts of the whole hike we got to the base, caught our breath, waited for the path to clear out a little, and made the decision to give it a go. Enough people were making it up the wet rocks that we were comfortable giving it a try. With caution, it was a very doable 100 ft climb for us.

When we reached the top, I turned around to see a stunning view of The Loch well below us. And then I turned and saw the stunning Lake of Glass in front of us. We were literally surrounded by beauty. Lake of Glass was actually my favorite of the three lakes, because of the vantage points we got as we made our way around it. I do remember one point that it was a little unclear where the trail was leading around the lake because we had to climb up some large boulders to follow along, but we stuck to the edge of the water to make our way around. Along the way we met a rather photogenic Marmot. The animals in RMNP often seem to be used to people being around so he came up pretty close to us and Adam had a great photo op (clearly he enjoys making friends with all the animals), but I also remember one point that it looked like the marmot was going to pounce on him so I made him back away just in case.

We moved on from Lake of Glass at about 12pm and traveled along the small stretch before Sky Pond, which was a picture straight out of a fairy tale. I was in heaven.

We finally made it to Sky Pond at about 12:10pm, which was nearly 11,000 feet in elevation. There were only a few other people that we came across, so we found a boulder to sit down and rest and admire the views of the lake and the cliffs that surrounded it. I remember feeling so accomplished. It was definitely a strenuous hike up, but every bit of the fatigue was made up for by the surroundings along the way. I also remember noticing two little specks moving up one of the glaciers far above the lake – there were people that were going to far greater extremes than us. I was humbled by 1) how little experience we have in the great outdoors and 2) how small we are in comparison to these beautiful mountains (a fairly common humility that comes upon me when we hike). But I was also so grateful to experience what we were doing, and excited for the potential of adventure in the future – though I don’t see myself ever having the desire to hike up a glacier. I think it was fairly windy up at Sky Pond, so we actually didn’t stay put for too long. Plus we didn’t want to risk running into any afternoon storms. So we turned back and started the descent back down the way we came.

It was like a treat to revisit all of the beautiful views we just passed. We took our time, knowing that descending is pretty tough on both of our knees, and the 1700+ feet of elevation we already trekked up was starting to show its wear on us. After taking a long lunch break in a meadowy area next to The Loch, we noticed some clouds rolling in, so we started to pick up the pace to get ahead of any possible rain. Plus I really had to go to the bathroom so I was cruising on the home stretch since we felt close enough to try to make it to a bathroom.

Thankfully we made it to the trailhead without a drop of rain, despite the very cloudy sky, and I made it safely to a bathroom. But man, I was T-I-R-E-D. This was definitely the most challenging hike I’ve done to date, but I was so satisfied at the end. The hike I had been dreaming of for a year ended up going perfectly. I still look at the pictures from this hike and smile. It was a challenge. It was a dream. And it deepened my love for the mountains even more.

While the pictures are gorgeous, they never do these Rockies any justice. So if you haven’t already, I highly recommend adding this to your own bucket list. If you have a comfortable amount of hiking experience under your belt, it is definitely strenuous at times, but manageable. And so, so worth it.

I hope you enjoyed trekking along with us on this hike from last year! Now that I’ve spent this time reminiscing, I’m aching to get out for some new adventures, so I really hope that I’ll be able to share about more hikes that we are able to do this year. Hiking is still such a new hobby for me, but it’s one that I hope I can continue to experience for all the years to come.

So tell me, what’s your favorite hike you’ve ever done? I’m always open to adding more ideas to my hiking bucket list, so let me know in the comments!

Until next time friends,

stop completing. start living.

Have you been tuning into John Krasinski’s web series, Some Good News? If you haven’t, there are few things that I would recommend more as a source of joy and hope in these times of change. And if you have, then you likely understand and share the appreciation I have for it.

In the recent graduation themed episode, my appreciation expanded beyond the usual sentiments because it led me to some introspection that I feel compelled to share. Despite my own college graduation dating back 7 years now, the charges made to this year’s graduates spurred me on and challenged me to evaluate my own life.

Apart from the (what feels like) routine reminder for me to step out of my comfort zones and reject my fear of failure, the most significant words I heard came from Jon Stewart’s commencement conversation with a young grad. In response to the question “now what?” Jon pointed out that after graduation, you enter into a world where no one is grading you anymore. So his advice was:

“Stop completing things,
and start living them.”

These words struck a deep chord for me. Because I realized how much I have lived my life to be graded or measured. As an enneagram 1, I want to measure up. I want to meet and exceed standards. I like the satisfaction of completing things. In hindsight I think that played a big role in my success in school. But it wasn’t until I heard Jon’s words that I considered how I have been unconsciously seeking new standards to measure myself by ever since I received my diploma. I’ve bounced from one measurement to the next, creating confusion and overwhelm regarding how I’m supposed to be living my life. I’ve measured myself in my job status, my job type, my job performance, my fitness level, my weight, my appearance, my ability to achieve goals, my social life – just to name a few. And I can guess that if I asked a handful of people how they try to measure up, they may hold to a variety of other categories. There are so many ways that we could measure or grade ourselves. But there’s two significant problems when we do. One, it can lead us to a life of comparison, which sets us up for a constant cycle of pride and insecurity as we consider ourselves ahead or behind others (which can also be extremely detrimental to how we relate to others). And two, it leads us to find our worth and value as a person in how we measure up to constantly fluctuating, vague standards. Talk about an exhausting identity rollercoaster ride that leaves you feeling defeated or unsure of who you are by the end.

