The Grace of a Rebuilding Year…

Sometimes we are simply not kind to ourselves. A new year signals hope and new opportunities–but often voices in our heads spout:  “I should be farther along…I should have conquered this by now…I should start…I should stop… I should have a stronger faith to overcome my fear, grief, loss, or temptations. I should…I should…I should.”

One of the most staggering shocks to my system was my inability to recover quickly from loss. I was confident that my faith could hold up under the pain and grief, but instead I was laid out…flat. The recovery process has taken many years–which was too long in the minds of most…myself included: “I should be okay…my faith should be able to carry this load.”  Worse, at times I would self-medicate and then louder voices piled on shame: “I should not emotionally eat, I should workout more to increase endorphin levels, I should stop numbing with things that absolutely will attack my health and wellness and keep me trapped in this cycle.” Though the second group of  voices carried elements of truth, unfortunately they didn’t matter because frustratingly, the darkness of depression wasn’t willing to negotiate with the light of logic.

I’ll never forget the day when a tiny portion of my personality resurfaced; a part that I was pretty certain was irretrievable. I remember greeting her with warmth and surprise. In that moment a glimmer of hope rose up and I wondered if maybe just maybe two years of hard core grief was not a waste–but the only option I had to find my way to the other side? Could it be that I was being too hasty expecting a full recovery just a few months after losing two children? Yes…I believe I was.

Recently I heard Jon Acuff explain that the NFL is one of the only places where we extend grace and recognize that it takes TIME to recover. We  brilliantly dub it: a REBUILDING year. Some teams take multiple years or even a full decade to regain real footing within their programs. But in our day to day lives we expect to recover, change, start over, grieve, create new thought, or build something amazing in a matter of weeks or months. And when we don’t…we believe we have failed…or worse…that we are failures.

I want to call nonsense on this practice. I want to give permission for a much more gentle and loving approach to change. Everyone told me it takes time to heal a heart and this is so very true. The footing I have established on my journey has been remarkable–but I had several agonizing rebuilding years–hours of counseling and therapy–loads of book reading/podcasts–long walks–powerful prayer and faithful friendships that carried me through those dark days. Imagine the work that goes in to rebuilding an NFL franchise…we have no problem patiently supporting our teams…fully understanding it will take time and effort to re-enter the game at a championship level. Yet it seems far more comfortable for us to speak words of failure and shame upon ourselves.

Instead, what if we were to we extend the same kind of grace to ourselves and those we love? If this year needs to be a rebuilding year for you–take it. It will not be easy, but start by telling your fans. Tell them you are in a rebuilding place and wake up each day telling yourself the same. It may be daily small steps (literally or figuratively), it will likely require a support system, it may look like gathering tools or teachers, counselors and positive words reminding you of your identity, value and worth. It is crucial to recognize our lives will not be different next week–or even next month–but if you are committed to a rebuilding year–this just might be the permission you need to embrace this year with joy and not dread.

As I completed this blog I realized my “word” last year was rebuild…it was like I intuitively knew what I needed: (another) rebuilding year. We start wherever we are. We survey the rubble and damage and we decide it is only going to be rebuilt brick by brick. We speak kind words over ourselves and our story.

It is slow, arduous, yet sacred work. 

The bricks look like grace layered upon grace. There are also bricks made of kindness and love. Love for self and reminders of God’s love for you.

If you feel stuck or like you need a word of encouragement…please feel free to comment below or private message me so I might be able to be a fan as you launch in to your rebuilding year.



A Seriously Excellent Excuse to Slow Down

Food shared around a table can bring some of the most healing and healthy moments to a soul. It is not necessarily the food that matters. The friendship, conversation, and laughter around our tables provide energy and encouragement to engage in the life we were meant to live. I believe it that strongly…and I believe there is research to back up the power of this intimate time.

Though the food doesn’t necessarily matter it sure is nice when it is delicious. I decided to try a brand new meal out on some friends we have known for a long time. It felt like risky business. This could go terribly wrong. And then we would just be eating salad–because it is difficult to mess that up. But I trusted my fellow foodie who shared the recipe and we forged ahead. Oh and by the by, did I mention the recipe included an uncomfortably large volume of onions? I don’t even LIKE onions. But I like food with flavor and these were promising a caramelized taste and I do like carmel and so we went with it! I went on the heavy side of seasoning and heat and decided to add this kale salad…it sweetened the spicy meal a bit…but in only the best possible way.

