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,

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,

how i define minimalism in my life

When I first started this blog, I was in the early stages of my journey into minimalism and simpler living. After first being drawn to the concept when I was living out of a suitcase and feeling a glimpse of freedom from the discontent and decision fatigue my closet was causing, I dove deep into getting rid of all of the things that felt unnecessary in my life. Namely, my excess possessions. At the time we were living in limbo in a two bedroom apartment in California for a five month stint while my husband completed his initial job training. I spent my days as a stay-at-home dog mom determining what kind of excess we had in our home and purging anything I could for the thrill of it.

That was nearly 6 years ago. Since then, we have moved a few times, spending three years in North Dakota in two different rental homes, and now we reside in Wyoming in a house we bought over two years ago (#militarylife). We’ve added another dog to our family, completely eliminated our debts (minus a mortgage payment), and cycled through purging and purchasing items for our life and home. Over this time our circumstances, styles, and needs have shifted. A lot has changed, I’ve learned a great deal, and I’ve grown in many ways, so minimalism looks and feels a little differently for me now than it did back then.

With that in mind, I felt like it would be worthwhile to revisit this topic, because quite honestly it has become foundational in my way of life and it is going to be a springboard for much of what is to come on this blog. So before I dive in any further I think it’s valuable to define my style of minimalism – because not only can it vary from season to season, it can also vary from person to person. I don’t live in a 300 square foot apartment and I can’t fit all of my possessions in a suitcase, but I can still consider myself a minimalist in my own regard. I like how Joshua Becker (creator of Becoming Minimalist) defines minimalism as, “living with things you really need. It means removing anything that distracts us from living with intentionality and freedom.”

Do you see how that can look very different for each person? You don’t have to live in a tiny house or wear the same uniform every day or limit yourself to one set of silverware to be a minimalist. You certainly can if that is what works for you and brings you freedom. But it’s not a requirement.

So what do I personally mean when I refer to minimalism in my life?

I think the best way I can define it is a mindset and way of life that helps me pursue LESS of what bogs me down so I can focus MORE on what fills me up. It often equates to living my life more fully by filling my life with less. Less stuff, yes. But it also extends beyond that. Over the last 5+ years minimalism has led me to:

Own less clothes & get more wears out of the ones I have.
Wear less make up & take more care of my skin.
Have less clutter & therefore more mental clarity.
Waste less money & spend more thoughtfully.
Have less (read: no) debt & more financial freedom.
Eat less junk & consume more nutritious food.
Buy better quality & therefore get more use out of what I purchase.
Hang on to less junk “just because” & find more value in what I keep.
Have less stress & more boundaries.
Have less distractions & more motivation and focus.
Hurry less & have more structure in routines.
Compare less & have more contentment.
Feel less guilt & experience more grace.
Commit to less obligations & connect more deeply with people.

Less of what bogs me down. More of what fills me up.

Simply having less just for the sake of having less is not the point. That will leave me empty the same way having more just for the sake of having more will. But when I narrow in on what I gain from what I shed – that’s where it gets good. I want my time, money, attention, and affection to go towards what matters more in the long run. And I want to ditch the weight of the things that demand so much of those precious resources, and leave me empty.

And so, minimalism has developed into living my life with intention. Because as I clean out the clutter and excess, I gain a clearer vision on what’s working, and what’s not working. I am able to make better informed decisions to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life. Decisions as small as what kind of socks I wear or what kind of food I’ll eat today, to as big as what I want to do for a living or what kind of legacy I want to have. Thought can go into all of it. In fact, I believe thought must go into all of it regularly. Because as I age, learn, and grow, or as my needs or desires change in different stages and seasons, intention can look differently, so there’s always room to reassess.

While at times the elusiveness may feel overwhelming or exhausting, I’m learning to find it liberating. It means there is no one standard of the way life is lived. It means I can shift when something isn’t working for me. It means it is more about the journey than any destination. It means I am still able to be completely and wholly me, even as I change. There’s no box I have to be caged in by in order to be a minimalist. Instead, minimalism has been a tool that has helped me clear out the physical, mental, and emotional space I already reside, and reveal just how expansive my life can be.

So what exactly does minimalism LOOK like in my life then? Well, that’s the exciting part – because it looks like a whole slew of things that I’m looking forward to sharing more about here on this blog. What’s in my closet, how we utilize our finances, how I manage my time – all of these and more are affected by this way of thinking. And I’m so excited to share more about it with you all.