So what if we ditched the need to measure up? What if we silenced the pressure to meet the mark? I certainly don’t mean we should give up trying at things or challenging ourselves. What I mean is doing what Jon Stewart suggested – stop completing things, and start living them.

Stop treating life like we are working for a grade at the end of it. Stop doing things just to say we did them. Stop turning life into a task, because it’s so much more complex than finished products and checked boxes. And rather than struggle to figure out HOW to measure up, we can be freed up to believe that it’s not about measuring up at all. We’ve all been leveled at the foot of the cross. The work has already been finished.

So let’s get out there and go for it.

Stop completing things. Stop doing things just to check them off. Instead, enjoy them. Make the most of them. Fail at them, and try again at them. Find inspiration from them. Learn from them. Suck all the goodness you can out of them. Live them.

I hope that this resonates with at least someone, and I hope I’m at least making some kind of sense. I’m definitely still processing through this, because it’s challenging a way of thinking that I didn’t even fully realize I had. But in light of what this post is all about, I’m sharing the incompleteness. I don’t have it all figured out. In fact, everything I share on this blog I try to share not from the position of an expert, but from the perspective of a fellow traveler on this journey of life. So let’s all get out there and go for it. Together.

Until next time,

8 methods for healthier phone usage

Oh, smart phones. Such a convenience for information, inspiration, and (more importantly than ever) connection, but also such a time sucker if you’re not careful. I honestly could get a little red in the face if I confess how much time I waste scrolling on my phone. I’ve learned that if I’m not very careful and intentional, I can easily fall into scrolling habits that hold me back from spending my time doing things I actually need, or even want, to do.

Of course, there are times that I really enjoy scrolling through Instagram and feel inspired and spurred on in life, but I can also quickly fall into thinking about the life I want to live more than I actually do it. So for the last couple years, I’ve experimented with a few different ways to set boundaries for myself in order to “break up with my phone” and live more intentionally. After a few recent habit changes, I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of the methods I’ve tried, and found freedom in. Because while I’m not the wagering kind, I’d be willing to bet that I’m not the only one who is dissatisfied with her phone usage.

I think a key thing to consider is that it all comes down to balance, and just like in every area of life, that balance is going to look a little different for each of us. How I fit these habits into my life is likely different than how you need to set boundaries for yourself. So I encourage you to take a look through the suggestions, and experiment with them to figure out what works for YOU.

And I believe an important place to start in figuring that out is to identify where you struggle with your phone use – that way you can better determine what methods might address your specific needs. This is where an assessment of your usage can be really helpful. Either the Digital Wellbeing feature for Android users like me, or the Screentime feature for iPhone users, can be really helpful in revealing your habits. You might just be surprised to see how much time you spend on your phone, or on specific apps. I know how easy it is for me to think that a quick scroll to catch up on Instagram only lasts about 5 minutes, but when I see that my average use in a day is anywhere between 1-3 hours, I get a little uncomfortable. Too often I feel like I don’t have enough time in the day. Too often I get upset with myself for not getting more done. Too often I think of all the projects I’ve dreamed of working on for years, that I never find the time to touch. And seeing this data helps shed some light on why. So I encourage you to take a peek at your own stats to see if, and where, you might need to set some boundaries.

So without further ado, if you happen to find that sitting on the couch scrolling doesn’t fit the picture of how you want to live your life, then here are 8 methods for detaching from your phone and establishing better usage habits.

1. Limit Notifications

This is a method that I’ve been pretty strict on ever since receiving my first smart phone back in college. I pretty much turn off all notifications on my phone with the exception of texts and phone calls. Having regular notifications from countless apps can not only interrupt your day, but it can also add stress if you let them pile up and build your attachment to your phone through that instant gratification. So, to eliminate that, I turn off the notifications for an app as soon it’s downloaded onto my phone.

There are a select few apps that I allow a form of notifications to come in, but I still keep stricter boundaries with them than probably most would. For example, I used to get notifications for email, but a few months ago I switched it to where only a notification dot shows up on the app on my home screen, so rather than getting push notifications for each email, I can check my inbox when I choose to, or when I have the time to. Another example is Facebook messenger. My most common form of messages in it are in group chat format. And while they’re convenient, group chats tend to escalate my stress level quickly, so I decided that the messages can show up on my phone, but I have no sound to go with them so I don’t hear a constant dinging.

By limiting notifications, I don’t feel the tug to pick up my phone every time I receive some sort of engagement on any kind of app. I simplify the noise in my life, and in doing so I can have more control in how I spend my time engaging with my phone, rather than having constant interruptions or something else controlling my attention.