Because it just isn’t very nice to keep things this great to yourself…I am going to share the whole meal and hope you find the courage to try it. It is not a week night meal–or at least it isn’t in our house. The caramelizing and cooking of the lentils took at least an hour but because I didn’t want to burn them or cook them too fast, it probably took closer to an hour and a half to caramelize my onions. Years ago someone told me you spell LOVE…T I M E. This is a meal made with love…and you have been warned…don’t get angry at the chopping or length of cooking cause love takes time.

Moving forward are Jen Hatmaker’s words describing her Sweet Potato Lentil Bowls. She will guide you through how she cooks this…I personally think the recipe is pretty forgiving…so just go with it.

Sweet Potato Lentil Bowls

1 bag of brown lentils

2 cups of rice (I like basmati here)

8 cups of veggie stock

5 sweet onions

2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

2-3 cloves chopped garlic

Olive oil Spices: Cumin Cinnamon, Curry powder Cayenne Plain Greek yogurt for serving Chopped cilantro for serving

So basically, this is all to taste, and I am reluctant to tell you how much spice I add because it will seem irresponsible. We like spicy food, okay? Rinse and sort your lentils. Over medium heat in a pot, sauté a chopped onion and 2-3 cloves chopped garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil for about 3-4 minutes. Add the spices in any quantity that makes sense for your tribe and stir for about a minute (maybe a tsp of each for normal people?). Add the lentils and toss to coat. Add around four cups of veggie stock, cover and reduce heat to low, and cook for around an hour.

Slice up all your onions. Four will cook down so much, so don’t be scared of the enormous pile of raw onions you just amassed. In a large skillet on LOW HEAT (all caps means I am yelling), add a healthy pour of olive oil, all your onions, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Stir periodically and cook down for around an hour. This will turn into a sweet, carmelized pile of deliciousness that could stand alone as the whole meal if you ask my opinion, which you basically did by reading this. Peel and cube your sweet potatoes, toss in olive oil, salt and pepper, and some of the same spices you used in the lentils, and roast at 375 for around 45 minutes. Cook your rice according to package directions. I like to use stock instead of water so the rice tastes like something. One part rice to two parts liquid. Plus salt! Oh my word. Unsalted rice is such cause for weeping. Layer it all up: rice, lentils, sweet potatoes, carmelized onions, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, and a sprinkling of chopped fresh cilantro. You could also add chopped peanuts because it is a free country. My kids pick and choose their bowl layers, but I am here to tell you that somehow every single layer together makes the magic. A couple of my kids leave off the yogurt, and their lives are the lesser for it. Leftovers are delicious the next day, and no one will even realize you served them a totally healthy vegan dinner.

Okay it’s me–Jenni again…

(Thanks for this photo……I didn’t take a photo…mine was not as beautiful as this dish…but to be sure…the food tasted better than this looks.) 

I don’t know how your heart is…or how your much you are needing a slow night to be with your family or a few close friends…but this meal will give you a great excuse to do it.


May You Be a Blessing and May You Nourish Your Body and Soul…


Snow Days and Solitude

Snow days are filled with family tradition.  It’s a bit like being given a bonus round of play as a family.   Snow days consist of a change of pace and unexpected hours delivered in the form fluffy flakes.  On these days, snow angels and snowmen grace our front yard.   Snow cream is consumed and sledding ensues.  In NC sometimes snow days consist of scraping the dusting of snow together to form the tiniest snowman ever made:

Snow days=memories.  Snow days bring slowness.  Snow days re-route your routine and magic happens.

The recent snow days I have READ ABOUT (ahem, do not read any jealousy in the italics), are a physical reminder of a spiritual truth.  A truth I am learning and re-learning during this season of life:  

“Sometimes you have to get out of your routine so God can speak to you in a non-routine way.”      (Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker**.)

The magic that happens in our homes when we bundle up and trek out in to the winter wonderland, or play Candy Land and charades, or sip hot chocolate and linger by the fire; is something that shapes and changes our childhood.  It interrupts our regularly scheduled program and we are given extra hours and minutes to make memories as we slow down.

