When Everything Is Important

Putting away all of our Christmas decor, I couldn’t help but notice the thick layer of dust left behind, covering every surface of my home. My time was spread thin this December and cleaning was neglected for the sake of holiday festivities and Advent reflections.

Usually, I’m a sufficient housekeeper. I can declutter and surface clean like nobody’s business, but when it comes to actual cleaning, I’m not super structured. It’s hard for me to get into a routine and a rhythm.

I know friends who have specific cleaning schedules for the week. My schedule looked like this: Mondays are the floors, dusting, and reorganizing all of the toys. Tuesdays are bathrooms, baseboards, and cleaning out the refrigerator. Wednesdays are weed pulling, garden trimming, cleaning off the patio…you get the idea. I love the intentionality behind this. I love the promise of a perfectly clean home and yard at every moment. But I also have three little boys, church priorities, a husband, a blog, photography commitments, and a need to still maintain my sanity.

The result? Things fell through the cracks until I feel overwhelmed by everything that needs to be cleaned!

When we don’t prioritize and act with intentionality, things fall through the cracks. We end up spinning our wheels and getting nowhere, leaving us frazzled and burnt out.

Spoiler alert: I’m not just talking about cleaning. I believe this is true in all aspects of our lives. When everything in our lives is the “most important” we float around aimlessly, we say yes to every shiny opportunity that comes our way. But just because it’s a good thing, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing for right now. This is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way so many times, and I’m still learning.

Right now, it’s hard to know what I should say yes to in this season because I don’t know what is a priority in this season.

Have you felt this way before? Like your plate was full of only necessary, well-intentioned, important things and yet you still felt burnt out, worn out, and empty?What I’ve realized for my own life is that this feeling of being run down comes from allowing too many things to become important.

We can’t be intentional about the things in our lives that matter if we don’t stay focused on what is most important.

My husband and I have taken the last three months to sort through what matters to us and how our lives focus on that. We’ve put everything on the table, nothing off limits, to see what belongs and what needs to be taken off. We are cutting things that are important and good and wonderful but are not in line with our focus in this season. We are saying yes only to things that are necessary to gain traction with our specific goals.

For us, this starts with aligning ourselves with Christ. We can’t see clearly what matters the most without him.

What do you want 2019 to be about? Scratch that, what do you want your life to be about? Are the things on your plate helping and supporting that? Or are they draining and distracting you?

Lara Casey’s PowerSheets offer some amazing insight into who you are, what you want, what your last year was about, and how to zero-in on what you want out of this year. If you haven’t yet, go check out her blog for some great freebies and tips for how to get the most out of your goal planning experience.

I’ll end with this, Ruth, (I call her Ruth because I like to make believe we are boymom besties—she’s also known as Ruth Chou Simons) says, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” I think this is an excellent thing to keep in mind as we reevaluate what to focus on and what needs to be put on hold for 2019. Happy prioritizing my friends!

When To Confront A Friend

“When we withhold our voice from the people we care about and choose not to communicate because it might be uncomfortable, we strain and break the relationship even more than if we would have faced it to begin with.”

In my last post, we talked about how withholding our voices from friends when we feel a nudge to confront them about something kills authentic connection in our lives.

“But Keira,” you say, “I don’t want to bring up every single annoyance or issue I have with a friend…that sounds exhausting and miserable!”
TRUE. That would be miserable, and not to mention unhealthy!

So, when do we address an issue and when do we let it go? Here are some questions to prayerfully reflect on before confronting someone:

Take a step back. Is there sin of yours or sin of theirs that would be helpful to bring to the light? Is this coming from a place of love? Or a place of revenge? Wait until emotions settle a little and you’ve had a chance to get perspective on it. Is it lingering? You can’t shake it? You feel it, like cats claw, bitterness finding its home and spreading within you? Address it. Right or wrong, it’s worth it.

Don’t overthink it. Sometimes it’s an easy judgement call because we know right away we are hurt. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself! In this instance, it’s more important to say something even if you’re emotional, than to let the moment pass you by. Trust the Spirit’s leading when he nudges you to speak.