2. Use a Fit Bit or Smart Watch as a Way to Detach

When I first got a FitBit a couple years ago, I was nervous that the ability to receive text and call notifications on my wrist would cause me to become more attached to my phone, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the opposite. Because I could receive notifications on my watch, I could more easily leave my phone somewhere and not feel like I needed to carry it with me around the house in case someone randomly messaged me. If I do get a text, I can check my wrist to determine if it’s something I need to, or want to, respond to right away, or if it can wait, all without even touching my phone. This is definitely one that you have to know yourself with though. If you find that getting the notifications on your wrist leads to more attachment, then this may not be the method for you. Also, if you don’t already have a watch that links to your phone, I’m not pushing you to spend more money to get one just for this purpose, but if you do already have one or decide to get one, it could be a benefit.

3. No Phone Before Jesus

I implemented this boundary quite awhile back for multiple reasons. One, I wanted to keep my priorities straight, especially at the start of my day. Two, how much time I spent scrolling on my phone before I even got out of bed in the mornings was quickly getting out of hand. And three, I would sometimes find that what I consumed before I got out of bed set the temperature for my day. The biggest example I have of this would be in checking my Timehop and being reminded of a memory or feeling I have about something or someone that left me unsettled. If that’s what I saw first thing in my day, it had the potential to start my day in a funk. So with all of these in mind, I typically don’t allow myself to check any form of social media before I have my quiet time in the morning and center myself with Jesus. That is a much better, more fulfilling way to set the temperature for my day. Regardless of if spending time with Jesus is a priority for you in the morning or not, figure out what things you want to help set the temperature for your day, and remind yourself to do those things BEFORE you allow yourself to scroll.

4. Set Your Phone Across the Room (or in Another Room) at Night

For similar reasons to what I mentioned in number 3, I very recently started the practice of leaving my phone on my dresser while I sleep at night, instead of next to my bedside. In doing so, I’m much less tempted to roll back over when my alarm goes off and scroll for a few minutes to “let myself wake up” – yes that’s an actual argument I’ve made to myself in my head. Anyone else do that? I also started doing this to prevent me from hitting snooze once or twice each morning, which I have had a tendency of doing for as long as I can remember. This is definitely a habit I am going to continue using for now, because in all actuality, I have no reason to keep my phone right beside me while I’m sleeping. And it’s allowed me to wake up more peacefully by taking a minute to “come to” and then rise out of bed to get going. Thankfully my husband usually wakes up before me, or at the same time as me, so if I let my alarm go on for a minute or two it doesn’t bother him, so keep that in mind if you want to give this one a try.

5. Use Your Phone’s Settings to Set Actual Boundaries

Like I mentioned before, depending on what kind of phone you have, these exact settings may differ, but whether you use Digital Wellbeing or Screentime, you should not only be able to see your usage, but also manage your usage. Since Google released Digital Wellbeing, I’ve tried out a few different settings. I use Wind Down to turn my phone to grayscale at 10pm (through 7am) as a cue to get off of it if I’m still scrolling at that time. I’ve also used Focus Mode on my Scroll Free Days (see #6) to hold me accountable to staying off of distracting apps by blocking them for a certain day or time period. At this point I haven’t used the Timer setting to limit how much time I allow myself on an app in a day, but that’s a possible option too. Using any of these boundaries is helpful in adding a little bit more accountability to my choices in how much time I’m using my phone. And while it’s easy to bypass the settings by selecting “turn off for now” or “take a break” to give yourself five more minutes, it at least puts more responsibility on you to choose whether or not you’re going to stick to your boundaries, rather than lackadaisically continuing on.

6. Delete or Hide Apps

To take my Focus Mode an extra step further, sometimes it’s helpful to hide those same time wasting apps from the main screen of my phone to make them all the more inconvenient to click on. Or, if I need to get even more drastic (like I’ll explain in #8) I’ve even deleted those apps off of my phone for periods of time to remove the temptation altogether. This method used to sound a little extreme to me, but when I finally gave it a try, it was pretty effective. And in all actuality, it takes less than a minute to re-download those apps and log back in. You typically don’t lose anything in doing so.

7. Scroll Free Days

In the last year, I’ve often made a monthly goal that I would have one scroll free day a week. I say “scroll free” instead of “phone free” because I still respond to texts or talk on the phone – mindless scrolling is my main concern. I either have a set day each week (I used to do it on Mondays), or I would pick a day based on what was going on in the day (i.e. a day where I needed to be focused and productive, or a day where I really needed some Sabbath and a break from constant connection), to utilize the Focus Mode setting and block my most time sucking apps. In my case, that’s primarily Instagram, but also Timehop, Pinterest, and Sudoku (note: I don’t have the Facebook app on my phone – I just access it via my internet app so I add another layer of inconvenience to it – but if I’m blocking those other apps, I hold myself accountable to staying off of Facebook as well). By giving myself an entire day’s break from those time suckers, I have a greater chunk of time to focus my attention on other things and ensure that I’ll be productive elsewhere.