Similarly there is a magic that occurs in our relationship with God when we carve out an additional hour, day, or even a weekend to slow down and sip in the spiritual goodness.  This pause from our regularly scheduled program allows us to listen better.  We see things with a different lens.  Our journals contain different words.  Times of intentional solitude look different because they are different.

Unlike a snow day where we are granted bonus time to make magic…carving out solitude time in to our schedule takes so much intentional effort, we rarely ever do it.  There are so many obligations, so many excuses why this would never work.

To be clear there is great magic in taking intentional solitude moments. Frantic becomes unfrazzoled.  Busyness becomes betterment.  Hectic becomes healing.

Change of pace + Change of Place = Change of Perspective                                      (**Mark Batterson)

Sometimes we have to get outside of our world, downshift our pace, and relocate our thoughts to make healthy changes in our world.  I cannot imagine how different my life will be when we return to the states having followed this equation**.  That said, no one needs to move to Africa to shift their perspective.  A day of solitude can bring about real health and life change.

My challenge to you today is to embrace the unforeseen bonus time given when white weather interrupts your week.  But also…seek out intentional, thoughtful, spiritual time.  There are truly miraculous things that happen when we slow down and don’t do what we normally set out to do.

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,




All I want for Christmas…

If you know me…you know that Christmas (to quote Buddy the elf)…is a GINORMOUS event in our family…and it has been for most of my life. 

We Ellis’ love a good Christmas season.  My cousin a few years ago had her Christmas wreath (or tree?) up the day after Halloween…we carry the same genes and are made from the same mold, and we like to stretch out Christmas as long as possible.  So I welcome Christmas music in early November and I often times have my decorations up through New Years Day. 

Every day of December I have a stocking that is filled with something for us to do to prepare for Christmas day.  A daily advent “stocking” activity: an act of service, cookies to bake, a musical to see, a present to wrap, a song to sing, a live nativity to experience.   I do miss those little stockings over the mantel, and haven’t quite figured out how to convert my family traditions to our UG apartment.  There are more reasons that I will discuss later as to why I have not gone all out and done Crazy Jenni Cockerham Christmas in Uganda…but the girl who goes BIG at Christmas time is a bit of  a Christmas minimalist this year! 

Minimalist at Christmas?  It can’t be??  Jenni, surely you can find other options and ways to celebrate and prepare!?!?  I actually think if I had realized we would still be here for Christmas I would have likely devoted an entire suitcase to be filled with decorations, treats, and Christmas comforts.  So there is that.  But here the Christmas decorations are a RACKET.  First of all–sorry–I try to only say positive–but this is my favorite season and I have very very high expectations for Christmas decorations.  These are honestly a bit gaudy, WAY over-priced, and remind me of something to be found in my grandmothers attic.   One wreath I found was 153,000 shillings which is about 60 bucks.  It was spray painted silver pine cones and some sort of twigs and branches twisted together!   Christmas lights are expensive, and I just keep thinking I don’t think I can pay for something I have back in the states and love for something that is SO expensive and uses a different socket than at home!   I did however find on the bottom shelf of a grocery store a wreath that you will see pictured below.  It was 7,000 shillings.  I made them do a price check twice because it is a plug in wreath that lights up and also flashes and does other crazy things.  Something I would have passed by at Target, but a GEM that is displayed proudly in our kitchen right now!   (This–to clarify was $2.75!)  What?  Thank you God for this little Christmas miracle!   Besides the wreath we have decided to go homemade this year.  We did an advent tree made of plastic plates so every day we count down to Christmas by checking out our tree that hangs in the window.  Also Kylee and I worked VERY hard to make these snowflake/Christmas stars ( paper snowflakes ) that hang over our kitchen table!  (Thank you Sarah Mullins!)  They were an absolute craft highlight so far…but there are more Christmas crafts to come!  

                                                       (Yep, a tad bit different this year!) 

                                  (These just make me HAPPY!  7 Snowflakes for the 7 Cs!)