Consider the relationship. Will this help the relationship or is it merely an annoyance? Will it be helpful for the person? Or is it purely selfish and out of personal hurts? It would be just as harmful to bring up every little thing someone does that’s annoying or hurtful. There’s a time and place to genuinely give someone the benefit of the doubt and let things go without confronting them.

If you find yourself having a hard time letting it go, but you know it’s not right to confront your friend, offer it to God. If he can give the blind sight, he surely can change the way you’re viewing the situation and bring peace to your heart.

Confronting our friends with the things that matter takes vulnerability! It takes work to discern, to give ourselves a gut check and determine our motives. It takes courage to put ourselves out there, not knowing how we will be received by the people we care about.

But it will take us into deeper, authentic, connection and build trust with those we love. It allows us to be heard and seen and known more fully in our relationships and THAT is worth it, friends.

How to Kill Authentic Connection

Wow, does she even know what she just said? I don’t think she meant it…but seriously, OUCH! Do I confront her? No. Definitely not. Things might get awkward. I’ll just let it fester until I’m really hurt and hold it against her the rest of our friendship.

I know this is the right decision, but what will she think? She’ll find out eventually, she doesn’t need to know about it right now. It’s going to make things uncomfortable so I’m just going to avoid telling her anything altogether.

Okay, so most of us wouldn’t say these things out loud. But we do them, don’t we? We shy away from having a potentially uncomfortable conversations that we need to have. I see this happening more and more with little things, but with big things too. It’s the tendency to stuff issues/topics down and passive aggressively go on our way. Simply pretend nothing is wrong and avoid the whole unpleasant situation all together. We call it, “giving grace” or being kind, but that’s not actually what’s happening.

Instead, what happens more often is that we hold on to it, silently, and allow it to color every other interaction we have.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying we need to stick our noses out, sniffing for conflict at every turn or discuss every decision at length. Sometimes conflict can be avoided for good reason, depending on the situation. But here I’m specifically talking about those moments when we feel a nudge to communicate with someone, we know we need to, and instead of following that nudge we turn around and avoid them like the plague.

This nudge can happen when someone has done something wrong and God wants to use us to bring it to their attention- kindly and graciously. Maybe it’s because someone has offended us or hurt our feelings and we need to address it. Maybe it’s a decision we’ve made that we know another person will be sad about or disapprove of, so we avoid communicating altogether. Maybe it’s a pattern of behaviors someone has exhibited in the relationship that have been hurtful so they’ve built up for years and need to be addressed but we don’t know where to start.

Whatever the “conflict” in question, the avoidance usually happens because we’re too afraid of what will happen if we approach this person. “What if they think differently of me after? What if we get in a fight? What if it ruins our friendship?” My guess is, most of these won’t happen. And even if they do- isn’t that telling? Don’t we want the type of relationships we can be honest and transparent in? I want my friends to push through hesitation and have these hard conversations with me. I want the chance to enter into a deeper friendship with them, deeper connection, but that won’t happen unless we can talk about the hard things.

When we withhold our voice from the people we care about and choose not to communicate because it might be uncomfortable, we strain and break the relationship even more than if we would have faced it to begin with.

You guys, fear is not a tool the Lord uses to encourage and send his people. If we’re allowing fear or anxiety to lead us, we’re not in line with God’s leading. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to do something because the voice of fear told me it was the wiser choice!

Here’s the thing, we can’t have real, deep, meaningful relationships and never hurt or offend anyone. Even Jesus offended people, because sometimes it was the most helpful thing for them to hear. Addressing the tough issues is part of this whole relationship gig. If at the end of the day we disappoint someone out of our own sin or shortcomings, that’s okay too. Jesus’ blood covers that sin fully.

In humility, we can acknowledge our brokenness, instead of running from ever being confronted by it. Let’s confess it, trust that the sanctifying work of Jesus covers it, and allow him to grow us into better people than we were before. Let’s not rob ourselves of opportunities for growth just because it might be uncomfortable. Let’s not give up on relationships that are rich and life giving out of fear. Instead, let’s press into that discomfort and allow it to make us and our relationships better.

From Text to Table

It was Ted Talk Thursday, (seriously, that might need to be a thing in my life) and I stumbled across a talk titled, “Why Moms Are Miserable.” Obviously, I clicked it. I was half expecting her to say something sarcastic, like you’d find on Scary Mommy or that book Toddlers Are Assholes. Or something basic like drink more water, do more yoga, eat more organic.