8. Scroll Free Weekends/Weeks

When I know I’m needing a bit more of a drastic detox, I need a bit longer of a time out. I’ve done 1, maybe 2, scroll free weeks where I actually delete some of those time sucking apps off of my phone (or just hide them from my main screen so they are out of sight) to stay off of them for an extended period of time. Most recently, I did this over a 3 day weekend at the start of April – mainly because I noticed that my phone consumption was getting a bit excessive and I needed a time out. The freedom I found from doing this led me to practice this every weekend since because it led to greater satisfaction in how I spent my time. The key in any scroll free day, weekend, week, or any period of time, is being sure to replace the time you spend on your phone with activities that are purposeful or bring you joy. It’s no help if I just replace that time with binging more Survivor on Hulu (which admittedly does still happen sometimes). So I have been very intentional about using the excess time to tackle a project. Sometimes that means doing something I’ve been needing to get done out of necessity, but often I’ve been trying to take that time to do something I WANT to get done in an attempt to better indulge my time. This has been an incredibly freeing practice and one that I think everyone should try, simply to see what they learn from it.

And there you have it! 8 methods for detaching from, and having better boundaries with, your phone. Now I wish I could say that any of these are a cure all for overconsumption, but the truth is, it’s a constant teeter-tauter for me. Sometimes I can stick with the “high” I get from detaching, and carry on good & healthy habits for awhile. Other times, it’s all too easy to fall back into old habits, even when I “know better.” But rather than beat myself up over it, I am better able to determine when I need to put some stricter boundaries in place and I pull out one or two (or more) of these methods from my toolbox to get myself back on track again. Intentional living never happens on accident. So sometimes when we fall off track of the ways we want to be living, we need a reset. And that’s ok. In fact, I think that’s good.

So how about you friends? Do you use any intentional methods to set boundaries for yourself with your phone? If so, what do you do? Or, do you feel like maybe you need to give one of these methods a try? Let’s chat about it in the comments below!

Until next time,

the little things // vol. 6

Well friends, somehow we’ve managed to survive another month of quarantine, and it’s slowly starting to feel like the light at the end of the tunnel is growing larger. I don’t know how it is where you live, but in Wyoming we are making steps to test out re-opening the state starting May 1st! But rather than talk about the coronavirus (because I’m sure we’re all pretty tired of doing that), I’m here to wrap up this abnormal month with another addition of The Little Things – an ongoing series where I share some simple things that have been impacting my life in big ways. Because it’s the little things in life that add up to make the greatest of impacts. I have received some of my best recommendations from blogs, podcasts, or friends, so I want to be a pal and pass along some things making my life just a little bit better lately, in case you might find some value in them too. And in light of all of the craziness we’ve been undergoing, now more than ever we could all use some extra life-giving intention in our lives. Here’s what I’ve been enjoying during the month of April:

My Favorite Primer: Tula’s Face Filter

I’ve been an avid user of Tula’s skincare products for about a year and a half now, and even as I’ve attempted to veer away to try out a few different brands, I find myself coming back again and again. I didn’t realize just how much I loved this specific product until I ran out of it and couldn’t replace it right away because they were sold out. I finally got my hands on it again when they restocked recently, and have been happy to have it back. I wear very, very minimal make up – and would even prefer to go make-up-less most days, but my face often needs a little something extra to blend my skin tone more nicely. Enter in the Face Filter. It’s a blurring and moisturizing primer, so while it technically serves as make-up, it’s kind to my skin while giving it some extra, even glow. It’s fairly lightweight and can be worn alone, but sometimes I will still add on some foundation over it if I’m needing some extra coverage. If you’ve never tried out Tula before, you can get 20% off your first purchase here.

An Uplifting & Relatable Podcast: The Within Her Podcast

When it comes to my taste in podcasts, I tend to enjoy ones that give a peek into the lives of everyday people for the chance to learn more about how they manage their priorities and choose to be obedient to God in their own unique settings. One of my more recent finds with this format has been the Within Her podcast, and so far I’ve really enjoyed the topics that Kaci has covered with her guests, as well as the intentionality she has in the questions she brings up. As I’ve started from the beginning (which was just back in October) some of my favorite episodes have been How to Get Stronger Physically, Mentally & Spiritually with Jen Diaz; Choosing Obedience Over Fear in Seasons of Waiting with Evie Rupp; Motherhood, Body Image & How God Redeems in Unexpected Ways with Natalie Borton; and Getting Organized & The Power of Sharing Your Story with Mika Perry. If any of those topics, or that kind of podcast format, appeals to you, I’d definitely recommend giving it a listen.

A Daily Devotional: Take It Too Far by Jess Connolly

If you’ve been reading along here for any amount of time, it’s likely you’ve heard me rave about anything that Jess Connolly seems to be involved with. From her book writing, to her current Made Up Morning Show, to her podcast, she’s been a truth speaker in my life for years now. My favorite part is that in everything she puts out into the world, I grow to love her more because she points me to Jesus more. The latest recommendation I have of hers is her most recent book Take It Too Far: Abundant Life, Boundless Love, Unending Grace. It’s a book of 100 topical devotionals centered on putting an end to playing it safe in our faith and taking the attributes of God further in our lives. Each day includes a Bible verse, a reflection from Jess, and a charge to take it too far in your own life today. I don’t always enjoy the quick formats of devotionals like this, but I have been spurred on in a variety of ways through topics that I hadn’t considered. Just the other day I came across these words that I’ve started to speak over my days:

I’d highly recommend this read for some daily doses of truth and encouragement to take your own faith too far.