Until then, I’d love to hear from you! What are your thoughts on minimalism? What could you use less of in your life, and what could you use more of? Let me know in the comments below!

what I read in 2019

I know, I know – It’s the latter half of January. Aren’t all the 2019 recaps over with? But in case you are on the search from some new reads, I wanted to put some options on your radar. Today I’m sharing about the nine books I finished in 2019. It can sometimes feel daunting to determine if a book is worth our time, so hopefully this helps take some of the guess work out of these options. I hope you find at least one that piques your interest!

Reading People: How Seeing The World Through The Lens Of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel | My Rating: 4.5 Stars

This book gives a nice overview of many different personality frameworks (i.e. Myers Briggs, the Five Love Languages, Strengths Finder, and the ever popular Enneagram) in a way that helps you better identify who you are at your core, as well as better understand others. When we seek to really know ourselves and know each other, we can have a greater appreciation for our differences and find ways to come together – each with our own strengths – rather than cast each other apart.

Lagom: Not Too Little, Not Too Much: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life by Niki Brantmark | My Rating: 3 Stars

This was a quick little read, but it’s more like a good coffee table book. It dips into Swedish culture and how so many aspects of it are impacted by this concept of “not too little, not too much,” which is quite radical in comparison to the American way of life. It’s a concept that coincides well with what I value in minimalism. This book covers how this mentality can affect all facets of life – our homes, our clothes, our schedules, our parenting, our relationships, and more. It gave some simple, practical ideas of how to live life with slow intention.

Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual by Jocko Willink | My Rating: 4 Stars

My husband has been a fan of Jocko’s methods of motivation and discipline for years, so I’ve been on the receiving end of many Jocko-fueled pep talks in my time. But I picked this book up for myself because discipline and boundaries truly do bring freedom to my life, so I wanted some extra reinforcement on that. Made up of short essays of motivation and tough love from the perspective of a former Navy Seal, this book is filled with quotable statements to push you to get after it. Jocko also includes his thoughts and methods for nutrition and exercise, even incorporating some workouts of his own for you to try.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown | My Rating: 4 Stars

This is another book on this list that aligns with the concept of minimalism and how our typical tendencies to live overstuffed, rushed, and busy lives is draining us and preventing us from enjoying what really matters. This book formats practical ways to be more selective in how we spend our most precious resources: our time and attention. It’s about doing less, but better, in every aspect of our lives. You’ll come away from this book equipped with ways to set better boundaries, as well as fuel to chase after what you deem to be essential in your own life.

Imperfect Courage: Live a Life of Purpose by Leaving Comfort and Going Scared by Jessica Honegger | My Rating: 5+ Stars

This was the first of three books I read last year that quite literally shook me. God was just in the beginning stages of revealing to me how much I cling to comfort and this book reached into those dark crevices in my soul that I try to hide and lovingly exposed them. As Jessica shares her own story of fear and struggle, and how her business (Noonday Collection) came to exist through it, she connects strongly with the reader to encourage action, despite the presence of fear, in order to live a more fulfilling and impactful life. This book feels deeply personal and it radiates a vibe of chatting with a friend over coffee. The kind of chat that you don’t walk away the same from.


You Are the Girl for the Job: Daring to Believe the God Who Calls You by Jess Connolly | My Rating: 5+ Stars

Book #2 of 2019 that wrecked me was this one right here. I’m a big underliner when I read, and I’d dare to say that more than half of this book is COVERED in ink. While the title can make you think this is another “you go girl” pep-talk kind of book, it’s rather a disarming, yet equipping coaching session that spurs readers on to live unconventionally in wild abandon and obedience to God. My favorite summary of it is that our obedience + God’s capacity = abundance. Unbeknownst to me, this book prepared and equipped me for the current season I am in, and it has even been shepherding me through it as I just finished it for a second time in six months (it’s that powerful). If I could give you one book recommendation out of this entire list, this would be it, without hesitation.


Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need by David Platt | My Rating: 5 Stars

This book was a very fitting follow to ‘You are the Girl for the Job’ because it was basically an example of someone seeking to live in obedience to God and trust in His capacity to endure through a heavy journey. David Platt is one of my all time favorite authors and preachers, and it was no surprise that this book was the third one of the year to rock me to my core. Different from his typical book format, this is more story-like as it follows what feels like his otherworldly journey through the Himalayas to encounter people who have never even heard of Jesus, and how it wrecked his soul. While at times heavy, it was an incredible chance to stop ignoring the reality of the broken world we live in. I will say, don’t read this book if you aren’t ready for a solid gut punch that could change your life. Then again, even if you aren’t ready for that, I hope you still do.