What she said was not sarcastic, and although somewhat basic, it definitely wasn’t earth shattering.

Still, it hit me.

She talked about her friends, her loving and supportive husband, her booked calendar full of dinners and parties. Lady was busy, and seemed to have good relationships.

Only she didn’t.

She had become disconnected from the people in her life without even realizing it. She had gotten so busy with the activities of life, that she had dwindled her relationships down to text and social media interactions.
And she’s not the only one. No matter how much we wish it could, true connection can’t be measured by the number of interactions we have online. In our microwave, efficiency obsessed culture, it would be easy to check relationship off the list with a simple text or comment on Insta.

Don’t get me wrong, social media and texting can be great tools for connection. But they don’t allow for the tangible, look you in the eyes, meaningful friendship we long for. If our only connections are online, we will be left wanting.

So, what do we do? Life is busy and online is easy!

Sheryl Ziegler’s fix?

“Even when I’m tired and I don’t want to go out, I still meet that friend out and we share our stories. Because collective stories create community. I won’t let busy build walls that keep me apart from other people.”

Beautiful. Yes. This.

I’ve felt called to go first in sharing my stories and my hope would be that you read them and don’t feel so alone in yours. BUT, I don’t want you to just read my stories. I want you to feel empowered to share yours with the people in your life too.Deep, meaningful relationships are not going to fall into our laps. They take intentionality, sacrifice, WORK.

You guys, this is worth investing in! It’s worth being vulnerable for! It’s worth the risk! Not only for ourselves, but for the people in our lives we care about. Taking the time to invest in the people around us, to look them in the eyes and hear their stories, to open ourselves up and share our stories, it satisfies a desire deep within us. A God-given need for human interaction and connection. A desire a text message could never fulfill in a million years.

Three Ways To Recognize You’ve Gone Off Course

Not shame inducing, but appropriately weighty like the harness of a roller coaster; keeping me safe. Re-focusing me on the track ahead.

The question arose, “What race am I running?”

Stiff and sturdy, oak-stained pews held my weight, and the pastor held my attention as he pointed me to Hebrews 12. Warmth and rustling confirmed I wasn’t alone, but I could’ve easily been convinced otherwise. I sat, listening, as a call to run the race marked out for me with perseverance landed heavy on my chest.

Running that stay-at-home-mom race is no joke. It’s easy to get lost in all of the seemingly menial, clearly redundant tasks. I’ve lost a lot of things to this day-to-day track meet: my normal purse, my socks–so many socks, how does that even happen?– my body, my dignity, my pride, my filter, my sleep, correspondingly my ability to think rationally about anything, my identity. I venture to guess this list could continue for longer than I’d like to admit.
But as the words of Hebrews began to sink in, I started thinking about just how lost I really was…

I think it began as a way to distract from the increasingly hard days of parenting. I wanted to know I was still valuable apart from being “mom.”
Somewhere amid child birthing and butt wiping, I started chasing dreams of instant gratification, self-glorification, and fleeting purpose…ones of worldly focus and worldly gains.

This manifested in different ways, but the main way I saw this happen was through my photography business. What had once been such a wonderful outlet from the weight of parenting had started to become the top priority. It wasn’t deliberate, but slowly, over time, my race changed. Without even realizing it, my goals went from that creative outlet, to wanting to become a celebrated and sought-after photographer.

You guys, when I put my mind to something, I get TUNNEL VISION. I’m focused, driven, determined. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. But it’s easy to lose sight of what I really want in the devout pursuit of a goal I’ve set. This time it was a goal I didn’t even realize I had set until I was drowning in it.

I had also let myself fall prey to comparison. I started seeing all of the photographers who did it better. The ones with more clients, nicer websites, perfectly polished social media feeds.

Feelings of inadequacy settled in.

To combat these feelings, I started focusing on branding. Okay- obsessing over branding. I spent hours building a new website and plotting instagram strategies. I was unintentionally, but actively, trying to grow a business. And in doing so, I was becoming increasingly irritated with anything distracting me from it.