A Freeing Habit: Leaving My Phone Across the Room While I Sleep

This was a habit I honestly avoided for a long time, simply because me and my snooze button have been good friends since I started using an alarm clock as a kid. But in an attempt to reinforce the elimination of my bad habit of scrolling on my phone before even getting out of bed in the morning, I decided to finally give it a try this month. And I’m pleased to say it has been effective and surprisingly life giving. Since I’m not hitting snooze at the first sign of life from my phone, I seem to feel the grace to take a moment to wake up slowly and then get out of bed to start my day (it’s helpful that my husband usually wakes up before me, or at the same time, so my alarm doesn’t annoy him). It’s just been that extra boost of motivation to kick start my morning routine. And the habit of scrolling in bed feels long gone since I don’t have the chance to even debate the choice. This kind of habit is just one method I’ve utilized in my life to build better boundaries with my phone, and I’ll actually be sharing more about all of the ones I’ve tried in a post next week, so be on the look out for that!

Something We Could All Always Use More Of: Fresh Air

I love this time of year in general for this purpose, but amidst all the quarantining that basically the whole world has been doing the past two months, now, more than ever, I am snatching up opportunities to take in the fresh air and get outside (or bring the outside in). I’ve been taking the pups out more consistently for walks, and now that we’re finally starting to get some warmer weather in Cheyenne, I’ve been opening the windows on nice days to get some air flow in the house. It’s even been nice enough some days to sit out on our back patio for my morning quiet time or to do some work in the afternoon. It feels incredibly life-giving to breathe in the fresh air and soak up some Vitamin D. So if you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to spend some extra time outside when the weather allows. I can almost guarantee that it’ll bring an extra boost to your day.

And there you have it! Five little things that have been helping me through this pandemic, and making a big impact in my life this month. I hope if you give any of these things a try that they add value to your life and make a big impact for you too. You’ll have to let me know if you end up trying any of them OR if any of them are already little things in your own life!

Until next time friends,

p.s. For previous recommendations from The Little Things series, check out vol. 1vol. 2vol. 3vol. 4, vol. 5

Note: this is NOT a sponsored post. All links are to products that I have personally used and truly enjoy, and I just want to share the love. I do not make any profit from these links, with the exception of the referral link for Tula in which case you can get 20% off your first order, and I get some credit towards my next purchase.

testing God’s will

Not too long ago I wrote an entire post about the challenge of saying no to a good opportunity because I felt like it wasn’t what God was calling me to. Well, I’m going to be a bit transparent here and confess that I have a bit of a follow up story that I feel compelled to share about. If you didn’t catch it, you can read up on the first part of this story here (otherwise this post won’t make as much sense). Once you’re caught up, here’s part two…

The story picks up when I realized that I unintentionally left my husband out of the decision making process about not pursuing this job opportunity. I had resolved so quickly that I heard God tell me this wasn’t the path for me that I seemingly already had my mind made up by the time I spoke to him (which just so happened to be the day before the initial post about it went live). But in our conversation, he pointed out how he wished he would have been included in the decision. I felt crushed because he was right. I totally didn’t mean to leave him out, but in doing so, I hurt him. As we talked it out and resolved our conflict, we were able to come to a better understanding with each other, but as I processed through where my head was at with him, I felt even more confused about my decision. I was still struggling so much with insecurity over my job status (or lack thereof) and uncertainty of God’s path for me. Which led me to wrestle even more with whether I heard from God, or if it was just my doubts or insecurities getting louder in my head. My word of the year has been obedience, and in this situation I was struggling to determine what the right step was. I kept dwelling on how perfect of an opportunity this would be in our transient life; how fitting of a job it was for me; and how passionate I was about the business I could potentially work for. But I didn’t want to disobey God if He told me no. And to be truly transparent, I wrestled through feeling hypocritical by posting about something on my blog and then following through in the complete opposite way (talk about a twisted form of accountability). But if this was an opportunity God did actually have for me, I didn’t want to miss out just because I spoke too soon. I also uncovered the faltering confidence I had in myself to follow through on what God was calling me to.

If this all sounds like a jumbled, back and forth, mess, then welcome to the fairly normal state of my brain :). As I processed these thoughts on my own and with my husband (don’t worry, I didn’t make the same mistake twice here), it all boiled down to one question for me: Would I be disobedient if I at least tried to pursue this job and see what would happen? Then I could know for sure one way or the other if this was what God had for me.