All of this to say–Christmas is different this year.  One difference is without all my stockings, and shopping and other distractions the daily advent reading ( JESUS STORY BOOK ADVENT ) has been our Christmas focus each day.   Our advent time has been so very sweet to have a daily reading from something that EVERYONE can understand.  And to have discussion and prepare our hearts not just weekly with my beautiful purple, pink, and white candles…but daily has been good for my soul.   Thank you Sara Walters for suggesting it–it has literally been and will be our focal point for Christmas this year.   For those who are interested in a daily family reading between now and Christmas, check this out…her blog also has great ideas about how to do daily activities as a family to prepare your hearts and minds for Christmas…it is only the 3rd…they are short you can catch up quick!  (The author of this blog sounds almost as nutty as I am about Christmas…but I win…I just do.)

The biggest difference I have noticed about Christmas is the kids’ conversations.   Kylee is trying to figure out thoughtful homemade gifts for her friends.   About a week ago I overheard her say to her friend, “All I want for Christmas is my mom and dad under the same roof.”  Wow.  That will stop you cold.  And considering that I am sweating like crazy this December, this is quite difficult to do!  Coming from Kylee, whose love language is “gifts,”…she loves to think of thoughtful things to do and create for others!   She is always helping ME be creative and thoughtful with my gifts for family and friends.  My birthdays have exponentially changed for the better over the past 9 years because thoughtful Kylee ensures that my next birthday is better than the last.  This girl gives and receives love through gifts.  So for Kylee Cockerham to say, ALL she wanted was for her mom and dad to be in the same place about laid me out.  If I was hoping my children would have some perspective change while spending a few months in Uganda–I believe we are close to mission accomplished.  I know we all have many more lessons to learn while we are here–but I am truly truly thankful for the things that we are learning and the ways my children are maturing.  It was Mary who was told good news of her son and she “treasured them in her heart”…this mom is treasuring the life lessons that are being learned and the ways that He is transforming ALL of us from the inside out.  We will NEVER be the same! 

So THANK YOU Uganda for a more quiet Christmas.  For not having the Christmas displays that distract and cause me to go fill up my cart with stuff that will rust and pull my heart away from what really matters.  I am glad Christmas items are a bit gaudy and overpriced because it is allowing for hours of quality time with my daughter creating snowflakes and memories that will last a life

I am also thankful for the opportunity to spend this Christmas with new friends.  We hosted a December 3rd Christmas pancake breakfast at our place this morning–not fancy but the pancakes were green and reddish (pink)?!?   Our friends’ hubbies headed back to the US yesterday so our houses are all wives flying solo and I knew that the morning after Chris left I would have liked to have a pancake party!  Love these precious people and the things that I am learning from them, the fellowship for our children, and the ways that I have felt so supported during the time while Chris has been away.  


                                                           Check out her “winter” scarf!!!

           Jonathan with his pancakes and honey–he doesn’t like any bread without it!

                    Smiles and clean plates from little boys with earaches make me happy!

  (I am sorry but please stop and get excited about our rockin’ wreath for $2.75!)

There are more Christmas blogs coming–it is a subject too close to my heart.  But I pray as this month begins that you will take some time to TRULY slow down.  That you would not let the glitz and glimmer or the “to do list” distract from what really matters this season.  Because the parties, friends, family, food, service projects, and the rest are good…but if they take away from the true meaning of this holiday…one that came from VERY humble beginnings with no glitz, glam, or glory.  Then maybe just maybe we need to re-think our GINORMOUS Christmas holiday

May You Be a Blessing and May Christmas Be a Blessing to You



Where is Ty Pennington When I Need Him?

There once was a house that resembled my life.  On the outside it was big and beautiful.  The house had a fantastic floor plan, spacious bedrooms and a big back yard for the kids to run and play.  The house to most would be a wonderful place to live and raise a family.  What was not visible from the outside was that there were areas where the paint was beginning to chip.  If one ventured inside she would catch a glimpse of the carpet stains and recognize the downstairs heat had not worked in two winters.  The house over the past 17 years had experienced the normal wear and tear and the owners had not done an awesome job of maintenance.  One day the owners noticed that it was not simply the carpets that needed to be cleaned, the yard could use some attention, the basketball goal was shattered, and the dryer was truly on the fritz.   On that day the owners became overwhelmed by the circumstances and problems because slow and simple maintenance had been ignored and now there was much work to be done.  Now every complication became a tyranny of the urgent…what needed to be fixed the fastest and what could be ignored?  Where is Ty Pennington when I need him?