I started getting angry at the dishes. My blood boiled at the thought of the perpetually filling sink. I grumbled when another water cup or tummy needed to be refilled. How many times a day do you tiny humans really need to eat? Don’t get me started on the laundry. I just ignored that nuisance until my husband didn’t have any underwear and decided to take on the beast himself.

I was tired, worn down, and more closely resembled a snapping turtle than a loving wife and mother. I couldn’t understand why I was so stressed out. Even more, the guilt was oppressive.

But then, there I was, in a well-worn chapel, the setting sun flooding through the windows- a spotlight on my heart as Hebrews 12 asked, “What race are you running?”

The verses say,

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Sin had easily entangled! I was looking to success in my business to define me. My eyes weren’t on Jesus, they were on me.

It was then, when I tried to satisfy my insecurities by my own means, that I got off course.

If the race I’m running is about me trying to prove myself, the good things God has given me become obstacles.

When I make my life goals about my glory, the tasks God has blessed me with as a wife, mother, and even housekeeper become baggage holding me back. I see them as distractions keeping me from running my race instead of mile markers, integral parts of the course God has set before me. They are no longer a calling, but a hindrance. Even though my responsibilities can appear void of value, they are an irreplaceable part of the humble path God is using to transform me and the world around me.

The simple work of the everyday becomes life-sucking, tedious, and daunting instead of what God intended of them to be: life-giving, holy responsibilities changing me for good.

If I’m being real I’d tell you, I don’t want to do most of the daily things my life entails! I want to do something bigger and more meaningful with my life than a few measly dishes. On some level, spending hours working outside the home sounded significantly more appealing than my to-do list in the home. I think that’s why it was so easy for me to distract myself with it.

When I take a step back and allow Hebrews 12 to refocus me on the track ahead, I wonder if “something bigger” looks smaller than I expected. But nonetheless, powerful. The “more meaningful” can happen even in these tiny, seemingly insignificant tasks of motherhood.

I don’t think I’m the only one who’s ever lost sight of what they really want in life so I want to share three ways I can recognize when I need course adjustment. Hold tight, we’re about to get reallll practical. I hope you’re here for this.

1. Read God’s word. Yes, this may sound like basic potatoes, but hear me out: it’s alive and active. What other piece of literature in all of history are you going to read that’s ALIVE and ACTIVE? God’s word has the ability to bring our attention to things we would never have noticed on our own. Who has played Mario Kart Racing, (every kid who grew up in the 90s better be nodding their heads)? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. For me, God’s word was the little guy holding a sign that says ”reverse” to let me know I was off course.

2. Check your mental state. If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, ashamed, and guilty, those are good indicators that something is amiss. It can be tempting to ignore these feelings, but take some time to dig a little deeper. Maybe it’s just lack of sleep or the fussy baby, but it’s worth paying attention to and making some self-care time a priority!

3. Revisit your priority list. Reach for the nearest writing tool and paper. We aren’t going for Pinterest worthy, just grab a napkin. Now, sit down and think through your schedule. List out your regular commitments. Set this list aside. Next, take a minute to think about your values- the things you actually want prioritized. List your top five. What’s important to you? What do you want your life to be about? Visualization is key in this so take a minute to compare your lists. This should be an easy way to tell if you’ve gone astray.

When God is Good, But This is Not

You are good. Words simple, yet so profound they unearth emotions within me I didn’t expect. A worship experience so full it envelopes all that I am.
It moves me in a way that every idol fighting for my heart pales in comparison to the pursuit of this good father. In the face of evil, brokenness, disaster, you stand good, unshaken by circumstances, your promises intact.

It’s rattling to my core- pulling the strings that hold my heart until loosely I start to crumble.

Yet, somehow, I don’t.

It feels like the weight of this world will crush me. But against all odds, I stand. Strong.

Your goodness, a loom reworking the pieces that have come undone. Your words of truth- You will never leave, You are Lord over it all, You will crush satan and dissolve curse- alter the fabric of my inner being and weave me into your story.

You move and life is breathed into the darkness of my “not good”, uncovering beauty and pointing me to power that overcomes what seeks to tear me apart.

With you, even the depths are bound with hope. Deserved and undeserved grievances met with forever unmeasurable compassion, grace, and hope that you are making all things new.