The Wellness Revelation: Lose What Weighs You Down So You Can Love God, Yourself, and Others by Alisa Keeton | My Rating: 4 Stars

After three attempts starting in 2018, I finally finished this book last year – not because it wasn’t good, but because it was dense with a lot of truth that I needed to hear and sift through. As I’ve been on a journey to seek health in a way that worships God rather than fueling my own empty, vain pursuits, Alisa provided a countercultural perspective on health and wholeness which helped lead me to even more freedom in this area. The book has an eight week work book format that includes reading, studying the Word, responding to questions, and taking steps towards spiritually healthy eating and exercise. While in the end I didn’t follow the exact format of the “program” for my own reasons, the truths shared within the book, as well as the questions that helped me to deeply reflect, allowed me to shift my motivations and mindset towards my health. This will definitely be a resource for me for many years to come.


More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinabarger | My Rating: 3.5 Stars

If you haven’t already noticed the trends of books I like to read lately, this is another that falls in line with intentional living and focusing on what matters most. Jeff shares about how he found a variety of areas of life that he had more than enough, and then how he and his wife tried multiple “experiments” to challenge their limits and redefine what generosity can look like as a result. Some were simple and easily repeatable, while others seemed out-there and more challenging. Regardless of if you take on some “enough experiments” of your own, Jeff goes first to share how we all too easily live in excess, and we have more than enough to generously give to others.


Well there you have it – the nine books that I managed to start and finish in 2019. They all challenged my thinking in some way or another, and some of them quite literally changed my life. I’m looking forward to another year of reading that will hopefully do the same.

I hope at least one of these books sparks your interest and makes it onto your must-read list for 2020. Let me know if it does! And I’d also love to hear about your favorite reads to possibly expand my own list. Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

the six questions that changed our marriage

One of the things I mentioned a few times as I recapped 2019 was our new use of the Marriage Journal, and I’ve left you all hanging as to what exactly it is, and how we use it. But today I will end your suspense and finally shed some light on this tool we have been using and how it has drastically impacted our marriage.

I came across this journal last year, and it felt like a direct answer to prayer. Our marriage wasn’t in a bad place, but I was longing to go deeper and connect further. I’m a firm believer in life long learning and continual growth, and I wanted more of that for our relationship. Plus, I had been starting to recognize my shortcomings when it comes to communication. I personally have a tendency to think and feel a lot of things, but I lack strength in boldly, tactfully, or eloquently verbalizing those thoughts & feelings in constructive ways, and I don’t want to be a nagging wife, so sometimes I avoid bringing them up, which then leads to a lack of communication. And I was fearful of ever becoming one of those couples that over the years falls out of really knowing each other (again, not that we were at that point – just wanted to prevent ever coming close to that). So when this practice came to my attention, it felt like a very loud & clear response to my heart’s desires. I immediately ordered a journal as an anniversary gift to Adam, and when I explained what it was to him, he was willing to give it a try with me.

So what is the Marriage Journal exactly? In short, it is an incredibly powerful, yet simple tool to create a weekly rhythm of communication in your marriage. The basic premise of the journal is that you come together once a week to read through a quick devotional thought, get on the same page with any plans for the week, and then ask the following questions:

  • What brought you joy this week?
  • What is something that was hard this week?
  • What is one thing I can do for you this week?
  • Is there any unconfessed sin, conflict, or hurt that we need to resolve and/or seek forgiveness for?
  • What is a dream, craving, or desire that has been on the forefront of your mind this week?
  • How can I pray for you this week?

In addition to those weekly questions, once a month you also add in:

  • How are we stewarding our finances?
  • How is our sex life?

The questions are simple in nature, but they have the opportunity to unlock really profound conversations. For me, it felt like a chance to go beyond the surface and really hear more of my husband’s heart; a chance to have a platform for more challenging conversations without catching the other person completely off guard; and a chance to make sense of what goes on in each of our very different minds.