The dryer has squeaked for 6 months on and off but now the noise is so deafening that when laundry is placed in the dryer and one stands near it for a few seconds it will cause your ears to ring.  A few weeks ago I drove out of my garage and could hear the dryer noise (with windows up) from the car.  For those of you who are meticulous about home maintenance please refrain from judgement…please do not throw stones at this glass house.   Tonight in a fit of defeat, prayer and pure sadness I sensed I should go and place my hands on the dryer.  Knowing that she was doing her best to function but she was also so very broken;  I stood in the laundry room hands on the dryer until they grew hot…feel free to judge here…I was judging myself!  

But in that ever so loud and deafening moment I heard a still small voice:  “this is how loud and chaotic life is when it is not well maintained with me.  I can bring calm in the presence of the noise if one slows down long enough to listen…but do you see why it is difficult to hear My voice?”  

A holy moment in the laundry room led me to a sweet revelation:  I cannot intimately hear from a God that I am constantly tuning out with the busyness of this life.  There are millions of distractions that keep me fixing and fluttering from thing to thing–all the while the deafening dryer is screaming in my ears and God’s voice is drowned out.  

Every day there is something fresh and new from Him…His voice.  Where is the wonder in that?  Have I been shuffling myself and family from thing to thing for so long that I am not stopping to slow down…to fix the MOST broken thing?  Our hearts were designed for more than the lawn, baseball games, Wii, iPhones, facebook, tennis lessons, soccer, college football, ballet performances, trips to the gym, carpool, a 9-5 job that we love, or even service at church.  

The deafening dryer that I was cursing moments before now reminded me that my heart (like my home) must be maintained.  I must cultivate time to rejuvenate, to make space livable for my God.  If I am distracted there is little room for Him to make my heart His home.  

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed.


Silence My New BFF

Silence.  True silence can be deafening.  

In the midst of the year 2013, which I am now lovingly referring to as my season of obscurity…Silence has been my guide.  




  1. The state of being unknown, inconspicuous, or unimportant.
  2. The quality of being difficult to understand.

That pretty much sums it up. “Unknown, inconspicuous, difficult to understand.”  

I write (publicly) when I am inspired.  I write daily out of necessity; as a part of my personal therapy. 

Today I realized that if there are precious people who have somehow stumbled upon my words but do not know me incredibly well or live far away–you might not know of the circumstances of my silence.  (And have probably wondered why I have appeared to stop writing.)  

January 2013 unfolds as follows:  unexpected death of dear family friend leads to unexpected trip to Indiana, which then is immediately followed by family vacation, followed by personal illness, followed by work, followed by more illness, followed by some life altering changes in vocation and long term family plan (I am not pregnant), followed by more illness, followed by a trip to the dentist where he informed me that my dental scans indicted I was stressed.  Duh.  (And how humiliating!)  Followed by more soul-searching, trips to my therapist, a solitude retreat, and foot surgery.  All wrapping up my year so far as officially a season of OBSCURITY.

At first, being a closet introvert, I found myself embracing the quiet, listening, being still and soaking in truth.  I found myself enjoying 3 of my favorite indoor sports:  reading, writing, and knitting!  The slowness and silence also provided a lot of loud lessons that I had previously been drowning out in the busyness and chaos of my daily life.  Awesome.       

Here I am mid-April…the lessons that I am learning and the old chains that are breaking are welcomed though extremely painful.  The quiet is sometimes too revealing…I am internalizing much and processing and changing as best I can.  At times the pace is not fast enough.  At times I wonder if I am truly surrendering to the process?

I share all of this with great humility.  I am seeking direction from the ultimate Voice in my life who has never steered me wrong and I am prayerfully listening.  The Voice becomes loudest in the presence of Silence. 

At times I have been angry–the life changes were not in my 5 or 10 year plan.  At times I have been hopeful–knowing that I want to do nothing apart from Him.  At times my eyes have been opened so wide to my issues that I have wanted to squeeze them shut and pretend that I didn’t see truth.  But here’s the thing: Truth pushes me to change.  And change is my favorite.  I never want to stay the same. 