I decided to pray about it over that weekend to ask for direction on what to do. I prayed expectantly, knowing that if God wanted to be clear with me, then He would be. So I prayed for an obvious answer to whether or not it would be okay for me to apply for the job and let the results that would come be my answer. I prayed over that weekend for God to shut it down or make it really evident if He did not want me to pursue that route. And come Sunday night, I still didn’t have a clear answer one way or the other. So I felt like I was in the clear to go for it, still praying along the way for God to close the door at any point that I would be stepping out of His will.

I spent the next two days putting together my application, updating my resume, and filming an intro video to fulfill the requested requirements, and the more I put into it, the more I became passionate about this job. While I continued to pray through it that God’s will would be done, I expressed to God many times how much I really wanted this job. But because staying in line with God’s will for me felt more important than getting my way, I also prayed that if this was not where God intended me to be right now that He would essentially hide me from the view of the hiring team. And while I felt like the role was perfect for me, I prayed for them to find the person that was perfect for them. I tried my best to go into this with open hands, because I knew that I was essentially testing the waters with it, so I recognized the possibility that the answer would be “no”. And I prayed through my fears with that too. I knew it was going to be so hard to put in all this effort just to get turned down. But the door remained open, so I kept at it until I officially submitted my application and left it in God’s hands.

And then…I waited. The timing of my application fell right amidst a big launch season for the business, so I patiently and anxiously waited for them to wade through this busy time before they turned their attention to filling this position, all the while remaining hopeful about my possible future. After waiting for about 4 weeks, I finally heard from them regarding my application. And as much as I wish this story had a fairy tale ending, I was informed of their decision to go with another candidate. I didn’t even get an interview. I’ll be honest, I was so bummed. I spent the past month and a half thinking and growing passionate about the possibilities of this job. And I didn’t even get a call back. I told my husband, cried it out for about two minutes, and then I laid it all before God. I finally had my clear answer.

In the end, even though it wasn’t the answer I came to hope for, I was still thankful for a decision, because the limbo of it was starting to stress me out. I thought back to my prayers as I entered into this endeavor. I was confident in being the perfect candidate for the position, so I trusted that if I didn’t get the job, it would surely be God closing the door (that may sound a bit prideful, but I just had a lot of confidence in my experience and skills to fit this position). And that’s exactly what He did. He didn’t drag me along through the interview process only to fall more in love with the idea of working for this business and for the amazing woman that runs it. He didn’t lead me to a job offer that He didn’t want me to take in the first place. He gently shut the door and affirmed that the answer was no, at least for now. And I accepted that. It took me a day or two to really leave behind the weight of it, but I accepted it, because I had nothing but truth to turn to anytime I started to feel down about it.

I don’t regret applying. I don’t regret testing God’s will. I think it can feel a little sticky to do that – like, who am I to question God? And is it unfaithful of me to still go for something when I think I heard God say no? I don’t think the answer to that is very clear cut. It’s very gray. Just like so much of life. And at the end of it all, I think I did well to act obediently, even when things were uncertain.

Here’s the thing, God doesn’t give us an exact road map of every step He thinks we should take. If He did, He’d be domineering and abrasive, and we’d be more like robots than humans, and that’s not the God I know. He gave us this gift of free will so that we could choose our own paths, with the hope and desire for us to recognize Him and choose Him anyhow. And without going into a full-on theological discussion about free will, I just want to make the point that God often doesn’t speak clearly about what we’re supposed to do. He equips us to lean on Him and make the best decision possible. In this specific circumstance, I relied on my faith in God’s truths, prayer, and my husband’s insight to determine whether or not this was His path for me – all of which are good things that He has gifted me with to utilize in this life.

The rule follower in me sure wishes I had a black and white instruction manual so I could please God and do everything right in life. But that’s not what God created me for. And that’s not what God saved me for. Jesus is my perfection. And if I don’t have weaknesses; if I don’t make mistakes; if I don’t have some missteps; then I miss out on the wonderful grace and redemption of God. I miss out on the full picture of who God is and who He created me to be.

So even though I took a long detour to get back to an answer that God initially gave me, I came away with more certainty in that answer, and with more certainty that God is for me. He wants good for me. He doesn’t hold out on me. He offers me abundance and wants me to take hold of it. And if I believe all of that, then I can trust that the path He’s leading me on is far better for me in the end than any plan I could create myself. Will there be bumps on that path? Oh I’m sure. It’s typically through the bumps and dips and stumbling blocks that I learn and grow most, which leads me to look even just a bit more like Jesus and glorify Him all the more. That’s the sanctifying journey He’s got me on.

So I share this story to say that sometimes it’s okay to test God’s will. Sometimes it’s okay to explore options to try to determine the best decision. It’s definitely okay to ask God for directions. And sometimes He’ll give them (turns out Him telling me no on the first day this job position came to my attention was accurate), but sometimes He won’t. But as long as we continue to seek Him in the process I think that He will honor the path we’re taking. Of course I want to be a wholehearted, faithful servant always, but sometimes I’m a bit like Thomas, who needed to see the holes in Jesus’ hands and feel the hole in Jesus’ side for himself after the resurrection to confirm his faith (John 20:24-29). Sometimes we feel a need for a little extra evidence to make sense of this God who is so magnificent and wild that our human minds can’t fully understand Him. And even if we don’t get all that we’re looking for, we can still trust that He is good.