So how has it affected us? Let me count the ways…

  • It gives us set aside time to chat more thoroughly each week. We’ve always been pretty good at debriefing each of our days at the end of them, but we’d end up saving our deeper heart to hearts for date nights, which may or may not happen on a consistent basis. Now we are able to more frequently do a heart check and go beyond the basics. Plus it holds us accountable to not spending every night’s dinner in front of the TV – though we do still enjoy that together.
  • It has impacted the way we communicate day to day. There was a shift after we started getting into this new habit. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but the best I can describe it is more tenderness towards each other in communication. We seem to ask more thoughtful questions in-between these weekly “meetings” that stem from things we had talked about as a result of them, displaying a greater care and regard for each other.
  • It’s empowered us to serve each other more effectively. By discussing things we can do for each other, we can more directly meet a need, rather than assuming what might be helpful.
  • We are each given a chance to speak our minds, while also taking the time to hear each other our. We both get to be heard – and I can bet that is something that matters to just about everyone.
  • It has unveiled our hearts more towards each other. There’s an extra sense of security in knowing, and being known by, your spouse when you lay it all out on the table and you still choose to stand beside, and love, each other.
  • Though we don’t argue too much in a traditional sense (not because we have it all figured out – Adam is just extremely laid back, and I’m so much of an over-thinker that I talk myself out of bringing up concerns), this journal helps to disarm conflict because we either address it more quickly before it builds up, or we prevent it from becoming a conflict in the first place. We have the space to address concerns that the other didn’t even realize was an issue. And rather than getting riled up about them not noticing, it offers the chance to be heard without either party becoming explosive or defensive.
  • It has helped to align our hearts more closely – whether one of us comes alongside the other with better understanding, or we both form a united stance on a situation.
  • We’ve been able to continue coming alongside and supporting each other amidst transitions, challenges, and chasing dreams. We’ve talked through job transitions and Adam’s marathon training, as well as my new unemployment, and even my commitment to this blog. And it always feels good to be affirmed that you’ve got someone on your team.

In all, like any marriage, we are two very different human beings, with different personalities, perspectives, thought patterns, upbringings, and so on. And while there is incredible beauty in that, it also means we always have something new to learn about each other, so we get to adjust the dynamics of our relationship as we do. This journal has helped to do that.

I’d also like to add that we do not use this journal “perfectly,” and each week can look a little different. Sometimes we miss a week, and sometimes we have to shift which day we do it. Sometimes neither of us have much of an answer to a question. Sometimes one of us has a lot to say, while the other has crickets. Sometimes it’s quick. Sometimes it takes awhile. Sometimes we dive deep into a challenge one or both of us is facing, and sometimes it’s very light hearted and simple. The point is that we make it work for us. And I hope to encourage you to make something like this work for you. Whether you buy the journal, or you simply just ask these questions to each other once a week, this could be an incredible opportunity to dive deeper and change your marriage for the better.

I’m a passionate advocate for this tool because of how much of a game changer it has been for our marriage. I’ve shared about it with friends, who have gone on to purchase it and give it a try. I’ve given it as an anniversary gift and as a wedding gift numerous times now, because it’s something that I wish we had from the start of our marriage. And I wanted to share more in detail about it with you here today because I believe your marriage is worth investing in. I believe that when we put in the work, we can reap a bountiful harvest of abundance as we dig deeper and connect with our spouses. Whether your marriage is in a perfectly healthy place, or you are barely hanging on; whether you have been married for 5 years, 50 years, or you are getting married next month – this journal is for you. You can always learn something new about your spouse. You can always go deeper in conversation. You can always become a more united front. And it’s never too late to start.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, you can check out more details for yourself here, where you can also purchase a copy. Or, like I said, maybe just go through the questions each week without purchasing the actual journal. Regardless, I hope you give this practice a try and I hope that through time you see a beautiful impact on the development of your relationship with your spouse.

I’ll leave you with these words from Mark 10:7-9: “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

P.S. What’s one question from the Marriage Journal that you think would be most influential if you added it into your weekly conversations with your spouse? I’d love to hear in the comments 🙂

NOTE: This post is not sponsored and I receive no compensation if you purchase a copy of the Marriage Journal – I just truly love what this tool has done for me and my husband, and I want you to experience it too!

2020 goals

Well hello there friends,

Today I am wrapping up what has turned into “goals week” here on the blog by sharing eight goals I have set to work on in 2020. In case you missed it, on Tuesday I reviewed where I ended the year on my 2019 goals, and yesterday I revealed my 2020 word of the year, which lays the foundation for some of the goals I’ll be sharing with you today.

Goal setting can feel overwhelming or off-putting to some, but I have found that by starting the year with some fresh focus, I personally am much more prone to live intentionally and in ways that I actually WANT to live – rather than just waiting around for life to happen by chance. Goals help me grow and avoid becoming stagnant, or worse – backsliding. I’m always so intrigued to see what goals other people are getting after – sometimes it’s even helped give me ideas for goals of my own, so I hope you enjoy this peek into what will be guiding me throughout at least the first quarter of this year.