Silence is forcing change.  Therefore I have concluded, Silence is my friend. 

Silence can be your friend too.  Sometimes she barges in uninvited, other times she is illusive and a little shy.  Invite her over…she will change your life too.  

Oh and thank you to my friend Jeff ( who in my season of obscurity has encouraged me to never stop writing.  

May You Be Silent and May You Be Blessed! 



Shucking My Shirt and My Shoes…

One Sunday I walked in to church and walked out without my shoes.  Our pastor asked us to give our coat and our shoes that day to folks who needed them more than we did.  Pretty much after those words came out of his mouth, I spent the next 30 minutes hearing him say:  “blah, blah, blah, blah.”   All I could think was how could the new campus pastors’ wife get out of church with her shoes and hoodie ON while everyone else shucked their shoes and coats???  

Here’s the thing:  I love to giveon my terms.  The navy blue honeycomb hoodie (an old navy clearance item) was truly my most favorite hoodie I have ever owned…to this day.  (I have never found a replacement–although I did ashamedly–go online and to every store within a 30 mile radius to find it!)   Not too heavy not too light it was PEFECT.  The shoes were these cute little brown $40.00 slip ons.  They were about as much as I spend on shoes…top end in my mind.    I stood there frozen ignoring every word Mike said, trying to figure out an escape route.   I agonized a good part of the service and at the end Mike said, “Hey you do not need to do this…it is just a matter of asking yourself do you own your stuff or does your stuff own you?”  Zinger.  Ouch.  You cut me deep Mike…real deep.  

So with a HEAVY heart I went to pick up Kylee and decided that we would together give our items away.  Apparently, I needed my 3 year old for moral support!  Kylee was wearing the cutest pink gap hoodie.  It was a hand me down but one of the softest sweetest hoodies that she owned…please note she did have another hoodie.  She also was wearing adorable patten leather shoes.  Kylee and I walked to the pile that was taller than she was, and I began to take off my shoes and jacket.  I explained what we were doing and that we were going to give our things to others who needed them more than we did.  Kylee immediately got big alligator tears in her eyes and said, “Mom, but I love my coat and it is my favorite color!”  I just about lost it right there!  She battled for about 15 minutes standing in front of the pile.  I didn’t want to take her things off for her–I wanted her to put them on the pile herself.  At some point in this exchange I begin to cry because I realize that my desire to hold tightly to my things has clearly been passed down, like a bad habit, to my daughter.  As tears are rolling down my face all I can think is–I must teach generosity to my kids.  Generosity God’s way–not when it is convenient or easy–generosity when it stings a little–or a lot.   I must figure out a way to not cling to things…they are after all things.   I fought the entire time to say to her, “don’t worry we will get you another one!” Knowing that was NOT the point of the exercise!  After many minutes (which felt like hours), Kylee finally let go of her hoodie and shoes and we walked to our cars with bare feet and battered hearts.  
On the drive home my mind shifted to my husband who had attended a different service.  His mother had recently passed away–but she was the type of woman who would have stripped down practically naked in the middle of church to ensure that others were cared for and provided for…she never held tightly to her things.  Like mother, like son. But instead of relishing that thought, I stewed in the fact of how easy it must have been for Chris to shuck his shoes!  When we got home I told him the entire saga with Kylee and how sick I was that I somehow have given her a “gene of greediness” and told him most sarcastically how he just wouldn’t understand since “things” don’t have a hold on him!  He looked at me square in the face and said, “Actually Jenni, I gave up my Dutch Boys.”  Dutch Boys were the nickname that his mother had given his shoes…the last material item that she had purchased for her son before her death. I wanted to crawl underneath the table in shame.  Seriously, did I just say that?   I realized that there are many different levels of sacrifice in this life.  God knew better than to ask me for the last thing that Elaine gave me because I would have told him NO!  He asked for my favorite comfy hoodie…and for my most expensive pair of shoes.  My husband on the other hand (who clearly can handle more) was asked for something different…but it went back to the same question:  do I own this thing or does it own me??  
I am embarrassed to report that the shoe/hoodie lesson occured almost 4 years ago.   It seems that God patiently teaches me the same lessons over and over again in my life.  Here I am 4 years later looking at simplicity and excess and having to re-learn not to hold too tightly to my things.  I pray that as we continue to purge I will learn the lesson better this time.  And I if I don’t, when I walk in to your home, please ask me to walk out without my shoes.   Alas, we all need reminders.   Clearly some of us more than others!  
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed! 