I still stand behind what I said in part one of this story, and I 100% believe that we can say no to good things without testing them. But I also believe that God isn’t going to smite me for wanting to be sure of His answer if my end goal is to be obedient. Like I said, there’s no clear cut way to approach situations like this. This situation is unique to me in this exact season of life I’m in. So the same approach likely won’t even work for myself in a different circumstance of life. Just like my approach to this isn’t a step by step process for you to follow in your own life either. But I hope that my experiences, both of saying no to something good, as well as second guessing that no and testing out God’s will for me anyhow, leads you to examine your own approach to life. I pray that you would seek God and long for His plans for you to unfold and trust that they are good, and the rest will eventually fall into place.

Have you ever had a time when you tested God’s will in your life? What was the end result? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Until next time friends,

spring goals refresh

While goal setting can feel daunting to some, the more I’ve done it and the more I’ve honed in on the best approach to it that works for me, the more I’ve found it to be not just effective, but enjoyable. And the most significant piece of that is treating my goals with grace and being willing to adjust. I’m sure there are plenty of people that would advise you to set firm goals and hustle hard towards them until you achieve them, no matter what. And while that’s inspiring advice, I’ve learned that to safeguard myself from my perfectionist tendencies, I need to approach goals with a bit more flexibility. That’s where the seasonal goal refresh in my Powersheets comes in handy. Each quarter I take the time to assess where my heart and life are at, check in on how I’m progressing on my goals, and determine whether or not the same goals still matter to me. In doing so, I have the chance to either renew my commitment to what I set out to do at the start of the year, or refresh my goals to better fit where I am at. Because on January 1st I had no idea what the year would bring, let alone the first three months (side eyeing you, coronavirus). So it’s important to check in and grant myself the freedom to adjust.

And that’s exactly what I did this weekend. But this go around I tried an additional method to guide my refresh. At the start of the year, a common tactic in uncovering your goals is to consider how you want to feel at the end of the year, and then letting that guide the goals and action steps you set to help get you there. While this method has been helpful, I tend to get a little overwhelmed with big picture thinking, and so as my goal refresh approached I considered how much I enjoy taking a year season by season, embracing the unique qualities of each one. And so I decided to break it down a little further and consider how I want to feel during this spring season, as well as at the end of it, and let my intentions be shaped by that.

Through this method of reflection, as well as the routine life audit that I get to do with the Powersheets process, I recognized some threads, and those threads then lead to a few adjustments to my goals for at least the next three months. I thought it would be fun to share a peek into that, so here are a few things I uncovered:

  • The best descriptor for what I want to feel in this season is FRESH. I want to feel full of fresh air (think spending time outdoors or having the windows open) and I want to feel refreshed – ready to take on the days the Lord gives me.
  • I recognized that I tend to save the best for last when it comes to my time (most specifically when it comes to recreation). And as a result, I often procrastinate on the things that I really want to do because other “necessities” get put first. And while keeping up with necessary tasks has importance, I don’t want my obligations to always overrule every other aspect of my life. Through this realization, the word INDULGE came to mind in regards to my time.
  • On the flip side, I also have a tendency to put off some of the not-so-fun-but-necessary tasks because I don’t really enjoy them (i.e. yard work). And the longer I put them off, the more they tend to loom over me and add stress to my mind because I’m consistently reminded of how I need to do them. So when I finally get it all done, I feel so much better and I can enjoy the outcomes. I want to be fueled by the outcomes of these kinds of tasks to motivate me to complete them more quickly and get them out of the way.
  • The biggest roadblock I let get in the way of all three of these things: scrolling on my phone. This isn’t news to me, but it’s certainly a necessary constant reminder because of how much time I ashamedly waste on my device. While there are ways that I can healthily consume quality content on my phone, there are many ways that I can improve my habits.

With each of these things fresh on my mind, I gave myself the freedom to make some adjustments to the goals I initially set in January in order to better align them with where I am right now, in this current season. So here are my updated 2020 goals as I dive deeper into Spring:

  1. Treat Blogging Like It’s My Job. This one remains the same, especially because I certainly haven’t achieved it yet, and it’s important to me.
  2. Practice Intuitive Health. This goal is primarily the same in motivation and substance, but I decided to change up my wording based on what’s been a theme in this area of my life lately. I want to do what makes my body FEEL good, and that can differ from day to day. Now that I have a lot more awareness of methods I enjoy, I want to tap into those resources (or gain new insights) in order to best take care of my body so that I can care more about health than I do about my appearance.
  3. Break Free of My Phone. No changes here, because as I mentioned above, it’s necessary.
  4. Re-Simplify & Refresh. I added to this goal by including my desired outcome within it. I want to freshen up my approach to minimal living because I know it helps release that looming stress I talked about, and it can help me live more like I want to: fresh, abundant, & full.
  5. Take Extra Good Care of Our Dogs. Another one that remains the same, because it’s still a priority I’m focusing on.
  6. Read 12 Books in 12 Months. No changes here. I’ve completed 2 books so far this year, so I’m in some ways behind my book-a-month track, but I’m confident that I can utilize my time well to continue on with this.
  7. Indulge My Time (rather than saving the best for last). This is a new goal and it’s basically because of the exact reasons I shared above. I want to do the things I want to do – the life-giving, soul filling things that I truly enjoy – rather than putting them off like I’ve been doing for awhile.
  8. Grow in Faith Based Community. This is also a goal that went through a bit of a metamorphosis. And that was primarily influenced by the desire to grow more spiritually in our marriage, as well as the desire to find more of our place within our church community (whenever we’re able to start gathering again).