But before you do, I have to give one last shoutout to Cultivate What Matters for the their amazing PowerSheets and how they have helped shape my life to be more intentional and life-giving. This post is not sponsored. I just genuinely love this product and I want you to know about it in case you might too!

Alright, let’s jump in, shall we?

Goal 1: Treat Blogging Like it’s my Job

It’s no news at this point that I’m a new season of unemployment in the traditional sense. However, I feel very confident in God’s calling towards my assignment of this blog right now, so I want to give it my all. And I think a significant way for me to take it seriously is to treat it like it’s my job. So this goal includes things like creating a work routine, creating a content plan, and seeking new knowledge to continue to make this space better, and hopefully reach more people.

Goal 2: Fight for Whole Health (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually)

This goal is especially important for me now that I’m a little more on my own in my health endeavors (a.k.a. I no longer work in a gym environment that has a great deal of built in education, accountability, and resources). I will be creating a structured plan that works for me and that I truly enjoy – that is what is going to be sustainable. For me, this includes pilates and weight lifting, continuing with intermittent fasting and eating what makes my body feel good (while also enjoying indulgences here and there), drinking plenty of water, and having a good sleep schedule. But most importantly, I want to continue my efforts to shift my health journey to be less about me and more about honoring God. I want to continue to shift my mindset about my health, my body, my whole sense of wellbeing so that I can live a truly balanced life – especially one full of grace – so that I can continue to run hard on mission for Jesus for as many years as He has planned for me.

Goal 3: Break Free of my Phone

Like I said in my 2019 goals review, this goal would be something I’d continue to work on this year. I waste wayyy too much time scrolling on my phone, so I really want to lay down the law with it. Don’t get me wrong, my phone is an incredibly useful tool, and I do enjoy many parts about it, but I want to have more control over my phone than my phone has over me. With the use of Google’s new Digital Wellbeing settings, I plan to hold myself more accountable to taking time away from scrolling so I can make more time for the things I want or need to do, and I plan to include more scroll free weeks to really detach.

Goal 4: Re-Simplify

Ever since around the time I started this blog, I have had a growing interest in minimalism and I hold a lot of minimalist values in my heart, but I feel like there are a lot of areas of my life that I want revisit to simplify again – or simplify further. The more I simplify, the less “stuff” I have to manage – whether physically or mentally – and in turn I tend to have less stress. So in a practical sense, I plan to revisit my closet, as well as each room in our home, to evaluate what is worth keeping, and what we no longer have use for. I also plan to create a simplified routine in this season so I can live with greater intention and purpose.

Goal 5: Take Extra Good Care of the Dogs

This is not to say that I think I’m a bad dog mama (at least I hope I’m not!), but now that I am going to be home more, I really want to give more attention to intentional care for them. I got into a good groove of walking the dogs regularly over the summer, but I’d like to get them out for walks more consistently any time of year. This also includes brushing their teeth more, brushing their hair more consistently (in an attempt to control the shedding), and teaching them new commands to challenge their smart little brains. We love our pups dearly, so I want them to be able to live to their own full potential.

Goal 6: Read 12 Books in 12 Months

This is another repeat goal that I really hope to achieve this year. My starting steps revolve around making a list of books I’d like to read – whether it’s ones I already own, or ones I’d like to add to my collection. I’m still aiming for mostly non-fiction books, but we’ll see where the year leads. The most important action step for this goal is to simply make time for reading. And thankfully it will coincide well with my goal of spending less time on my phone, so I can do more things that I enjoy or that help me grow.

Goal 7: Communicate Better (in my marriage, with friends & family)

I recognized this last year that I’m a much poorer communicator than I make myself out to be in my head, and I’d really like to improve in that. Not only just communicating what I am thinking more clearly or effectively, but also being more intentional about communication – especially with faraway friends and family. This goal also includes maintaining the habit of using our Marriage Journal so that communication between Adam and I can continue its ever evolving growth.

Goal 8: Enjoy God’s Creation (both places & people)

One side of this goal falls in line with last year’s goal of enjoying adventures. The more places we go, the more time I spend outside, the more new adventures we seek, the more I come alive and get jazzed up about this amazing world God has created. And I want to continue to seek more of that. The other side of this goal is to spend time with people. To be really honest, I’ve struggled in recent years to have as much compassion for others as I have had in the past, and it’s time I tried to be more intentional about changing that. Because even though it’s comfortable for me to hermit and fold in, the abundant life God offers me often comes through life-giving relationships with others, and I don’t want to miss out on that.