Clutter Free Counter Tops!

Clutter creates chaos.  Chaos creates clutter.  

Somewhere I read, “cleaning house with kids was like shoveling snow in a blizzard!”  This has been my mommy mantra for the past 8 years!  I have resigned to the fact that in my chaotic life there is no room for a constantly clean house.  Even though I believe we must have grace with ourselves and the clutter in our homes–I also realized that my clutter was creating chaos.   

American excess is rampant.  To “simplify” things we gain more gadgets, and fill our home with modern day conveniences. In reality this fills our home with more STUFF.  We regularly find ourselves maintaining our stuff.  Taking care of it, shifting it around, then purging it.  Only to replace it again. Why do we have so much stuff?  How much stuff do we need?  These are the simple questions that I have begun to ask and have loved finding the answers. 

Recently, I stumbled on to a gem of a book called, 321 Stop–stop running and start living .  What I loved about Lorilee’s book is that she not only gave practical ideas on how to simplify your life, she also explained WHY this would benefit your life.  When you tell me to clean for cleaning’s sake…I am not interested…it doesn’t move me  When she explains de-cluttering our homes helps to create more time for building relationships with those we love…I am intrigued.  THAT I want more of.   

So once I read 321 Stop, I found myself hopping on Lorliee’s website for additional thoughts on simplicity and stumbled on to the opportunity to help launch her next book.  This week Lorilee is launching her second book (the perfect compliment to 321 Stop):  Simple Living: 30 days to less stuff and more life.   Simple Living is super short and super practical.  One of her suggestions was to clear off your counters as the eye apparently likes, “horizontal lines.”  Well, my eyes LOVE horizontal lines, and if you have ever been to my kitchen you have never seen my counter tops this clean, so this has been an awesome improvement!  (Amazingly, we have kept them this way!)  

This next phase has been tremendously freeing and our home feels lighter, almost like we can all breathe better.  We have a long way to go, but I am noticing a less chaotic feel in our home and I cannot help but believe it is due to less clutter.  Her book goes on sale this week.  Hope you enjoy it!  

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed! 


The Customer is KING

Want vs. Need.  At Farmington Woods Elementary School students are given an assignment to identify the difference between a want and a need.  Needs, as one might guess, are identified as such things as food, water, and shelter.  

Pirates of the Caribbean Lego characters fall in to the category of:  WANT.  Yet, somehow when my son starts talking about The Pirates of the Caribbean Lego set it sounds more like an obsession. One who doesn’t have a mother’s ear or common sense might begin to be persuaded that he NEEDS it.  

Recently we removed cable.  It was a mainly a math thing as cable was a heavy hitter in our budget.  We have not missed it much but the thing I have missed the least are commercials.  (Although DVR does wonders for those too!)  Commercials are very convincing and can somehow create the belief that one might “need” the item being advertised.  (Even though 30 seconds earlier they didn’t know it existed!)  I am guilty of this too.  Commercials and other advertisements remind me I do not have the newest version of the IPhone.  They also make me keenly aware of the Papa John’s pizza that I haven’t eaten in a long time and the fact that I might be slightly hungry.  Commercials also point out that I have had my couch forever and my old just might need to be replaced.   I thought by eliminating cable we would not only lesson the load on our wallets, we might also avoid some of the begging from my children, or the freshly planted ideas that suggest they “need” something new.

Unfortunately, the internet side-swiped me on the “gimmes.”  I found my children lingering on the Lego and American Girl sites–not playing games–but window shopping.  They kept looking at the same pages fixating on the toys they did not have.   If it was not, “can I have?” then it was, “for my birthday I would like,” but it was CONSTANT and I was over it.  Consider yesterday:  I decided to limit online use to the weekends and guess what?  The “needs” and “requests” significantly decreased!  I mean…significantly like by 4-5 less days per week.  My children when not constantly reminded of what they don’t have…actually simply played with what they DO have.  