And there you have it. After honing in on what’s mattering more to me in this season, I was able to make a few adjustments to the goals that are guiding my intentions throughout this year. It’s likely that there will be more shifts in another 3 months, and that’s ok. My goals get to serve me, not the other way around.

Whether you’re a “goals person” or not, I’d highly encourage you to take even just 30 minutes one day this week to reflect on the coming season. Ask yourself how you want to feel at the end of this season. Ask yourself how you want to feel during this season. And then consider the ways that you can make those feelings happen. I can almost guarantee it’ll lead you to want to take action on at least something. Besides, we all have plenty of time on our hands right now, right? 😉

Until next time friends,

the little things // vol. 5

Hi there friends! Amidst these times of uncertainty and chaos, I’m bringing you another installment of The Little Things – an ongoing series where I share some simple things that have been impacting my life in big ways. Because it’s the little things in life that add up to make the greatest of impacts. I have received some of my best recommendations from blogs, podcasts, or friends, so I want to be a pal and pass along some things making my life just a little bit better lately, in case you might find some value in them too. Here’s what’s been making a difference in March:

A feel good video that will surely brighten your day: Some Good News

If you haven’t already seen John Krasinski’s viral contribution to the current state of things, this is an absolute must see. And if you have seen it already, it’s probably worth another watch. We could all use some uplifting and positive news to increase our hope and joy amidst a season full of so many unknowns. I cried tears of joy numerous times my first watch through – it’s just that good.

An “morning show” that’s worth your time: The Made Up Morning Show

Jess Connolly continues to prove to be one of my favorite people to glean wisdom from as her and her sister, Katie Walters, have been hosting an Instagram Live every morning, Monday through Thursday, called the Made Up Morning Show. They spend 30-60 minutes chatting about a variety of topics, but also focusing on tips for joy and strength in this season of turmoil, while being the down to earth, goofy sisters that they are. It feels just like having an encouraging chat with close friends. Plus they do daily giveaways, and who doesn’t like that? It’s been a must watch for me, and I haven’t missed an ‘episode’ yet. It seems like they are going to continue with it for the foreseeable future, so you can either tune in live at 10am EST or rewatch the saved video within 24 hours over on Jess’s instagram. I’ve been enjoying it either while I’m getting ready for the day, or with a cup of coffee on the couch.

A chill album to listen to: Vacancy by Will Reagan

Will Reagan became a fast favorite of mine a few years ago when I was turned on to his music through his participation in United Pursuit (an indie-folk worship collective). Their album, Tell All My Friends, continues to be one of my top picks, so when I recently realized that Will came out with a new album last summer, I instantly listened to it over and over again (& wondered how I didn’t know about it sooner!). It’s less meditative worship than Tell All My Friends, and lyrically seems a bit more like a processing of life. Musically it sounds a bit more experimental than its predecessor, but it’s still incredibly calming to have playing in the background at home.

My current can’t miss TV show: Survivor Winners at War

Apart from This Is Us and A Million Little Things (who else caught the season finales last week??), the show I most anticipate each week right now has got to be the latest season of Survivor. While we’re well into it at this point, it continues to bring me incredible thrill and excitement every week (& sometimes massive frustration when some of my picks are voted out). The nostalgia of all these great players together amidst some great game play makes for fantastic entertainment each week. If the recent cancellation of sports has been bumming you out and you need something else to watch, this show can definitely offer you the competitive edge you might be seeking.

A recent read: Move for Joy by Kasey Shuler

This book has preached to my soul practically everything I’ve been needing in regards to my fitness journey. It’s been incredibly helpful for my ever-evolving journey to pursue health in a way that glorifies God. Kacey dives deep into the variety of motivators we might have in regards to fitness and then tries to connect them with more lasting motivators to help us truly enjoy moving our bodies. I will say, there were a lot of typos and grammatical errors in my copy that were a bit distracting at times, but there were so many nuggets of gold throughout the book that I still would highly recommend it. If you are looking for some freedom and joy in your health and wellness journey, then definitely check this book out.

And that’s all for now, friends! Five little things that have been making a big impact in my life this month. I hope if you give any of these things a try that they add value to your life and make a big impact for you too. You’ll have to let me know if you end up trying any of them OR if any of them are already little things in your own life!

Until next time,

p.s. For previous recommendations from The Little Things series, check out vol. 1vol. 2vol. 3, vol. 4