So that is what will be guiding me as I head off into this new year and new season of life. Each of these goals has the potential to make big impacts on my life journey, and I hope they do. I’m excited to learn. I’m excited to grow. I’m excited to move forward with expectancy and open hands to what God has for me. We’ll see where it takes me!

Until next time friends,

P.S. Have you set any goals for 2020? I can definitely get behind the belief that speaking your goals out loud is a type of accountability because it makes the goal more real. What are you committing to pursue in 2020? Let me know in the comments!

2020 word of the year

Hello friends,

After taking some time yesterday to review my 2019 goals, it’s officially time to shift gears and look forward to 2020! Tomorrow I’ll be giving you a peek into what I’ll be focusing on in the coming year by sharing what goals I have set. But first, I’m excited to chat with you today about my word of the year.

Have you ever chosen a word of the year? I used to feel pretty overwhelmed at the thought of choosing one – probably because I was afraid of choosing the “wrong” one. But as a part of the PowerSheets prep work, I’ve found a helpful process to narrow down what word(s) might be a good fit for my year by noticing the threads of what is on my mind and heart. This is my third year choosing a word and with each passing year I feel a bit more comfortable with the concept. I don’t put too much weight on it, but it was really helpful last year to have a word in the back of my mind to hold me accountable to what I wanted to work towards throughout the year. I’m predicting that this year will be very similar.

This year’s word actually started showing up in my life the middle of last year. I couldn’t tell you exactly what initially sparked it, but the latter half of 2019 was filled with the build up of this word in my life. In hindsight, it not-so-coincidentally became a big theme in a few books I read, in a Bible study I was participating in, and on many Instagram posts I saw. It felt like a whisper in the back of my mind, growing louder, until it kind of hit me like a ton of bricks at the end of the year. I’ve mentioned this word and concept in many of my recent posts and in conjunction with the season I’m in, so it may or may not be a surprise to you that my word of the year is…

OBEDIENCE

To be honest, in some ways this word scares me a little bit. Because for me, it means holding open hands for my life. It means this year I will be trying more than ever to follow God wherever He may be leading me, especially through this new season of unemployment. And while it’s scary because I don’t know where, how, or what that will be, and it requires me to release my total control, I fully believe and trust that God offers me life to the full, and the way to receive that life is to follow Him and obey Him (John 6:35, 40). I believe His ways are far higher and better than my ways (Isaiah 55:9). And I believe He is for me and wants good for me (Psalm 118:6) – He’s proven so time and again in my life – so by faith, I feel confident that I can trust and obey Him in what He calls me to.

In the process of confirming that this would be my word for 2020, it was solidified even further when I came across an article on Desiring God called The Nowness of Obedience. Through this article it struck a chord for me to recognize how easily I am tricked into thinking that my imaginary obedience, or even just my desire to be obedient, counts as actual obedience, when it reality it does not. This inspired me all the more to really start living in obedience NOW – not just thinking about doing so like I have been for a long time.

I also want to be careful with this word, though, because my natural inclination will be to want to obey perfectly. I want to do things right (if you’re an enneagram enthusiast, I’m a solid 1 if that helps explain anything). And sometimes oftentimes, God calls us to be obedient to things we don’t fully understand, or He doesn’t fill us in on all the details right out the gate – just like when He called Abraham to leave his homeland and travel to the land of his inheritance without knowing exactly where it would be (Hebrews 11:8). It’s harder to expect perfection when you can’t foresee every step you are going to take. But the call is just to walk in obedience, not to figure out all the things. God even spoke to this as I was reading just this morning:

“The truth of our reality is that we’re held in God’s kingdom by grace – not by our flawless interpretation, perfect attendance, or impeccable obedience.”

Jess Connolly, You Are The Girl For The Job

Ah, grace. That beautiful, wonderful gift of a concept that I need to be reminded of day in, and day out. It’s not about doing it perfectly. It’s about just being obedient with what I have. Sure, I’ll have missteps and lose course on occasion, but grace is there to catch me and always bring me back to the heart of God.

I have a feeling that the Lord is just getting started with me and this word. It’s still a little scary, but there is also no safer place for me to be than held by God. And I don’t want to miss out on the abundance He has for me on the other side.

So, that’s what I’ll be aiming for this year! Easy, peasy, right? 😉 I’d love for you to join me tomorrow when I will be sharing some more specific ways I am seeking to be obedient this year through my 2020 goals.

Until then,

P.S. Alright, it’s your turn! Have you chosen a word for this year? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!