Adults are not exempt from getting a case of the gimmes.  We don’t know we “need” something until a friend or neighbor shows us how great their item is.  When we don’t hang out at Target or Home Goods we do not realize what awesome things our house or closets are missing.  Commercials are meant to entice us and trigger hunger when it doesn’t exist.  This is a bizarre/obvious phenomenon, but one way we can unclutter our lives is to do less window shopping.  A LOT less.  

I realized the best way to limit my kiddos requests for things they THINK they NEED is to limit their window shopping.  To  not have those things constantly paraded in front of them.  I think the same goes for adults.  I don’t need to constantly visit stores that have plenty of things begging to be bought when I have no need for them and they only clutter up my home and life.  

I recently met a woman who for one solid year has decided that she is not going to buy anything new for herself.   (Don’t think she was talking about coffee or lunch…but new material items.)   I think it is an awesome idea…but even wondered what that might look like for 1 month…or 2?   One of the ways we simplify is to get rid of the old and NOT get anything new.  

This video powerfully spoke to me and made me want to simplify…it rings so true as we see the “Gimmes” played out in day to day life.  It both convicts and nauseates me at the same time.  (Customer is King) Today in an attempt to simplify I will do less window shopping…a LOT less.  Because I am not king…He is King. 

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,


The Road to Busyness is Paved With Good Intentions

Busyness is the enemy of intimacy.  The word “busy” fills me with irritation and guilt all at the same time.  I hate being told I am too busy.  The truth is…I am…and I have been for a long time. 

I read recently that the average age of a gamer is 32.  (I actually think I threw up in my mouth while reading this.)  The author goes on to say that “instead of raising families or creating culture, we are sitting in our living rooms with our eyes glued to the television, simulating life.  We are escapists, cowards, and thieves…(don’t miss this!)
We are avoiding the truth that screams at us from the stillness: ‘There is more.  You are more than this.So we anesthetize the truth with busyness.”   Wrecked (pg. 46)
Most of us are not avid gamers…we actually fill our time with wonderful things like family, service, church, and friendship.  Yet even those things have us continually spinning on a hamster wheel of life and not truly living…still asking the question, “is there more?”  
Recently Chris and I have been cleaning house.  Literally and figuratively to get some of the clutter and busyness out of our lives.   Here is what we are finding…
Busyness does not equal importance or position.  Busyness I am finding, equals DISTRACTION.  A full schedule is not all bad.  Busyness is.  There is a fine line that I have walked all of my life between full days which have brought life to the full…and busy days that have sucked the life right out of me.  Busyness sucks your full life away. 
The next few weeks of blogs should really be a treat as I share my journey and also some of the wonderful resources that have encouraged and inspired us in living more simply.  Today, I wanted to actually give you TO DON’T LISTS to make.  Instead of listing all of the things you are doing, have to do, or are responsible for in this life…why don’t you try making these lists instead???
1.    A STOP DOING List: 
I shared my own story in Simply Insane .  I made a painful choice to stop doing something.  This choice altered our entire family structure…and I would not trade the freedom I feel for anything in the world.   What could you stop now that would free up more time for the things that you value and the relationships that you cherish?  
2.    A LIMITList:
This could be things that you enjoy but are actually stealing precious time away from more important things in life.  They are things that are not necessarily harmful but also aren’t crucial to your well-being.   Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial…so LIMIT those things. 
3.    Get Rid Of or Give Away List:  
Consider this some of the tangible clutter that is filling your home or heart.  I have several wonderful resources on this subject.  There is a whole corner of the world right now that has a niche in minimalism.  Minimalists want folks to take a hard look at what they have and why they have it.   321-Stop is a great first read if you are considering getting rid of clutter.  It has some compelling reasons WHY to do this as well.  She also very shortly will be releasing her complimentary handbook which is : Simple Living–30 days to less stuff and more life.   This too is an awesome read (I got a sneak peak this week) and it is a super helpful tool to navigate and downsize different areas of your life!  
Begin to make your lists today.  They do not have to be long.  The sooner we begin to embrace that less actually IS more,the sooner we will find freedom from our schedules, ourselves, and our stuff! 
May You Be a Blessing While DOING Less,